“All persons must be protected from violence, but codifying the classifications ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity’ as contained in in S. 47 is problematic,” they wrote. “These two classifications are unnecessary to establish the just protections due to all persons. They undermine the meaning and importance of sexual difference. They are unjustly exploited for purposes of marriage redefinition, and marriage is the only institution that unites a man and a woman with each other and with any children born from their union,” said Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, California; Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco; Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana; Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore; and Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles.
The bishops are chairmen of the USCCB’s Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage; Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth; the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty; and the Committee on Migration, respectively.
The bishops also expressed their concerns about the exclusion of conscience protections from the bill as passed, which would protect the conscience rights of faith-based service providers that assist victims of human trafficking.
“Now that Congress has acted to change the law, we urge future action to revisit these concerns in the months ahead,” the statement says.
Full text of the statement follows:
Joint Statement on the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013
Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore and Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles.
March 6, 2013
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has a history of supporting the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), and of providing ongoing support to victims of domestic violence through our social service programs. This support is consistent with Catholic social teaching that reveres the inherent and inviolable dignity of all human persons. In our pastoral statement When I Call for Help, the bishops wrote: “As pastors of the Catholic Church in the United States, we state as clearly and strongly as we can that violence against women, inside or outside the home, is never justified. Violence in any form — ‘physical, sexual, psychological, or verbal’—is sinful.”
Unfortunately, we cannot support the version of the “Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013” passed by the House of Representatives and the Senate (S. 47) because of certain language it contains. Among our concerns are those provisions in S. 47 that refer to “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.” All persons must be protected from violence, but codifying the classifications “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” as contained in S. 47 is problematic. These two classifications are unnecessary to establish the just protections due to all persons. They undermine the meaning and importance of sexual difference. They are unjustly exploited for purposes of marriage redefinition, and marriage is the only institution that unites a man and a woman with each other and with any children born from their union.
The Senate’s decision to incorporate into S. 47 a title reauthorizing the Trafficking Victims Protection Act also raises concerns because this title omits language to protect the conscience rights of faith-based service providers to victims of human trafficking. We strongly supported efforts to include such provisions. Conscience protections are needed in this legislation to ensure that these service providers are not required to violate their bona fide religious beliefs as a condition for serving the needy. Failure to have conscience protection for such service providers undermines a long-held value in our democracy—religious liberty. Absent those protections, S. 47 fails to prevent discrimination against faith-based providers of care, such as the USCCB, which for years has provided exceptional service and care to such victims. In the end, the victims of human trafficking are harmed because organizations such as the USCCB are unable to render services that reach them and serve their human needs.
The USCCB firmly believes in protecting the well-being and safety of all people from violence, especially from violence in the home. Indeed, the legislation passed by Congress contains several commendable provisions which strengthen protections against domestic violence and human trafficking.
However, because of our other concerns with the bill, we were unable to support the overall legislation. Now that Congress has acted to change the law, we urge future action to revisit these concerns in the months ahead.
Keywords: Domestic violence, women, sexual orientation, gender identity, Violence Against Women Act, human trafficking, U.S. Congress, House of Representatives, Senate, religious liberty, legislation, VAWA, S.47
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