Why You Should Worry About “Gay Marriage”

Bishop Thomas J. Tobin - Without a Doubt
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Charlie Bakst has written yet another column in favor of gay marriage. It seems to have become somewhat of an obsession for him. If he’s not on the payroll of GLAD (Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders) or Marriage Equality Rhode Island, he should be.

The latest column appears in the context of the Rhode Island Supreme Court deliberations on the request to grant a Rhode Island divorce of a Massachusetts gay marriage. At the end of the piece, Mr. Bakst quotes attorney Nancy Palmisciano reflecting on the reaction to gay relationships and saying, “I don’t know where the fear comes from.” And Charlie adds, “I don’t either.”

Mr. Bakst had previously observed that gay marriage hasn’t caused the end of the world in Massachusetts. In that column he wrote: “I’ve been to Massachusetts several times recently. The swan boats were still plying the waters of Boston’s Public Garden. The Cape Cod Rail Trail was bustling. Sam’s bakery in Fall River was still turning out cabbage pies.”

So, according to Charlie, the moral quality of society is measured by the simple fact that Sam’s bakery is still turning out cabbage pies. I feel better already.

His fellow columnist, Bob Kerr expressed similar sentiments a few months back. Wrote Mr. Kerr: “I guess what I’m asking for here is some firsthand testimony on the damage gay marriage has done to marriage that isn’t gay . . . Does it begin right at the border? Is something clearly different as soon as the crossing is made from East Providence to Seekonk, Tiverton to Fall River, Pawtucket to Attleboro?”

Okay, I admit it; the sky hasn’t fallen in Massachusetts, even after several years of gay marriage. But I don’t think the sky would fall if Massachusetts legalized prostitution, polygamy or incest either.

It’s clear that the long-lasting moral and spiritual harm caused by gay marriage is far too subtle for Charlie Bakst, Bob Kerr and others who share their views.

Charlie says he doesn’t know where the fear of gay marriage comes from. And it’s true that the fear of gay marriage isn’t the same as the intense fear one would experience from personal and individual harm – a home invasion, a mugging in the street, or the discovery of a terminal illness, for example. Nonetheless, the onslaught of gay marriage should create more than a little anxiety for thoughtful and insightful people.

The first problem is that the concept of gay marriage or even civil unions implies the legalization of and public support of immoral sexual activity. The State shouldn’t be placed in that position, and as a citizen of the State I don’t want it imposed on me and my conscience. Neither should you. If two consenting adults want to engage in immoral sexual behavior in their own bedroom, that’s their business; the final judgment of their behavior will come from God. But don’t ask me as a citizen of the State to ratify their behavior by legalizing it. Sometimes people opposed to government interference in personal matters say that we should keep the state out of the bedroom. I want to say to those who lobby for gay marriage, please, please, keep your bedroom out of my State.

Second, if the State approves gay marriage or civil unions, it’s only a matter of time until the Church will be required to witness such unions. Won’t happen, the activists promise. But experience says otherwise. Remember that the Church is “licensed” by the state to officiate at weddings. And we’ve already seen how the state can impose its will on the Church. In Massachusetts, the Church was obliged to place children for adoption with gay couples. In Connecticut, Catholic hospitals are now directed by law to provide emergency contraceptives for victims of rape, despite very grave moral concerns. And in some countries, clergy have been accused of “hate crimes” for preaching Christian doctrine about the immorality of homosexual behavior.

And finally, if gay activists continue to push their agenda in Rhode Island, like Massachusetts we’ll inevitably be drawn into a long-lasting, angry, and divisive debate. We’ll have to navigate pickets, protests and petitions. We’ll be tied up by expensive campaigns, legislative battles and judicial appeals. The struggle will consume an enormous amount of time and energy precisely at a time when Rhode Island has to confront a long list of very significant problems – the budget crisis, education reform, the immigration issue, child welfare programs, and a host of other very serious social and economic challenges.

In short, the push for gay marriage isn’t nearly as simple or benign as some would have it. There are plenty of reasons to be concerned – if not fearful.

A final note. Recently a journalist asked me how I feel when my public statements about gay marriage offend and hurt other individuals. I responded that of course I’m truly sorry if people are offended. That’s not my purpose, that’s not my intention. My goal is to teach the Faith and to challenge people to better behavior – not because I hate them, but because I love them and I want for them what is good and holy. As a bishop and teacher, a neighbor and friend, I can do nothing less.