By Doug Bowen-Bailey
NOTE: This commentary was first published April 13 as a letter-to-the-editor of the Duluth News Tribune.
I am an advocate of marriage and the role it plays in supporting families. I am approaching my 20th wedding anniversary, and my relationship with my wife is one of my greatest treasures. We have two children, and even though they are 13 and 12, they admit that our family has been a benefit to them.
So I was in strong agreement with Jason Adkins of Minnesota for Marriage who wrote in a March 21 commentary in the News Tribune that in considering marriage it is important to take into consideration the well-being of children and society. However, I was perplexed by his conclusion that defending marriage as a union between one man and one woman – and writing such a definition into the Minnesota Constitution – serves this purpose. The Minnesota for Marriage website states that “marriage is a special relationship reserved exclusively for heterosexual unions because only the intimate relationship between men and women has the ability to produce children as a result of that sexual union.” Does this mean straight couples who can’t conceive naturally and use in vitro fertilization should have their marriage licenses stamped as invalid? Does it mean parents who choose to adopt have a second-class union? Should we be any less concerned about the children of these marriages? I highly doubt anyone would argue that, but it is the logical outgrowth of a procreative argument for the primacy of heterosexual marriages.
If we still give equal care to children of heterosexual couples who become family by other means, what consideration do we give to the thousands of Minnesotan children who are being raised by parents who are gay or lesbian – and yet are denied the supports my children receive because my wife and I have a marriage license? For me, this is not some abstract issue. I know more than 30 children who have parents who are gay or lesbian. Why would we want to vote as a state to say their welfare is less important than the welfare of my own children? Adkins didn’t write about this, but if you visit the Minnesota for Marriage website and view its list of supporters, it is clear that certain religious perspectives underlie the support of the constitutional amendment. Of the 52 organizations listed as supporters, at least 36 are explicitly religious bodies. So while Minnesota for Marriage casts its support of the amendment in explicitly sociological language, there is also a religious component. As a son of a New Testament scholar and as an active member of a church, I understand the importance of religious principles undergirding action. Yet I wonder why certain religious interpretations should be lifted up over others. [In this case, it's probably because Adkins serves as both the vice chairman of Minnesota for Marriage and the executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference (of Bishops). This latter group is the most well-funded and vocal religious group working to pass the amendment. However, it would be erroneous to think that it represents the majority of Catholics on this issue. As has been noted previously at Sensus Fidelium, the bishops represent just one of many legitimate Catholic voices on issues relating to marriage and sexuality.]
Many of the 30 children who I mentioned previously are part of families in my own congregation. Our pastor there has been performing Holy Union ceremonies for lesbian and gay couples for 17 years. Is my faith tradition not as worthy as other faith traditions? Who is qualified to judge that? I am a firm believer that denominations and faith communities should be free to choose whether or not they want to perform weddings for same-sex couples, but I don’t believe such a belief should be used to embed discrimination in our state constitution. In my experience, lesbian and gay marriages do not diminish my own. In fact, the opposite is the case. Being in a faith community that supports family relationships in all forms has strengthened my own – to the benefit of my children. So in November, when I vote “no” on this amendment, I will do it based on my religious conviction and my concern for all children and families. I urge you to consider doing likewise.
Doug Bowen-Bailey is a member of Peace United Church of Christ in Duluth.
Recommended Off-site Link:
From Northern Minnesota, Two Excellent Rebuttals to the "Convoluted Logic" of the Bishops' Pro-Amendment Argument — The Wild Reed (April 9, 2012).