U.S. bishops call same-sex marriage bill’s religious freedom protections ‘insufficient’

U.S. bishops call same-sex marriage bill’s religious freedom protections ‘insufficient’

Following yesterday’s passage of a bill to nationally recognize same-sex weddings in the U.S. Senate, the nation’s Catholic bishops reiterated the Church’s teaching on marriage. In addition, they “expressed worry that the legislation could result in discrimination against those who hold a conventional view of marriage.”

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee for Religious Liberty, said in a statement on November 17: “The Catholic Church will always support the unique meaning of marriage as a lifelong, exclusive union of one man and one woman.”

Dolan continued, referencing the 2015 Supreme Court case Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states.

Wednesday, the Senate voted 62-37 to move the bill, which still requires a final vote in the Senate, House of Representatives approval, and the signature of President Joe Biden.

If ultimately signed into law by Biden, the Respect for Marriage Act (RFMA) would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a 1996 law signed by President Bill Clinton that defined marriage federally as the union of a man and a woman and allowed states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages contracted in other states. DOMA was effectively invalidated by the Supreme Court cases United States v. Windsor and Obergefell v. Hodges in 2013 and 2015, respectively.

This law would oblige states to recognize all marriages contracted in other jurisdictions, regardless of “sex, race, ethnicity, or national origin,” but would not require states to allow same-sex weddings.

CBS News reported that a bipartisan amendment to the bill regarding religious freedom ensures that nonprofit religious organizations are not required to provide services, facilities, or goods for the celebration of a same-sex marriage and protects religious liberty and conscience protections available under the Constitution and federal law, including the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. It further clarifies that the measure does not provide the federal government the authority to recognize polygamous marriage.

According to the New York Times, the amendment adds language guaranteeing that churches, universities, and other nonprofit religious organizations will not lose their tax-exempt status or other benefits for refusing to recognize same-sex marriages and will not be required to provide services for the celebration of any marriage.

The lack of individual conscience protections for those who hold a traditional view of marriage, according to Dolan, could lead to discrimination against faith-based adoption and foster care providers, religious employers seeking to maintain their faith identity, and faith-based housing agencies, among others.

Dolan wrote: “The law is a horrible bargain for the many courageous Americans of religion and no faith who continue to believe and defend the truth about marriage in the public square.”

He said, “The Act does not achieve a balance that honors our nation’s commitment to the fundamental right to religious liberty.” “Senators who support the Act must reconsider the ramifications of enacting an unnecessary law that fails to give affirmative protections for the numerous Americans who see this vision of marriage as both true and fundamental to the common good.”

In July, the U.S. bishops asked senators to oppose the RFMA, stressing the importance of stable marriages for the well-being of children and society, and voicing worries about the bill’s impact on the religious freedom of individuals who adhere to the conventional definition of marriage.

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman of the bishops’ committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth, wrote in a letter to senators, “People who experience same-sex attraction should be treated with the same respect and compassion as everyone else, based on their human dignity, and never be subject to unjust discrimination.”

“However, it was never discrimination to merely assert that the complementarity of the sexes is an essential feature of the definition of marriage,” he stated. “Marriage as a lifelong, exclusive union of one man and one woman, open to new life, is not merely a theological ideal; it is, generally speaking, what is best for society in a pragmatic sense, particularly for children.”

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