WASHINGTON (July 6, 2004) -— Saying the institution of marriage is "under serious attack," the President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) strongly urged the Senate to vote in favor of the Federal Marriage Amendment after turning back any attempt to prevent consideration of the measure.
"Recent actions in various state courts and courthouses have placed the institution of marriage under serious attack and in grave danger," said Bishop Wilton D. Gregory in a letter to the Senate urging support for S.J. Res. 30, the Federal Marriage Amendment. "The Catholic Bishops of the United States strongly believe that marriage is a basic human institution and that, though it is regulated by civil laws and church laws, it did not originate from either the church or state, but from God. Accordingly, the Bishops believe that neither church nor the state can alter the basic meaning and structure of marriage."
S.J. Res. 30 would amend the United States Constitution to define marriage as consisting only of the union of a man and a woman. The Senate Majority leader has announced his intention to bring it before the Senate in mid-July. Bishop Gregory noted, however, that opponents may mount a filibuster that could prevent consideration of the measure.
"The Catholic Bishops of the United States strongly urge you to vote against any effort that would prevent the Senate from voting on this important measure, as well as to vote for the measure once the Senate takes it up," said Bishop Gregory in the July 6 letter.
"Our concern for preserving marriage as the union of a man and a woman is not simply a Catholic concern," the Bishop said. "We share it with believers and non-believers, Christians and non-Christians alike, simply because this understanding is part of the common moral heritage of humanity."
"It is precisely this moral heritage that must be protected today from a small but vocal minority that would alter the definition of marriage by making same-sex unions the legal equivalent of marriage," Bishop Gregory stated. "A same-sex union is not equivalent to marriage. It is not based on the natural complementarity of male and female; it cannot cooperate with God to create new life; it cannot be a true conjugal union."
"Marriage, as properly understood, is more than a lifestyle choice," Bishop Gregory said. "It is an interpersonal relationship with public significance," he continued. "It makes a unique and irreplaceable contribution to the common good of society when it fulfills its natural, God-given purposes, namely, to bring children into the world and care for them and to provide a way for a man and a woman to seek each other's good in a committed, lifetime relationship."
"The institution of marriage has been weakened and eroded by many forces," Bishop Gregory told the Senate. "The social cost is already too high. The Catholic Bishops of the United States urge your support for amending the United States Constitution to preserve and protect this vital institution that undergirds the well-being of spouses, children, families, communities and society itself."
The USCCB has longed worked on the marriage issue, supporting efforts at the state level to preserve marriage as the union of a man and a woman. Last September, its Administrative Committee called for efforts at all levels of government, including support for a federal constitutional amendment. Since then, the Bishops' Conference has been engaged in educational activities across the country, and has submitted testimony to the House and Senate Judiciary Committees.
On June 24, Bishop Gregory wrote to all Catholic Bishops asking them to personally urge their Senators to support the Federal Marriage Amendment, as well as to generate additional support through pastors from the larger Catholic community. He also directed Conference staff to send out this appeal through their diocesan counterparts.
The Conference statement Between Man and Woman: Questions and Answers about Marriage and Same-sex Unions can be found on the Conference Web site at www.usccb.org/laity/marriage/samesexunions.shtml.
Full Text of Bishop Gregory's Statement.