It has been about three weeks now since the two decisions regarding marriage were handed down by the
U.S. Supreme Court. Many went into the streets celebrating this “new” freedom. However, it was truly a
sad day for the institution of marriage in this country. I echo the words of Cardinal Timothy Dolan of
New York, the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops: “The Court got it wrong.
The federal government ought to respect the truth that marriage is the union of one man and one
woman, even where states fail to do so. The preservation of liberty and justice requires that all laws,
federal and state, respect the truth, including the truth about marriage.”
The Court’s decision in the Proposition 8 case is also very disappointing. While the U.S. Supreme Court
did not itself strike down Proposition 8, where it goes from here remains in question. In any event, it
missed the important opportunity to uphold the voices of over seven million Californians who voted to
protect marriage’s unique meaning. One redeeming note is that the Court did not formally redefine
marriage, though one could say that an additional meaning was granted.
With these decisions, the federal government will now have to recognize same-sex “marriage” in states
that provide for it. This was not a decision for freedom, but a grave injustice that undercuts true freedom
and equality. When we speak of justice, it does not require that different things be treated the same.
Government at all levels has a duty to recognize and uphold marriage’s unique meaning for the greater
good of society. Fortunately, the Court did not hold that the Constitution would require a redefinition of
It is clear that these decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court shift our public conversation back to the central
question: What is marriage? Marriage is a natural institution, predating both religion and government,
and is grounded in the nature of the human person. Every human society in the entire history of the
human race, regardless of cultural variations, has always understood marriage as a sexual union between
a man and a woman with the purpose of procreating and educating children. The traditional family has
always been the very foundation of society. Therefore, the common good of all, especially for our
children, depends upon a society that strives to uphold the truth of marriage. This is not about a religious
viewpoint. Though Jesus elevated marriage to a sacrament, the complementarity of man and woman and
the natural meaning of marriage can be known through reason without appealing to scripture.
True marriage brings a man and a woman into a covenantal relationship for life. Marriage connects
children with their moms and dads, and therefore we should work together to protect and strengthen it. It
gives children the best chance of being raised by their own father and mother together. Fathers and
mothers are not interchangeable. Our laws and culture should work together to make it more likely that
children will be raised, as far as possible, by both, for their good and the good of society.
As society goes down this unnatural road, we do not know the end result of this experiment of same sex marriage. Sociologists tell us that children raised in a family with two dads or two moms is clearly very different than being raised with a father and a mother. We do not know what the end result of this experiment will look like one hundred years from now. But the outcome will not be good because it is not in line with the designs for humanity by God, our Creator.
Has the slippery slope begun? The final outcome of these decisions is yet unknown. But they will have
ramifications that will trigger additional action within all three branches of federal government that has
not yet been delineated, and which could affect all institutions, including those which are Catholic.
Following the decision of the Court to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act, President Barack Obama,
while supporting the decision, stated that he would not force religious institutions to conduct gay
marriages when he said, “On an issue as sensitive as this, knowing that Americans hold a wide range of
views based on deeply held beliefs, maintaining our nation’s commitment to religious freedom is also
vital. How religious institutions define and consecrate marriage has always been up to those
institutions. Nothing about this decision — which applies only to civil marriages — changes that.” This
statement is a contradiction as we Catholics continue to fight for our religious freedom because of the
Health and Human Services mandate to provide contraception, sterilization and abortifacients as part of
health care to our employees. The nation’s commitment to religious freedom has not been maintained. It
has been taken away. Therefore, I have very little confidence that this promise will be kept.
Affirming the true definition of marriage denies no one his or her basic rights. Protecting marriage
affirms the basic rights and equal dignity of women and men and safeguards the basic rights and equal
protection of children.
All people deserve love and respect, including those who experience same-sex attractions. This reality
calls for our compassion, sensitivity, and pastoral care. But no one, especially children, is served by
redefining marriage. Unjust discrimination is always wrong. Treating different things differently is not
unjust discrimination. Protecting marriage is a matter of justice and builds a culture of life: pro-woman,
pro-man, pro-child, pro-family, pro-life, pro-society.
Marriage is a great gift to men, women, children, and society. For the common good of all, true marriage
needs to be strengthened, not redefined. We must also redouble our efforts in protecting this great
institution, continuing to stand for the truth of marriage and the good of children. The future of our
society depends upon it.