Iowa’s bishops have urged us to vote for a constitutional convention to work for an amendment to define marriage as a union of one man and one woman — to overturn the Iowa Supreme Court’s decision on gay marriage.
The main reason for opposition is their judgment that making marriage a legal right for homosexual couples weakens the institution of marriage. I have been married for 50 years to one woman and am a father, grandfather and great-grandfather, so I take marriage seriously. However, I think the bishops are mistaken here.
By identifying a homosexual union as “marriage,” the state is establishing rights and responsibilities. In refusing to settle for “civil union,” it is saying that homosexual unions aren’t to be delegated by state action to second-class status.
Marriage is multi-form, and over time has changed profoundly. It is a union that creates and nurtures life, but no one denies that a union between people past child-bearing age is a marriage. It isn’t given a pejorative label? In its most familiar form, marriage is a union of one man and one woman, the primary creative ground for the human future. But Catholic reflection on marriage has recognized many functions of marriage. Neither the word nor monogamous heterosexuals suffer when it is applied to other similar unions.
Marriage has been under pressure for a long time, but gay marriage has not been an important factor. To call for constitutional remedy seems an extraordinary over-reaction.
Finally and painfully, it would be good if, before pursuing this further, the bishops would meditate on the pain and confusion that the Church’s leaders have inflicted on the faithful by their tone-deafness in matters of sex and gender. Perhaps they could follow the advice of Gamaliel and wait and see how this develops.