Marriage and the Common Good

This is a statement from the Washington State Catholic Conference in response to the upcoming legislation to re-define the definition of marriage for the State of Washington:

A statement on legislation to redefine marriage

                          January 2012

Legislation has been introduced in Washington State to change the current law defining

marriage.  The present law states:  “marriage is a civil contract between a male and a female…” 

This same law also prohibits marriage to close-blood relations, a clear indication that the

definition of marriage is related to bringing children into the world and the continuation of the

human race. The legislation to redefine marriage, therefore, is not in the public interest.

Marriage is certainly about the public recognition of a relationship between a man and a woman

which carries certain rights and responsibilities for the two adults. But, it is much more. Marriage

in faith and societal traditions is acknowledged as the foundation of civilization. It has long been

recognized that the stability of society depends on the stability of family life in which a man and

a woman conceive and nurture new life.  In this way, civil recognition of marriage has sought to

bestow on countless generations of children the incomparable benefit of a loving mother and

father committed to one another in a lifelong union.

Additionally, by defining marriage both in terms of the relationship between a man and a woman

and its important role of guaranteeing the succession of generations, the state is recognizing the

irreplaceable contribution that married couples make to society.  Married couples who bring

children into the world make particular sacrifices and take on unique risks and obligations for the

good of society.  For this reason the state has long understood that it has a compelling interest in

recognizing and supporting these mothers and fathers through a distinct category of laws. Were

the definition of marriage to change, there would be no special laws to support and recognize the

irreplaceable contribution that these married couples make to society and to the common good by

bringing to life the next generation.

Upholding the present definition of marriage does not depend on anyone’s religious beliefs.

Washington State’s present law defining marriage as “a civil contract between a male and a

female” is grounded not in faith, but in reason and the experience of society.  It recognizes the

value of marriage as a bond of personal relationships, but also in terms of the unique and

irreplaceable potential of a man and woman to conceive and nurture new life, thus contributing

to the continuation of the human race.  A change in legislation would mean that the state would

no longer recognize the unique sacrifices and contributions made by these couples, thereby

adding to the forces already undermining family life today.

For these reasons, we the Catholic Bishops of Washington State call on the citizens of this state

to maintain the legal definition of marriage. We ask all to join in praying with us for married

couples and families and to do everything possible to support them.

We urge you to contact your own state senator and your two state representatives to

request that they defend the current legal definition of marriage as a union between a man

and a woman.

This statement was signed by Archbishop J. Peter Sartain, Archdiocese of Seattle; Bishop Blase J. Cupich, Diocese of Spokane; Bishop Joseph J. Tyson, Diocese of Yakima; Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, M.Sp.S., Auxiliary Bishop of Seattle.

-Ralph