An initiative of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Why doesn’t this website use the terms “same-sex marriage” or “gay marriage”?

The terms “same-sex marriage” and “gay marriage” beg the question: What is marriage? Is it even possible for two persons of the same sex to be married? Using the terms “same-sex marriage” and “gay marriage” already presupposes (wrongly) that marriage comes in a variety of forms: “same-sex,” “opposite-sex,” “homosexual,” “heterosexual,” and so forth.

Put another way, the sexual difference and complementarity of husband and wife is not something that is added to a pre-existing thing called “marriage,” like you might add sprinkles to a sundae. Instead, male-female complementarity is at the very heart of marriage and part of its authentic definition. Marriage wouldn’t be marriage without a man and a woman, a husband and a wife. This is why adding alternative adjectives to the word “marriage” (“same-sex,” “gay,” and so on) produces not another “variety” of marriage, but a different thing entirely. It radically alters what marriage is in its very essence.

In contrast, the goal of the Marriage: Unique for a Reason website is to explain and illuminate the singular reality that the word “marriage” refers to: the faithful, fruitful, lifelong union of one man and one woman. A reality, you might say, without any adjectives. In the end, what’s at stake is precisely the authentic meaning of marriage. We invite you to explore the resources available on this website to understand why marriage is and can only be the union of one man and one woman.

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2 Responses to “Why doesn’t this website use the terms “same-sex marriage” or “gay marriage”?”

  1. Mike in Houston says:

    For shame, gentlemen! I’ve seen the phrase “begs the question” misused when being casually tossed around on some blogs, but never–never, I say!–on a website as august and learned as this one purports to be.

    See the following:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Begging_the_question

    You are saying “beg the question” when your context indicates that you meann “raise the question.”

    Do they not teach anything in seminary any more?

    • Marriage Unique for a Reason says:

      Dear Mike in Houston,

      Thank you for your comment – attention to language is important. In fact, it’s the main point of this blog post! With regards to the phrase “beg the question,” it does seem that this is the most accurate phrase to use given the context of the post. The reason is that the phrase “same-sex marriage” does not just “raise” the question of marriage like a statement of fact about marriage might: for example, “Marriage is declining among middle-income Americans.” (Marriage is “raised” in readers’ minds as they think about this fact.)

      Instead, “same-sex marriage” does exactly what Wikipedia says “begging the question” does – it assumes already in the premise the proposition which is yet to be proven, in this case the proposition that the ontological reality of marriage can exist between two persons of the same sex. This, in fact, is THE question. Can it? As the post attempted to explain, the Catholic understanding (rooted in natural law) is that sexual difference is not just an optional add-on to marriage, but is part of its essence and definition, such that without the presence of husband and wife, there is no marriage.

      For this reason, the Marriage: Unique for a Reason project chooses to not use the term “same-sex marriage,” or any comparable adjectives for marriage, seeking instead to illuminate the singular reality of marriage, full stop.

      Again, thank you for your question, and we hope this clarification was helpful. God bless you.

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