Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Is there a natural right to same-sex marriage?






No -- but sometimes the most obvious truths are the hardest to explain.



The people of California, Arizona and Florida recently voted to amend their state constitutions to defend the age-old truth that marriage is the life-long union of a man and a woman with the object of mutual love and the raising of a family. Ever since, those in favor of recognition of same-sex marriage have complained that they have been deprived of their civil rights and denied equality. The recognition of same-sex partnerships with legal and financial benefits akin to marriage is not enough for them. They repeatedly lament the supposed loss of their civil rights and compare themselves to oppressed slaves.

Proponents of same-sex marriage are usurping the natural and civil right to marriage between a man and a woman. Unfortunately defenders of traditional marriage often have trouble defending the obvious precisely because it is self-evident and defies sound bites.

Biblical revelation about God’s creation of man and woman and his plan for marriage is abundant, but arguments for traditional marriage and against same-sex marriage are not exclusively religious. Far from it. The most convincing ones are based on universally recognised natural rights which exist prior to the state and are not created by government fiat or popular consent. Civil rights are the legal recognition of rights which derive from natural rights.

All one needs to do is reflect upon the human experience. It is easy to grasp that each human faculty, including the generative faculty, has its proper functions and ends. We can also discern basic human goods that are necessary for existence and social life, such as procreation, health, safety, freedom, friendship and religion.

Throughout the centuries people have come to recognize different rights -- such as the right to just trials, the right to practice a religion, and the right of universal suffrage. Civil rights are important mainly because they safeguard these basic human rights.

Governments protect natural rights, they do not create them.

Marriage is one of these basic human rights, one which is based on complementary sexual differences between men and women and the good of procreation. Marriage joins a male and a female in a way the involves the total person: soul, body and affections. Usually this union brings forth offspring and the children are raised in a stable environment where the children learn about manhood and womanhood. Children need both a father and a mother because each parent is different and as male and female provide for different needs.

For example, boys need a father to teach them how to respect women, to develop masculine traits and to learn discipline. A Nobel Prize laureate in economics, George Akerlof, has shown how the breakdown of marriage (1) and the absence of a father in the family or some good father figure is related to the sharp rise of delinquency in the US. This alone is nearly conclusive evidence that there is no natural right to same-sex marriage.


  1. Akerlof, GA, et al. "An Analysis of out-of-wedlock childbearing in the United States". Q J Econ. 1996 May; 111(2): 277-317.

Juan R. VĂ©lez is a Los Angeles Catholic priest. Before becoming a priest, he worked as a physician.

Full article at Mercator

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