How Same-Sex Marriage Won

shutterstock_140218462Until the first part of the past century, all mainline churches frowned on contraception. In 1930, however, the Lambeth Conference, a decennial assembly convened by the Anglican Church, broke with the long-held Christian prohibition. Other religious denominations quickly followed suit. This relaxation of the moral code opened the way for the destruction of marriage as it was traditionally understood.

Christians have always recognized children as one of the main purposes, or at least properties, belonging exclusively to marriage. The Bible, in the Book of Genesis, commands men and women to be fruitful and multiply. However, in every society regardless of religious belief, marriage was determined to be based on the natural law. It was the means for the continuation of the human species and ordained for the good of the state. Furthermore, the complementarity of husband and wife was always recognized as beneficial to raising healthy children. Marriage, therefore, existed for the common good, not just for the couple.

By separating life-giving and lovemaking through contraception, marriage became more focused on the couple’s happiness. The traditional understanding of marriage waned regarding the procreation of children and self-sacrifice on the part of the couple for them. In fact, children became not only unimportant for marriage, but they became important only if having them made the parties to the marriage happy. This effectively made children a commodity. Finally, marriage lent itself to rationalizing divorce on the grounds of one or both partners being unhappy, even if their separation proved detrimental to their children.

The elimination of children as one of the purposes of marriage cleared the path for sterile, homosexual marriage. After all, don’t homosexuals have a right to be happy, too? Shouldn’t same-sex couples have the right to adopt children if it adds to their bliss? Homosexual relationships as such have now become accepted as part of a new code of sexual ethics accepted by many churches. This is evident in churches that have devised rituals to bless same-sex unions.

Since many churches no longer have a strong theology of marriage, the courts have filled the vacuum. Judges are now the main arbiters of what constitutes a marriage and the privileges accorded to married couples, irrespective of a couple’s sex. Their decisions are based on positive rights derived from egalitarian principles that they claim are embedded in the Constitution. Indicative of this, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote in the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling Wednesday in United States v. Windsor, in which it struck down a provision of the 17-year old Defense of Marriage Act: “DOMA is unconstitutional as a deprivation of the equal liberty of persons that is protected by the Fifth Amendment.” This is another nail in the coffin of traditional understanding of marriage between one man and one woman.

Justice Kennedy further stated, “The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the state, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity.”

These words are extremely dangerous for those churches that maintain a traditional understanding of marriage. Justice Antonin Scalia points out in his dissent: “By formally declaring anyone opposed to same-sex marriage as an enemy of human decency, the majority arms well every challenger to a state law restricting a marriage to its traditional definition.”

For those religious traditions that oppose same-sex marriage, Justice Scalia’s jeremiad deserves special note. A word to the wise is sufficient.


This article was originally published at the Washington Post and is used here with permission.

Image credit:

Fr. Michael P. Orsi


Chaplain and Research Fellow at Ave Maria Law. Father Michael P. Orsi was ordained for the Diocese of Camden in 1976 and has a broad background in teaching and educational administration. Fr. Orsi has authored or co-authored four books and over 300 articles in more than 45 journals, magazines and newspapers. He has served as Assistant Chancellor, Assistant Vicar for Pastoral Services, Director of Family Life Bureau, and Coordinator of Pope John Paul II’s visit to New Jersey for the Diocese of Camden. He has also served as a member of The Institute for Genomic Research at the University of Pennsylvania and as a member of New Jersey’s Advisory Council on AIDS. Fr. Orsi holds a Doctorate in Education from Fordham University, two Master degrees in Theology from Saint Charles Seminary, and a Bachelor of Arts from Cathedral College. He is presently serving as Chaplain and Research Fellow in Law and Religion at Ave Maria School of Law, Naples, Florida. He is a member of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars. In 2005 Fr. Orsi was appointed as a Senior Research Associate to the Linacre Center for Bioethics, London, England. Fr. Orsi co-hosts a weekly radio program The Advocate which discusses law and culture on WDEO-AM 990, WMAX-AM 1440 in metro Detroit and WDEO-FM 98.5 in southwest Florida [also linked at].

