Bishop Joseph Tyson, who oversees the Catholic Diocese of Yakima, Washington, is the latest member of the Catholic hierarchy to speak out against marriage equality. In a pastoral letter urging parishioners to vote against Referendum 74, Tyson not only claims that the freedom to marry would harm children, but spins that claim to say that “it is actually offensive to basic human rights and equality”:
R-74’s conception of marriage is wrong from the start, since it presumes that marriage is simply a matter of what any two consenting adults desire. But this has never been the meaning of marriage, nor has it been the reason why marriage is recognized as essential to the common good. R-74 redefines marriage and therefore pays no heed to fundamental facts of human life and flourishing. It ignores the significance of the human body as well as sexual difference and complementarity, understood in their fullness – spiritual, biological, psychological, and emotional.
R-74 overlooks the basic rights and equality of children, and it dispenses with an appreciation for the unique place of motherhood and fatherhood. As a law, R-74 therefore conditions our society to forget or ignore basic realities of human existence, and, rather than foster human rights, it is actually offensive to basic human rights and equality. This is the tragic irony: a law touted as a victory for civil rights and equality is actually a loss of civil rights and equality for the most vulnerable among us, children.
The language mirrors the strategy laid out in the infamous National Organization for Marriage’s “race-wedging” memos to “fan the hostility” between blacks and gays by suggesting LGBT activists are trying to co-opt “civil rights.” By focusing on sowing division instead of unity, Tyson is blind to two significant “basic realities of human existence”: that people are innately gay and that they are already raising children. In fact, 16 percent of all Washington same-sex couples are raising their own children, including 29 percent of couples who identity as spouses. If Tyson truly cared about children’s well-being, as he claims in his letter, he would make sure that their families are not treated with second-class status and persistent stigma.