Altering marriage would harm families, says archbishop

WAYLAND — “The institution of marriage, so crucial to the raising of children and a sound family life, is in crisis,” Archbishop Seán O’Malley told those gathered at the Oct. 2 “Summit of October to Save Marriage.” The summit, dubbed “S.O.S. Marriage,” was organized by the Massachusetts Family Institute and attended by approximately 200 people, including several local religious leaders.

"It's not an understatement to say S.O.S. marriage," said Ron Crews president of MFI. "Marriage is under attack."

The intent of the marriage summit is not to debate the definition of marriage “but to arm ourselves with tools to defend it,” he said.

Though non-partisan and non-denominational, the MFI describes itself as a group dedicated to “affirming the Judeo-Christian values” upon which the family is based.

"Any redefinition of marriage must be seen as an attack on the common good. The weakening of the institution of marriage has already had too high a social cost," said Archbishop O'Malley. "Our concern must be to strengthen marriage and create a climate that will be supportive and indeed promote the traditional paradigm of marriage."

Citing studies and statistics, Archbishop O’Malley outlined the ill effects divorce and the breakdown on the family have had on society — an increase in violence against women and children, poverty, and the physical and sexual abuse of children.

"I am not so naïve as to think that saving the definition of marriage is enough to undo all the harm suffered by society caused by a weakened institution of marriage," he said. "I would hope that those who promote same-sex unions will not be so naïve as to fail to recognize the impact that redefining marriage will have on American culture, which has already suffered too much because of the deterioration of family life."

"Marriage is not a creation of the state nor of the Church, and neither has the legitimate authority to change its nature," he exhorted.

MFI was formed 12 years ago to promote traditional marriage and has fought for an amendment to the state constitution defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

Rep. Philip Travis, (D-Rehoboth), lead sponsor of the amendment, “The Marriage Affirmation and Protection Amendment “(MA and PA), updated those gathered on the status of the legislation. “We have an uphill battle,” he said.

Travis noted that former Senate President Thomas Birmingham’s decision a year and a-half ago, to adjourn the constitutional convention without a vote on the amendment, is impetus to take up the cause of MA and PA.

"He thwarted the will of the people in Massachusetts when we did not have a right to vote.... This is a petition by a legislator, one to do the will of the people that was taken away a year and a-half ago," he said. "I will do anything to make sure that this becomes law in Massachusetts."

Travis currently has 13 co-sponsors for MA and PA. The legislative amendment needs a majority of the 200 legislators, and it is not yet clear how many legislators support the amendment. He did note that Speaker of the House Thomas Finneran is “quietly behind” the bill and that it is on the agenda for vote at the next constitutional convention.

He spoke with urgency of the need for people to contact their representatives and encourage them “to vote not according to what they believe but for what the people want.”

"My colleagues are really struggling with this issue -- to do what's right. They are really, really thinking about it... but I'm in a dilemma because I don't think that enough people are listening to this issue.... We need 101 [legislators] and we're only 6 weeks away from taking that vote," which is scheduled for Nov. 12.

Connie Mackey, vice president for government affairs at the Family Research Council based in Washington D.C., also spoke of the consequences a redefinition of marriage could have on the nation. “The eyes of the nation and Washington are on this state,” she said. According to Mackey, the White House is going to speak out for marriage but wants to see what happens in Massachusetts first.

The marriage issue is a top priority in the nation’s capital she said. The FRC has sent pledge cards to every lawmaker in the country asking them to sign on to support traditional marriage and is drafting a federal marriage amendment. President George W. Bush recently declared Oct. 12-18 Marriage Protection Week.

Attendees also heard moving testimony from the Rev. Stephen Bennett. Rev. Bennett, who until 1992 lived a homosexual lifestyle, is now a married father of two. He told the audience that he believes homosexuality is not genetic or irreversible.

"I firmly believe no one is born gay. In most cases it is not a choice, but develops for a variety of different reasons," he said.

Dr. Jeffrey Satinover, author of “Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth,” called homosexuality “a temporary state” in the majority of cases. He supported his statement with statistical evidence from a study called, “Sex in America,” done by the University of Chicago.

The study found that 75 percent of homosexual males between the ages of 16 and 25 “spontaneously become straight by 25 years old.”

Homosexuality is a “fluid state… we have no business treating it as though it is a fixed, immutable state,” said Dr. Satinover.

Glenn Stanton, director of social research and cultural affairs at “Focus on the Family,” addressed the argument that same-sex marriages do not affect heterosexual marriages saying, “every marriage touches the community.”

If same-sex marriages were to exist, women “would become commodities and would be victimized by men.” Men would fail to “challenge their sexuality” and children “would be denied the benefit of a biologically connected mother and father,” he said.

Same-sex relationships “diminish masculinity and femininity by saying we don’t matter, by denying who we are in our fundamental core” and do not “allow us to be true to who we are in our respective genders.”

Rabbi Daniel Lapin, founder of Toward Tradition and a staunch defender of Judeo-Christian values, closed the summit saying, “It is a futile waste of time to develop a secular defense of marriage. The simple truth is that [traditional marriage] is God’s blueprint for humanity,” said Rabbi Lapin.