(LifeSiteNews) – As U.S. bishops gathered in Baltimore for their annual fall meeting, the U.S. Senate voted to advance the so-called Respect for Marriage Act, a preemptive measure that would make the redefinition of marriage the law of the land in the event that the Supreme Court overturns its 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision that mandated legal recognition of same-sex “marriage” nationwide.
After the 62–37 vote in the Senate to enshrine same-sex “marriage” into federal law, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee for Religious Liberty, issued a statement critical of the bill, warning that amendments added to protect religious liberty are “insufficient.”
“It is deeply concerning that the U.S. Senate has voted to proceed toward potential passage of the Respect for Marriage Act, which would essentially codify the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell that found a constitutional right to same-sex civil marriages,” Dolan began.
“The Catholic Church will always uphold the unique meaning of marriage as a lifelong, exclusive union of one man and one woman,” he declared. “In doing so, we are joined by millions of what the Obergefell Court called ‘reasonable and sincere’ Americans – both religious and secular – who share this time-honored understanding of the truth and beauty of marriage.”
Cardinal Dolan continued:
Senators promoting the Act have claimed that their amended bill ‘respects and protects Americans’ religious liberties,’ but the provisions of the Act that relate to religious liberty are insufficient.
Obergefell created countless religious liberty conflicts, but the Act offers only limited protections. Those protections fail to resolve the main problem with the Act: in any context in which conflicts between religious beliefs and same-sex civil marriage arise, the Act will be used as evidence that religious believers must surrender to the state’s interest in recognizing same-sex civil marriages. Wedding cake bakers, faith-based adoption and foster care providers, religious employers seeking to maintain their faith identity, faith-based housing agencies – are all at greater risk of discrimination under this legislation.
The bill is a bad deal for the many courageous Americans of faith and no faith who continue to believe and uphold the truth about marriage in the public square today. The Act does not strike a balance that appropriately respects our nation’s commitment to the fundamental right of religious liberty. Senators supporting the Act must reverse course and consider the consequences of passing an unnecessary law that fails to provide affirmative protections for the many Americans who hold this view of marriage as both true and foundational to the common good.
The USCCB wasn’t the only religious body to condemn the advancement of the bill by the Senate.
An alliance of “over 2,000 churches and ministries sent a letter to the Senate specifically calling attention to the effects of the bill on their ability to serve their communities in accordance with their religious beliefs,” according to the Alliance Defending Freedom, which organized the effort.
“The whole point of [the bill] is to ‘force people of faith to affirm the federal government’s ‘worldview’ of what marriage is,’” wrote leaders of the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC), an affiliate of the Southern Baptist Convention in a letter to Missouri Senator Roy Blunt, who ended up voting in favor of the measure.
“It is an intentional attack on the religious freedom of millions of Americans with sincerely held beliefs about marriage, based on dictates of faith in God,” they told Blunt.
Dr. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, noted that the “Orwellian” Respect for Marriage Act “does not respect marriage” and “is actually demonstrating a profound disrespect for marriage in creation order.”
He added that the proposed changes to the bill “are more window dressing than anything else” and may require the federal government to recognize polygamous unions.
Heritage Foundation president Kevin Roberts warned Tuesday that the legislation “is about imposing the radical Left’s sexual orthodoxy on the entire country.”
“The concept of marriage between a man and a woman is, and must remain, non-negotiable,” Roberts asserted.
In July, shortly after the U.S. House passed its version of the Respect for Marriage Act, San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, penned a letter urging Senators to oppose the bill.
“People who experience same-sex attraction should be treated with the same respect and compassion as anyone, on account of their human dignity, and never be subject to unjust discrimination,” Cordileone wrote. “It was never discrimination, however, to simply maintain that an inherent aspect of the definition of marriage itself is the complementarity between the two sexes.”
“Marriage as a lifelong, exclusive union of one man and one woman, and open to new life, is not just a religious ideal – it is, on the whole, what is best for society in a concrete sense, especially for children,” he explained.