Proponents of same-sex marriage frame their cause in terms of civil rights. There are no significant moral or cultural differences between homosexual couples and heterosexual couples, they presume, and therefore limiting marriage to heterosexual couples amounts to discrimination. Fairness and justice require giving men the right to marry men and women the right to marry women. Q.E.D.
The recent success of the New York legislature in redefining marriage indicates that this way of thinking has traction. As Albert Mohler recently pointed out in the Wall Street Journal, we find ourselves in a “most awkward cultural moment.” Sex is now largely thought of as a matter of personal choice, and for the most part heterosexual couples couple as they see fit. Words like fornication seem musty and archaic. Established gender roles for men and women are held in suspicion. Almost everyone, even Catholics, regards contraception as a self-evident good. Children are an option, not the self-evident responsibility of adult life. These views make it difficult for many today, including folks in church pews, to see what earlier generations thought crystal clear: that marriage unites a man and a woman.
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