“I’m going to live with my daddy,” Ben Stewart said when he was eight. “Because there I have both a daddy and a mommy.”
Stewart’s childhood was vastly different from most kids. He was constantly forced to choose between two homes: his mom’s, where his sister and mom’s female lover lived, and his dad’s, where his stepmom—whom he didn’t always get along with—lived.
“I was very young when I learned about lesbianism,” said the 30-year-old Virginian, whose name has been changed for this article. He learned about it from his mother, who told him: “This is what I am, and don’t tell your dad or he’ll take you away from me.”
Caught up in his choice between mommy and daddy was a choice between two worlds. One was the world where family means a mom, a dad, kids, and normalcy. In the other, the “gayby” boom was starting and developing its own vocabulary, one where “breeders” was the word for male-female couples, where “co-parent” replaced the terms “mom” and “dad,” and where “family” was already starting to mean anything, and nothing.
For Stewart, it was also a woman’s world.
“I left because it was such a female environment, and I was having many problems,” Stewart says. “I remember going to a counselor with my mom. The counselor was some kind of feminist, listening to me express dissatisfaction because there were no boys in my life.” The counselor was unmoved. But Stewart was so unhappy that he eventually got to move in with his father and stepmother, while his sister stayed with his mother. What Stewart found is that in one sense, the son of a lesbian mother doesn’t have two mommies—or three, counting Dad’s wife. He has none.
“Over the years, I had a couple of issues with my stepmom,” he says, referring to his father’s wife. So he told his mother he wanted to live with her and her lifelong companion again. “The long and short of it was, she didn’t want me to live with her,” he says. She sent him to a “green, lefty boarding school about half an hour away, basically a commune.” He tried to make himself enjoy the school, but he hated it. “There wasn’t really a place for me, I guess,” he said. “There was a tension between my being a young, energetic boy and this kind of woman-centered world.”
Stewart, a divinity school graduate and a Catholic convert, is worried that the homosexual marriage movement will put other young boys and girls in the same predicament he grappled with. And he’s worried that Catholics won’t do much to help.
“Catholics don’t want to deal with this,” Stewart says. “That’s a disaster. What people like my mom see in the religious right is people who say, ‘Ooo, this is icky and disgusting and horrible,’ reflexively, without explaining why. Then my mom and her friend look at their own lives, at their sacrifice and friendship and generosity and say, ‘Well, these people are just hate-mongers.”
The Wake-Up Call
Matt Daniels at Alliance for Marriage (AFM) shares Stewart’s sense of foreboding. “The marriage movement today is where the pro-life movement was on the eve of Roe v. Wade,” he says. In other words, about to lose everything—that is, unless something is done.
But nothing is likely to be done. A readers’ survey recently conducted for the National Catholic Register asked what readers wanted to see less of. Topping the list was stories about homosexuality. The “ooo, icky” factor makes it hard to make any headway against the problem. People don’t want to think or talk about it—or act against it.
The bishops, who should be frontline defenders of marriage, are in no position to cast stones right now. They have learned the hard way that homosexuals make bad custodians of children, but they have lost credibility in the process. Marriage defenders long for a wake-up call. “We don’t have the luxury to wait,” Daniels says. “Each new defeat in the courts puts our side at a greater legal, political, and public-relations disadvantage.”
A court case pending in Massachusetts could result in the creation of fully legal same-sex marriage in that state within the year. Once full marital status has been granted to same-sex couples in one state, a tidal wave of federal precedent could quickly sweep over the rest of the nation. And there will be no shortage of candidates to ride that wave. Homosexual couples could force recognition of their “marriages” in both state and federal courts across the country. This will be the wake-up call pro-family forces have been waiting for. But it will be too late, Daniels says. They will be the pro-life movement in the mid-1970s, railing against reality.
Homosexual marriage supporters know all this, Daniels suspects. In the end, homosexual activists will rely on the federal courts to say that the Constitution is on their side and effectively change the definition of marriage. In the meantime, they don’t want the general public to think very hard about what’s happening.
