Supreme Court redefines marriage to include same-sex couples nationwide; Bishops respond 

Supporters of traditional marriage between a man and a woman rally in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington June 26, shortly before the justices handed down a 5-4 ruling that states must license same-sex marriages and must recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. (CNS photo/Joshua Roberts, Reuters) See SCOTUS-MARRIAGE June 26, 2015.
Supporters of traditional marriage between a man and a woman rally in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington June 26, shortly before the justices handed down a 5-4 ruling that states must license same-sex marriages and must recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. (CNS photo/Joshua Roberts, Reuters)

WASHINGTON (CNS) — In a landmark ruling, a divided Supreme Court June 26 said same-sex marriage is constitutional nationwide.

“The nature of marriage is that, through its enduring bond, two persons together can find other freedoms, such as expression, intimacy, and spirituality,” wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy for the 5-4 majority. “This is true for all persons, whatever their sexual orientation.”

The decision “is a tragic error that harms the common good and most vulnerable among us,” said Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

“The unique meaning of marriage as the union of one man and one woman is inscribed in our bodies as male and female. The protection of this meaning is a critical dimension of the ‘integral ecology’ that Pope Francis has called us to promote,” Archbishop Kurtz said in the statement. “The law has a duty to support every child’s basic right to be raised, where possible, by his or her married mother and father in a stable home.

In a second part of the ruling, the court affirmed that every state must recognize marriages performed in other states, a question that will become moot as the first part of the opinion is enacted. As of June 26, 36 states, the District of Columbia and Guam allowed same-sex marriage. Some of those states passed laws allowing it, while others have done so under court ruling.

In 2008 Arizona voters approved Proposition 102, adding Article 30 to the state constitution, which states, “Only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as marriage in this state.” The amendment was struck down as unconstitutional in October 2014 in the U.S. District Court for Arizona.

In a statement, Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted expressed his solidarity with the USCCB and his disappointment with the Supreme Court’s ruling.

Marriage is an institution that predates all governments and has served civilization well through the years. God Himself is its author. There can be many forms of love, but marital love is unique and can only exist between a man and a woman. It is through this love that children are best served, as well as society as a whole,” Bishop Olmsted said in the statement.

“The Catholic Church remains sincere in striving to love all people, regardless of their sexual attraction. For this reason, we are strongly committed to preserving the conjugal definition of marriage, and will continue to speak the truth on this matter of most profound importance.”

Recognizing in several places the role of religious beliefs in the questions surrounding same-sex marriage, Kennedy said toward the conclusion of his 28-page opinion that “it must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned.”

The First Amendment ensures protection for religious organizations and individuals as they seek to teach the principles “that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths,” he continued, and to “their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered. The same is true of those who oppose same-sex marriage for other reasons.

“In turn, those who believe allowing same-sex marriage is proper or indeed essential, whether as a matter of religious conviction or secular belief, may engage those who disagree with their view in an open and searching debate. The Constitution, however, does not permit the state to bar same-sex couples from marriage on the same terms as accorded to couples of the opposite sex.”

At the end of the USCCB statement, Archbishop Kurtz called on Catholics and people of good will to continue to witness to the “beauty of marriage as rightly understood for millennia,” and on those in positions of power or authority to “respect the God-given freedom to seek, live by, and bear witness to the truth.”

“I encourage Catholics to move forward with faith, hope, and love,” he said, “faith in the unchanging truth about marriage, rooted in the immutable nature of the human person and confirmed by divine revelation; hope that these truths will once again prevail in our society, not only by their logic, but by their great beauty and manifest service to the common good; and love for all our neighbors, even those who hate us or would punish us for our faith and moral convictions.”

– Patricia Zapor, Catholic News Service

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