Thursday, May 9, 2013
Recently the state of Rhode Island joined the ranks of those jurisdictions providing for the recognition of same-sex marriage. Within the U.S., Rhode Island makes the tenth state which recognizes the redefinition of marriage. Other jurisdictions, perhaps Delaware, will soon follow in this move that, superficially, is based on the false arguments of justice by ensuring equality for all. I, along with others, have addressed the equality issue in the past from a variety of perspectives. Some of us have incorporated into our arguments the “what” and the “why” of the Church’s teachings on the nature of marriage, while others have chosen a different course. As this weblog is dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory, we need to be aware that there are standards promulgated by the Church, which include the writings of Blessed John Paul II and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, instructing Catholics who hold public office on how they are to conduct the efforts made in the execution of their offices which impact public policy and the law. These texts also offer guidance to other people of good will regarding what should be done and what should be avoided in the execution of the responsibilities as public officials and servants of the common good. The Church’s instructions and guidance are not just the doctrine of the Church applicable to Catholics; they also constitute wise counsel for the better governance of societies that are presumably geared to pursuing the common good. This counsel is particularly applicable to democratic institutions of governance, but even democracies, when the compromise their values, becoming thinly disguised totalitarianisms, as Blessed John Paul II noted some years ago. The evidence is building that on a number of fronts our democratic institutions of the West, particularly those of the United States, are being transformed into thinly disguised totalitarian states.
Last week The New York Times [HERE] published an op-ed contribution of Governor Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island. The opinion piece was entitled “Why I am Signing Marriage Equality into Law” and presented the Governor’s case for the dramatic change in the redefinition of marriage in Little Rhody a jurisdiction of great fondness to me since, amongst other reasons, it was the last jurisdiction in which I practiced law before entering the Society of Jesus. However, this fondness has been challenged by the Governor’s recent advocacy piece heralding Rhode Island’s move to join those other jurisdictions which recognize same-sex marriage. I realize that the Governor and I do not share views on some of the important issues of the day: he is pro-abortion, and I am not; he is in favor of the use of embryonic stem cells, and I am not; and he holds a very different view about church-state relations from mine. And now, he and I see the meaning and nature of marriage from the antipodes. Allow me to elaborate upon the deceptive statements advanced by the Governor which were used to justify his advocacy for same-sex marriage and which will have a widespread impact on movement of this political juggernaut around the country and the world. (Deception had often been a crucial tool for totalitarian systems to convince the public that what the state is doing is both right and smart, but in fact is neither.)
The Governor first of all advances an interesting take on the primacy of equality and “equality’s” justification for same-sex marriage. I have addressed the equality argument on these pages in the past, most recently HERE. While the Governor states that the legislation institutionalizing same-sex marriage “will be gratifying for many reasons,” the first reason he notes is that it will instantiate “full marriage equality.” He does not explain what he means by “equal” and “equality”; neither does he assert that anyone, be he or she heterosexual or homosexual, is treated equally before the law regarding the traditional requirements for marriage, which is not a private matter or contract as the Governor suggests but is, in fact, a public institution which bears on the common good of society. As I have previously argued on many occasions including the Mirror of Justice, regardless of one’s sexual orientation, everyone is treated the same under the marriage laws which define the institution as an exclusive union of one man and one woman—a position with which the Church’s teachings agree and impart. It would have been helpful for the Governor to explain why same-sex couples—or any other group for that matter—are denied “equality” under the traditional definition of marriage, but perhaps he agreed with then Chief Justice Margaret Marshall of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts who, in November of 2003, realized that the definition of marriage had to be radically altered to satisfy the political juggernaut behind the recognition of same-sex unions; thus, she redefined it on the basis of this “vital social institution” as being based on the “exclusive commitment of two individuals to each other” so that “mutual love and mutual support” can be nurtured and bring “stability to our society.” She further offered a new definition of marriage by “using the rubric of due process” to redefine this important public institution not with reasoned argument but with the pen of a political theorist. But here we need to take account of the fact that her redefinition was based on pretext rather than objective reality that is comprehendible to objective human intelligence. The Governor has made the same mistake as Margaret Marshall, C.J.
Another reason presented by the Governor in defense of his action is that the redefinition of marriage is “the right thing to do.” The basis of the justification for this argument is the coincidence of a hoped-for economic recovery for Rhode Island which has been an “outlier” but must now be an active participant in economic recovery. He argues that Rhode Island is surrounded by states which have incorporated same-sex marriage recognition into their laws. While it is suggested that these jurisdictions (e.g., New York, Massachusetts, and Maine) have made solid economic recoveries, he does not present data supporting the contention. In the words of Cuba Gooding, Jr., in the film “Jerry Maguire,” show me the money! The Governor does not; he merely relies on unsubstantiated theory. Still, he does not want Rhode Island to be left out of the perceived economic recovery he argues will follow when Rhode Island joins the same-sex marriage movement.
