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Legalize Same-Sex Marriage: Why Law & Religion Should Part Company

In this article from Commonweal (October 2003), Paul J. Griffiths makes a conservative and philosophical case for gay marriage outside the church. Griffiths holds the chair in Catholic Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He is the author of Religious Reading: The Place of Reading in Religious Practice (Oxford), among other works.

The question of the proper legal status of same-sex partnerships is at the moment lively. On June 10, the Court of Appeal in Ontario defined marriage as “the voluntary union for life of two persons to the exclusion of all others,” thereby including same-sex unions within the definition. On July 30, in his first full-scale news conference in four months, President George W. Bush said that he believes marriage to be proper only for opposite-sex couples, and that he is exploring legal means to maintain that restriction in the United States. And on July 31, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) issued “Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions between Homosexual Persons.” Among its conclusions: that “all Catholics are obliged to oppose the legal recognition of homosexual unions”; that laws legalizing such unions are illegitimate, gravely unjust, and opposed to the common good; and that Catholics who support or advocate such laws are supporting or advocating evil. Catholics are bound to show at least obsequium religiosum, religiously submissive respect or deference, to magisterial teaching like that found in the CDF’s document. It comes, after all, over the signature of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and with the pope’s approval. One element in showing such respect is to raise questions. . . . READ the rest…