This past week, Lauren and I had the occasion to visit Birmingham, AL. Although we didn't have time to visit any of the specific Civil Rights landmarks -- we were focused on our little girl's surgery -- it was amazing to think that 50 years ago, in this city that was the hub of the struggle against Jim Crow, we would likely not even have been allowed to marry.
As I thought about that struggle, and the many who sacrificed and literally risked and gave their lives, it began to bother me even more that the "gay marriage" movement is comparing itself to that struggle. The rub of it is that some who fought so hard back then for the equal treatment of those of us whose skin happens to be a few shades darker, including Coretta Scott King, are either not speaking up or, worse, are supporting this wave that would sweep the foundation of the family out from under our culture.
Before getting too far into it, I should start by reiterating the Church's teaching on "Chastity and Homosexuality," from theCatechism 2357-2359. I know that not everyone turns to theCatechism as their first source, or any source at all, but there are so many misconceptions of why the Catholic Church opposes homosexuality (i.e., homosexual activity) and so-called "gay marriage" that the truth, in black and white, has to be laid on the line:
Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity (cf. Gen 19:1-29, Rom 1:24-27, 1 Cor 6:10; 1 Tim 1:10), tradition has always declared that homosexual acts are gravely disordered. They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. (2357)Ok, so the Body of Christ stands staunchly, unshakably against homosexual acts. Nothing new there. It's worth highlighting (after the underlining above) that it's the acts themselves, not any tendency or attraction to them, that are wrong. The difference results from one of two very powerful gifts given to us that distinguish us from the animals: our will, or ability to act decisively. (The other is intellect, our ability to reason.)
...They do not choose their homosexual condition; for most of them it is a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter… (2358)If there is any point of commonality between the Civil Rights struggle and the struggle of those living with homosexuality, this is it. Bottom line, we have to love those who are struggling with the burden of same-sex attraction—and all others—without exception. Loving is the only way that Christians truly imitate Christ. But loving doesn't mean rolling over and accepting actions that are contrary to what the Author of Life has laid out; to do that would be to separate love and truth, falsifying one and bearing poor witness to the other.
The third paragraph hits the nail on the head regarding the "call" mentioned above:
Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom...they can and should...approach Christian perfection. (2359)That is the call of all sexual people, which means...all people. We are all sexual beings, and so we are all called to be chaste -- i.e., to live within God's plan for human sexuality -- regardless of our station in life. As much as society would have us believe that we should be driven by our urges, no matter how superficial or deep-seated they may be, it simply is not true. We are not animals.
So, what does this have to do--or not have to do with Civil Rights? It all comes down to the natural law and choice.
First, the natural law. Every human society, from before recorded history, has been founded on the family based in marriage: The bodily union of man and woman, and the children that are generated from that union. Putting aside any religious understandings, marriage has always existed as a natural institution.
Regardless of what flawed civil law has tried to tell us time and time again throughout the centuries, this reality of man + woman = children is not and never has been affected by race. This natural aspect of marriage depends on sexual complementarity that is definitely present in a man and woman of different races, but is positively not in two people of the same gender. Even if children do not come from the marriage (due to bodily disorders), the possibility is still there because the marital act itself is ordered toward procreation, unlike homosexual acts. Lauren and I would not have been able to civilly marry in a lot of places as recently as fifty years ago, but that was because of unjust human (civil) law, not natural law or God's law.
The second reason that the "gay marriage" movement cannot be fairly compared to the Civil Rights movement is that sexual activity contains the element of choice. God gave us the gift of free will, to be able to either (1) choose his (all-knowing, wanting-the-best-for-us) will over our own, or (2) insist on having our way. Marriage is first and most significantly represented in the marital act. That act is an act of choice, just like participation in the unchastity of sexual activity outside of marriage (homosexual or heterosexual) is achoice. It may not seem like much of a choice in the heat of sexual attraction, but the reality is that the choice remains.
Race is not that way. We do not choose our ancestry, skin tone, hair texture, or any of the other characteristics that generally differentiate people of one race from another. We did not choose what we look like, but we absolutely choose how to make use of our sexual faculties. Though our physical characteristics (unchangeable characteristics, not changeable ones like weight, dress, etc.) are amoral and more or less defined at the time of our conception, whether or not we engage in licit or illicit sexual activity is far from a foregone conclusion and has a monumental moral dimension.
These are two very big differences that unfortunately are being overlooked by those trying to hitch the "gay marriage" push to the Civil Rights train. For the sake of the truths championed by the Civil Rights movement, which so many fought and even died for, these realities must be brought back into the discussion.