Opinion: What is marriage, exactly?

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If a couple marries knowing that one or both of them cannot have children, or they choose not to for other reasons, are they not fully married? If they adopt a child and raise that child in a loving, secure environment, is that less a less than ideal situation for a child?

You would think so, reading the statement of the California Catholic Conference on same-sex marriage that endorses Proposition 8, the measure that would ban such marriages. Did the bishops throughout the state who issued this statement fully understand just how many people completely outside the issue of gay marriage they might be offending?

But let’s let the bishops speak for themselves: ‘When men and women consummate their marriage they offer themselves to God as co-creators of a new human being. Any other pairing -- while possibly offering security and companionship to the individuals involved -- is not marriage.’ So all you childless couples -- sorry, not quite actually married.

Or in another part of the statement: ‘The ideal for the well being of children is to be born into a traditional marriage and to be raised by both a mother and a father.’ The statement does go on to laud single parents, though it certainly doesn’t include them as ideal. Or adoptive parents.


The bishops conclude by strongly encouraging Catholics to donate to and volunteer for the Prop. 8 campaign. Obviously, the long-standing questions about the tax-exempt status of nonprofit groups that take such sides on political issues goes on.