Cardinal Dolan says Senate marriage bill threatens religious freedom

A bride in New York City in a park outside the Manhattan Marriage Office on Nov. 18, 2021. (Photo: Catholic News Service)

By Julie Asher

WASHINGTON (CNS) — A same-sex marriage bill moving through the Senate is “a bad deal for the many brave Americans of faith and faithlessness who continue to believe and stand up for the truth about marriage in the square.” public today,” said New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan.

“It is deeply troubling that the US Senate has voted to proceed toward possible passage of the Respect for Marriage Act, which would essentially codify the Obergefell Supreme Court ruling (in 2015) that established a constitutional right civil marriages between people of the same sex. said the cardinal on November 17.

The Respect for Marriage Act “fails to strike a balance that appropriately respects our nation’s commitment to the fundamental right of religious freedom,” said the cardinal, who is chairman of the US bishops’ Committee on Religious Liberty.

The Senate advanced the measure with a vote of 62-37 on November 16. A final vote will be taken after the Thanksgiving holiday.

All Democrats supported him and were joined by 12 Republicans after they crafted an amendment they said would protect religious freedom.

These senators “have asserted that their amended bill ‘respects and protects the religious liberties of Americans,’ but the provisions of the bill that relate to religious freedom fall short,” Cardinal Dolan said.

Obergefell “created countless religious liberty conflicts, but the law offers only limited protections,” he said.

“Those protections,” he continued, “do not solve the main problem of the (Respect for Marriage) Law: in any context where conflicts arise between religious beliefs and same-sex civil marriage, the law will be used as a proof that believers must surrender to the interest of the state in recognizing same-sex civil marriages.”

“Wedding cake bakers, faith-based foster care and adoption providers, religious employers seeking to maintain their religious identity, faith-based housing agencies, are at increased risk of discrimination under this legislation,” he added.

The US House of Representatives passed the bill on July 19 with a broad, bipartisan vote of 267-157.

Before the House vote, the chairs of the US bishops’ pro-life and marriage and family committees wrote a joint letter to House members urging them to reject the measure.

In mid-September, the Senate decided to postpone voting on the measure until after the midterm elections on November 8.

A bipartisan group of negotiators, led by Sens. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, also wanted more time to consider “an amendment designed to address concerns from Republican lawmakers who feared the legislation could put churches and other religious institutions at legal risk if Congress were to vote to codify same-sex marriage rights.”

The group agreed to an amendment to the bill that “protects all religious liberty and conscience protections available under the Constitution or federal law, including, but not limited to, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and prevents this bill from of law is used to diminish or repeal such protections.”

The amendment also “confirms that nonprofit religious organizations shall not be required to provide services, facilities, or property for the solemnization or celebration of a marriage.”

Two of the Republican senators who opposed the bill, Mike Lee of Utah and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, said the measure’s protections for religious freedom are inadequate.

Lee tweeted on Nov. 16: “I offered to support the bill if the sponsors included my amendment to prohibit the government from removing tax-exempt status based on religious beliefs on same-sex marriage (for or against). ). The sponsors flatly refused to even consider that. Why?”

Graham said that “nothing in the bill adds new protections for gay marriage, but, in my opinion, it creates a great deal of uncertainty about religious freedom and the institutions that oppose gay marriage.”

He added that Lee’s amendment would have protected religious institutions “from retaliation.”

The Respect Marriage Act would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996, signed into law by President Bill Clinton. It prohibited the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage until the US Supreme Court ruled the law unconstitutional in 2013.

The push in Congress to codify the right to same-sex marriage into federal law followed an opinion by Justice Clarence Thomas in the Dobbs ruling that struck down Roe v. Wade.

Thomas voted with a 6-3 majority to strike Roe down, but in a concurring opinion, said the court should reconsider other rulings, including Obergefell and its 1965 Griswold decision that said a state ban on contraceptive use violated the right to marriage. privacy.

But the majority opinion in Dobbs said the ruling only concerned the constitutional right to abortion.

Arguing for passage of the Respect Marriage Act on November 16, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., said it would be one of the “highlights of the year for this body “.

If the Senate passes the measure, the House would have to vote on it again because it has been amended.

Cardinal Dolan urged senators backing the measure to “reverse course and consider the consequences of passing an unnecessary law that fails to provide affirmative protections for the many Americans” who believe traditional marriage is “true and fundamental to the common good.” ”.

“The Catholic Church will always uphold the unique meaning of marriage as an exclusive, lifelong union of one man and one woman,” he added.

“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 traditional understanding of the truth and beauty of marriage,” the cardinal said.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *