Deceptive Bill Harms Marriage and Society
This past week, senators in the U.S. Senate voted 62-37 to send the so-called Respect for Marriage Act to a final vote. Although the vote was only procedural, its success suggests that this highly problematic bill is likely to pass the Senate. Given that the bill already easily passed the Democrat-controlled House earlier in the summer, it appears poised to become federal law.
Despite the promising-sounding title, this deceptively-titled bill would in fact do nothing to “respect” marriage. Instead, it would codify into law the radical redefinition of marriage imposed upon the nation in 2015 by the U.S. Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges. It would repeal and replace provisions that define, for purposes of federal law, marriage as between a man and a woman and spouse as a person of the opposite sex. It will mandate that the federal government and states recognize any marriage contracted by “two individuals” – including members of the same sex – so long as it was legal in the state where they got “married.”
Recall, same-sex “marriage” only became legal after the U.S. Supreme Court claimed to have found a “right” to same-sex “marriage” in the Constitution. No doubt, our nation’s founding fathers would be astonished to hear that any such “right” exists in the documents they drafted. But unfortunately, we are all too accustomed to having small groups of activist judges make law ex nihilo by torturing the Constitution to say what they want it to say.
Earlier this year, however, the U.S. Supreme Court righted the wrong of the most egregious instance of judicial activism in American history, overturning Roe v. Wade, and returning the abortion issue to the individual states. In the wake of that decision, LGBT activists became worried that the High Court may also overturn Obergefell. And indeed, in his concurring opinion overturning Roe, Justice Clarence Thomas had suggested that the court should do just that.
In response, pro-LGBT legislators introduced the Respect for Marriage Act, which, if passed by both houses of Congress and signed by President Biden, would ensure that even if the U.S. Supreme Court does overturn Obergefell, same-sex “marriage” will remain the law of the land.
U.S. Bishops Respond
In a statement last week, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee for Religious Liberty, described the Senate’s vote as “deeply concerning.”
“The Catholic Church will always uphold the unique meaning of marriage as a lifelong, exclusive union of one man and one woman,” said the Cardinal. “In doing so, we are joined by millions of what the Obergefell Court called ‘reasonable and sincere’ Americans – both religious and secular – who share this time-honored understanding of the truth and beauty of marriage.”
Cardinal Dolan noted that Obergefell “created countless religious liberty conflicts,” and that while supporters of the bill have touted the supposed protections that it contains for religious liberty, these protections are “insufficient.”
The supposed protections, said Cardinal Dolan,
fail to resolve the main problem with the Act: in any context in which conflicts between religious beliefs and same-sex civil marriage arise, the Act will be used as evidence that religious believers must surrender to the state’s interest in recognizing same-sex civil marriages. Wedding cake bakers, faith-based adoption and foster care providers, religious employers seeking to maintain their faith identity, faith-based housing agencies – are all at greater risk of discrimination under this legislation.
Cardinal Dolan urged senators who have supported the bill to “reverse course,” and “consider the consequences of passing an unnecessary law that fails to provide affirmative protections for the many Americans who hold this view of marriage as both true and foundational to the common good.”
“The bill,” he said, “is a bad deal for the many courageous Americans of faith and no faith who continue to believe and uphold the truth about marriage in the public square today.”
Catholic Teaching Cannot Change
In the years before the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex “marriage” in Obergefell, there was a general consensus among Americans that marriage is the union of one man and one woman. Numerous states had passed constitutional amendments and laws, often by referenda, stating just that.
Since Obergefell, however, public opinion has continued to trend towards support for same-sex “marriage.” Gallup began polling public opinion about the issue in 1996, at which point only 27% of Americans supported the redefinition of marriage. However, in Gallup’s most recent poll that number rose to 71%.
However, things are different when it comes to weekly churchgoers. As Gallup put it, weekly churchgoers are the “final holdouts” against same-sex “marriage,” with a comparatively much smaller 40% of weekly churchgoers supporting the redefinition of marriage.
It’s important to remember, however, that even though it is largely church-going Christians who oppose the redefinition of marriage, this opposition is not based solely – or even primarily – upon appeals to religious authority. Rather, the Catholic Church opposes same-sex “marriage” because the redefinition of marriage violates fundamental natural law principles that any person of good will, regardless of religious affiliation, can see and assent to. In other words, redefining marriage causes serious harms to the common good, and ought to be opposed by those with enough common sense to see beneath the LGBT propaganda, to the actual effects of this radical social experiment.
