Marriage (the union of one man and one woman as husband and wife) and religious liberty are two distinct goods that are also related to each other.
Marriage and religious liberty are both goods in their own right, meaning that both deserve our care and protection. The Church does not promote and defend marriage simply out of a concern for possible consequences to religious freedom if marriage were redefined. As said elsewhere on the website, “Marriage must be protected for its own sake, and not just for the sake of preserving religious liberty.” Marriage contributes greatly to the common good and is worth protecting, period.
The protection of each good follows from the duty to protect the inviolable dignity of the human person.
The Church’s teaching on marriage and on religious liberty both find their roots in Christian anthropology, that is, the understanding of the human person and his or her dignity. Concerning marriage, upholding the meaning of marriage as the union of one man and one woman upholds human dignity by, among other things, honoring the uniquely complementary natures of man and woman, their capacity for union and fruitfulness, and the child’s birthright of being given the best chance to know and be raised by his own father and mother. Concerning religious liberty, as was said in a previous post, man’s ability – and responsibility – to seek truth and conform his life to it necessitates religious freedom. In fact, Bl. Pope John Paul II saw religious freedom as so important to human dignity that he called it the “source and synthesis” of rights basic to human flourishing (Centesimus Annus, no. 47). Concern for the human person means concern for marriage, and for religious liberty.
But even more directly, the legal protection of marriage as the union of one man and one woman also protects the religious freedom of those who adhere to that vision of marriage.
More on this later. Suffice it to say that changing the legal definition of marriage will have – and already has had – a direct effect on the ability of persons and institutions who hold a definition of marriage other than that of the state to “live in the truth of [their] faith,” as Bl. John Paul II put it.
Answer from: Marriage & Religious Liberty FAQ #2
Next: How could changing the legal definition of marriage have any effect on religious liberty?
Fortnight for Freedom posts:
- Sunday Pope Quote: Fortnight for Freedom edition
- What is religious freedom?
- St. Thomas More, married saint and hero of religious liberty