WASHINGTON – On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate passed the Respect for Marriage Act (H.R. 8404). The bill, which first passed the U.S. House of Representatives in July, will codify the nationwide redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples in federal statute for the first time. The bill will also heighten the threats to religious liberty that have persisted after the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision of 2015. Bishop Robert E. Barron of Winona-Rochester, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, issued the following statement in response.
“We are gravely disappointed that the misnamed Respect for Marriage Act passed the Senate and continue to call for its rejection.
“Pope Francis wrote in 2016 that ‘we can hardly stop advocating marriage simply to avoid countering contemporary sensibilities…. We would be depriving the world of values that we can and must offer.’ Indeed marriage, which is a lifelong and exclusive union, a complete and mutual gift of the husband and wife to each other for their good and for the procreation and education of children, is essential to the common good.
“However, decades of social and legal developments have torn sexuality, childbearing, and marriage from each other in the public consciousness. Much of society has lost sight of the purpose of marriage and now equates it with adults’ companionship.
“This bill fails to include clear, comprehensive, and affirmative conscience protections for religious organizations and individuals who uphold the sanctity of traditional marriage that are needed.
“We affirm our respect for the dignity of all engaged in this debate, and acknowledge differing perspectives in our civil society, but the impact of this bill will only contribute to the diminishment of the sacredness and integrity of marriage in our society.”
Archbishop Cordileone, the prior chairman of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, had also written to Congress in opposition the Act, in a joint letter to the House of Representatives on July 19, 2022, and a separate letter to the Senate on July 22.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York and chairman of the USCCB’s Committee for Religious Liberty, wrote about the religious freedom harms of the bill in a recent article. Last week, Cardinal Dolan and Bishop Barron implored Congress to reverse course, offering a detailed analysis of how the bill tips the scales against religious freedom.