In a statement issued today, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, reacted to a 5-4 ruling by the judges of the Supreme Court which in effect grants a constitutional right to a same-sex marriage (SSM). The ruling (here) effectively redefines marriage in 50 states. Some 36 states and the District of Columbia already allow SSM, 20 of them following the Supreme Court’s 2013 Windsor decision striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
In 2004, Massachusetts became the first state where gays could wed. Over the next decade, 15 more states and the District of Columbia legalised same-sex marriage, via court rulings or legislative acts. However, a ruling by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in November 2014 upheld bans in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee, which persuaded the justices to take up the case, Obergefell v Hodges, it decided today.
Archbishop Kurtz said:
Regardless of what a narrow majority of the Supreme Court may declare at this moment in history, the nature of the human person and marriage remains unchanged and unchangeable. Just as Roe v. Wade did not settle the question of abortion over forty years ago, Obergefell v. Hodges does not settle the question of marriage today. Neither decision is rooted in the truth, and as a result, both will eventually fail. Today the Court is wrong again. It is profoundly immoral and unjust for the government to declare that two people of the same sex can constitute a marriage.
The unique meaning of marriage as the union of one man and one woman is inscribed in our bodies as male and female. The protection of this meaning is a critical dimension of the “integral ecology” that Pope Francis has called us to promote. Mandating marriage redefinition across the country is a tragic error that harms the common good and most vulnerable among us, especially children. The law has a duty to support every child’s basic right to be raised, where possible, by his or her married mother and father in a stable home.
Jesus Christ, with great love, taught unambiguously that from the beginning marriage is the lifelong union of one man and one woman. As Catholic bishops, we follow our Lord and will continue to teach and to act according to this truth.
I encourage Catholics to move forward with faith, hope, and love: faith in the unchanging truth about marriage, rooted in the immutable nature of the human person and confirmed by divine revelation; hope that these truths will once again prevail in our society, not only by their logic, but by their great beauty and manifest service to the common good; and love for all our neighbors, even those who hate us or would punish us for our faith and moral convictions.
Lastly, I call upon all people of good will to join us in proclaiming the goodness, truth, and beauty of marriage as rightly understood for millennia, and I ask all in positions of power and authority to respect the God-given freedom to seek, live by, and bear witness to the truth.