Marriage, the permanent, faithful, and fruitful union between one man and one woman, is the most recognized institution throughout history and across societies. It existed long before the State and prior to the formalizing of religious practice. Marriage is grounded neither in a piece of legislation nor solely in a religious teaching but rather in human nature itself.

As such, marriage is necessarily founded upon sexual difference, man to woman and woman to man, and is for the good of children and the well-being of spouses. The State needs to uphold the reasonable expectation that children deserve a mother and a father, that mothers and fathers are indispensable, that the marital union is unique and incomparable, and that husband and wife should be recognized and protected for their unique status and responsibilities in society. This can and should be done without denying basic human rights to anyone. Sexual difference is beautiful and essential, and the good of society depends upon it and upon the corresponding fruits of strong, healthy, and faithful marriages made possible by this difference. It is not unjust discrimination to treat different things differently.

The Catholic Church’s commitment to protecting marriage as exclusively the permanent union of one man and one woman is simultaneously a commitment to the care and respect due all persons, including persons who experience same-sex attraction. The Church continues to decry all forms of violence and unjust discrimination committed against homosexual persons and encourages efforts that respect the basic rights of all people. However, as Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville noted in a May 27th press release, there are many ways to afford the care and respect due all persons and to protect and provide for basic human rights, but “sacrificing marriage is not one of them.”