“The general strategy has been to avoid any early pursuit of an alarming federal court decision in their favor that might galvanize public opinion against them nationally,” Daniels says. Instead they have focused on building a legal and cultural consensus that’s on their side in the urban, “blue,” Gore-voting regions of the country. They’ve done an excellent job with domestic partnership ordinances and adoptions provisions, always on local or state levels.
“In this way, the nation as a whole can be encouraged to feel safe from the judicial imposition of same-sex marriage until long after we have reached the legal, social, and political point of no return,” Daniels says.
Take Vermont, for instance: More than 80 percent of all same-sex couples who joined in “civil unions” in Vermont—several thousand—now live elsewhere, in every state in the nation. You can be sure that wherever they settle, they’ll find lawyers who will tend to whatever troubles they might have with the law.
Catholics can take heart, though: When the people get to decide, they decide for marriage. And when homosexual activism is exposed to the light of public opinion, it runs and hides.
California and Connecticut recently saw legislative victories for marriage—or at any rate, they saw traditional marriage pried loose from the jaws of defeat. The Connecticut victory, in particular, can build Catholics’ courage. So says Marie T. Hilliard, executive director of the Connecticut Catholic Conference. Contrary to what Connecticut newspapers reported (Hilliard says they were “frighteningly” wrong), same-sex marriage opponents were defeated almost single-handedly by the lay Catholic faithful. On a Friday, “it seemed the proponents of same-sex unions had the votes,” Hilliard says. But by Monday, legislators had changed their minds, “due to hundreds of calls by the people of God to the Connecticut legislature’s judiciary committee. I heard people saying they were getting calls ten to one in favor of marriage. The answering machines could take no more calls.”
That’s why homosexual activist organizations avoid voters like the plague. They prefer places like Massachusetts, where the courts favor the gay-rights activists and share their contempt for voters. For instance, the Supreme Judicial Court last year chose to spare the feelings of the homosexuals that were being excluded from a St. Patrick’s Day parade rather than uphold the rights of the organizers. Attorney General Tom Relly also supports same-sex marriage.
The current homosexual rights case in Boston pits seven gay couples against Massachusetts, claiming that the commonwealth’s constitution gives them the right to marry. They want state-issued marriage licenses. Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders is fighting the fight, fresh from its Vermont victory.
They tell sad stories in their public relations kit: Plaintiff Hillary Goodridge wasn’t allowed to see her lover, Julie Goodridge, in the hospital when Julie had a tough delivery and “their” baby was in intensive care; Gloria Bailey and Linda Davies have spent 30 years together and are now worried about retirement and passing on their property to one another.
The case was heard by a judge in Suffolk Superior Court in March. That’s the picturesque building where ABC’s The Practice is set. Like the situations contrived for the show, the case seems to have been set up in such a way that only the liberals can win. It asks: Should all people who meet, date, fall in love, and form a committed relationship be given a marriage license? Or should marriage be limited to people of the opposite sex? (“Saying that marriage is limited to a man and a woman is like saying that 2 + 2 is limited to being 4,” quips Catholic scholar and papal biographer George Weigel.) A third option: The court may set up a parallel universe that gives homosexual couples everything they want, except for the word “marriage” on their state-issued civil union licenses.
A decision hadn’t been reached by mid-May but was expected at any time. Most likely, by the time this story is in print, the case will have been decided against traditional marriage and then appealed, bringing the same cast of characters to the friendly waters of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts.
A Preventable Disaster
Can such a powerful tide be turned? Is heterosexual distaste for homosexual acts enough to defend the institution of marriage?
“I’m surprised that you appear to believe that straight society dislikes the gay lifestyle,” John McKellar told me. McKellar, who lives in Toronto, is president of Homosexuals Opposed to Pride Extremism (HOPE). “I’m surprised that you haven’t figured out that we rule the world these days. Everybody except orthodox religious sects has either been cowed by gay activist intimidation or softened by the politics of victimology and oppression and the doctrines of tolerance, diversity, and inclusion.”
