The Marriage Amendment

Last week’s endorsement of a Federal Marriage Amendment by the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ Administrative Committee received high praised from the Alliance for Marriage (AFM), the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights and other groups.

“The administrative committee of the USCCB was right to speak to the inherent dignity that homosexuals share with heterosexuals,” said Catholic League president William Donohue. “But they were also right to insist that nothing should disturb the traditional understanding of marriage. Quite frankly, to grant the right of men to marry each other is to devalue the institution of marriage.”

“AFM drafted and has recruited bi-partisan support for the Federal Marriage Amendment in two sessions of Congress,” said Matt Daniels, AFM president.

“Today's endorsement by the U.S. Catholic Bishops is the fruit of years of effort by AFM — working with Catholic leaders like Cardinal Bevilacqua of Philadelphia — to recruit the leadership of America's largest faith community for our cause.”

AFM first introduced the Federal Marriage Amendment in Congress with bi-partisan support in May 2002. At that time, Cardinal Bevilacqua joined AFM leaders in issuing an endorsement of the amendment. Since then, AFM has recruited the written endorsements of over 50 major Catholic leaders for the amendment, including Cardinal Francis George of Chicago and Cardinal Edward Egan of New York.

Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde three years ago publicly supported a constitutional amendment to ensure that marriage between one man and one woman be protected by the laws of the U.S. He was the second U.S. Catholic bishop to do so. Over the years, the number of bishops and cardinals supporting the amendment has vastly increased.

AFM acknowledged its “deep debt of gratitude” to the Catholic hierarchy “for working with the many Catholic lay members of AFM to bring us to this important moment in the history of the debate over marriage.”

Robert E. Laird, director of the Diocesan Office for Family Life, is also a member of AFM’s Board of Advisors. Laird said the bishops’ vote, following so closely behind the recent Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith statement opposing the legalization of homosexual unions, “brings the Catholic Church into the forefront in the national battle to protect the institution of marriage.

“This is more than just a public policy tactic.” said Laird. “It is an opportunity to teach and preach about the truth about marriage and its intrinsically woven relationship to the social fabric of a nation.”

Laird said that a constitutional amendment will have to be ratified by the Virginia Senate and the House of Delegates in due time. “This is an important issue at this time of year when each Virginia senator and delegate is up for election,” he said. Laird encouraged each diocesan Catholic to ask those running for state office if they support or oppose the fact that marriage is a union between one male and one female?

Donahue said that if marriage is not to become an alternative lifestyle, “then we must maintain its privileged position in law. “Those who say that a constitutional amendment on this issue would violate federalist principles are not living in the 21st century,” he said. “It is pretty late in the game to assert states’ rights when those committed to gay marriage will stop at nothing to get their way.

“We look to the leaders of other religions to speak as courageously as the U.S. bishops have. We’d also like to hear from presidential contenders.”

(Michael F. Flach is editor of the Arlington Catholic Herald, where this article first appeared.)

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