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Cardinal Timothy Dolan: ‘Today is a tragic day for marriage and our nation’

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While supporters of marriage equality celebrated the Supreme Court's historic decisions on gay marriage on Wednesday, religious conservatives slammed the rulings and vowed to continue their fight against same-sex unions.

“Today is a tragic day for marriage and our nation," Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone said in a joint statement representing U.S. bishops. "The Supreme Court has dealt a profound injustice to the American people by striking down in part the federal Defense of Marriage Act. The Court got it wrong."

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The federal government ought to respect the truth that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, even where states fail to do so. The preservation of liberty and justice requires that all laws, federal and state, respect the truth, including the truth about marriage. It is also unfortunate that the Court did not take the opportunity to uphold California’s Proposition 8 but instead decided not to rule on the matter. The common good of all, especially our children, depends upon a society that strives to uphold the truth of marriage. 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.

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.

Ralph Reed, chairman of the Faith & Freedom Coalition, bashed the decisions, too:

Today’s Supreme Court opinions on marriage are a stunning and indefensible display of judicial activism. The Defense of Marriage Act merely codified what federal law already stated with regard to marital benefits. It passed Congress with a bipartisan majority large enough to pass a constitutional amendment and was signed into law by Bill Clinton. There has never been any attempt by either party to repeal or modify it. Social Security, income tax, family and medical leave law, Medicare, and other federal programs defined marriage as between a man and a woman long before DOMA became law. For the Supreme Court to rule otherwise is an Orwellian act of judicial fiat. We will now seek the passage of federal legislation to remedy this situation as much as possible given the parameters of the decision.

The Supreme Court remanding the California marriage case back to the district court that overturned Proposition 8 endangers federalism as well as the most time-honored institution in the history of Western civilization. If states have the right to set marriage and family law as they have for 226 years, then the people of California were fully within their rights to define marriage as between a man and a woman by popular referendum. For a federal court to rule that upholding traditional marriage is ipso facto discriminatory is bad law and a jurisprudential fantasy of epic proportion. Sadly, these twin decisions will undermine the already low respect for the federal courts and the rule of law. They underscore why people of faith must remain engaged and energetic in seeing genuine conservatives nominated and confirmed to the federal courts.

Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, released a lengthy statement reacting to the rulings:

God designed the one-flesh union of marriage as an embedded icon of the union between Christ and his church. Marriage and sexuality, among the most powerful pulls in human existence, are designed to train humanity to recognize, in the fullness of time, what it means for Jesus to be one with his church, as a head with a body.

Same-sex marriage is on the march, even apart from these decisions, and is headed to your community, regardless of whether you are sitting where I am right now, on Capitol Hill, or in a rural hamlet in southwest Georgia or eastern Idaho. This is an opportunity for gospel witness.

For a long time in American culture, we’ve acted as though we could assume marriage. Even people from what were once called “broken homes” could watch stable marriages on television or movies. Boys and girls mostly assumed they had a wedding in their futures. As marriage is redefined, these assumptions will change. Let’s not wring our hands about that.

Tim Wildmon, president of American Family Association, wrote:

We are deeply saddened by today’s decision to not only allow but encourage same-sex marriage in our country—a country that was founded on biblical principles. We mourn for America’s future, but we are not without hope. ... Our next line of defense is to vigorously protect our religious liberty. The homosexual lobby and agenda is running rampant across America, and is even pervading our elementary schools.

Conservative commentators, including Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, had a similar refrain.

"The government should not be in the marriage business, period," Beck said on his syndicated radio show. "I do not get my value on marriage from the state—I get my value on marriage from God. ... You are about to lose your right to have your church say, 'I'm not going to marry homosexual couples.' Now, excuse me, but I have a right to practice my religion the way I see fit. What they're going to ask you to do is deny the bible."

"The court is no different than a barroom now," Limbaugh said. "Now we are told that the whole country supports gay marriage and those that don't are bigots. That was in the Supreme Court ruling today—that people that oppose gay marriage are bigots and want to deny, and want to make fun of, and want to impugn and want to demean homosexuals. Why do we even need a court if it's going to behave like this?"

"Supreme Court overrules God," Fox News commentator Todd Starnes wrote on Twitter. "Won't be long before they outlaw the Bible as hate speech. How long before federal agents haul pastors out of the pulpit?"

But Rev. Welton Gaddy, president of the Interfaith Alliance, scoffed at their assertions:

To those critics who will try to characterize these decisions as a threat to their religious freedom, let me say they could not be more wrong. No members of the clergy can be required to perform a religious ceremony that goes against the dictates of their faith, and thanks to the protections afforded by the First Amendment nothing in today’s decisions changes that fact.

Not all religious leaders opposed the twin rulings.

Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, president of the House of Deputies of the Episcopal Church, wrote:

I join with millions of Christians across the country in celebrating today’s Supreme Court rulings that extend equal protection under federal law to all marriages and allow marriage equality to resume in California. We are moving ever closer to civil laws that recognize the God-given dignity and equality of our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender sisters and brothers.

Today’s rulings will allow more people of all faiths to see what we in the Episcopal Church have seen for decades: Same-sex couples and their families are evidence of the goodness of God’s creation. They bless our congregations and communities immeasurably, and we have all learned from their steadfast love for one another and the evidence of God’s goodness that they show us.

Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde, leader of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, wrote:

Scripture teaches us that God shows no partiality. Today our country has moved closer to this vision of equality and unity, and I give thanks for our progress. Now, as always, the ability to create a more just and caring country lies with us. Heartened by today’s decisions, may we recommit ourselves to this difficult but holy work.

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