Isn’t the Catholic Church discriminating against people when it supports laws that ban same-sex marriage?
I think there are two errors at the root of this question: 1.) All discrimination is wrong, and 2.) People have the right to enter into a same-sex marriage. I would like to address these errors in turn.
Regarding the first error, people throw around the word “discrimination” a lot in order to gain some leverage based on the baggage attached to the word. When we hear “discrimination,” we think “slavery,” which was one of the greatest evils we have ever faced. So, when you charge someone with discrimination, that usually works to gain public sentiment in your favor. But, it’s not intellectually honest. That’s because it is simply not true that all discrimination is wrong. Speed limits discriminate against people who like to drive fast. Laws against stealing discriminate against kleptomaniacs. Should these laws be repealed simply because they discriminate? Of course not. The fact is, sometimes discrimination is just and necessary. So, it is not enough to say that a law is wrong simply because it discriminates. Instead, one has to prove that the discrimination in question is unjust.
The second error, that people have a right to enter into same-sex marriages, really centers around the definition of a “right.” What is a “right”? Is it the freedom to do whatever we want? If that were the case, then people could claim the “right” do to anything! How then do we determine whether or not someone has a legitimate claim to something? If it’s a legitimate claim, it’s a “right.” If it’s an arbitrary claim, it’s a “want.” Basic philosophical principles tell us that a claim is legitimate only if it is justified morally, and if it has its basis in some good that should be honored. Under this definition, same-sex marriage cannot qualify as a right.
Now, I realize that this begs the question: how do we determine whether or not something is morally justified? As a Catholic, the Bible and the teachings of the Church are my guide, and while one could argue that these should be the guides for ALL men, I think it is also true that natural law and every man’s faculty of reason should also lead him to the conclusion that same-sex marriage is immoral and thus no one has a legitimate claim to it.
Of course, this just scratches the surface of the debate (which is all I really have room here to do), but I hope it helps. For more information, I suggest the following sites:
Peace of Christ to you,
WIMM Board Member
Director of Religious Education, Blessed Mother Catholic Church
Feel free to email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org