Why a marriage protection amendment? Why now?

In November 2012, Minnesotans will have the chance to preserve in law the institution of marriage as the union of one man and one woman from activist judges and rogue legislators who seek to undermine this bedrock social institution.

A constitutional amendment on the general election ballot next year asks Minnesota voters: “Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to provide that only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota?”

The answer is emphatically “yes.”

Threat to marriage

Some people are confused as to why a marriage protection amendment is needed. After all, the marriage between one man and one woman is current state law.

Unfortunately, there is an organized, nationwide campaign to redefine marriage or to eliminate it from law altogether, and Minnesota is not immune.

Courts in places such as Iowa and Massachusetts have struck down traditional marriage laws as irrational relics of a society that allegedly used to be governed by religious dogma.

Here in Minnesota, multiple same-sex couples have sued for a marriage license because, they argue, excluding them is state-sponsored religious discrimination that is both irrational and violates their own deeply held beliefs.

Their arguments were heard by the Minnesota Court of Appeals this week.

Legislatures, too, are the scene of attempts to remake marriage.

Just recently in New York, the Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo transformed New York marriage law from an institution focused on the well-being of children into a system of love licenses for adults, severing the inherent connection in marriage between children and their biological parents.

“We’re about to redefine what the American family is, and that’s a good thing,” one New York state senator told the Wall Street Journal as the bill was being considered.

Such comments are not unique or uncommon and are consistent with a broader cultural movement that is seeking to not only redefine the family, but to transform all of society.

For example, activist Michelangelo Signorile, a man who self-identifies as gay, stated in Out! magazine that people like him should “fight for same-sex marriage and its benefits, and then, once granted, redefine the institution of marriage entirely. The most subversive action lesbians and gay men can undertake is to transform the notion of ‘family’ entirely.”

In Minnesota, numerous pieces of legislation have been introduced over the last few years to redefine marriage along the lines of what happened in New York (see H.F. 1710), or eliminate it altogether (H.F. 1746) in favor of a system of “civil unions,” which might be more accurately called marriage “leases” — a legal union without the expectation of permanence or fidelity.

Such a system would reinforce the emerging cultural norm that marriage is fundamentally about the happiness of adults, and that when the happiness or “love” ends, so does the marriage. One sees this trend in the ever-present slogan, “love + commitment = marriage.”

But kids are the ones who lose when marriage is just like any other contract.

A public concern

Love and commitment are necessary for marriage, but not sufficient. Society has an interest in supporting and sustaining a legal institution that is fundamentally about begetting children, attaches those children to their parents, and carries with it social norms of permanence and fidelity — which research clearly indicates are indispensable to a child’s well-being.

In fact, a recent study from the Social Trends Institute confirms what we know from Catholic social teaching: the long-term success and economic prosperity of societies depends upon the health of intact families.

So, the next time you are asked how redefining marriage hurts you, you can say that marriage is not just about the private relationship of two people, but a public institution that affects all of us, our children and the future of our community.

The Minnesota Marriage Protection Amendment ensures that judges and politicians do not have the final say about marriage in Minnesota.

Faithful citizenship

With just over one year until the November 2012 election, we must begin the hard work of sharing with Minnesotans what marriage is, why it is important, and the consequences that will undoubtedly occur if it is redefined.

In many cases, this will be a challenging conversation. Unfortunately, there are many, especially in the media, who seek to perpetrate stereotypes that the church’s defense of marriage is a bigoted effort to harm people and deny them basic human rights. It is not.

All of God’s children are created in his image and likeness, and we should love them all.

But loving someone has never meant affirming all of their choices or desires.  Jesus clearly demonstrates this in the Gospels time and again. Loving someone means we perform a work of mercy and share the truth with them, no matter how uncomfortable or difficult that may be.

This is not a conversation we have chosen to have, but we cannot sit on the sidelines.

Article I, section 1 of the Minnesota Constitution states: “Government is instituted for the security, benefit and protection of the people, in whom all political power is inherent, together with the right to alter, modify or reform government whenever required by the public good.”

Like the church’s other work in the public arena defending human life and promoting social justice, the “public good” now requires we stand up for marriage and preserve it in our constitution — the very thing this important document was designed to do.

With your help and prayers, we will pass the marriage protection amendment as part of our work as faithful citizens to reclaim a culture of marriage in Minnesota.

Jason Adkins is executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference.

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