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.
Colorado is one of a number of states that are currently facing marriage redefinition challenges. More specifically, a bill has been proposed in Colorado (or rather, re-proposed; it failed last year) that would establish civil unions for two persons of the same sex. As of March 6, the bill has been approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee and the House Finance Committee. According to CBS Denver, the bill could be voted on by the full House as early as next week, the last stop before the governor’s desk.
Two key things to know about the Colorado civil unions bill:
1. This bill IS about redefining marriage.
Don’t let the bill’s name fool you, said Denver Archbishop Samuel Aquila. In a January 23 column for the Denver Catholic Register, Archbishop Aquila wrote, “Make no mistake, the Colorado Civil Unions Act, and all civil union legislation, is an attempt to redefine marriage – to undercut the long-standing human understanding that the stable, fruitful partnerships between men and women should be promoted and protected.”
The Archbishop points out that “in every state where civil union legislation has passed, its proponents have pushed to redefine marriage itself.” One example is Illinois, which approved civil unions in 2011 and is now debating full marriage redefinition.
Archbishop Aquila also pointed out that “in Colorado, same-sex couples can already attain the legal benefits civil unions would bring. The real goal of civil union legislation is social endorsement of same-sex unions, and, soon enough, the redefinition of marriage.” An example of this is Rhode Island, where civil unions were approved in 2011 but met with little enthusiasm, even though the bill granted the same benefits to those who entered civil unions as to married couples. The Rhode Island legislature subsequently proposed full marriage redefinition, which was passed by the House in January 2013 and has yet to be voted on by the Senate.
2. The bill lacks conscience protections
Unlike the civil unions bill proposed – and defeated by one vote – in 2012, the current bill does not include any protections for one group poised to incur serious consequences from its passage: adoption agencies. Language included in the 2012 bill – that the bill “shall not be interpreted to require a child-placement agency to place a child for adoption” with a couple in a civil union – is entirely absent from the 2013 version. Mark Rohlena, president and CEO of Catholic Charities of Central Colorado, said that the bill’s passage could threaten the religious liberty of agencies like his that decline to place children with two persons of the same sex.
Indeed, that prediction is far from unfounded. In several states where civil union or marriage redefinition legislation has been passed – DC, Massachusetts, Illinois – religious adoption agencies that wouldn’t place children with two persons of the same sex have closed down. (See this video for an up-close look at the impact on families and children of foster and adoption agencies’ closing in Illinois.)
The Colorado Catholic Conference opposes the civil unions bill and asks all Colorado citizens to make their opposition known.
- Archbishop Samuel Aquila, “Make no mistake: civil unions a major step in radically redefining marriage” (Jan. 23, 2013)
- Catholic Bishops of Colorado, Statement on Civil Unions (2012)
- Catholic Conference of Illinois, “Promoting Civil Unions to Undermine Marriage” (2009)