US Congressman Barney Frank: “I think my continued sexual attraction to men is more politically acceptable than my attraction to government.”

This rather clever quotation is from a fascinating article in today’s NYT documenting the sea change in US popular and political opinion on homosexuality and gay rights.

I’m seeing a lot of articles like this one in the run-up to some important hearings in the US Supreme Court on the definition of marriage. Last week it was widely reported that the American Academy of Pediatrics released a study “saying that allowing gay and lesbian parents to marry if they so choose is in the best interests of their children”.

Reading between the lines of the NYT piece on the APA study suggests that the sample size is relatively small and that its findings do not represent a wider medical and sociological consensus. However, the mere fact that a professional association of pediatricians can argue that same-sex unions can be positive envionments for raising children poses theological questions that Christian opponents of same-sex marriage will have to answer. Specifically, the APA finding seems to challenge arguments which privilege male-female marriage for its unique capability to raise (if not conceive)children.

Taking away the procreative function for a moment, if marriage is defined as the place where healthy children are nurtured, then cannot both traditional as well as same-sex marriage meet this definition? I think of Christian ethicist Stanley Hauerwas (I read a lot his work when I was in seminary) who has argued that the fidelity of two people to the arduous task of remaining faithful and raising children is a sign of God’s own commitment and fidelity to the world: for as long as there are people loving and working together, and bringing up children, there is a chance of new life. To take conscious hold on that life, to realize oneself at the heart of it, for others also, is a tremendously vitalizing spiritual experience”.

That quote is from a relatively old work (ca 1980) of Hauerwas on Christian character and community. I would be interested to know what Hauerwas, now in his seventies, is thinking about same-sex marriage in contemporary America, but I suspect he will let his body of work speak for him.

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  1. It looks odd reading this debate in the American press (US the copuntry of freedom), when in Spain (supposedly a deep Catholic country) gay marriage was legalised almost a decade ago and also fostering of children by gay couples. The current (very) conservative government, with an outright majority in the parliament, has not dare to change the law despite the strong lobbying actiuons of the Catholic establishment