In 2003, New Jersey became the second state (after California) to have "domestic partnerships" recognized. In 2006, the New Jersey Legislature passed a bill permitting same sex civil unions and recognizing those of other states. So in effect, the only thing that's missing is the term "marriage". That is now being pushed for, but the movement does not appear to have enough support to pass at this time.
Last week, the New Jersey bishops instructed priests to read and distribute a letter affirming the church's teaching on marriage. Sadly, this letter was not read at any of the parishes of my friends here in NJ. Since there is no mention of it online or in any of the Diocesan publications that I can find, I can't comment on the exact content.
I can, however, comment on my understanding of the issue. First let me state unequivocally that the Catholic Church does not hate gays, nor condone violence or discrimination against gays by anyone. Through programs like Courage the Church tries to reach out to those with same sex attractions. However, it is an uphill battle because people who put sex above God have taken a position that any criticism of one's sexual antics is persecution of the person. Of course, many of those same people criticize the actions of churchgoer, and fail to see the irony. I can see that it's a natural thing to resent criticism of your actions, be they good or bad. For instance, an alcoholic will react viciously against someone who tries to point out their drinking problem. However, an alcoholic doesn't have the media and lobbying groups fighting for their right to drink.
But to get to the point. If the Catholic Church recognizes Protestant marriages, and Buddhist marriages and Muslim marriages, and even civil marriages and common law marriages, why not gay marriages? It has to do with what a marriage is, and why it was instituted in the first place. Huh? Marriage is when two people love each other and want to spend the rest of their lives together, right?
Wrong. Certainly that is necessary for a good marriage, but not sufficient, and not what marriage is about, either religiously or in secular society. Marriage is the basis of the family. It is when a man and a woman who have no relationship to each other come together as one, for the purpose of forming a family, and raising children. The family in turn is the basis of society. It ensures that the next generation will carry on not only our genes, but our society. It is the unit from which clans, tribes, towns, cities, states, nations, and ultimately civilization itself is formed. It is the method of continuation of the species.
Can't two men or two women form a family? Isn't a family defined by love, not by DNA? Again, love is necessary but not sufficient for a family, Disney movies notwithstanding. God created two sexes to complete each other. This is reflected in nature. It takes a male and female to reproduce. The family in nature is the group which ensures that children are protected and nurtured.
At this point I usually hear things like "what about couples who can't have children. Are they not married?" Yes, they are. Not everything on this Earth is perfect. People don't always succeed at their goals, but that doesn't mean that the goal is not a valid one, or reduce the worth of those who try. Nor should we hold a sterile couple up as the ideal by which we judge marriage.
OK, but what about homosexuality in nature? First off, we can't really label animal behavior as "good" or "bad", since animals don't have free will as we do - they are governed by instinct. We have the ability to decide to act in contrast to our instincts, which is where good and bad come in. Yes, I have heard that some animals commit homosexual acts, but that is not the basis of animal families. Marriage is about families, not sex, remember?
One other thought occurs to me. There are stories of various state legislatures attempting to (or at least considering) defining the value of pi to be 3 instead of 3.14159... Of course, we all laugh at how ridiculous this is. Government has no business trying to redefine laws of nature to suit political whim.