In my discussions with same-sex "marriage" advocates (including some who are homosexual themselves), it’s clear that they recognize the unique significance of romantic/sexual love in the definition of "marriage."
They want to have committed, same-sex relationships publicly and legally recognized by our country as "marriage" because, to them, that word symbolizes a unique kind of love (romantic/sexual in nature) and commitment revolving around their identities as sexual beings.
So, to try to flesh this out a bit with another example, I thought it would be helpful to consider a parallel case: the case of all the people in the world who are asexual (have no sexual/romantic desire for either gender). There are millions of such people.
The Independent reported in 2009, according to one study, that as many as 1.5% of men and a significantly higher percentage of women fit into this category. For them, this is not merely a voluntary "choice," either. It’s "how they are."
As such, I think it’s a helpful parallel to the case of homosexuals.
Now, consider what would happen if asexual people started demanding that their committed, platonic, completely non-romantic relationships be legally recognized as "marriage." They would argue that they’re being denied their human rights, their right to the happiness and joy of being recognized as "married" by society. Again, being asexual is not a choice for them, either. It’s just "how they are."
If same-sex "marriage" advocates are to remain philosophically consistent, they couldn’t tell asexuals that their non-sexual relationships aren’t the same as homosexual relationships because, according to their own commonly stated standards, that would be the same as saying that asexuals are "less than" homosexuals and tantamount to hate speech. Their only choice would be to accept "asexual marriage." And in the process, the meaning of "marriage" would be fundamentally diminished — no longer having anything at all to do with romance/sex.
After that change, there would no longer be any term/institution that recognizes and encourages committed sexual/romantic relationships, let alone those relationships that are fundamentally responsible for the continuance of the human race. And why, exactly? Because some people don’t want to acknowledge basic biology and logic, mistakenly perceiving these accurate, factual distinctions that have great societal import as expressions of mere arbitrary, hateful exclusion.
Now, if asexuals started demanding that marriage be changed to accommodate their relationships, I would oppose that, too. Why? Because I hate asexuals? Because I think they’re "less than" I am? Because I think they’re "evil"? Not at all.
I would oppose it because that’s not what marriage is. There’s something uniquely important about the sexual aspect of the relationship in the definition of marriage, and that difference is important to society, as well.
And there is nothing wrong or hateful with publicly acknowledging this fact. To eliminate that part of the definition of "marriage" is to diminish the meaning and significance of the term.
The fact is that asexuals actually are not less than you or I. They’re certainly not evil. But it remains an undeniable fact that asexual relationships are objectively lacking in certain, significant, fundamental aspects that sexual relationships normatively possess — precisely the sexual element.
Similarly, homosexual relationships inherently and objectively lack a very significant and fundamental aspect that heterosexual relationships possess — the biological complementarity that renders the sexual act creative, responsible for the propagation of the entire human race.
If heterosexuals stop having sexual relations and stop committing to one another in order to raise the next generation, that would be the death knell of society. The same is not true of homosexual (or asexual) relationships.
This is no meaningless difference designed to keep homosexuals from equality. It’s a simple recognition that a particular kind of relationship really is unique and uniquely important to society, and so it’s perfectly legitimate and reasonable for society to acknowledge that unique relationship with a unique term — "marriage."
Michael Forrest is a Catholic speaker,
apologist and catechist who writes from Massachusetts.
His articles have appeared in several Catholic periodicals.