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Bishops’ gay-marriage stance faulty

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — In “N.M. Catholic bishops restate opposition to gay marriage,” the April 2 banner article in the Journal, the state’s three Roman Catholic bishops wrote in a joint statement that legalizing gay marriage “would infringe upon other important rights such as the right of children to a mother and a father as well as to religious freedom.”

First, no law exists that requires a child to have a mother and a father. If such a law did exist, would unwed and/or otherwise single parents be forced to marry or re-marry before they were legally allowed to raise children, lest they infringe on their child’s rights?

Secondly, whose religious rights would be infringed upon if gay people were allowed to marry? Such a statement assumes religious ownership of the institution of marriage. Marriage is not a right over which Christianity has supreme, divine, or legal authority, because the unification of two people is not a concept founded by the church. Not surprisingly, the bishops conspicuously failed to mention which of their rights would be taken from them if gay marriage were to be legalized.

The bishops also wrote that, “Racial difference or sameness was never an essential factor for marriage; on the other hand, sexual difference is an essential component of marriage.”

The first clause of this statement is a blatant falsity. Interracial marriage, interracial intercourse, even interracial cohabiting was a felony in most states until 1967, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional to discriminate against interracial couples.

The accuracy of the second clause of the bishops’ statement is contingent on laws being made that currently do not exist. To claim that “sexual difference” is somehow essential to marriage assumes that married couples will reproduce through what might be described as “traditional” means. As our bishops ought be well aware, having children is not a condition of legal marriage. Atheist heterosexual and Catholic homosexual couples alike share the legal right to not have children, to adopt or to utilize the science of in vitro fertilization in order to conceive.

Sexual difference may be an “essential component” of Catholic marriage, but as yet neither the church nor the United States itself have established conception or fertility as a requisite of membership or citizenship, respectively. To do so, in fact, would be discriminatory.

Discrimination, whether it is based on religion, nationalism or any other dogma, is the sanction of inequality, and to establish laws or to otherwise treat people unequally is to either misinterpret or consciously violate the founding principles of this country.

America is not a theocracy. As such, centuries-old myths dictating the proper handling of slaves, the lethal punishments for disobedient children or the administering of marriage licenses cannot be used as a basis for deciding which citizens do or do not receive protections, rights or privileges under federal law.

To use a common saying, thank God for that.

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