Catholics are called to witness to the truth of marriage despite the Supreme Court of the United States recognizing a legal right to same-sex marriage, the nation's bishops said on Friday. “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,” said Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, president of the U.S bishops conference, in a June 26 statement for the conference. “Jesus Christ, with great love, taught unambiguously that from the beginning marriage is the lifelong union of one man and one woman,” Archbishop Kurtz added. “As Catholic bishops, we follow our Lord and will continue to teach and to act according to this truth.” In a 5-4 decision on Friday, the Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that under the Fourteenth Amendment, states must grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples and recognize same-sex marriages conducted in other states.
The Fourteenth Amendment protects the rights of all citizens to “life, liberty, or property” under due process, and guarantees them “equal protection of the laws” in the states. In this case, the court ruled that state laws defining marriage as between one man and one woman deprived same-sex couples of their right to legally marry. The ruling overturned a November decision by the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals that upheld traditional marriage laws in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Same-sex marriage is now legal in all fifty states. Although the Court recognizes a legal right to same-sex marriage, Catholics must teach and bear witness to true marriage, the bishops insisted. “The unique meaning of marriage as the union of one man and one woman is inscribed in our bodies as male and female,” Archbishop Kurtz reflected. “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.” Despite the ruling, Catholics should continue to preach the truth about the nature of marriage with “faith, hope, and love” for all persons, and asked “all people of good will” to join Catholics in supporting this proclamation and respecting Catholics’ “freedom to seek, live by, and bear witness to the truth” The decision “will not end the discussion about what marriage is and why it matters for public policy,” stated Jennifer Marshall, vice president for the Institute for Family, Community, and Opportunity at the Heritage Foundation. Along with this support for true marriage, considerable social and legal obstacles will now have to be overcome as a result of the Obergefell decision, legal experts admitted. “Redefining marriage to make it a genderless institution fundamentally changes marriage,” said Ryan Anderson, the William E. Simon senior research fellow in American Principles and Public Policy at the Heritage Foundation. “It makes the relationship more about the desires of adults than about the needs, or the rights, of children,” he added. The Supreme Court also played “activist” in re-defining marriage, an issue that should have been left to the state-level democratic process said Caleb Dalton, a legal counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom. The Court “invented a new constitutional right,” Dalton told CNA in an interview shortly after the decision.
“The Fourteenth Amendment does not speak to what marriage is, and today the Supreme Court decided that it knows better than millions of Americans what the best social policy for the United States is.” The decision pushes legal same-sex marriage on a collision course with religious liberty at the national level, and the consequences for religious freedom could be severe, Dalton noted. This conflict has been occurring in states where same-sex marriage has already been legalized, with business owners facing discrimination lawsuits when they decline to serve same-sex weddings for religious reasons. Now that same-sex marriage is legal nationwide, more lawsuits like this could occur. “It’s redefinition of marriage like this that will continue to impact religious liberty of Americans across our country and it’s concerning,” Dalton said. Anderson stated, “There is an urgent need for policy to ensure the government never penalizes anyone for standing up for marriage."
“We must work to protect the freedom of speech, association, and religion of those who continue to abide by the truth of marriage as one man and one woman.”