Supreme Court’s rulings called ‘tragic day for marriage’

Categories: Nation/World

July 5, 2013, edition
By Carol Zimmermann
Catholic News Service

U.S. Catholic bishops said the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 26 rulings on same-sex marriage were a “tragic day for marriage and our nation.”

The court, in separate 5-4 rulings struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, defining marriage as between one man and one woman and also refused to rule on the merits of a challenge to California’s Proposition 8, the voter-approved initiative barring same-sex marriage.

March file photo of people demonstrating as Supreme Court hears arguments in cases on same-sex marriage

In the rulings, the court said DOMA was unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause and they sent back to lower courts a challenge to Prop 8, saying the individuals who defended the law in court lacked the legal standing to do so.

A statement by Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco, chair of the U.S. bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, said the court “has dealt a profound injustice to the American people by striking down in part the federal Defense of Marriage Act.”

“The court got it wrong,” they continued. “The federal government ought to respect the truth that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, even where states fail to do so. The preservation of liberty and justice requires that all laws, federal and state, respect the truth, including the truth about marriage.”

The bishops also said it was “unfortunate that the court did not take the opportunity to uphold California’s Proposition 8 but instead decided not to rule on the matter. The common good of all, especially our children, depends upon a society that strives to uphold the truth of marriage. Now is the time to redouble our efforts in witness to this truth.”

They urged people to “stand steadfastly together in promoting and defending the unique meaning of marriage: one man, one woman, for life.” They also asked for prayers “as the court’s decisions are reviewed and their implications further clarified.”

Truth ignored

Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori said the court’s decisions were the “latest in a troubling trend of decisions by
lawmakers, judges and some voters which ignores the fundamental truth about marriage: It is the most valued, most important social unit in our society and as such is deserving of the protection and special recognition societies have afforded it throughout human history.”

The archbishop, who is chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, said the courts’ decisions will “also undoubtedly contribute to concerted efforts not just to redefine marriage but to dismantle it, efforts which represent a serious threat to religious liberty and conscience rights for countless people of faith.”

Archbishop Timothy M. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services said that although the Supreme Court “avoided a firm declaration about same sex-marriage, it signaled that attempts by the federal government to limit rights available under state law could be unconstitutional.”

He said the court shifted the debate to the states, which “raises questions about the scope of the federal government’s authority to administer its own programs.”

In light of the court’s decisions, the archbishop said it “seems imperative to remind the faithful of the Archdiocese for the Military Services that they must never forget that all, regardless of their sexual inclination, must be treated with the respect worthy of their human dignity.”

He said that while the court’s decision “voids federal law it opens the doors to others: It allows the citizens of each state the opportunity to uphold the true definition of marriage by voting for representatives and legislation that defend the true definition of marriage.”

The bishop urged Catholics to “make their voices heard through the democratic process by upholding marriage in their home states,” saying he remains confident that Americans will “continue to promote and defend the good and the truth of marriage as the union of one man and one woman as husband and wife for life.

“Marriage remains what it has always been, regardless of what any government might say,” he added.

Bishop tweeted response

In tweets issued soon after the court’s decision was released, Bishop Kevin J. Farrell of Dallas said: “Sexual difference matters. . . . It is essential for marriage. Only through this difference can man and woman speak the language of married love.”

He also tweeted: “In the sheep’s clothing of ‘equality,’ the sacrament of marriage is being reduced to an ‘exalted conception’ of an institution.”

Bishop John C. Wester of Salt Lake City called the court’s DOMA decision “disappointing.”

He said the blessings of marriage between one man and one woman “cannot be legislated, litigated, or changed by civil authorities.”

Bishop Robert N. Lynch of St. Petersburg, Fla., noted that the court’s rulings were no surprise and that they had been anticipated by the U.S. bishops. He also said the court’s action will likely “be debated for a long time.”

“The Catholic Church has a great interest in the definition of marriage since it is one of its seven sacraments,” he added. “We firmly believe that marriage is and can only be the union of one man and one woman. I pray that no civil legislation will ever require of us or any religion the freedom to define marriage for our own ecclesial purpose.”

President Barack Obama applauded the court’s ruling against DOMA as “a victory for couples who have long fought for equal treatment under the law,” but also stressed the importance of “maintaining our nation’s commitment to religious freedom.

“How religious institutions define and consecrate marriage has always been up to those institutions. Nothing about this decision — which applies only to civil marriages — changes that,” he said in a June 26 statement.

Opinions have shifted

According to a study issued May 30 by the Washington-based Public Religion Research Institute, 62 percent of U.S. Catholics support same-sex marriage; overall, 52 percent of Americans support such marriages and 43 percent oppose them.

Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, said it was clear from the court’s rulings that “the ball has been moved down the field to a point where the pro-gay marriage side is in the red zone. Whether they can be stopped from crossing the goal line depends solely on the prospects of having a constitutional amendment affirming marriage as a union between a man and a woman.”

Donohue said the 38 states needed to pass such an amendment is not a problem, since there are already “38 states that have their own laws restricting marriage to a man and a woman.

“The problem is getting two-thirds of the House and two-thirds of the Senate to agree” to a federal-marriage amendment, he said.