Bishops Concerned Over Federal Court Rulings Rejecting Marriage as Between One Man, One Woman

July 12, 2010 By Public Affairs Office
WASHINGTON—Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Ad Hoc Committee for the Defense of Marriage, expressed grave concern regarding recent rulings by a federal judge in Massachusetts rejecting the definition of marriage as between one man and one woman.

Archbishop Kurtz offered his remarks after two rulings on July 8 that held that section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional. Section 3 provides that for purposes of federal statutes, regulations, and rulings, “marriage” means the legal union of one man and one woman.

“Marriage – the union of one man and one woman – is a unique, irreplaceable institution. The very fabric of our society depends upon it. Nothing compares to the exclusive and permanent union of husband and wife. The state has a duty to employ the civil law to reinforce – and, indeed, to privilege uniquely – this vital institution of civil society. The reasons to support marriage by law are countless, not least to protect the unique place of husbands and wives, the indispensible role of fathers and mothers, and the rights of children, who are often the most vulnerable among us. And yet, a judge has decided that a marriage-reinforcing law like DOMA fails to serve even a single, minimally rational government interest. On behalf of the bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for the Defense of Marriage, I express grave concern over these dangerous and disappointing rulings which ignore even the most apparent purposes of marriage and thus offend true justice,” he said.

The court rulings were based on two separate lawsuits which had been filed in Massachusetts. One ruling states that section 3 of DOMA violates the equal protection principles of the Fifth Amendment Due Process Clause (see Gill v. Office of Personnel Management). The other ruling holds that section 3 of DOMA violates the Tenth Amendment and the Spending Clause (see Commonwealth of Mass. v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services).

In the Gill ruling, U.S. District Judge Joseph Tauro commented that, “as irrational prejudice plainly never constitutes a legitimate government interest,” section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional.

“To claim that defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman is somehow irrational, prejudiced, or even bigoted, is a great disservice not only to truth but to the good of our nation,” Archbishop Kurtz said. “Marriage exists prior to the state and is not open to redefinition by the state. The role of the state, instead, is to respect and reinforce marriage. Thursday’s decision, by contrast, uses the power of the state to attack the perennial definition of marriage, reducing it merely to the union of any two consenting adults. But only a man and a woman are capable of entering into the unique, life-giving bond of marriage, with all of its specific responsibilities. Protecting marriage as only the union of one man and one woman is not merely a legitimate, but a vital government interest.”

The USCCB Office of General Counsel noted that the two court rulings are mistaken, both on the basis of the unique meaning of marriage, and because nothing in the Constitution forbids Congress from defining “marriage” – as that term is used in federal statutes, regulations, and rulings—as the union of one man and one woman.
Keywords: marriage, DOMA, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Constitution, Fifth Amendment, Tenth Amendment, Joseph Tauro