Yesterday, the R.I House of Representatives Judiciary Committee was slated to hear testimony on several bills that seek to radically change the definition of marriage in our state.
Bills that would create domestic partnership benefits, recognize same-sex unions as legal marriage, and allow for same-sex couples “married” in Massachusetts to gain divorce in Rhode Island Family Court. All of these bills must be rejected as they represent another attack upon the traditional definition of marriage as between one man and one woman. Thankfully, Representative Jon Brien (D-Woonsocket) also introduced a bill that proposes a constitutional amendment to the R.I. State Constitution that would define marriage “as a lawful union between one man and one woman.”
As Christians, we understand marriage as a sacramental union, a permanent covenant between one man and one woman that mirrors God’s love for his people. For Christians, marriage has two purposes. It deepens the joy and holiness of a husband and wife through their mutual love; and it provides a loving environment for bearing and raising children. As a natural human institution, marriage exists to protect women and children, to provide for them, and to help ensure male responsibility for the children they father. This is why marriage has always enjoyed and should continue to enjoy a special legal status.
Marriage and the family are the cornerstones of any culture, Christian or otherwise. They ensure the future through the creation of new life. Any attack on the identity of marriage and the family is therefore an attack on society itself. Likewise, defending marriage and the family is always a positive thing because these institutions serve the common good.
Nonetheless, a small vocal minority in our state continue to put marriage under legal siege. They are relentless, organized, well-financed and politically active in Rhode Island and intent upon redefining the institution of marriage at all costs.
However, they ignore that social science, the wisdom of our religious traditions, and the simple common sense of our lived experience, all point in one direction – that marriage is the union of one man and one woman for the sake of raising children in a stable family, and it's vital for the well-being of society. Our goal in defending marriage is to defend children and families. Our goal in defending marriage is to ensure that we have a healthy future as a people.
Therefore, we recognize the urgent need for a Rhode Island state constitutional marriage amendment that defines and protects traditional marriage, and we ask the leadership of our state to support Representative Brien's bill. As Catholics, we must stand together with millions of other men and women of good will in believing that marriage is a divine gift. Marriage nurtures life and advances the dignity of the human person. And neither the Church; nor any individual or couple; nor any court or civil authority, especially the R.I. General Assembly, has the right or the power to change its definition.