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Catholic Bishops Urge Support For Federal Marriage Amendment

Statement Linked To Senate Vote In July

WASHINGTON (June 25, 2004) -— Bishop Wilton D. Gregory, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), has written to all Catholic bishops asking them to personally urge their Senators to support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution defining marriage as exclusively between one man and one woman.

The first vote on the proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which has become popularly known as the Federal Marriage Amendment, is expected to occur in the Senate as early as mid-July.

The measure, introduced as S.J. Res. 30 by Sen. Wayne Allard (R-CO), reads as follows:

"Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any State, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman."

In the letter (June 24), Bishop Gregory noted that while the proposed amendment defines marriage as between one man and one woman, it leaves legislative decisions on civil unions or domestic partnerships up to the state legislatures, which already have this authority.

Since opponents of the Federal Marriage Amendment are expected to mount a filibuster against it, the key vote in the Senate will likely occur on a motion to bring debate to a close (i.e., invoke "cloture"). Under these circumstances, cloture is a necessary step before the Senate can vote on the substance of the Federal Marriage

Amendment, Bishop Gregory said. "Your message should also strongly support any effort to stop a ‘filibuster' and allow the Senate to vote on this vitally important matter," he wrote.

In his letter to the bishops, Bishop Gregory recalled that the USCCB has been working on the marriage issue for many years, supporting state efforts to preserve marriage as a union of a man and a woman. "As the U.S. Bishops have previously written, marriage is a basic human and social institution. Though it is regulated by civil laws and church laws, it did not originate from either the church or state, but from God. Therefore neither church nor state can alter the basic meaning and structure of marriage," Bishop Gregory said.

"However, a growing movement today favors making those relationships commonly called same-sex unions the legal equivalent of marriage," he continued. "This situation challenges Catholics-and all who seek the truth-to think deeply about the meaning of marriage, its purposes, and its value to individuals, families and society."

Bishop Gregory said that since last September, when the USCCB Administrative Committee issued a formal statement calling for efforts at all levels of government, including support for a federal constitutional amendment, the Conference has been engaged in educational activities in dioceses across the nation. The USCCB also submitted testimony to the House and Senate Judiciary Committees earlier this year.

Bishop Gregory asked the bishops to generate additional support through their pastors from the larger Catholic community. He also noted that he has asked Conference staff to send out this appeal to all their diocesan counterparts urging them to seek support at the parish level.

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