On Thursday, June 19, 2014, San Francisco’s Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, was a key participant in the second March for Marriage in Washington DC, leading supporters of “traditional marriage” along a half-mile route that concluded at our U.S. Supreme Court building. On that site last year, two major Supreme Court decisions encouraged federal judges in eight U.S. states to overturn existing same-sex marriage bans and in another four states to issue rulings in favor of same-sex marriage.

Archbishop Cordileone, his Roman Catholic Church, the Mormons, and Evangelical Protestants continue to strongly protest same-sex marriage as immoral and socially destructive. Nevertheless, American support for same-sex marriage, even among U.S. Catholics, increases each year.

A solid majority of people, who identify as contemporary religious mainliners, now favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry. In a survey the Pew Research Center conducted in February 2014, 62% of mainline U.S. Protestants said they now favor same-sex marriage. Just 34% favored same-sex marriage a decade earlier. Roman Catholics? Today at least 58% of white U.S. Roman Catholics and 56% of Hispanic Catholics favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry. (Some studies say the support for same-sex marriage among American Catholics is now at 70%.) A majority (83%) of Jewish Americans also favor legalizing same-sex marriage. Vox populi vox Dei? The infallibility of the People of God?

In his March for Marriage speech, titled “Building a Civilization of Truth and Love,” Archbishop
Cordileone stressed that marriage is “a key to individual and societal flourishing.” Indeed. Perhaps that is a strong argument as well for same-sex marriage?

“No justice, no peace, no end to poverty, without a strong culture of marriage and the family,” the Archbishop of San Francisco emphasized. I could not agree more. I doubt that they were; but perhaps they should have been cheering for him in The Castro when he concluded: “This noble cause is a call to love we cannot abandon, that we will not give up on, and that in the end we know will triumph.” Well yes……Marriage is good for gays as well, I think. It is a noble cause and truly a call to love.

As an historian, I know that across the centuries nature of marriage has varied according to different cultures, different religious traditions, and different times. It has found social importance as an institution because it contributes to societal stability and because it enhances intimate and sexual interpersonal relationships. Marriage as well can create an environment of support and caring which is ideal for child-rearing.

A strong rhetorical theme among opponents to same-sex marriage is that children, for their healthy development, need “a father and a mother.” (They forget of course that some fathers and mothers can be absolute monsters.) After doing research on values formation and development for about forty years, I am convinced that what children need most of all for healthy human development is loving parents.

And so once again, at all levels in the church, let’s drop the venomous, judgmental language. Let’s learn to listen and to grow and to work together. And yes, let’s learn how we all can build a civilization of truth and love.


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