This week, Delaware became the eleventh state (plus the District of Columbia) to enact marriage equality, and Minnesota seems poised to become the twelfth state next week. The Supreme Court justices are deliberating two cases on marriage equality, and their decisions should be announced by the end of June.
In response to all of this news, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has announced a campaign of prayer, fasting, and sacrifice for Catholics, to encourage Catholics to oppose marriage equality. They have developed a bulletin insert to be used in May and June across the country, offering ideas and actions for Catholics to enact.
The bulletin insert text describes the campaign:
“For the first time in our nation’s history, the Supreme Court is considering two cases about whether or not marriage should be redefined to include two persons of the same sex. These cases involve the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California’s Proposition 8, both of which define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
“The Court is expected to rule on both cases by the end of June. A broad negative ruling could redefine marriage in the law throughout the entire country, becoming the “Roe v. Wade” of marriage. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has joined with many other organizations in urging the Supreme Court to uphold both DOMA and Proposition 8 and thereby to recognize the essential, irreplaceable contribution that husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, make to society, and especially to children.” [emphasis theirs]
The announcement of the campaign has inspired commentary from secular writers. At ThinkProgress.com, Zack Ford thinks that the comparison to Roe v. Wade is inaccurate:
“This comparison to Roe v. Wade has been made several times in regards to these cases, but it remains unclear what exactly the intention beyond that comparison really is. Though the two have often been juxtaposed in the past as key social issues, they don’t actually compare substantively. Public opinion on marriage has consistently trended toward equality, while public opinion on abortion has remained split. Marriage is something that all people already have access to, but it only serves people who are heterosexual — a very different circumstance from the general question of whether a woman has a right to an abortion at all.”
Ford believes that this comparison is designed to promote future action against marriage equality:
“What this comparison does forebode is future attempts to curb back the rights of same-sex couples after marriage equality is achieved. Just as conservatives have resisted Roe by curbing women’s access to abortion as much as possible — like in North Dakota, Kansas, andArkansas — they may try to limit same-sex couples’ access to marriage. Certainly, objections about violations of “religious liberty” already speak to this, suggesting future attempts to legalize discrimination against the LGBT community. These efforts seem less likely to succeed, though; so far, California’s Proposition 8 is the only example of a setback for marriage equality after it’s already been in place, and that becomes a moot point should the Court knock it down.”
Paul Constant, on a blog for Seattle’s The Stranger newspaper thinks that Ford is too pessimistic:
“Once the world doesn’t end in states that legalize gay marriage, and once more examples of happily married gay couples are seen in the media, this is going to be a dead issue . . .” [emphasis his]
In a more impatient vein, Mary Elizabeth Williams, writing on Salon.com, gives a brief summary of rebuttals against marriage equality opponents:
“It bears repeating that if the idea of two men or two women pledging themselves to each other in a manner that grants them legal protection and societal validation ticks you off, that’s your thing. But for heaven’s sake, stop pretending that marriage isn’t a man-made institution, one that we humans have defined in different ways throughout the course of history. Stop forgetting that if you’re looking for “traditional” marriages, the Bible itself is chock-full of them — defined by incest, rape and bigamy. Stop conveniently ignoring that the church says that matrimony is for the procreation of children but doesn’t restrict the elderly or infertile from enjoying the benefits of religiously sanctioned unions.”
(For a succinct history of how marriage has changed in church and society, see chapter 8 in New Ways Ministry’s Marriage Equality: A Positive Catholic Approach.)
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry