Catholic Bishops Fear That Support For DOMA May Mark Them As Bigots

Bishop William Lori of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops testified before a House Judiciary subcommittee on Oct. 26 about the “grave threats to religious liberty that have emerged even since June.” Lori specifically singled out the administration’s refusal to defend the constitutionality of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act and state efforts to expand marriage equality to gays and lesbians:

The federal Department of Justice (DoJ) has ratcheted up its attack on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) by mischaracterizing it as an act of bigotry….If the label of “bigot” sticks to our Church and many other churches—especially in court, under the Constitution—because of their teaching on marriage, the result will be church-state conflicts for many years to come. […]

At the state level, religious liberty protections associated with the redefinition of marriage have fallen far short of what is necessary. In New York, county clerks face legal action for refusing to participate in same-sex unions, and gay rights advocates boast how little religious freedom protection individuals and groups will enjoy under the new law. In Illinois, Catholic Charities has been driven out of the adoption and foster care business, because it recognizes the unique value of man-woman marriage for the well-being of children. […]

We also applaud the decision of the House to take up the defense of DOMA in court after DoJ abandoned it, and we urge you to sustain that effort for as long as necessary to obtain definitive confirmation of its constitutionality.

The Catholic Church has led the opposition to same-sex marriage across the country (including fights in California, Maine, New York, and now Minnesota), despite limited support from American Catholics. A recent poll found that just 35 percent of Catholics oppose same-sex marriage and only 16 percent of Catholics say church leaders have “the final say” on homosexuality, down from 32 percent over the past 25 years.