Catholic Bishops Fear The ‘Roe v. Wade Of Marriage’

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has issued a new insert for distribution in church bulletin’s about “Marriage and the Supreme Court,” urging Catholics to pray, fast, and sacrifice to advocate against marriage equality. The insert dwells on the idea that marriage equality erases gender, challenging the beliefs that “men and women matters” and that mothers and fathers “aren’t interchangeable” when it comes to the best interests of children. In addition, it suggests the two Supreme Court cases will be the “Roe v. Wade of marriage”:

The Court is expected to rule on both cases by the end of June. A broad negative ruling could redefine marriage in the law throughout the entire country, becoming the “Roe v. Wade” of marriage. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has joined with many other organizations in urging the Supreme Court to uphold both DOMA and Proposition 8 and thereby to recognize the essential, irreplaceable contribution that husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, make to society, and especially to children.

This comparison to Roe v. Wade has been made several times in regards to these cases, but it remains unclear what exactly the intention beyond that comparison really is. Though the two have often been juxtaposed in the past as key social issues, they don’t actually compare substantively. Public opinion on marriage has consistently trended toward equality, while public opinion on abortion has remained split. Marriage is something that all people already have access to, but it only serves people who are heterosexual — a very different circumstance from the general question of whether a woman has a right to an abortion at all.

What this comparison does forebode is future attempts to curb back the rights of same-sex couples after marriage equality is achieved. Just as conservatives have resisted Roe by curbing women’s access to abortion as much as possible — like in North Dakota, Kansas, and Arkansas — they may try to limit same-sex couples’ access to marriage. Certainly, objections about violations of “religious liberty” already speak to this, suggesting future attempts to legalize discrimination against the LGBT community. These efforts seem less likely to succeed, though; so far, California’s Proposition 8 is the only example of a setback for marriage equality after it’s already been in place, and that becomes a moot point should the Court knock it down.


People may disagree — and even change their mind — about questions regarding when life begins and how they associate that belief with a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body. On marriage, there remains little mystery about the nature of sexual orientation, and attempts to exclude people from full participation in society because of their sexual orientation will only ever been seen as discrimination.