SAN FRANCISCO, CA, March 4, 2014 ( – The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has added its endorsement to Sen. Ted Cruz’s bill requiring the federal government to respect pro-marriage laws at the state level.

“Marriage needs to be preserved and strengthened, not redefined,” said Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, head of the San Francisco archdiocese and chair of the USCCB Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, in a letter to the senator on Friday.

Cruz, R-TX, a well-known supporter of the traditional definition of marriage, introduced the State Marriage Defense Act of 2014, “to ensure respect for State regulation of marriage.” The bill received its first reading on February 12.


Archbishop Cordileone wrote to encourage support for the senator’s bill that would obligate federal agencies to recognize state law on marriage “for purposes of federal rights, benefits, and privileges.” Although American law currently defines marital status according to one’s “place of domicile,” various federal agencies, such as the Department of Justice and the IRS, have recently introduced “place of celebration” rules.

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In other words, according to the law as it is, people from states that only recognize traditional marriage are not supposed to have their same-sex “marriage” federally recognized when it is officiated in a state that recognizes such a union. To have their “marriage” recognized on the federal level, they would actually have to reside in a state that recognizes it. The recent practice of various federal agencies circumvents this law.

Senator Cruz’s bill aims to reaffirm the exclusive jurisdiction of states over marriage. The bill proposes that “the term marriage shall not include any relationship which that State, territory, or possession does not recognize as a marriage, and the term spouse shall not include an individual who is a party to a relationship that is not recognized as a marriage by that State, territory, or possession.”

It also notes that even though section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act was struck down, “a new Federal definition of marriage that includes same sex marriage” was not instituted. The law requires that “the Federal Government … defer to state sovereign choices about who may be married in determining marital status for Federal purposes.”

“Actions taken by the Federal Government to grant recognition of marital status for persons not recognized as married in their State of domicile undermine a State’s legitimate authority to define marriage for its residents.”

Archbishop Cordileone’s hope for the law seems modest. “Every just effort to stand for the unique meaning of marriage is worthy of support,” he wrote.

And yet the prelate seems to have little doubt about eventual success. In a lengthy interview last March, he stated, “The truth cannot be suppressed indefinitely. … It is simply a natural fact that you need a man and a woman to make a marriage and that a child's heart longs for the love of both his or her mother and father. … The controversy will not die out, as it hasn't on the abortion issue.”


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