GU panel discusses gay marriage from Catholic perspective
The Georgetown University College Democrats and College Republicans came together on Wednesday evening to co-host “A Catholic Family Discussion on LGBT Issues”. College Democrats member Hannah Lomax-Vogt, College Republicans member Joe Knowles, National Organization on Marriage spokesperson Maggie Gallagher, and Atlantic Monthly Editor Andrew Sullivan formed the panel moderated by Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne.
The discussion focused primarily on gay marriage rights, with Lomax-Vogt and Sullivan in favor and Knowles and Gallagher opposed.
“I decided that our politics are now so filled with hatred and rancor over taxes and economics that it opens the way for a discussion of a whole range of cultural and moral issues,” Dionne said to open the conversation. “I intend to be a fair and balanced moderator in the actual sense of that phrase […] on gay marriage I have been on both sides on this issue.” He made clear that he currently sides with Sullivan on the issue.
Gallagher opened her argument by emphasizing that marriage is a recurring aspect of human societies, but that “only those societis that figure out a way to manage the male-female sexual procreation attraction survive.” In addition, she stressed that children deserve both a mother and a father.
She then pointed to anthropological examples of marriage, to the legal backing for marriage as a procreative union, and then warned Catholics about taking a pro-equality stance. “Don’t pat yourself on the back too much for how brave you are,” pointing out that in today’s world, it probably takes more courage “to go into the public square and defend the Church’s position on marriage.”
She asserted that the core of the marriage equality movement was the message that gay people “really really really want to have sex this way and there must be some way to make it right.” Though that may be the popular opinion, said Gallagher, “it is not a Catholic way of thinking.”
Sullivan began by describing his experience as a gay Catholic. “The first person that I came out to was God,” he said, explaining that early in life he had no trouble reconciling his feeling of homosexuality with that of God’s love. Sullivan said he later tried to suppress his sexuality to be “a good Catholic boy,” but as he grew older, he realized that “the consequences of suppressing the ability to love and be loved” were “reflecting the Catholic truth that a life lived without love, without a family, is destructive to the soul and to the psyche.”
Lomax-Vogt responded to Gallagher by saying that “a lot of her argument was based on the idea that sex is the most important part of a relationship, but […] there’s a lot more to it than that. It’s a lot more about love and family.”
Knowles sympathized with Gallagher’s opinions and offered his own on Georgetown’s recent Gender Liberation Week. “I thought to myself: ‘How weird is that?’ […] I think men and women are not equal, we are distinct. I don’t think gender is something we need to be liberated from.”
He then defended the rights of Catholics to disagree with the Church. “I support the death penalty,” Knowles said, noting that this is a different opinion than that of the Church. However, he said that although he struggles to reconcile this difference of opinion, it is not his role to challenge the Church’s view just because it is different than his own.
During the question and answer period, members of the audience became quite vocal, often expressing their opinion by shouting it out at the panelists whom they believed were not answering their questions.
When Gallagher questioned homosexuals’ right to change the difference of marriage for society, Sullivan responded, “We can’t change anybody’s definition of marriage. It’s what you believe it is.” If gays can meet the responsibilities of marriage, said Sullivan, “then we should have the same civil rights.”
The heated discussion ended with Dionne noting that all of the panelists held very pro-marriage views, despite the significant differences of opinion on what that should mean.