But isn’t homosexuality, at some level, fundamentally about love? Don’t count on it, McKellar says. “Our lifestyle is very much about party, pageant, parade, and promiscuity. We want to have our cake and eat it, too. There was an article in the gay press last year titled, ‘How to Stay Married and Still Be a Slut.'”
What does a homosexual like McKellar (“I’ve had short-term and long-term relationships, and at present, I’m unattached”) think of gay marriage? “Sure, we all have baby envy, and lots of us would like to raise kids,” he says. “But we can’t have everything we want in life, and it’s selfish and rude to redefine society’s traditions and conventions simply for our self-indulgence.”
If a homosexual can say this, what about the rest of society? I asked George Weigel whether those who favor contraception—the great equalizer of sex acts—can logically oppose homosexual marriage. “Any serious Bible-believing Christian believes that homosexual marriage is wrong because it’s forbidden in Scripture,” Weigel answered. “The fact is people’s lives are more complicated than theology admits. There are tens of thousands of Catholic couples that are not living the teaching of Humanae Vitae and see homosexual marriage as offensive.” He compares it to opposition to cloning. “Once you sign off on in vitro fertilization, you have no logical way to oppose cloning,” he says. Yet plenty of people accept the first but not the second.
“There is no silver-bullet argument on this. There are going to be different kinds of arguments that different kinds of people can hear and engage [in],” Weigel says. A coalition against homosexual marriage should include all of them.
Why It’s Wrong
I asked Rev. Roger Landry—the young Massachusetts priest whose homily about the Boston priestly sex-abuse scandals has been an e-mail hit for months—to explain why homosexual marriage is wrong. He says it all comes down to the sex act. Conjugal life is geared to represent in one act what the married state lives out in slow motion with clothes on—the mutual self-giving of spouses for the good of the other (unity) and the betterment of society (children).
On the other hand, “homosexual love-making—as we can read in pro-homosexuality literature, like the Journal of Homosexuality, or as many candid practicing homosexuals unabashedly have told me in conversation—is not geared to a mutual exchange of selves, the bodily expression of a complete gift of oneself to another, but is rather a form of sexual utilitarianism, in which, with mutual consent, the partners use each other for the pleasure that sexual activity brings with it,” Father Landry says.
“Using someone is the opposite of loving someone, and hence there’s no surprise that homosexual relations often corrode or destroy the real love two people of the same sex may genuinely have for each other. We see this effect in the high breakup rate among active homosexual couples. To allow homosexual unions would mean to have to deal with the consequences…of what would be a very high homosexual ‘divorce’ rate.”
Princeton professor Robert George builds the philosophical case against homosexual marriage in his new book, The Clash of Orthodoxies. George told me that people are tempted to think that the “one-flesh union” of the Bible—in Genesis and the gospel—is merely a poetic concept. “How is it possible for two human beings to be one flesh? I’m in my flesh, you’re in yours, she’s in hers.” Christians might begin to think the one-flesh union is just emotional. But the truth—philosophical as well as biological—is that marriage is literally a one-flesh union.
“For most purposes,” George explains, “acts are done by individual human beings. I’m pacing; you’re not—you’re eating…. But procreation is a single act, not performed by an individual human being. It’s done by a mated pair. For the purposes of that act, they are one flesh.”
Giving sperm and receiving it are two different things, but procreation two together making a baby—is one thing, not two. As Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary professor Germain Grisez says, the two become “a single procreative principle.” One flesh, in the Bible’s way of speaking.
“There’s a fallacy at the heart of the view that marriage is really an emotional union,” George says. “This view sees sex as not just uniting people, but enhancing the real unity, which is emotional. Then, sex is something they do with each other to make each other feel good and feel more united.” Sodomy can do the same thing, he points out. So can marriage among three people, or five. Once you allow homosexual marriage, anything can be a marriage.
“What’s at the heart of this fallacy?” George asks. “It’s the idea that the real person isn’t the physical biological reality of you or me, the real person is the consciousness, which merely resides in a suit of flesh. The person isn’t the flesh, but the consciousness that resides in the flesh.”