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  • Deacon Jim Mann

    Thank you, Fr. Orsi, for this excellent article. Decisions do have consequences, whether foreseen at the time or not.

  • Supergirl333

    Since many churches no longer have a strong theology of marriage…

    And Bishops and priests have been neglectful over the years to teach that homosexuality is sinful.

  • Barrysullivan1

    Father Orsi is absolutely right but there are other factors which have led to this erosion of support for traditional marriage. One of the main reasons is the number of “Catholic” political leaders who have pushed gay marriage openly and never experienced any consequences from their bishops for this support. Maryland Governor O’Malley stated before the legislative session he would make legalizing gay marriage his top priority. Note he is also 100% pro-abortion. Given these two stands one would hope that the Baltimore or Washington DC Cardinals would have publicly warned him and then excommunicated him for his openly supporting these tragic positions. Unfortunately, I don’t think there is anything a politician could do in Maryland which would incur any public consequences from the Hierarchy. So his soul, along with the many who follow him, is in mortal danger, because of a lack of leadership. The Lord must be weeping along with many of us.

  • JimmyChonga

    When private property is no longer yours, but the “states” – what IS the purpose of having children upon whom you might endow the benefit of your hard work? There are MANY factors here at work – principle among them is: plain and simple: BAD POLITICS. Wherever there is a degeneration of traditional family – look no further than the bad politics of the regimes in charge.

  • CharlesOConnell
  • Joseph Posavac

    During the arguments before the court earlier this year, one of the those arguing before the court, made the point that a gay couple is incapable of reproducing, to which one of the clueless justices, I think Kagan, replied, what about straight couples that can’t have children? The answer is obvious: if a heterosexual couple can’t have children, it is because of a bug in the reproductive capabilities in one of them, whereas a gay couple can’t have children naturally because the sex act between them (in plain language sodomy) by its very nature is incapable of reproduction. A same-sex couple has as much chance of having a baby through kissing. The very concept of same-sex marriage is a sham, introduced to history in our own time. It would be a passing fad, like pet rocks, if it didn’t have wide support from influential and powerful quarters.

  • pnyikos

    You make a valid point–but only up to a point. We are not yet at the point where private property is no longer ours; taxes only take away part of it. Were you thinking specifically of inheritance taxes? Even so, they are only a fraction of the value of the property.

    On the other hand, they can be a decisive factor in some cases, like family farms. High inheritance taxes practically compel some families to sell the family farm, or large parts of it, to avoid ruinous losses. As long as both Republicans and Democrats support only minor changes in the inheritance taxes on family farms, one of the mainstays of traditional family values is going to continue to decline.

  • Obama_Dogeater

    Kagan really is a dimwit, heralded as a genius by her admirers in the media. Same with Sotomayer.

  • Obama_Dogeater

    It’s really scandalous how spineless those bishops are, at a time when we need STRONG leadership. They would rather have their photos taken with heretic Catholic politicians than do what’s proper…excommunicate them.

  • Dust in the wind

    I honestly believe the time of the bishops to wield their political strength is gone. The tide of persecution has already begun and at this time and juncture in our Cathoilc sojourn it is of utmost importance for those who wish for the strength to endure the impending trials and tribulations to pray and fast. We are all criminals of the state from this day forward.

  • James H, London

    IOW, infertility in same-sex ‘marriage’ isn’t a bug, it’s a feature.

  • BillinJax

    We must understand something in such matters.
    The situation we find our society in today is not simply the END result of fair and honest arbitration or a sincere search of the constitution for justice. The MEANS necessary to
    arrive at this place was devised long ago by those who desired our being here and
    proceeded to redirect the guide posts of moral reasoning pointing to the
    cobblestone road of Christian principled behavior designed to keep us free from
    sin to rather invite us to the smooth highway to the road of ruin with all the stops
    along the way to pick up personal rights to do as we pleased with freedom from
    all guilt.
    Their plan, knowingly or not the work of EVIL itself, is working perfectly as designed and they are comfortable with their agenda which always approves of the end justifies the means.
    When are we going to admit this to ourselves before we are told or even compelled to say there is no such thing as EVIL?

