After today's US Supreme Court rulings, marriage supporters are considering the next strategic steps in their efforts to stop attempts at redefining marriage to include same-sex couples.
The two decisions handed down today by the court brought the US bishops to affirm that "today is a tragic day for marriage and our nation."
The court struck down parts of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which barred federal recognition of same-sex marriage contracts. DOMA was signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996.
The Supreme Court also declined to rule on a case regarding California's Proposition 8, by which citizens voted to ban same-sex marriages in California. The ban was later rejected by a lower court when two same-sex couples claimed it was discriminatory. The Supreme Court's decision today was that Proposition 8 supporters do not have the legal standing or right to appeal the lower court's overturning of the ban.
In the balance
"The common good of all, especially our children, depends upon a society that strives to uphold the truth of marriage," the US bishops said in a statement. "Now is the time to redouble our efforts in witness to this truth. These decisions are part of a public debate of great consequence. The future of marriage and the well-being of our society hang in the balance."
The prelates noted that "marriage is the only institution that brings together a man and a woman for life, providing any child who comes from their union with the secure foundation of a mother and a father."
"Our culture has taken for granted for far too long what human nature, experience, common sense, and God’s wise design all confirm: the difference between a man and a woman matters, and the difference between a mom and a dad matters. While the culture has failed in many ways to be marriage-strengthening, this is no reason to give up. Now is the time to strengthen marriage, not redefine it," the statement added.
No Constitutional right
The president of CatholicVote.org, Brian Burch, agreed that the Supreme Court's decisions were disappointing, but he said that marriage defenders should not be discouraged.
"While the Court rejected the right of the people to defend a law passed by millions of citizens in California, in doing so it refused to create a Constitutional right to same-sex marriage," Burch said in a statement. "States that have protected marriage and those states that seek to do so in the future cannot be stopped."
Thirty-six states have same-sex marriage bans. Twelve states and the District of Colombia have legalized it.
"Today’s decision striking down portions of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was limited to only those marriages already recognized in the states that allow same-sex marriage," Burch explained. "It is also important to remember that DOMA protects states from being forced to recognize same-sex marriage in other states. That portion of the law was not challenged and remains in force."
Burch also clarified that the California case will be ongoing.
"What is left is a single decision by a district court judge that applies to two couples," he said. "The legal fight to clarify what happens next will be critical and will be heavily contested by defenders of marriage in the courts. Same-sex marriage advocates touting immediate statewide gay marriage in California are misleading the public."
Burch said that today's court rulings "should embolden proponents of traditional marriage to fight on with even more vigor while we can. Same-sex marriage advocates did not get what they wanted, namely a 'Roe v. Wade' for marriage. The future of marriage remains a dispute open to ‘We the People.’ The debate on marriage lives on."
The US bishops called for people to rally around marriage, and to pray.
"Now that the Supreme Court has issued its decisions, with renewed purpose we call upon all of our leaders and the people of this good nation to stand steadfastly together in promoting and defending the unique meaning of marriage: one man, one woman, for life," their statement concluded. "We also ask for prayers as the Court’s decisions are reviewed and their implications further clarified."