Same-sex marriage debate grounded in faith, relationships

by Allison Kowalski

Father Greg Shaffer, who leads the Newman Center, said students have come to him to talk about their attractions to members of the same sex, and he advises them to stay celibate for the rest of their lives.
Media Credit: Elise Apelian | Hatchet Staff Photographer
Father Greg Shaffer, who leads the Newman Center, said students have come to him to talk about their attractions to members of the same sex, and he advises them to stay celibate for the rest of their lives.

Father Greg Shaffer said he would pray for "the institution of marriage" this weekend.

Sitting inside the Newman Center’s chapel, about a dozen students soaked in his sermon as they envisioned the week ahead – rallying to preserve same-sex marriage bans like Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act as they appear before the Supreme Court this week.

With the Catholic Church preparing for Easter next week, Shaffer said his church has not issued formal notices pushing members to get involved in the fight against legislation allowing gay marriage, like it did in 2012 when laws permitting same-sex marriage passed in Maryland and Maine.

Still, he said he wants to make sure the Church’s views opposing same-sex marriage are clear.

“I think for the Church, the institution of marriage is naturally, inherently by its nature, the full union of a man and a woman – that’s not just the church, that’s what nature says,” Shaffer said in an interview.

He also described “helping” students who have come to him feeling attracted to members of the same-sex, and advising them to stay celibate for the rest of their lives. Shaffer added that he loves everyone, no matter what their sexual orientation, and said this point was previously lost in his blog and other teachings. Last May, Shaffer drew fire for blasting President Barack Obama’s support of gay marriage.

“Every single rational person knows that sexual relationships between persons of the same sex are unnatural and immoral. They know it in their hearts,” he wrote last year.

Opposition to gay marriage has eroded nationally over the last few years, especially among young Americans. An all-time high 58 percent of Americans support marriage rights, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll released last week.

Freshman Amanda Robbins, who will be part of the ground movement Tuesday, said she is governed by her Christian beliefs.

“Governments need to recognize marriages have been this way for thousands of years, and there's no reason it should be redefined this year all of the sudden, and it’s not the Supreme Court’s case to do that,” Robbins said.

She said that like many GW students who are against gay marriage, she still thinks gay couples deserve rights that come with civil unions, like hospital visitation and financial benefits. The problem, she said, is the impact on traditional family life and bringing up children.

“I just think the man and woman have different roles to play and that’s what’s needed for the child to be brought up in the best way,” Robbins said.

Sophomore Emily Jashinsky said she grew up in a strict Lutheran household and is also morally opposed to same-sex marriage. But after honing her political views as a Libertarian, she does not think the government should be taking a stance on the issue at all. She will not head to the Supreme Court this week.

“Republicans do not need to get caught up in social issues,” she said.

Jashinsky, a member of the Young America's Foundation, said she is inspired by new voices in the Republican Party that are more libertarian, like father and son Ron and Rand Paul. She called them the future of the GOP.

Moving from the Bible Belt to GW also shaped her beliefs, she said.

“The more you’re challenged, the sharper your view becomes,” Jashinsky said.

This article was updated March 27, 2013 to reflect the following:
The Hatchet reported that Father Greg Shaffer asked his congregation to pray for the "institution of marriage" this weekend. While he said in an interview that he planned to ask his congregation to do so, he did not. We regret this error.

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