A theoretical justification used by the Governor to support his decision to sign the same-sex marriage legislation into law is his reliance on the work of the urban theorist Richard Florida who contends that those urban regions which have high concentrations of technology workers, artists, and persons with same-sex attractions and practices (whom are identified as “high bohemians” and members of the “creative class”) are vital to economic development. I gather if you don’t fall into these categories identified by Professor Florida, you are not vital to economic development and recovery. Moreover, the Governor, by accepting the Florida thesis, ironically introduces a new form of class warfare into the social fabric, and class warfare or class competition is antithetical to Catholic teaching, but I digress. I hasten to point out that Professor Florida’s stance on economic development has been strongly critiqued by other academics known for rigorous standards in social science research. However, these criticisms were not acknowledged by the Governor, again perhaps because these critiques would not support his action in signing the same-sex marriage bill into law.
Perhaps the Governor tacitly recognized the problems with this aspect of the Florida thesis; consequently, he reinvents the argument of support based on the research of “many experts”, including Florida, who contend that there is “a strong correlation between tolerance and prosperity, particularly in high-tech sectors.” The Governor emphasizes the issue of tolerance, but he does not explain what tolerance means. I have explained elsewhere that in today’s political environment tolerance is frequently used as a means of eliminating opposition to the insistence that all comply with the positions asserted by the state whether the need for universal compliance is necessary or not. I contend that this is meaning of “tolerance” is used by public officials who view that moral concerns are not matters of public concern. However, in fact they are and they must be if the authentic common good is of concern. But the Governor dismisses quickly what he considers “convictions of personal morality.” He does not consider the arguments dealing with public morality. Instead, his concern is on “job creation” for Rhode Island and “tolerance” of the Florida thesis is crucial to Rhode Island’s economic recovery in his estimation. He does not pause to suggest that holding onto the wisdom of traditional morality might actually have the means of making Rhode Island an oasis that would attract the “talented” to a state which has not capitulated to the relentless force of the same-sex marriage juggernaut. Strangely the Governor reinforces his advocacy for same-sex marriage by the thin hedonistic argument that the “talented workers who are driving the new economy—young, educated and forward-looking—want to live in a place that reflects their values.” And what are these values? The Governor suggests that they are based “not simply out of a sense of justice, but because diversity makes life more fun.” While fun is important to most people, sound public policy that counters the hedonistic attitudes upon which the Governor relies is critical to good governance. Again, the words of Blessed John Paul II are instructive here: a democracy without values or the proper values is a thinly disguised totalitarianism. Has the Governor decided to join the ranks of the thinly disguised totalitarian systems of the present age? It would seem so.
Why do I suggest this? I turn to his disingenuous conclusion he offers that the current political trend is to accept the “belief in marriage as an institution” which requires “a desire to keep government out of our personal lives.” But marriage is not simply about personal lives and privacy; it is, rather, a critical public institution that necessitates sound public policy which escapes the Governor’s rationalization of what marriage is all about and why traditional marriage is important to the future of the human family. He concludes his rationalization by again relying on the false equality argument which once more escapes definition. He contends that he does not want Rhode Island to cling to “old prohibitions” which he assumes are detrimental not only to economic recovery but also to the flourishing of society. He sees these “old prohibitions” as discriminatory, but he does not examine whether the discrimination against same-sex marriage advocacy is just or unjust. This distinction of “just” versus “unjust” is also relevant to Catholic teaching and the making of sound public policy. For the Governor, marriage depends on the ability to marry the person one loves, but as I have also pointed out, this argument is insufficient. There are sound reasons why authentic equality is not unjustly interfered with when the laws prohibit persons from marrying “the person they love.” These sound reasons included age, degrees of consanguinity, and communicable disease. Strangely, the Governor’s sentiments that the new law will enable people to marry “the person they love” is untrue as the new legislation retains many of the “old prohibitions” that I just mentioned. Yet the Governor remains confident that equality will be served as the legislation will accomplish “the right thing and the smart thing” which “are one and the same.” Unfortunately for him, his action was neither. Objective intelligence comprehending the intelligible reality does not agree with the position and argument advanced by the Governor, but the political juggernaut of which he is a part still plows ahead on its non-deviating course. In the meantime the sound values which the State of Rhode Island adhered to in the past have been sacrificed to the thin values that are aligned with new totalitarian system identified by Blessed John Paul II.