US bishops concerned gay marriage bill will punish ‘reasonable and sincere’ religious objectors

Catholic bishops in the U.S. are concerned that the recent bill seeking to federally recognize same-sex marriages “fails to provide affirmative protections” for those with religious objections.

The Respect for Marriage Act, which advanced through the U.S. Senate on Thursday, repeals the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act passed under former President Clinton, which allowed states to refuse recognition of same-sex marriages from other states.

The DOMA was already rendered functionally overturned with the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges.

Bishops gathered and had an opening prayer at a hotel banquet hall during the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on Nov. 16, 2021, in Baltimore.

Bishops gathered and had an opening prayer at a hotel banquet hall during the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on Nov. 16, 2021, in Baltimore. (Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

“It is deeply concerning that the U.S. Senate has voted to proceed toward potential passage of the Respect for Marriage Act, which would essentially codify the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell that found a constitutional right to same-sex civil marriages,” the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote Thursday.

The conference of bishops expressed concern that the religious exemptions outlined in Obergefell would be undermined by the new legislation.

“The Catholic Church will always uphold the unique meaning of marriage as a lifelong, exclusive union of one man and one woman,” the bishops wrote. “In doing so, we are joined by millions of what the Obergefell Court called ‘reasonable and sincere’ Americans – both religious and secular – who share this time-honored understanding of the truth and beauty of marriage.”

Archbishop Timothy Broglio conducts an Easter Sunday Mass in an empty sanctuary at Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, Sunday, April 12, 2020.

Archbishop Timothy Broglio conducts an Easter Sunday Mass in an empty sanctuary at Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, Sunday, April 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

The bill needs 60 votes to clear a filibuster, which it is likely to get.

Advocates for the bill worked on an amendment to add religious protections and clarify that it would not legalize polygamous marriages. A source familiar with the matter told Fox News Digital the amendment included substantive input from Republicans.

However, the assurances have not eased the Catholic prelates’ concerns.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan speaks during the traditional Ash Wednesday service at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York, Feb. 17, 2021.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan speaks during the traditional Ash Wednesday service at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, Feb. 17, 2021. (REUTERS/Brendan McDermid)

“The bill is a bad deal for the many courageous Americans of faith and no faith who continue to believe and uphold the truth about marriage in the public square today,” said Cardinal Timothy Dolan of the Archdiocese of New York.

The cardinal added, “Senators supporting the Act must reverse course and consider the consequences of passing an unnecessary law that fails to provide affirmative protections for the many Americans who hold this view of marriage as both true and foundational to the common good.” 

The USCCB elected a new president Wednesday — Archbishop Timothy Broglio, who oversees Catholic ministries in the U.S. armed forces.

Fox News’s Tyler Olson, Brianna Herlihy, and Chris Pandolfo contributed to this report.

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