Bishop endorses Federal Marriage Amendment

CHARLESTON – Bishop Robert J. Baker has joined other Catholic prelates such as Archbishop John Donoghue of Atlanta in signing an endorsement of the definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman in the Federal Marriage Amendment.

The amendment was introduced in the House of Representatives May 15, 2002, with bi-partisan sponsorship and was sponsored by Rep. Ronnie Shows, D-Miss. It states: “Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this constitution or the constitution of any state, nor state or federal law, shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups.”

The endorsement states: “At a time when the strong public consensus regarding the nature of marriage is facing an expanding array of legal challenges, the Federal Marriage Amendment gives clear voice to the deeply held convictions of a vast majority of the American people. The Federal Marriage Amendment is essential to protect, under American law, the fundamental principle that marriage is uniquely the union of male and female.

“The Catholic Church believes and teaches that marriage is a holy union of one man and one woman established by God. However, marriage is not an exclusively religious institution. Society, through our laws and customs, rightfully supports marriage as the commonly accepted natural state of a man and woman who want to commit themselves to each other in a communion of love and fidelity. Love and fidelity are indispensable virtues in any human relationship. Marriage, however, is defined as the exclusive relationship of one man and one woman.”

This definition is nonnegotiable and irrevocable. This proposed amendment to the Constitution of the United States, stating that “marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman,” will give strong legal support to the institutions of marriage and the family, both of which are the foundations of our society and our culture.

Today, the institution of marriage is being questioned and even threatened by those who want to redefine it. It is unfortunate that even legislative bodies in some countries, including our own, are attempting to equate other styles of unions of persons with the traditional definition of marriage and the family.

The Pontifical Council for the Family, in fact, has reminded legislators, especially those who are Catholic, that they “should not favor this type of legislation … because it is contrary to the common good and the truth about man and thus truly unjust.”

I also commend the Alliance for Marriage, and the men and women of every color and creed who have committed themselves to promoting the sacred dignity and value of marriage through this amendment.”

The Alliance for Marriage is a research and education organization with the mission to promote marriage and address the epidemic of fatherless families in the United States. Passage of a constitutional amendment requires two-thirds approval by both houses of Congress, followed by ratification by three-quarters of the states.

The wording would bar courts or state legislatures from redefining marriage and would prohibit courts from imposing recognition of domestic partnerships or civil unions or mandating the benefits associated with marriage for same-sex or unmarried couples. It would leave to the decisions of state legislatures whether to recognize those unions or provide such benefits in the state, but would have no impact on benefits offered by private businesses or corporations, the alliance said.

The amendment was supported by Francis Cardinal George, Archdiocese of Chicago, Anthony Cardinal Bevilacqua of Philadelphia, and many other archbishops and bishops.

In South Carolina, cosponsors of the Federal Marriage Amendment were Rep. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC).

It also received praise from a variety of other religious leaders, including the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, the Alliance of National Evangelical Ministers, an association of Hispanic churches in the U.S. and Puerto Rico; and Bishop George McKinney of the 8-million-member Church of God in Christ, one of the largest African-American denominations in the world.