An initiative of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

USCCB News Release: USCCB Files Supreme Court Briefs Supporting DOMA, Proposition 8

USCCB News Release (Jan. 29, 2013)

  • Marriage is the union of one man and one woman
  • Unique value in children raised by mother and father together
  • Redefining marriage would impose burdens on religious liberty and other rights

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on January 29 filed amicus briefs in the United States Supreme Court in support of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California’s Proposition 8, both of which  confirm the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

DOMA was passed by Congress and signed by President Clinton in 1996 and defines marriage for federal and inter-state recognition purposes. Proposition 8 is a state constitutional amendment approved by the citizens of California in 2008. Both laws are challenged because they define marriage exclusively as the union of one man and one woman.

Urging the Court to uphold DOMA  the USCCB brief in United States v. Windsor says that “there is no fundamental right to marry a person of the same sex.” The brief also states that “as defined by courts ‘sexual orientation’ is not a classification that should trigger heightened scrutiny,” such as race or ethnicity would.

It added that “civil recognition of same-sex relationships is not deeply rooted in the Nation’s history and tradition—quite the opposite is true. Nor can the treatment of such relationships as marriages be said to be implicit in the concept of ordered liberty, such that neither liberty nor justice would exist if they were sacrificed.”

USCCB argued that previous Supreme Court decisions “describing marriage as a fundamental right plainly contemplate the union of one man and one woman.”

The USCCB also cautioned that a decision invalidating DOMA “would have adverse consequences in other areas of law.”

In a separate brief filed in Hollingsworth v Perry urging the Court to uphold Proposition 8, the USCCB states that there are many reasons why the state may reasonably support and encourage marriage, understood as the union of one man and one woman, as distinguished from other relationships. Government support for marriage, so understood, is “recognizing the unique capacity of opposite-sex couples to procreate” and “the unique value to children of being raised by their mother and father together.”

The USCCB brief states that “[T]he People of California could reasonably conclude that a home with a mother and a father is the optimal environment for raising children, an ideal that Proposition 8 encourages and promotes. Given both the unique capacity for reproduction and unique value of homes with a mother and father, it is reasonable for a State to treat the union of one man and one woman as having a public value that is absent from other intimate interpersonal relationships.”

The USCCB brief adds that “While this Court has held that laws forbidding private, consensual, homosexual conduct between adults lack a rational basis, it does not follow that the government has a constitutional duty to encourage or endorse such conduct. Thus, governments may legitimately decide to further the interests of opposite-sex unions only. Similarly, minimum standards of rationality under the Constitution do not require adopting the lower court’s incoherent definition of ‘marriage’ as merely a ‘committed lifelong relationship,’ which is wildly over-inclusive, empties the term of its meaning, and leads to absurd results.”

“Marriage, understood as the union of one man and one woman, is not an historical relic, but a vital and foundational institution of civil society today,” the USCCB brief states. “The government interests in continuing to encourage and support it are not merely legitimate, but compelling. No other institution joins together persons with the natural ability to have children, to assure that those children are properly cared for. No other institution ensures that children will at least have the opportunity of being raised by their mother and father together. Societal ills that flow from the dissolution of marriage and family would not be addressed—indeed, they would only be aggravated—were the government to fail to reinforce the union of one man and one woman with the unique encouragement and support it deserves.”

The USCCB brief also notes that “Proposition 8 is not rendered invalid because some of its supporters were informed by religious or moral considerations. Many, if not most, of the significant social and political movements in our Nation’s history were based on precisely such considerations.  Moreover, the argument to redefine marriage to include the union of persons of the same sex is similarly based on a combination of religious and moral considerations (albeit ones that are, in our view, flawed).  As is well established in this Court’s precedent, the coincidence of law and morality, or law and religious teaching, does not detract from the rationality of a law.”

USCCB notes that a judicial decision invalidating Proposition 8’s definition of marriage would have adverse consequences in other areas of law.

“[R]edefining marriage—particularly as a matter of constitutional law, rather than legislative process—not only threatens principles of federalism and separation of powers, but would have a widespread adverse impact on other constitutional rights, such as the freedoms of religion, conscience, speech, and association.  Affirmance of the judgment below would create an engine of conflict in this area, embroiling this Court and lower courts in a series of otherwise avoidable disputes—pitting constitutional right squarely against constitutional right—for years to come.”


9 responses to “USCCB News Release: USCCB Files Supreme Court Briefs Supporting DOMA, Proposition 8”

  1. Paul Cook-Giles says:

    Prop 8 had nothing to do with child-rearing. Gay couples were raising (and adopting) children before Prop 8 passed; they are still doing so today. The only effect Prop 8 had on those families was insuring that those children had unmarried parents.

    Prop 8 has nothing to do with religious liberty. Before the CA Supreme Court recognized gay couple’s right to civil marriage, Roman Catholic churches (and every other religious group) had the right to refuse sacramental marriage to any couple that didn’t meet their standards. They still have that right today. And they will retain it when Prop 8 is overturned by the Federal Supreme Court.

    What RC churches do not have is the right to impose their religious requirements on the civil marriage license process. You don’t have the right to prohibit divorced people from getting remarried. You don’t have the right to prevent a Catholic from marrying a Jew. You don’t have the right to require any children the union may produce be brought up Catholic. And you don’t have the right to insist that gay people not get married because you say it’s a sin.

    (And, by the way, there are plenty of churches (and other religious groups) that would be perfectly happy to marry gay couples. Why are you trying to restrict their freedom to practice their religion as they see fit?)

    • Margaret Standefer says:

      Very well said Paul Cook-Giles… I was prepared to say the same, but you beat me to it…

      I pray your comment is read, and it sinks in.

