Notes from the Hill

With the constitutional convention set to reconvene at the Statehouse on March 11, every Catholic lay man and woman must redouble their efforts to preserve the definition of marriage. The Marriage Affirmation and Protection Amendment (MA and PA) must be approved by the Legislature in order to reaffirm marriage as the union of one man and one woman. The court decision in Goodridge vs. Department of Public Health must be reversed. The push to vote instead for a “mishmash” amendment that combines the language in MA and PA with a mandate for same-sex civil unions must be defeated.

The battle is joined for the institution of marriage, and the stakes are tremendous. All eyes are on Massachusetts as government officials around the nation and the world wait to see what our legislators will decide March 11. We must not sit by and do nothing when the issue is so crucially important to our families and our society — we must act now.

Here are the messages that you must get across to your state senator and representative:

Don’t be fooled by the so-called “compromise” measure.

A constitutional amendment recognizing both marriage and civil unions is no “compromise,” since the civil union mandate accords all the benefits of marriage to same-sex unions except the name. On the one hand, the so-called compromise amendment defines marriage as an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman. On the other hand, it also recognizes a civil union between same-sex couples as the legal and constitutional equivalent of marriage.

This is no compromise. It is a flat contradiction of terms and is worse than enacting no amendment at all. Our legislators must hear that we will not tolerate their support of such an amendment.

There’s nothing civil about civil unions. Proponents of same-sex marriage and civil unions are ready to recklessly send the nation on a course whose disastrous consequences are well-known. Exhaustive social science evidence shows that children do best when they are raised by their own biological father and mother joined in a stable marriage. That evidence also shows that traditional marriage enhances the relationship among men, women and children in a way that leaves all of them — and society as a whole — better off.

Here’s what we learned from the real-life social experiment that has already been conducted in Scandinavia. The countries that enacted same-sex registered partnerships in the early 1990s are now suffering a dramatic decline in marriage rates and a drastic rise in out-of-wedlock births. In those districts in Norway where same-sex unions are most accepted, marriage has become virtually extinct, with 80 percent of firstborn children and nearly 60 percent of subsequent children now born out of wedlock.

Tell your legislators that instead of distorting marriage’s meaning and legally depriving children of their rights to have both a mother and a father, the Commonwealth should be working to strengthen traditional married relationships.

Homosexual marriage is not a civil rights issue, but religious freedom is. Proponents of homosexual unions speak in terms of tolerance and diversity, but they will not practice what they preach. Those who differ from them regarding same-sex unions, including us who object on religious grounds, are constantly labeled as homophobes, bigots and as practitioners of “hate speech.” Indeed, in its Goodridge decision, the Supreme Judicial Court, in a breathtaking display of judicial arrogance, suggested that laws recognizing marriage as a unique relation between a man and a woman are the product of a “persistent prejudice.”

If same-sex marriage or civil unions become law — enshrined as part of the Massachusetts Constitution — religious and other private institutions will be required to go along by violating their principles — or they will be sued, regardless of their beliefs. Just this week, the California Supreme Court ruled that Catholic Charities of Sacramento must include birth control coverage in its health care plan for workers even though the Church is morally opposed to contraception.

Such changes grievously violate our constitutional right to the free exercise of religion.

Grant marital preference only to the union of a man and a woman. The marital relationship between a man and a woman should be granted special protections and benefits for the very good reasons that only these couples are capable of benefiting society by begetting new life and by providing children with the optimal setting of having both a mother and a father.

Your legislators must hear that you support the marital preference, one that is based on the future of society and the well-being of children, not the love interests or financial wants of adults. Nothing justifies granting special preferences to one set of people the great majority of whom do not and cannot benefit society in these ways.

There is a very important issue of social justice here. At a time when budget constraints are forcing the state to reduce benefits to the elderly, the disabled and the poor, homosexual marriage and civil union proposals would give special benefits to a group who have no demonstrated special needs.

The issue of justice is also one of respect for public debate and the democratic process. Why have the true costs not been presented? A study by the Canadian government concluded that same-sex marraige in Canada would leave the taxpayers liable for hundreds of millions of dollars in retroactive social-security survivor benefits, putting other programs at risk.

Studies show that same-sex couples are among the most economically advantaged in the U.S., with per-capita income, college education and managerial positions as much as three times greater than the general population. Tell your legislators that it is grossly unfair for them to receive special preferences over other persons, such as those who benefit society by caring for elderly parents or disabled relatives.

Support MA and PA as it is — accept no “compromise.”

Tell your legislators to support the marriage amendment. And tell them that the more we understand about the full consequences of what civil unions will mean and the social and economic costs they will inflict, the more outraged we will be if these experiments are imposed upon us!

The defense of marriage must be debated by the citizens of the Commonwealth with full information and consideration. Don’t let your legislators freeze you out of the discussion by freezing an unjustified special preference into our state constitution. This is a decision about the meaning of marriage, one that ought to be made democratically, by the people, in the full light of day, after careful discussion and deliberation.

"Notes from the Hill" is provided by the Massachusetts Catholic Conference (MCC), the public policy voice for the four Catholic dioceses of Massachusetts. "Notes from the Hill" is not an official statement of the bishops of Massachusetts or MCC.