There’s an item making the rounds of the internet purporting to express the reaction of Henry VIII, founder of the Anglican Church, to Church blessings of same-sex unions: "Henry VIII, and his wife Catherine, and his wife Anne, and his wife Jane, and his other wife Anne, and his two wives named Katherine, are appalled at this attack on the sanctity of the institution of marriage!"
There’s an item making the rounds of the internet purporting to express the reaction of Henry VIII, founder of the Anglican Church, to Church blessings of same-sex unions: “Henry VIII, and his wife Catherine, and his wife Anne, and his wife Jane, and his other wife Anne, and his two wives named Katherine, are appalled at this attack on the sanctity of the institution of marriage.”
In the wake of the Massachusetts court ruling that the state may not “deny the protections, benefits and obligations conferred by civil marriage to two individuals of the same sex who wish to marry,” we can expect a vigorous effort to “protect” the institution of matrimony by other defenders of “traditional morality.” The problem is, whose tradition, and whose morality, shall we write into law? As the Massachusetts court noted, “Many people hold deep-seated religious, moral, and ethical convictions that marriage should be limited to one man and one woman, and that homosexual conduct is immoral. Many hold equally strong religious, moral and ethical convictions that same-sex couples are entitled to be married, and that homosexual persons should be treated no differently than their heterosexual neighbors…Our obligation is to define the liberty of all, not to mandate our own moral code.”
What is the role of the state in marriage? Should government decide that unions blessed by one church will be legally recognized, but those blessed by another will not? How do we justify the distinction? And how do we justify telling some citizens that they cannot be guardians of ailing partners, take family leave, legally parent a nonbiological child they have raised, file joint tax returns, use spousal gift or estate tax exemptions, seek civil damages for the wrongful death of a partner…and on and on. There are literally hundreds of legal benefits that the state denies to unmarried citizens. (Those who are single by choice may also complain, but it seems especially egregious to deny equal treatment to those who are forbidden to marry.)
In the coming days, we will undoubtedly hear again all of the justifications for the status quo.
- “Homosexuality is immoral.” Those who believe this are being pretty selective—what about adulterers? Rapists?
- “Marriage is for procreation.” So sterile people and old folks shouldn’t wed?
- “Gay parenting is bad for children.” Every bit of credible research has concluded otherwise—kids raised by gay parents are as emotionally healthy as those raised in heterosexual homes, and no more likely to be gay themselves.
Whatever the eventual outcome of this case for gay citizens, the Massachusetts court has given its real gift to politicians who are desperate to divert voters’ attention from the war in Iraq, the hemorrhaging of jobs, the crisis in health care, and other critical problems we are facing. Such issues will pale before the horrifying prospect that somewhere in Massachusetts, two people of the same sex might get to file a joint state tax return.
Where’s Henry VIII when you need him?