    • ashley says:

      The Church allows different faiths to marry and it does not force anyone to do anything. However if you want to be a real Catholic you must follow rules which have been in place since the beginning. And Civil marriages are treated like marriages in our countries and the church and anyone has the right to go against homosexual civil marriages.

      Homosexuality is not like a someone being born black but its a behavior or disorder and can not be treated like a race or ethnicity.

      By allowing homosexual civil marriages its promoting homosexuality and promoting more adoptions by homosexual couples. And these poor children will suffer without a mother or father look at prisons most of the people are without a mother or father. By allowing it more people will think homosexual is normal and will choose to be homosexual or choose to experiment or see their disorder has a positive. And the Catholic Church and other religious do not go against gay marriage only based on their religious teaching but much more. Homosexuals clearly are going against nature. only man and woman can have a child. And this gay marriage even further decreases the population which we need. And it also causes more sexual diseases. After all homosexuals have a higher disease rate. And homosexual marriage also impacts the rest of our countries laws and morals which safeguard our society.

      And Prop 8 decreases the amount of homosexual couples that can adopt and it decreases Homosexuality. And plus those churches that allow homosexual marriage are going against Christian teaching its clearly in the bible and other ancient christian writings and clearly taught by all the ancient churches and all the religions in America that homosexuality is wrong. The only religious people who say homosexuality is okay is the new religions and the people who are not following the real version of their religion either by choice or misinterpreting the teachings.

      Homosexuality has always been wrong and just because in our current generation the homosexual lobby has successfully pushed their views down our throats does not mean we should back down. In this age where the elite especially media and TV industry has aggressively promoted homosexuality and all types of bad morals we will peacefully fight to protect our society and the world.

      Once again Homosexuals have a psychological disorder that needs to be addressed not accepted and promoted by allowing them to marriage!

      Whats next can a woman marry her dog? or can a father marry his daughter? or how about a man marrying a child? How about a man marrying multiple wives?

      If it makes someone happy who cares let them do whatever they want right! who cares about the bad impact it will have on society and who cares if it will hurt the religious and morals American society has held since its inception. instead of trying to fix this country we are creating more problems. Hopefully the Homosexual lobbyists don’t win on gay marriage.

      • Paul Cook-Giles says:

        Respectfully, Ashley, you couldn’t be more wrong. Prop 8 had *nothing* to do with the right of gay couples to adopt children.

        This argument is not about whether the Roman Catholic church can teach that being gay is wrong, or whether it can refuse to marry gay couples– its right to do both of those things is protected by the First Amendment.

        The argument is about whether the Roman Catholic church may use the laws of the United States to prevent marriages that it doesn’t endorse. And the answer is clear: we have separation of church and state in this country. Denying a civil right because it violates the doctrine of one (or more) religious organizations is unconstitutional… just like denying you a driver’s license because you’re a Roman Catholic is unconstitutional.

        And what about all the different churches (and all the other religions) that *want* to marry gay couples? Do you think their religious freedom should be restricted because your church doesn’t like their doctrine?

  2. Rich says:

    It is a true act of justice that the USCCB filed its amicus brief side by side with The Westboro Baptist Church. Unfortunately, it’s somewhat difficult to tell the two apart. Please, SCOTUS, read these two as you deliberate your reasoning.

  3. Jamie O'Neill says:

    “civil recognition of same-sex relationships is not deeply rooted in the Nation’s history and tradition—quite the opposite is true.”

    What is the opposite of “not deeply rooted”?

    • samwise says:

      the oppostie of ‘deeply rooted’ is ‘no root at all’. Take for example, American poet: Walt Whitman. Known to be a homosexual with some occassional opposite sex romances, he himself worked for the government before and during the civil war.
      Politically, he was opposed to slavery–not marriage. His poetry was flamboyant,and yet, not intent on becoming legislation. He would have laughed at today’s current events, pointing to the real injustices of the world he lived in: slavery, civil war,etc.

  4. Frederico says:

    14316Sepcb28KEB d46After reading serveal of the comments, a few things came to mind for me about this topic. It is interesting that people who believe that a homosexual person should embrace their desires and tendencies by being able to find a partner would be the most fulfilling optionfor them, and enything else will lead to a life of not having true happiness, love or joy. There are many people who believe that the number one reason we are here is to find love, love, and be loved. But is that true? Is the main goal in life to find love with another person? Is a person’s life not fulfilled if for some reason they don’t? Just because a homosexual person doesn’t enter into a relationship with another person doesn’t mean they are going to be left to face a life of feeling alone, unloved or like their didn’t fulfill their true purposes in life. If a person who is gay chooses to remain single for the sake of what Bryan listed as his reasons (to lay his life down and glorify God), then why does that have to mean that he will be lonely? I do believe that God is loving, and we are still provided joys, laugther, loving, caring, nurturing relationships with others, even outside of a partner relationship. Marriage or a partnership to another person is not the end all for feeling loved. I believe He will still provide blessings of these types of situations outside of a partner relationship.This also reminds me of an article I read a while back on women and motherhood. Women are physically designed to be the ones to have children. Some women might make the decision, for whatever reason, to not have children. Some people would look at them and say why would you not want to be a mom? God wants us to procreate and have children? You aren’t going to fulfill your purpose in this life, you are going to miss out on so many things . But, I don’t believe that is the case at all. Being a mom isn’t a woman’s life end goal, and her life wouldn’t be left incomplete if she chose to do so. There are many other things that a woman could involve herself in that would provide her with just as much fulfillment in her life than just having children. I feel like these two things in a way relate to each other. If anyone, not just a homosexual person, made the decision for thier own personal reasons, to remain single, why does that equal to living a life that is unfulfilled?VA:F [1.9.20_1166](from 9 votes) 16b

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