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The Notre Dame Marriage Petition in Context

By now, many readers will probably have encountered in some form or other the Notre Dame Marriage Petition, published online earlier this month by The Irish Rover. The petition, signed by 442 people at the time of this article’s publication, calls for the administration of the University of Notre Dame to “take up the defense of marriage at this pivotal moment in the national discussion surrounding this foundational institution.” It has been a hot topic of conversation on campus since its launch on The Irish Rover. The following attempts to place the petition in context and to answer questions that have arisen about the petition.


Who is sponsoring the Notre Dame Marriage Petition?

According to the petition’s web page on the website of the Irish Rover, the petition was written by the Students for Child-Oriented Policy, or SCOP. The SCOP was founded in January 2014 in response to the debate about marriage taking place in Indiana and the nation. The SCOP Facebook page states that, in their view, policymakers are ignoring the impact that their policies have on children, instead conceiving of policy “only as it will affect the stable, independent adult” – both in policy related to marriage and in other areas. The petition was published in conjunction with two SCOP-sponsored events (see here and here) and is housed on the website of The Irish Rover.


What are the signees of the Notre Dame Marriage Petition petitioning for?

Citing the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Mission Statement of the University of Notre Dame, and the document, “Beloved Friends and Allies: A Pastoral Plan for the Support and Holistic Development of GLBTQ and Heterosexual Students at the University of Notre Dame,” the petition states:

“[W]e call on the University administration to make a clear stand in support of the true definition of marriage and to take serious and sustained action to improve the public understanding of this natural institution.”

For context on the Catholic Church’s views on marriage and sexuality therein as cited by the petition, please see Part II of the “Beloved Friends and Allies” document here and part 1601 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church here. For context on the relationship of the University to the Catholic faith as cited in the petition, see the University’s Mission Statement here.


Have the administrations of other schools made statements about the institution of marriage?

Yes…sort of. Since the petition’s sponsoring body, SCOP, focuses on the marriage debate taking place in Indiana, it is worthwhile to start exploring the context of university involvement in the marriage debate here in Notre Dame’s home state. During the most recent legislative session, the Indiana State Senate was poised to vote on HJR-3, a bill proposing that only marriage between one man and one woman would be valid or recognized in the state of Indiana. (A proposal for a statewide vote on the amendment in November 2014 was voted down in the state Senate in February, thus tabling discussions of the bill for the time being.) While the bill was being debated, several Indiana colleges and universities made statements opposing the bill. These institutions, working as part of the Freedom Indiana coalition, were: Indiana University, Wabash College, DePauw University, Hanover College, University of Evansville, and University of Indianapolis. (This list, it is worth noting, includes none of Indiana’s eleven Catholic-affiliated colleges and universities.) These institutions made public statements with regards to the bill and not necessarily with regards to the institution of marriage itself, but it demonstrates that there is precedent in Indiana for university administrators to officially speak out on the subject of the marriage debate in the state.


Who has signed the Notre Dame Marriage Petition?

At the time of publication of this article, 442 individuals have signed the Notre Dame Marriage Petition. This group includes students, faculty members, ordained religious, alumni of the university, and more. If you are interested in signing the petition, you may do so at this link.


While discussions around the Notre Dame Marriage Petition and the broader subject of marriage are surely not over here at ND, this summary will hopefully serve as a helpful collection of context and background for such discussion. Please direct any questions to the author at scahalan@nd.edu.

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Sarah is a senior at the University of Notre Dame pursuing majors in English and American Studies. After graduation, she hopes to somehow finagle her way into a career in journalism. She enjoys whistling and Stanley Tucci and hates all forms of bees.
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