When Is A Marriage Not a Marriage?

Notre Dame magazine, the alumni publication sent to tens of thousands of  graduates from the University of Notre Dame, Indiana, is not identifying as marriages, those legal ceremonies and commitments undergone by same-gender couples where one of the partners is an alumnus of the South Bend school.

Reporter Chuck Colbert uncovered the policy in a Windy City Times article this past week (you can read the entire article by clicking here; it is below the main story about Notre Dame students struggling for a gay-straight alliance.) which states that the magazine

“does not allow use of the word ‘marriage’ in the classnotes section to acknowledge legal same-sex wedlock.

“The new block-out policy came to light in the most recent issue of the magazine ( Spring 2012 ) in a letter to the editor.

” ‘When I was married in the District of Columbia on June 18, 2011, my friend and classmate Lorie Masters was kind enough to write about this joyous occasion in the classnotes section of the winter issue. You, however, saw fit to change the word “marriage” to “united in a ceremony,'” wrote a 1981 law school alumnus, Allyn Amato of Alexandria, Va.”

Amato protested the decision:

“Not only is your editorial policy intellectually and logically flawed, it is also downright insulting both to my husband and to me. We are married and have exactly the same legal status as any heterosexual couple married in the District of Columbia.

“The attitude evidenced by your editorial policy is, in my view, most decidedly hypocritical and anti-Christian. Please answer me this question: Had I married a Jewish or Muslim woman outside the Catholic Church, would you have edited the column in the same manner? I think not.”

Kerry Temple, Notre Dame magazine editor explained the reason for the edit:

“The rationale was that for the vast majority of our readers the word marriage means the sacrament of matrimony. . . .[The controversy] has prompted some discussion here. . . .As more states have allowed same-sex marriages and as society changes, I would think further review is warranted.”

Tom O’Brien, a former co-chair of Notre Dame’s gay and lesbian alumni association, GALA-ND/SMC, who married his partner Oct. 30, 2008, at the Beverly Hills, California, Courthouse offered a comment to Colbert which was written as a letter to family and friends at the time of his wedding:

“Both of us have seen wonderful examples of love, honor, commitment and loyalty in our lives. We believe marriage to be a beautiful expression of that love and commitment; and are thrilled to be able to stand before you and publicly and legally confirm what we have shared together for 14 and-a-half years.

“For both of us, the most powerful moment of the wedding came when we heard the words: ‘By the power invested in me by the State of California…'”

I used to work for a diocesan newspaper.  Occasionally, while researching a story in the newspaper’s files, I would come across photos that had been printed int the 1950’s of a divorced Catholic entertainment celebrities who were re-marrying in  civil ceremonies.  The caption would always read that these individuals were “attempting marriage,” not that they “were married.”  Decades later, the wording seemed silly.

What will Notre Dame alumni in the not-too-distant future think of the magazine’s policy not to identify a legal marriage as a marriage?

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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