Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

A reader response to: Why Should a Catholic Vote Against Same-Sex Marriage (in 2038)?

A friend of MOJ, Professor Scott FitzGibbon of Boston College Law School has sent me the following response to Rob’s posting on the matter “Why Should a Catholic Vote Against Same-Sex Marriage (in 2038)?” Here is Scott’s response:

Professor Vischer presents, for the year 2038, an imagined future in which legally recognized same-sex marriage has been prevalent for a while and children have been raised in such situations.  By then, studies have “established to a reasonable degree of certainty” that various bad outcomes have not transpired.  Notably:

children raised in households headed by same-sex couples are indistinguishable from children raised in traditional households in terms of emotional and intellectual development, rates of physical and sexual abuse, self-esteem, and other measures of well-being.

Why not then, asks Professor Vischer, go ahead and legalize SSM in a remaining non-SSM jurisdiction?

All of this stands to suggest the possibility—never quite stated by Professor Vischer—that today in 2008, opposition to  legal recognition rests on some suppositions about outcomes which might eventually prove to be unfounded. But the case against legal recognition of same-sex marriage rests on firmer ground that this line of thought suggests.

First, Professor Vischer’s hypothetical outcomes are highly unlikely actually to occur, or so we can predict based on common sense and strong indirect evidence. The likelihood is remote that children will be “indistinguishable” who are raised in sharply distinguishable parenting situations.  Social science establishes, what common sense would in any case suggest, that childrens’ characters are formed on a basis of “modeling” on their parents.  Girls raised by two men have no close model of the feminine. Boys raised by two women have no close model of the masculine. Girls raised by two women have no close model of how a woman conducts an intimate affiliation with a man. Boys raised by two men experience a similar privation. It should also be noted that same-sex couples break up at a higher rate than the average (even, as a 2007 study by Andersson et al. indicates, in Norway and Sweden where legal recognition is established). Divorce is associated with numerous well-documented adverse effects on child development.   

Professor Vischer’s hypotheticals speak to studies of “children.” What about outcomes once they have reached adulthood? One major effect concerns their own marriages and  other procreative affiliations. Judith Wallerstein (The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce (2000)) reports: 

A central finding of my research is that children identify not only with their mother and father as separate individuals but with the relationship between them. They carry the template of this relationship into adulthood and use it to seek the image of their new family.

Most offspring will grow up to attempt stable procreative opposite-sex affiliations rather than same-sex ones. Those brought up by same-sex couples lack the necessary template.

A further point looks beyond outcomes in parenting and notes the discontinuity which arises when the law defines marriage in one way and the social and moral order of the society to which the law applies thinks and speaks in a divergent fashion. A striking example is afforded by an Ontario statute which defines the term “spouse” to include  “either of two persons who . . . live together in a conjugal relationship outside  marriage.”   A sort of cognitive  dissonance must emerge when people, asked whether they are married, must say “yes” according to one normative order, “no” according to another; “yes” according to the law of one state, “no” according to the law of many countries; “yes” according to the definitional portions of the university’s married student housing brochure (reflecting  the  requirements of anti-discrimination law),  “no” according to their brothers and sisters;  “yes” according to their law professors, “no” according to their parents. Confusion is spread within an institution which is already badly troubled, to the disadvantage of marriage and the family generally.

Of course Professor Vischer might amend his hypothetical and add the supposition that by the year 2038 same-sex marriage has become traditional and orthodox nor just as a matter of U.S. law, but internationally, and not just as a matter of law, but of social and religious morality as well. But such a supposition seems most unlikely to be realized.  Orthodox Judaism, Eastern Orthodox  Christianity, Islam, and the familial  morality of societies more conservative than those which spring from Northern European backgrounds are not likely to move in that direction. 

Looking into a crystal ball which displays events in Rome, for example, we discern  Pope John Paul III in 2038, approving the words of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of 2003 ( in N. 11 of its Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions between Homosexual Persons):

The Church teaches that respect for homosexual persons cannot lead in any way to … legal recognition of homosexual unions. The common good requires that laws recognize, promote and protect marriage as the basis of the family, the primary unit of society. Legal recognition of homosexual unions or placing them on the same level as marriage would mean not only the approval of deviant behavior, with the consequence of making it a model in present-day society, but would also obscure basic values which belong to the common inheritance of humanity. The Church cannot fail to defend these values, for the good of men and women and for the good of society itself.

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Araujo, Robert | Permalink

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