As the USCCB explains on their website about marriage:
The introduction into civil law of a false understanding of marriage and human sexuality brings about confusion and hurt to real people. Today, people already suffer because of family breakdown – divorce, growing up without a father, domestic violence, and so on. Marriage has public significance and public consequences because it unites children in the law to their mother and father. The redefinition of marriage to include two men or two women is a redefinition of the human person, disregarding what it means to be a man or a woman. Redefining marriage has led to widespread confusion about the rights of men and women in the public square. This is a basic injustice to men, women, and children. Marriage is truly one of the most important social justice issues of our time.
Unfortunately, the conversation about same-sex “marriage” almost never focuses on these many deleterious social effects. As pro-marriage advocates had long warned, the redefinition of marriage has proved to be only the beginning.
In recent years, we have seen an astonishingly bold push by radical LGBT activists to blanket our schools and media with propaganda supporting the most extreme aspects of the LGBT agenda. This includes the eradication of sexual differentiation, support for polygamy, the exposure of children to hyper-sexualized drag queen displays, the introduction into libraries of pornographic “children’s” books, the introduction of “alternative” lifestyles into children’s entertainment, and on and on. All of which is increasingly couched in a derisive, and often sinister, condemnation of those “backward” Christians who oppose all of this moral madness.
Meanwhile, thanks to the legalization of same-sex “marriage,” not only are more and more same-sex couples adopting children, but also more and more are turning to the dystopian surrogacy industry, in which women are paid to function as mere incubators for children purchased by these couples. So, more and more children are being intentionally deprived of the opportunity to know their mother and father, in households that lack the benefits of the complementarity of the sexes.
All of this, unfortunately, is being obscured by the grossly simplistic, but highly emotionalized defense of same-sex “marriage,” such as the slogan that “love is love.” Opposing same-sex “marriage” has nothing to do with opposing “love.” It has everything to do with facing the fact that the future of society depends upon strong, stable, fruitful marriages based upon the biological, psychological, and spiritual complementarity of the sexes. Only a man and a woman are capable of authentically speaking the language of married love, that is, the language of total self-gift, open to the gift of the other and the gift of life.
As Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco wrote in a pair of letters to both the U.S. House and Senate in July:
“Marriage as a lifelong, exclusive union of one man and one woman, and open to new life, is not just a religious ideal – it is, on the whole, what is best for society in a concrete sense, especially for children.”
To legalize same-sex “marriage” is to enshrine into law the principle that mothers and fathers are irrelevant or interchangeable. Passing the Respect for Marriage Act simply means that these harms will be embedded even more deeply in U.S. law, society, culture, and U.S. minds, making it even more difficult for our nation to return to social and sexual sanity.
Contact Your Senator
It is important to note that while all signs right now point to the likelihood that the bill will pass the Senate, the bill has not yet actually passed. Even though 12 GOP senators have betrayed their constituents and the common good by voting to move the bill forward, it seems that it has just barely enough votes to pass. If even two GOP senators change their votes and decide to stand for the true definition of marriage, there is hope that it will not pass.
The 12 GOP Senators who supported the bill are:
- Susan Collins of Maine
- Rob Portman of Ohio
- Thom Tillis of North Carolina
- Mitt Romney of Utah
- Lisa Murkowski of Alaska
- Roy Blunt of Missouri
- Richard Burr of North Carolina
- Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia
- Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming
- Dan Sullivan of Alaska
- Todd Young of Indiana
- Joni Ernst of Iowa
No matter who your senator is, I urge you to contact them today, to express your opposition to the Respect for Marriage Act. Every senator needs to know that there are Americans who continue to hold fast to the true definition of marriage. However, if you live in the districts of any of the aforementioned senators, I especially urge you to make an extra effort to contact them.
If passed and signed into law, the Respect for Marriage Act will increase the threat of legal liability for those who decline to affirm same-sex “marriage” and help cement a national public policy that will have drastic consequences for generations. No matter how intense the social pressure to conform, it is the duty of every faithful Catholic to stand up and defend the right of children to be raised in an intact family by their mother and father, and to protect marriage as the lifelong union of one man and one woman.
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Father Shenan J. Boquet was ordained in 1993 and is a priest of the Houma-Thibodaux Roman Catholic Diocese in Louisiana, his home state, where he served before joining HLI as its President in August 2011. Father Boquet earned a BA from Saint Joseph Seminary College, a Master of Divinity (MDiv) from Notre Dame Seminary Graduate School of Theology, a Certification Program in Health Care Ethics from the National Catholic Bioethics Center, and a Master of Science in Bioethics (MSBe) from the University of Mary in Bismarck. In 2018, Father Boquet was awarded an honorary visiting professorship by the Benedict XVI Catholic University in Trujillo, Peru. He is available for interviews and bookings on behalf of HLI by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.