  • steve gottler

    Some people only understand the Truth based on other people’s (ie. priests, religious, etc..) actions for or against It. The Truth applies to all…their failure is their sin…not your justification to abandon the Truth.


  • Obama_Dogeater

    Agree. I’ve come to just tune the bishops out. They continue to be on the WRONG side of issues, such as illegal immigration, nuclear disarmament and gun control.

  • klossg

    What decisions do you refer to … political or legal or personal? Or do you refer to all three? I do believe it starts with personal and the other two follow. Contraception is a huge personal choice. And today very few give more than a millisecond of brain synapse to this “decision.” We need a new Renaissance to reawaken our dimwitted consciences. Love articles like this!

  • klossg

    Politicians just go with the flow. Follow them, believe in them and it is already too late. By the time they come along, our decisions are no longer personal. Keep it personal and remember that regardless of the law, Christ and his church acts in all of us. The world must be changed by us and those around us. Keep your children and friends on the right side and we will bring back the Kingdom of Heaven to America. Love over gold, Love over politics, love over law!

  • Deacon Jim Mann

    I do refer to all three, but I agree that our personal decisions are primary. When my wife and I decided to be open to the gift of life in our marriage, as the Church teaches, we found that we became more able to allow Jesus to be Lord of every area of our lives. Nine children and twenty-seven grandchildren later (so far!), we could not imagine a happier or richer life.

    Peace, Deacon Jim

  • Betty Borrough

    So they’re against nuclear disarmament, against allowing people that contribute to our economy to obtain ‘legitimacy’, and against sensible limits/protections on gun ownership?

  • colcarpenter

    Marriage became broken when remarriage after divorce/annulment became acceptable to Christians and secularists alike. In the big picture, gay marriage is a minor issue.

  • Obama_Dogeater

    Wow, nice Democrat talking points there, Butty. People that contribute to our economy? People who mooch government benefits is more like it. As for gun own guns, all guns are ALREADY registered by citizens who choose to obey the law. Educate yourself.

  • Betty Borrough

    Please, no ad hominem, it isn’t Christian, nor becoming. My goal was to clarify what you believe the bishops’ position is, and what you think it should be. So, I’ll start with question 1: What is the bishops’ position on nuclear disarmament? What should it be? How does our Catholic faith back you up?

  • Obama_Dogeater

    The bishops should first speak with nations who threaten their neighbors and demand THEY not obtain nuclear arms (Iran and North Korea). Once again, my point: to demand that the U.S. unilaterally disarm is beyond naive. You can wax eloquent all you want about what a great world it would be without nuclear weapons, but it’s a waste of time.

  • Betty Borrough

    I am an economist by training, so I, having actually studied the inflow/outflow of monies and production, preferred to say ‘people that contribute to our economy.’

    Don’t forget, you are arguing against people here, people made in the image of God… don’t dismiss them too quickly.

    Here is quick adaptation of the US Bishops’ letter on immigration. If you believe any of these points are wrong, please let me know why.

    1: Economic, social and political conditions in a person’s homeland should provide an opportunity for a person to work and support his or her family with dignity and safety. Efforts should be made to address global economic inequities through just trade practices, economic development and debt relief.

    2: When there are just reasons, when people are unable to find work and support their families, they have a right to migrate to other countries and work. Today, global poverty is rampant and political unrest has resulted in wars and persecution. Consequently, migrants who are forced to leave their homelands to survive and support their families must be given special consideration, and could be considered morally obligated to leave if they believe that is what it will take to ensure their family’s dignity.

    3: Sovereign nations have the right to protect and control their borders. However, it is not an absolute right. Nations also have an obligation to the universal common good, and thus should seek to accommodate migration to the greatest extent possible.

