Same Sex Marriage and the Church: a lesson from observing Catholic marriage

A lot of people seem to be worried about the government forcing churches to recognize same sex marriages or even to marry same sex couples.  However, from my understanding of the way things work this is over reacting on the part of anyone who thinks such things seriously.  What makes me say this?  Simple, the Catholic Church.

Legitimate Illegitimacy

While I am no expert on the history of the Catholic Church or its theology I do know what I have been told by people who have shared their experiences with me over the years.  Long before same sex marriages were legal anywhere, the Catholic Church wouldn’t recognize a couple, and in this instance by couple I mean one man and one woman, as married if they were not married inside the church by a priest.  This means that if a couple was married anywhere else by anyone else their marriage would not be seen as valid and any children the couple had would be considered illegitimate.  This has serious consequences for anyone who wants to convert to that faith who was married outside the church.  Since their marriage is not viewed as valid the couple (and their children) would be prevented from taking part in various important things such as partaking in the Eucharist (communion) or baptism.

The Bigger Picture

How does this apply to the idea of same sex marriages?  Simply this: if the government forced churches to recognize same sex marriages as valid even if that church viewed such marriages as immoral then the government would also have to force churches to recognize all other legal marriages as valid which would impact the lives of thousands of heterosexual couples even if they have been married for years.  Why?  Because if churches were forced to view marriages they believed were invalid as valid then they would have to allow couples the same access to every part of life in their church that couples who had “valid” marriages already had.

The ramifications of such an action would not only have an effect on churches in the US but, since most religions are global, throughout the world.  While I realize there are many paranoid people who believe the government is out to destroy all religion, the reality is that the political fallout both domestically and internationally would be so huge that I sincerely doubt any politician or political party would be willing to risk it.

In the end

Even though the law now requires a same sex marriage performed in one state to be recognized in every other state as legal as far as all sorts of issues such as taxes, inheritance, custody, and insurance are related it doesn’t require religions to change and do the same.  As far as I know there has never been any federal law requiring churches to recognize all legal marriages as valid and, for better or worse, I seriously doubt there will be any such laws any time soon.


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