A U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) committee chair has written to U.S. Senators asking them to vote against the Respect for Marriage Act should it come before them.
Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, who chairs the USCCB Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth, wrote the July 22nd letter to senators ahead of a possible vote on the Respect for Marriage Act, which has passed the House of Representatives already, with bi-partisan support.
In his letter, Cordileone called the Act an “unnecessary bill to create a statutory right to same-sex civil marriage.” He rejected claims that marriage equality was threatened after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, which ended the constitutional right to abortion care and has caused many advocates to worry LGBTQ rights could be the court’s conservative wing’s next target, as hinted at by Justice Clarence Thomas in a.concurring decision in the case.
Cordileone also stated that enshrining marriage equality into law would lead to different forms of discrimination, opining:
“[G]overnments continue to use marriage redefinition laws to threaten the conscience and religious freedom of individuals such as wedding vendors, and entities such as foster care and other social service providers, who seek to serve their communities without being punished for their longstanding and well-founded beliefs. This bill would lend weight to those efforts and further marginalize ‘millions of reasonable and sincere people.'”
The archbishop also speculated that civil marriage rights for same-gender couples would lead to recognition of polyamorous partners, writing:
“The ‘Respect for Marriage Act,’ would do the opposite of what its name implies, codifying a demand for states and the federal government to honor whatever may be deemed ‘marriage’ by any other state. The concern that the bill could require federal recognition of ‘marriages’ of more than two persons is not far-fetched, as at least three cities in Massachusetts have already legally enshrined so-called polyamorous domestic partnerships. By making federal recognition of such relationships automatic upon their recognition by any state, the bill would create a massive incentive for radical activists to concentrate their efforts in a single state – further lending plausibility to this potentially disastrous scenario.”
It has been seven years since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision legalized marriage equality nationwide. While the bishops and their conservative allies keep litigating over alleged discrimination and religious liberty claims, surveys consistently show that most people in the U.S. now consider equal marriage rights a positive development. Meanwhile, the bishops’ opposition to marriage equality cost the church millions of dollars and weakened its credibility.
It is plausible the Supreme Court’s right wing justices will seek to upend LGBTQ rights now. Church leaders like Archbishop Cordileone should reconsider whether this fight is one worth re-engaging. They would do better to focus on real injustices, like threats to democracy and climate change, instead.
—Robert Shine (he/him), New Ways Ministry, July 28, 2022