    4: People who flee their homelands because they fear persecution should be afforded safe haven and protection in another country. The United States should employ a refugee and asylum system that protects asylum seekers and refugees, and offers them a haven from persecution.

    5: All people should be treated with respect and dignity. A person who enters a nation without proper authorization or over-stays their visas is still a person. They should not be detained in deplorable conditions for lengthy periods of time, shackled or abused. They should be afforded due process of the law and, if applicable, allowed to articulate a fear of returning to their home before a qualified adjudicator.

  • Obama_Dogeater

    Betty, we have a LEGAL process for entering this country. Those who break our laws are CRIMINALS and there’s nothing Christ like about encouraging that. Who are they to break in line ahead of those who are following the rules? I know this makes you uncomfortable, but the results of illegal immigration have been disastrous for the Southwest U.S. Dozens of hospitals have closed because of the “free” treatment they receive. School systems are on the verge of bankruptcy because of them…they receive free meals and free childcare, for crying out loud. Approximately 30 percent of federal inmates are illegal aliens. Diseases such as tuberculosis are reappearing because of them. Drug-related violence in Mexico is spilling over the border, just talk to property owners on the border.
    I find this (from your above message) particularly appalling: “3: Sovereign nations have the right to protect and control their borders. However, it is not an absolute right.” How WRONG the bishops are. They are un-American. Shame on them.
    I really don’t care to continue this discussion with you because your eyes are closed. I know it makes you feel smug to quote from the clueless bishops, but you’re not realistic.

  • Betty Borrough

    Yes, we have a legal process. One that can take 10-15 years. If a person (created in the image of God!) believes that they can get their children (also created in the image of God!) out of a dangerous place, they have something of a moral responsibility to do that. How it happens is up for debate.

    1st – of the ‘free’ hospital treatment in border areas – the best numbers I could find indicate about 80% of free treatment is for US citizens. 20% is for illegal aliens. Please will you link me to some of the closures that were caused by illegal aliens, I would like to be convinced. I would appreciate some facts, some starting point from which to educate myself.

    Your response to 3 is jingoistic tripe.
    The goal is not to be American. It is to be Catholic. Arguing against treating people with dignity and respect because it isn’t American is ridiculous.

    Let’s set up a thought experiment. Suppose we’re in 1939 Germany. Good Catholics, have helped the Jews. Now, the Nazi’s are coming to kill us. In this thought experiment, we are German citizens, and there are no countries with laws that will allow us entry. These bishops in these countries say that we should be admitted. Are these bishops wrong?

    What lowest level of suffering that should be the cut-off point at which the bishops should NOT say to admit people into the country?

    I’m not saying ‘open the borders’. I am asking for prayerful contemplation on how we should treat the problems in our immigration system.

  • Betty Borrough

    You have created a straw man argument. The bishops are not calling for unilateral disarmament, nor are they calling for proliferation.

    Here is what they have said:

    1 – The Church’s concern for nuclear weapons grows out of its commitment to the sanctity of human life.

    2 – The Holy See and the U.S. bishops have long supported:

    • reducing the number of nuclear armaments

    • preventing their spread to other nations

    • securing nuclear materials from terrorists.

    3 – Their long term goals, for decades, have been the twin and interrelated policy goals of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.

    4 – They understand that it is an IDEAL that will take years to reach, but it is a task which our nation must take up

    Sourced from a Nov. 29, 2010 letter from Bishop Howard J. Hubbard of Albany, New York, to the Senate, as posted on the USCCB’s website.

    If you disagree with these long-term goals, will you please explain why. Not that it’s a waste of time, but why it’s a bad goal.
    If we discarded good Catholic goals because ‘it’s a waste of time, the world will never joint us.’ we have failed our own faith.

  • Shawn Fatheree

    Thank-You Father Orsi for a great insightful article! I believe our politicians and judges stay away from the conversation about the traditional family benefiting the common good of our society for stability and morality, is that it would place them on the side of marriage between one man and one woman. It is an upside down thinking today that everyone should have every right and privilege so they can be happy! As our society becomes more secular and unhappy!