“Disingenuous” doesn’t begin to describe the performance by anti-equality leader Marc Mutty at a debate on Question 1, the effort to overturn Maine’s new marriage equality law. (You can watch the entire debate courtesy of Pam’s House Blend here.)
In response to heartbreaking stories about gay partners denied access to a sick or dying partner or otherwise abused by lack of legal protections, Mutty presented himself as deeply sympathetic, and supportive of providing couples with legal protections through enhanced domestic partnership legislation:
What our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters look for when they speak to us in their commercials or they do presentations about all of the various injustices that they have suffered because they don’t have marriage, we would say, fundamentally, we agree with you, there’s been injustices, there’s been wrongs that need to be righted. However, it is totally unnecessary for marriage to be redefined in order for them to have those benefits. There are alternatives, and those alternatives I think we’re all familiar with, enhanced domestic partner legislation, and other like arrangements can be made that do not fundamentally change the definition of marriage but yet provides those same benefits that they seek. And I fail to see how those benefits would not be available through these alternative arrangements as well as they would through marriage and I think that is the ultimate compromise…(about 16:15 on the video)
Mutty made this point several times during the debate. In response to a question about “enhanced domestic partner legislation,” Mutty enthusiastically endorsed domestic partnerships and civil unions as ways to right the wrongs suffered by gay couples:
“…there are options available to render right what has been wrong in the past, the example that Shenna presents to us, which is a tear jerker for all of us, that people who love each other who’ve been together can’t have access to each other when the one is in the hospital, all the other examples she gave are certainly things we’re very sympathetic to, but again all those things can be acquired through other arrangements, and again, enhanced domestic partnership legislation, a number of other options, civil unions is certainly an option that will provide all those same benefits, yet recognize that the two relationships are fundamentally if nothing else biologically very different. (about 34:30 on the video)
Now. For those who haven’t been following the campaign to overturn Maine’s marriage equality law, Mutty is directing the anti-equality forces on loan from, and on orders from, Bishop Richard Malone of the Roman Catholic diocese of Portland, which has poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into the campaign.
Mutty and his boss are trying very hard to convince Maine voters that there’s nothing anti-gay about stripping legal protections from same-sex couples and their families. And so, at the Lewiston debate, Mutty bent over backwards to appear reasonable and sympathetic by assuring voters that the injustices suffered by same-sex couples would be easy to fix with civil unions or enhanced domestic partnerships. But how can Mutty say any of this with a straight face — or expect to maintain a shred of credibility — when he knows the Catholic bishops are dead-set against domestic partnerships and civil unions?
Bishops around the country are opposing domestic partnership laws. Washington state’s Catholic bishops are urging voters to reject the state’s newly strengthened domestic partnership law, which is on the ballot in November. Earlier this year, the Diocese of Santa Fe opposed and killed domestic partnership legislation in New Mexico. In March, the Bay Area Reporter wrote that “bishops in Hawaii, New Mexico, North Carolina, New Jersey, Maine, Rhode Island, and other states continued to franchise a ‘pastoral message’ – too similar to be coincidental – opposing not only same-sex marriage, but civil unions and domestic partnerships.”
Let’s go right to the source. Here’s an excerpt from some Q&A on same-sex relationships from the official website of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops:
What is the Church’s position on legislation to allow civil unions or domestic partnerships?
On two different occasions, in 2003 and 2006, the USCCB Administrative Committee stated: “We strongly oppose any legislative and judicial attempts, both at state and federal levels, to grant same-sex unions the equivalent status and rights of marriage – by naming them marriage, civil unions, or by other means.”
In 2003 a statement from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith stated: “Every humanly-created law is legitimate insofar as it is consistent with the natural moral law, recognized by right reason, and insofar as it respects the inalienable rights of every person. Laws in favor of homosexual unions are contrary to right reason because they confer legal guarantees, analogous to those granted to marriage, to unions between persons of the same sex” (Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions between Homosexual Persons, n.6).
And some more, from the same briefing paper:
“It is not unjust to deny legal status to same-sex unions because marriage and same-sex unions are essentially different realities. In fact, justice requires society to do so.”
Here’s some more detail from that 2003 statement which was affirmed in 2006:
What are called “homosexual unions,” because they do not express full human complementarity and because they are inherently non-procreative, cannot be given the status of marriage. Recently, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a statement emphatically opposing the legalization of homosexual unions. Bishop Wilton D. Gregory, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, welcomed this statement and further articulated our own conviction that such “equivalence not only weakens the unique meaning of marriage; it also weakens the role of law itself by forcing the law to violate the truth of marriage and family life as the natural foundation of society and culture.” … Thus, we strongly oppose any legislative and judicial attempts, both at state and federal levels, to grant same-sex unions the equivalent status and rights of marriage –by naming them marriage, civil unions or by other means.
And still more from the bishops:
Should persons who live in same-sex relationships be entitled to some of the same social and economic benefits given to married couples?
The state has an obligation to promote the family, which is rooted in marriage. Therefore, it can justly give married couples rights and benefits it does not extend to others. Ultimately, the stability and flourishing of society is dependent on the stability and flourishing of healthy family life.
The legal recognition of marriage, including the benefits associated with it, is not only about personal commitment, but also about the social commitment that husband and wife make to the well-being of society. It would be wrong to redefine marriage for the sake of providing benefits to those who cannot rightfully enter into marriage.
Some benefits currently sought by persons in homosexual unions can already be obtained without regard to marital status. For example, individuals can agree to own property jointly with another, and they can generally designate anyone they choose to be a beneficiary of their will or to make health care decisions in case they become incompetent.
So, to recap: Marc Mutty, on leave as public affairs director of the Roman Catholic diocese of Portland, is telling the people of Maine they can vote against marriage equality for same-sex couples with a clear conscience because the injustices those couples face can be fixed by domestic partnerships or civil unions. But the church he works for is strongly opposed to both domestic partnerships and civil unions, and bishops around the country are working hard to block domestic partner legislation. Which leads to a couple of questions. How does Mutty sleep at night? And how long will it take him to scurry away from his earnest endorsement of justice for same-sex couples when he’s back on the bishop’s payroll?