Archbishops decry military gay benefits plan

Archbishop Timothy P Broglio and Bishop Salvatore Cordileone CNA US Catholic News 2 15 13 Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio and Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone.

Two U.S. archbishops involved in defense of marriage efforts and the military spoke out against a new Pentagon policy giving gay couples many of the benefits of military spouses.

"This new policy under the guise of 'equal benefits' undermines marriage as the union of one man and one woman because it treats two persons of the same sex as spouses," said Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services.

In a statement released by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on Feb. 15, Archbishop Broglio voiced concern over a new military policy treating same-sex partners as if they were married.

He was joined by Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco, who is the chairman of the bishops' Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage.

The archbishops responded to a Feb. 11 announcement by the Department of Defense on a policy change that will soon allow gay domestic partners of armed service members on active duty to receive many of the same benefits as military spouses, including legal assistance and counseling, ID cards and recreational privileges.

Some benefits, such as health care and housing allowances, are banned under the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman for federal purposes.

However, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said these benefits will also be expanded to include same-sex couples if the Supreme Court rules against the Defense of Marriage Act in an upcoming case this summer.

In his State of the Union address on Feb. 12, President Barack Obama referenced the policy change, saying that he plans to "ensure equal treatment for all service members, and equal benefits for their families – gay and straight."

However, Archbishop Broglio argued that the policy undermines the Defense of Marriage Act, which is still the law of the land, despite Obama's 2011 announcement that his administration would no longer defend it in courts.

Furthermore, the archbishop warned, the policy change threatens the freedom of conscience and religious liberty of members of the armed services.

"Could a JAG officer choose, out of religious or moral convictions, not to give legal advice on marital and family issues to same-sex 'partners' without being subject to discipline?" he asked. "Forcing the officer to violate his conscience would not be fair."

Archbishop Cordileone echoed these concerns and stressed the institutions of marriage and family.

"There is no question that all service members should be treated equally," he said, "but it is not discrimination to treat different things differently."

The archbishop explained that because only "a man and a woman can bring children into the world," marriage "as the foundation of the family" is unique from other adult relationships and must be reserved for opposite-sex partners.

The new policy, he added, actually discriminates because it designates only "two people of the same sex in a sexual relationship for special consideration," treating other types of adult relationships differently.

"More importantly," Archbishop Cordileone added, "children, who are our future, have a right to be raised by their mother and father together."

"For the sake of our nation, and especially for the sake of our children, marriage should be promoted and protected at every opportunity, never undermined," he said.

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