At the absolute core of arguments over abortion and same-sex marriage, at the heart of the matter before other points of contention are made one way or the other…..is the presumption that we either have person/body dualism or we do not. Philosophers and scholars and other intellectuals have been debating that point for a very long time. But with laws changing the way they are, it’s time to move it front and center.
How else to answer pointed and increasingly challenging questions about why, say, two people of the same gender who truly love each other can’t enjoy the same recognition of their relationship as a man and a woman? Especially the trump card….that some heterosexual couples cannot conceive children, either?
News stories abounded on the recent ruling overturning the ban on gay marriage by San Francisco based U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker, but they rehashed the basics. While dropping crumb trails of claims and ideas that provoked questions. At least for anyone seriously interested in engaging this debate fairly and justly.
Let’s take one. This one from Politico, for instance.
So, as we know…
…a federal judge ruled [recently] that California’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage violates the U.S. Constitution.
The voters voted and they voted wrong, ruled this judge.
Walker’s ruling stems from a lawsuit filed by two gay couples who claimed the law violated their civil rights.
One of the organizers of that suit, Chad Griffin, held a press conference after the judge handed down this victory to his cause.
The ruling by Walker, he said, speaks to “fundamental American values of freedom and fairness. It affirms that under the Constitution, the government of the people, by the people and for the people can not discriminate against the people.”
But the government of the people, exercised by the people and for the people in the electoral process when they voted on this issue, has been overturned by this unelected judge. So that’s just rhetoric that makes it all sound good.
Back to what the judge said:
In his ruling, Walker repeatedly argued in his decision that banning same-sex marriage amounted to sex discrimination because some individuals are denied the right to marry others based solely on their gender.
That’s a stretch. But it got more unreasoned.
…excluding same-sex couples from marriage is simply not rationally related to a legitimate state interest,” Walker wrote in his 136-page decision.
The most common state interest discussed in same-sex marriage case law relates to procreation, either the interest in encouraging procreation for the sake of ensuring the continuation of society or the interest in responsible procreation. In one of the earliest opinions, arising from a challenge to Washington’s marriage law, the court asserted, “The fact remains that marriage exists as a protected legal institution primarily because of societal values associated with the propagation of the human race.” The court also said that the state’s failure to redefine marriage to include same-sex couples “is based upon the state’s recognition that our society as a whole views marriage as the appropriate and desirable forum for procreation and the rearing of children.” The court rejected the contention that the fact that some married couples do not have children defeats this interest, noting that “[t]hese . . . are exceptional situations.”
This is only one of many available accounts of court cases citing state interest in marriage.
Similarly, the Ninth Circuit noted that “homosexual marriages never produce offspring.” In a dissent to the Supreme Court of Hawaii’s decision that marriage is a form of sex discrimination, Judge Heen stated his belief that the purpose of the marriage law is “to promote and protect propagation.” In the Vermont same-sex marriage case, the state argued that its marriage law protected the state’s interest in “furthering the link between procreation and child rearing.” By “promoting a permanent commitment between couples who have children to ensure that their offspring are considered legitimate and receive ongoing parental support” and counteracting a message that fathers and mothers “are mere surplusage to the functions of procreation and child rearing,” the state can “send a public message that procreation and child rearing are intertwined.” The court dismissed this interest by saying that some opposite-sex couples do not have children and some same-sex couples do, so there is “no logical connection” between the marriage law and “the stated governmental goal.” The court also asserted that the availability of assisted reproductive technology breaks the link between procreation and child rearing.
Now that’s going out on an activist limb.
Back to the body/person dualism at top. Here’s a snip to explain the existential question…
…dualism — the idea that a person is a mind or a consciousness that has a body, rather than being a bodily entity — is both widespread and mistaken.
…liberal positions on abortion, euthanasia, marriage, and sex, are often implicitly based on the false idea that human beings are essentially non-bodily persons who inhabit and use non-personal bodies. People who embrace this view typically regard the body as a mere extrinsic tool that we may legitimately use to obtain desirable effects on our consciousness. (The consciousness is regarded by people who accept dualism as the “true” person who inhabits, or is somehow “associated with” the body.)
As Prof. Robert George explains in his book The Clash of Orthodoxies, the belief in dualism necessary for advocacy of abortion and same-sex marriage “presupposes a dualism of ‘person’ (as conscious and desiring self), on the one hand, and ‘body’ (as instrument of the conscious and desiring self) on the other. People who believe in dualism, he explains, see the sexual organs as “equipment.” Or “plumbing,” to put it even more bluntly.
This may be casting the hook far too deep, but there’s a reason the Apostles were fishermen. We are fully-integrated human persons, or should strive to be.
The Church rejects materialism and self-body dualism. The human being is neither a mere material reality nor a soul or consciousness possessing or inhabiting a body. As Aristotle recognized, and as many Christians and others have understood for centuries, the human being is a rational animal — an integrated unity of body and soul.
In shorter, more concise form…the Manhattan Declaration.
We acknowledge that there are those who are disposed towards homosexual and polyamorous conduct and relationships… We have compassion for those so disposed; we respect them as human beings possessing profound, inherent, and equal dignity; and we pay tribute to the men and women who strive, often with little assistance, to resist the temptation to yield to desires that they, no less than we, regard as wayward. We stand with them, even when they falter. We, no less than they, are sinners who have fallen short of God’s intention for our lives. We, no less than they, are in constant need of God’s patience, love and forgiveness. We call on the entire Christian community to resist sexual immorality, and at the same time refrain from disdainful condemnation of those who yield to it. Our rejection of sin, though resolute, must never become the rejection of sinners. For every sinner, regardless of the sin, is loved by God, who seeks not our destruction but rather the conversion of our hearts. Jesus calls all who wander from the path of virtue to “a more excellent way.” As his disciples we will reach out in love to assist all who hear the call and wish to answer it.
These Christians propose ‘a more excellent way’ to a goal we have forgotten: a full human integration.
Because we honor justice and the common good, we will not comply with any edict that purports to compel our institutions to participate in abortions, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide and euthanasia, or any other anti-life act; nor will we bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriages or the equivalent, or refrain from proclaiming the truth, as we know it, about morality and immorality and marriage and the family. We will fully and ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is Caesar’s. But under no circumstances will we render to Caesar what is God’s.
We are in for a long and protracted battle.