Yesterday March 12, the Colorado legislature approved a bill that establishes civil unions for two persons of the same sex, a situation we covered earlier here. The bill awaits the signature of Governor John Hickenlooper, who has said that he plans to sign the bill into law. The Archbishop of Denver, Samuel J. Aquila, released a strong statement about the passage of the civil unions bill.
The Archbishop writes, “Regrettably, the Colorado Legislature has approved a civil unions bill today which harms families, civil liberties, and the natural rights of all Colorado’s children.”
He makes clear that, as he has said before, the civil unions bill is about redefining marriage and the family:
Senate Bill 11 is the beginning of an effort to redefine the family in Colorado and to undermine the right of all children to have a mother and a father. Civil unions are not about equality, tolerance or fairness. They create an alternate reality in which all institutions can be self-defined. Make no mistake: Civil unions are the first step to redefining marriage and to radically redefining the concept of civil rights.
Indeed, Colorado Senator Pat Steadman, a supporter of the bill, has expressed dissatisfaction with civil unions, calling them “separate, and distinct, and lesser, and unequal.” Implying that civil unions are but a temporary settlement, Steadman said, “We passed this bill because this is the best we can do.” As the Illinois Catholic Conference argued in a 2009 statement, civil union laws are consistently used as a stepping stone to advance full marriage redefinition legislation.
Regarding the argument that civil rights demand civil unions, Archbishop Aquila writes,
Civil rights are about protecting individuals and institutions from tyranny or oppression, not providing legal endorsement to all conceivable social arrangements and constructs. The Church recognizes and affirms the dignity of every human person—but she does not see all relationships as equal. Marriage is a unique social relationship between a man and a woman which exists for the good of children and as the foundation of all human communities. Marriage has been uniquely protected in law for millennia in order to preserve and promote the foundations of all social stability.
The Archbishop also draws attention to the lack of reasonable conscience protections in the new law, particularly for adoption and foster care agencies.
Senate Bill 11 is particularly troubling because the religious liberty of all Coloradans has been discarded under the guise of equality. The ability for religious-based institutions to provide foster care and adoption services for Colorado’s children is now dangerously imperiled.
Indeed, adoption and foster care agencies in several states have shut down because of civil unions or marriage redefinition laws that would force them to place children with two persons of the same sex, a scenario of which Colorado providers of foster care and adoption services were very much aware.
Not only does the approved bill lack conscience protection, but proponents of the bill publicly expressed their disregard for religious persons and institutions, writes Archbishop Aquila.
Faced with the reasonable request for religious liberty and conscience accommodations, state Sen. Pat Steadman offered the following: “So, what to say to those who claim that religion requires them to discriminate? I’ll tell you what I’d say. Get thee to a nunnery and live there then. Go live a monastic life away from modern society, away from the people you can’t see as equal to yourself.” These comments are woefully antagonistic to Catholics, to Christians and to all people of faith and good will.
In the same vein, bill supporter Sen. Jessie Ulibarri, in response to testimony about a Colorado baker who declined to make a cake for two women’s “wedding” ceremony and now faces fine and possible jail time, said, “Let them eat cake.”
Archbishop Aquila concludes his statement by saying, “Marriage is a stabilizing institution at the foundation of civil society. Religious liberty is a civil rights issue. Today both have been grievously harmed. Today our state and federal Constitutions have been dealt a troubling blow.”
Read Archbishop Aquila’s entire statement on the Colorado civil unions bill.