September 20th 2011

Same-Sex Marriage and Natural Law

By MarieAlena Castle
[Letter to the Minneapolis Star Tribune]

Michael Musielewicz (Sept. 19) says critics of the Catholic Church’s opposition to same-sex marriage should either accept the Church’s moral consistency or argue against natural law. The problem here is that the Church’s “natural law” doesn’t exist in reality.

We do have a natural law, but it is simply a description of how nature works, which we get from observation and testing. Sexuality, driven by evolution’s profligate and varied processes, is not rigidly heterosexual, as can be observed throughout the animal kingdom. Homosexuality is just one of the harmless variations. The case for same-sex marriage rests firmly on this observable law of nature.

There is also an erroneous assumption by those who believe in a natural law given by a supernatural lawgiver that the way nature works reflects a purpose. Since heterosexual sex usually produces offspring, that is assumed to be nature’s purpose. But nature has no purpose, only consequences, some we perceive as good, some bad, depending on their effect on us. People deal with these consequences to create purposes according to their needs, accepting some, rejecting others. The consequences of sex include pleasure, the transmission of microbial life (disease), and the transmission of human life. So what purpose do we create from these consequences? Simple observation shows the primary purpose humans create is pleasure. The transmission of disease and human life are side effects, with disease fought off relentlessly and human life usually welcomed (but sometimes not).

Until humans figured out where babies came from, sex most certainly was naturally directed by sexual orientation, solely because it was enjoyable. Once paternity was understood, the picture changed drastically. Although the history of marriage shows many forms and rationales (including same-sex marriage), an overriding reason for its institutionalization was male interest in controlling women to ensure no-guesswork paternity and, therefore, inheritance, economic aggrandizement, and ruling authority. Women became men’s property, as noted in the Ten Commandments and enforced by all religions until recently.

With such abuse of women diminishing, marriage essentially legalizes a sexuality-based bond without regard for procreation. Although this remains essential for some religions, the interests of religion and government are different. Religions are free to set their own rules, but government is concerned with issues beyond procreation, such as financial and personal responsibilities, inheritance laws, medical care and visitation rights, child custody, and so on. It is socially advantageous to provide these benefits, through marriage, for loving, committed adults of any sexual orientation. It also conforms to the natural law.

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