Experts predict erosion of society, religious liberty if DOMA is repealed

Marriage advocates are warning that a repeal of the U.S. Defense of Marriage Act could have disastrous consequences for the nation, including the further erosion of religious liberty and a continued effort to legalize multiple-partner relationships.

“Marriage is critically important because the marriage-based family is the original and best Department of Health, Education and Welfare,” said Robert P. George, law professor at Princeton University.

George told CNA that a healthy marriage culture is “crucial to the overall success of any society.”

In an Oct. 28 interview, George responded to reports that the Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to consider a bill on Nov. 3 that would repeal the 1996 U.S. Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

George said that he has “no doubt” that repealing the act would lead to further erosion of religious liberty and freedom of conscience for people and institutions who believe in the traditional definition of marriage.

“There can be no doubt that the repression of religious liberty is coming because there is no doubt that the repression of religious liberty is already taking place,” he said.

He gave the example of multiple employees across the country whose jobs have already been threatened because they hold biblical beliefs on sexual morality.

George said that the movement to redefine marriage will not stop with the inclusion of homosexual couples. He pointed to a statement entitled “Beyond Same-Sex Marriage,” a manifesto that has been signed by hundreds of prominent homosexual activists.

The statement calls for “governmental and private institutional recognition” of a variety of different sexual arrangements, including “households in which there is more than one conjugal partner.”

The idea that marriage should include multiple partners and other “nontraditional” arrangements is a goal that is shared by many mainstream homosexual advocates, said George.

“These are not fringe figures,” he said.

George said that the move to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act does not reflect the views of Americans, the majority of whom still believe marriage is a union of one man and one woman.

He noted that in all 31 states where the issue has been voted on by the people, marriage has not been redefined.

George believes that the bill aimed at repealing the Defense of Marriage Act is “a public relations move” to create the appearance that those seeking to redefine marriage have momentum on the issue and that the definition of marriage will inevitably be changed. 

Daniel Avila, policy advisor for marriage and family for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, explained that Catholic teaching on marriage is rooted in the belief that “God himself is the author of marriage.”

Marriage is the foundation of society and is a “public good,” Avila observed.

And those who protect the definition of marriage are “acknowledging the essential nature of a relationship that draws together two very different but complementary representatives of the two halves of the human family,” he said.

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Avila explained that the Defense of Marriage Act not only affirms the definition of marriage and applies it to all federal laws, but it also prevents states that preserve the definition of marriage from being forced to recognize a redefinition of marriage by any other state.

If the Act is repealed, states would have to recognize out-of-state gay “marriages,” effectively redefining marriage across the country.

Avila encouraged concerned Catholics to contact their senators and urge them to preserve marriage. Doing so is “vitally important,” he said.

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