Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Tuesday 03 August |
Saint of the Day: St. Martin
home iconNews
line break icon

What the Church Should Do If the Supreme Court Makes Same Sex Marriage a Right

Suzette-Franck-CC

Russell Shaw - published on 02/20/15 - updated on 06/08/17

There is an alternative to just giving up and giving in

The likelihood that the Supreme Court next June will announce its discovery of a constitutional right to same-sex marriage raises an obvious question for the Catholic Church: What do we do now?

Two steps come to mind. First, press for strong legal protections for individuals and institutions conscientiously unable to cooperate with a legal regime that requires sweeping concessions to the LGBT agenda. Second, give serious thought to the possibility that the Church should quit serving as the government’s agent in legitimating marriages.

That firm decisions at the top levels of the Church are urgently needed couldn’t be more obvious. Consider a Washington Post editorial trashing Alabama authorities for resisting a Supreme Court order on behalf of gay marriage in that state. The court told Alabama to get cracking even though the court itself remains months away from a constitutional ruling.

“The [gay rights] movement is on the verge of a historic victory,” the February 11 editorial declared. “But that doesn’t mean activists and allies have succeeded in transforming the culture that for so long denied gay men and lesbians equal treatment.”

Transforming culture? Of course. The Post editorial noted some steps to take.

“Marriage equality is just one of many goals. State legislatures and federal lawmakers need to be convinced to enhance civil rights protections for gay men and lesbians — prohibiting employment discrimination, for example, or discrimination in business transactions. In places like Alabama, that will take a lot more effort.”

One form it’s already taken can be seen not in conservative Alabama but libertarian Oregon. There the Christian owners of a bakery were found guilty of violating anti-discrimination law by declining — in 2013, before the state even recognized same-sex marriage — to supply a wedding cake for a lesbian couple. Bakery owners Aaron and Melissa Klein cited religious convictions as their reason.

According to the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, the Kleins face fines as high as $150,000. The actual amount will be decided in March. A hundred and fifty thousand for a wedding cake? Is this the Post’s “a lot more effort”? Iron-clad legal protection against state coercion to fall in line with gay marriage is desperately needed for individuals like the Kleins and institutions like the Catholic Church.

It won’t be easy. The Catholic News Agency (CNA) reports that the Ford and Arcus Foundations have given several million dollars to the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups to devise ways of blocking the religious freedom argument for not cooperating with same-sex marriage. If religious groups want First Amendment protections, they’ll have to fight.

Urgently needed, too, is consideration of whether the Church should stop registering marriages for the state. Increasingly, it becomes hard to see how the Church can continue as the government’s collaborator in this matter once the Supreme Court makes it final that what the government means by marriage is opposed to what the Church means.

Confusion about the meaning of marriage is already widespread. It’s the underlying issue in the crisis of marriage that last fall’s Synod of Bishops on marriage should have confronted and didn’t. But the synod’s omission is no reason for the Church to persist in a relationship with government that deepens the confusion.

A two-step procedure — come by the courthouse for a civil ceremony that satisfies the state, then come to church for a sacramental marriage — may sound cumbersome, but it’s an opportunity for catechesis on what marriage means. As secular America heads down the same-sex path, the Church now must go another, better way.

Russell Shawis the author or coauthor of 21 books and numerous articles, columns, and reviews. He is a member of the faculty of the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome, and former Secretary for Public Affairs of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Tags:
CatholicismHomosexualityMarriagePolitics
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
1
Saint Mary of the Angels
Bret Thoman, OFS
All your sins will be forgiven if you go to a Franciscan church o...
2
Ignacio María Doñoro
Francisco Veneto
The military chaplain who pretended to be a criminal to rescue a ...
3
JEDZENIE
Theresa Civantos Barber
The one thing we all should do before this summer ends
4
CARLO ACUTIS
Violeta Tejera
Carlo Acutis’ first stained glass window in jeans and sneak...
5
HIDILYN DIAZ
Cerith Gardiner
Gold-winning Filipina Olympian shares her Miraculous Medal for th...
6
ANTENUCCI
Ary Waldir Ramos Diaz
1st Feast of Our Lady of Silence is August 1
7
SIMONE BILES
Cerith Gardiner
Simone Biles leaves the Olympics with an important lesson for her...
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.