Of course, Geoff assumes that I would agree with the parents on this one, and even when I said I didn't, creates some "guilty by association" that says that because I think homosexual sex acts are gravely morally evil and that same-sex marriage is wrong from both moral and sociological standpoints, I might as well be standing in that hospital room holding up a barrier.
Now, if I said that because Geoff G. approves of homosexual sex acts, same-sex marriage, etc. he must necessarily approve of bathhouses, anonymous sex trysts in public parks or public bathrooms, and the North American Man-Boy Love Association, I would be engaged in an act of demonizing my opponent. I don't believe that just because some people think that homosexual sex acts are good and fine and morally terrific, etc., they must believe all of that other stuff--but Geoff has no problem putting me on the side of the Hospital Barrier Brigade just because I accept my 2,000 year old religion's clear, strong teaching that homosexual sex acts are gravely morally evil, just like adulterous sex acts, unmarried sex acts, sex acts performed on oneself, or a whole plethora of other perversions too unpleasant to mention.
In fact, though, the Catholic Church's teaching on homosexuality is more subtle than Geoff or his friends generally understand. Let's take a look:
Chastity and homosexualityWhat does this say, in brief? It says three things: one, that homosexual sex acts are gravely morally evil; two, that the inclination to this act (not the person suffering from the inclination) is objectively disordered, but is for most a trial, and is not a reason for any unjust discrimination against same-sex inclined people; and three, that just like everybody else, homosexual people are called to chastity.
2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity,140 tradition has always declared that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered."141 They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.
2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.
2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.
So what is unjust discrimination? To understand that better, let's look at some things that might legitimately be opposed in regard to same-sex people: same-sex marriage, adoption by same-sex couples, and the teaching of same-sex sexuality to children as something which is morally good. In each of these examples there is no way to proceed without insisting that homosexual acts are morally good, something to which the Church can never agree (as the Catechism spells out quite clearly).
But things which do not require the Church to blunt her teaching about the grave immorality of every same-sex sex act do not fall into that same category. Allowing, for example, the same-sex partner of a dying person into the person's hospital room is in no way a condoning of the sin of homosexual activity. It is simply an act of human charity which ought not to be withheld ordinarily. Except in rare circumstances, then, depriving the dying person of the ability to take leave of his partner (and vice versa) would be, in my opinion, an act of unjust discrimination. (And to be clear, by "rare circumstances" I have in mind such things as the dying person's own request that the partner not be admitted first and foremost, and afterward such considerations as the person's medical needs and so forth).
This is where the same-sex marriage advocates tend to get a little angry. Oh, it's easy for me to say that it's okay for two men or two women who have had a sexual relationship to be allowed into each other's hospital rooms, but without marriage there's just no way whatsoever to make sure the person's wishes will be respected, etc.
I don't believe that for a minute--and I can think of other situations, not even same-sex ones, where the right to have certain visitors admitted or others excluded becomes very difficult to ensure when one is in the hospital for whatever reason, and where the marital status of the person in question doesn't even affect the situation.
So I propose some common sense legislation that would solve this problem. We could call it something like, "Hospital Visitation Act of 2010," or perhaps come up with a catchier name. This Act would declare that the right to be visited in the hospital by the people of one's choice was to be protected, and would create a way for adults to designate, well in advance of hospitalization, up to ten people (or so--that's just a working number) who are to be allowed visiting privileges under any circumstance except those where for medical reasons the hospital can't allow any visitors (e.g., highly contagious illnesses, certain ICU situations, etc.). Anyone other than those ten people could still be admitted if the patient was alert, conscious, and could request their presence, but in the event that the patient was no longer able to communicate his or her wishes, at least those ten would be allowed (and there could be a tier system as well, so that in the event the hospital is only allowing a few visitors the right ones would be at the top of the list). For minor children, of course, visitors would still be up to the parents or guardians.
I'm not entirely sure just how the list would be created, maintained, etc. On the one hand, the system would have to allow for easy changes; on the other, it would have to prevent people from fraudulently putting themselves on someone else's list. But those aren't insurmountable obstacles in our technologically advanced age.
Would there still be problems, if, for instance, a man left his former girlfriend on the list but forgot to add his present one, or any such similar situation? Sure--but at present, both of them could show up claiming to be the man's wife or sister, and hospital personnel shouldn't have to bear the burden of needing to verify every person's identity before admitting them to a patient's room.
And the occasional relative or friend might be annoyed at not being on someone's list, but when the patient is out of danger they can take it up with that patient, instead of blaming society, heteronormism, bigotry or any other such thing for leaving them out.
After all, hospitals have visiting rules for the safety and comfort of their patients. If the parents of a same-sex attracted man use those rules to deny his partner a reasonable visit, they are out of line; but we could, I think, create a system which allowed all people, not just same-sex ones, a greater degree of control over who visits them in the hospital without in any way needing to tamper with the ancient definition of marriage.