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Marriage Is the Maine Event

Boston College Law Professor Comes to the Defense

BY CARLOS BRICEÑO

Register Correspondent

October 19-25, 2008 Issue | Posted 10/9/09 at 5:02 PM

 

BOSTON — Scott FitzGibbon, a professor at Boston College Law School, recently appeared in radio and television ads sponsored by Stand for Marriage Maine to support a veto of Question 1.

The ballot initiative is a people’s veto of LD 1020, a law passed by the Maine Legislature earlier this year legalizing same-sex “marriage.”

By vetoing the law, Maine voters would protect traditional marriage by preserving the definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman and would protect children from being taught in schools that same-sex “marriage” is the same as traditional marriage, regardless of parental concerns.

In the ad, which can be accessed at StandforMarriageMaine.com, FitzGibbon warns that if the law remains on the books, individuals, small businesses and religious organizations will face a wave of new lawsuits, and church organizations could have their tax-exempt status stripped because of their objection to same-sex “marriage.”

FitzGibbon, responding by e-mail, emphasized that his comments do not necessarily reflect the views of Boston College.


Defending traditional marriage is something you have done for some time. When did your interest in the subject start?

I have been married for 30 years. I teach jurisprudence with special attention to close affiliations, and this has led me to consider the question of the elements of marriage. I am a convert to Catholicism (from Anglicanism) and take my faith most seriously, attending Mass just about every day. I am a member of the International Society of Family Law and have published three or four major articles on the general subject of marriage and the family.


What points did you want to make with the Stand for Marriage Maine campaign?

One major reason why I am opposed to the law’s identifying same-sex persons as “married” is that this is simply not the case. The law should speak the truth and not lapse into mendacity.

Doubtless there are some terms and categories that the law makes and unmakes by fiat, but this is not the case with marriage, which is an institution with a meaning and importance independent of the law: a standing ordained by custom, social practice, extended-familial recognition and religion.

I have a full-blown article posted on Social Science Research Network just this year on the law’s duty to speak with veracity and respect. A cavalier reconstruction of society’s categories of familial relations is neither truthful nor entirely respectful of the members of society and their social forms.

Experience in Massachusetts and other jurisdictions indicates that judges and other legal officials can only recognize same-sex relationships as marriages by loosening and plasticizing the definition of marriage. They sometimes reflect this plasticization by identifying the basic components of marriage as feelings or emotions. A court signals its readiness to endorse further instability in the legal definition of marriage when it states, as did the Supreme Judicial Court in the Massachusetts same-sex “marriage” decision, that “marriage is an evolving paradigm.”

It is not unlikely that the “paradigm” as understood by judges with this approach will evolve further to encompass polygamy and other unusual relational structures.

A respected Boston columnist, in the wake of the Goodridge [v. Dept. of Public Health] decision, predicted the legalization of polygamy. (Jeff Jacoby, “Is Legal Polygamy Next?” in The Boston Globe, Jan. 5, 2004. Another article by Jacoby, entitled “Misunderstanding Marriage in California,” appears in The Boston Globe on May 21, 2008.)

A leader of the ACLU [American Civil Liberties Union] has expressed support for its legal protection. A further development logically follows if feelings are the key to defining marriage. That development — supported by an advocacy website and by some academic commentary — is “group marriage” involving more than one person of each sex (“polyamory”).

In contemplating any substantial change in the recognition of marriage, the overarching question must be the effects on children. Children develop morally largely by a process of modeling — as common sense suggests and social-science literature establishes. Therefore the development of the next generation of Americans is closely at issue when the adult world identifies and commends models for parenting.

The model of a man and a woman in an aspirationally permanent and exclusive relationship is uniquely meritorious in this respect. I develop this thesis at length in my recent article “Procreative Justice and the Recognition of Marriage,” which is available online.

A key point here is that most children will grow up to attempt a lasting relationship with a person of the opposite sex. This is not an easy project to perform successfully, especially in our fluid age.

Statistics establish that those who lack a corresponding model in youth (e.g., because of the divorce of their parents) are far less likely to make a go of marriage themselves. (Studies also establish an extension of this point: Split marriages pass the difficulty in sustaining successful parenting relationships along to yet another generation.)

A child brought up by two men lacks a model of how he may sustain a committed relationship with a woman, or — if the child is a girl — how she may successfully sustain a lasting, faithful relationship with a man.


You have encountered some flak from some of your colleagues and others at Boston College for doing the ad on YouTube.  

They are entitled to their opinions.

Carlos Briceño writes

from Naperville, Illinois.