The alternative view is shared by Christians and Jews. The person is not only a mind or only a body but a unity of mind and spirit, so that the body isn’t an instrument of the person; the body is the person.
How to explain all this to the world? Weigel says that ultimately, as in arguments against euthanasia, the winning argument isn’t necessarily the one that gets the intellectual nuance right. “Scaring the hell out of people,” he says, “is the argument that works.”
Ben Stewart knows one scary thing about lesbian relationships like his mother’s. He mentions it when he tells of the one time his mom’s pacifism was overcome with rage: “My sister and I were at home, and we got into some kind of minor argument. My mother came home in the middle of it. She was in the house, but we didn’t know it. My sister reacted to my argument with the typical American high-school insult, ‘You fag!’
“At that moment, my mother was walking by, and she came in and started whaling on my sister.”
Stewart says this was the mildest possible form of a pervasive gay-couple problem he’s come across in his research: domestic violence. Do a Google search on the phrase “lesbian battering” and you’ll find 1,020 mentions—from pro-family groups playing “gotcha!” to hardcore lesbian sites like lesbianclick.com, which provides studies showing its pervasiveness and resources for battered lesbians to seek help.
Psychologist Susan C. Turell—no conservative—cites research showing that nearly half of homosexual men reported physical abuse from their lovers and 83 percent report emotional abuse. For lesbians, more than half reported physical abuse, some 84 percent emotional abuse.
Daniels Ex Machina?
If we’re facing another Roe v. Wade, being right is not enough. How can marriage’s defenders defend marriage in the law and not just in arguments?
Matt Daniels at AFM—along with an impressive coalition of religiously, politically, and ethnically diverse groups—has an answer. They are promoting this federal marriage amendment: “Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this constitution or the constitution of any state, nor state or federal law, shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups.”
When, on May 15, Rep. Ronnie Shows (D-Miss.) and several Democratic and Republican cosponsors introduced the amendment in the House, Daniels had heavy Catholic support, too. Chicago’s Francis Cardinal George said the amendment would “strengthen society and foster the common good.” Philadelphia’s Anthony Cardinal Bevilacqua said it matches “the deeply held convictions of a vast majority of the American people.” Denver Archbishop Charles J. Chaput said the amendment is on the side of “common sense, human experience, and the wisdom of our religious heritages.”
Now comes the hard part. A constitutional amendment has to clear some awfully high hurdles to be enacted: It needs two-thirds approval by both houses of Congress, followed by ratification by three-quarters of the states.
If they are going to have enough momentum to clear these hurdles, the amendment’s supporters will first have to convince conservative naysayers that it’s worth the effort. The conservative arguments against the amendment are several: It will do nothing to prohibit Vermont’s civil unions, say some; leave it to the states, say others; the amendment will go down in flames, say more, and will thereby convince the nation that the current Constitution allows gay marriage.
The answer to all these points is basically the same: a long sigh. You can’t expect perfection in this world, least of all in politics, and this is our last best hope.
No, it won’t kill civil unions, but it will hamper further efforts in that direction. Leaving marriage to the states will mean an all-or-nothing battle, because if one state allows gay marriage, the others will likely recognize it, too. Most importantly, the amendment won’t go down in flames if we all get behind it.
Besides, its supporters say, who do you want to win: the amendment’s opponents, like the ACLU and NOW, or its supporters, like the Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America and organizations representing 20 million black evangelicals?
Ben Stewart wants the religious folks to win, because he knows from painful personal experience how high the stakes are. He practically pleads with Catholics to support the amendment. Without the Catholic understanding of marriage “in our culture, we’re going to lose—bad,” he explains, “because in our culture you need only be a self who is seeking fulfillment and is friendly and kind. The legislative logic will follow that homosexual unions are perfectly acceptable. The conservative Republican understanding of marriage is defenseless.”
The Catholic faith’s rich understanding of marriage makes the Church the last hope. If gay marriage becomes legal, Stewart says, “the social ailments that we’ve been experiencing—divorce, abuse, neglect—these will only get worse.”