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Senate Decision to Redefine Marriage is Irresponsible

Regrettably, the Maryland State Senate voted today to drastically alter the definition of marriage. Governments across time and continents have elevated marriage between one man and one woman to promote and protect this unique institution that alone can create children. We are deeply disappointed in the members of the Senate who have made the irresponsible decision to dismantle our state’s definition of marriage, and we continue to call upon lawmakers in the House of Delegates to oppose the bill passed by the Senate.

We reject the argument that government needs to redefine marriage so that same-sex couples can receive benefits. It is clear that there are other avenues for granting certain rights and benefits to couples who are not married. Maryland has already granted many rights to domestic partnerships, such as medical decision-making, hospital visitation rights, and exemptions from real estate transfer and inheritance taxes. There are many ways to protect basic human rights; redefining marriage is not one of them.

Further, if there were a genuine need to provide such benefits, there is no sound explanation why these rights and protections should not also apply to the many other relationships that are based on the love and commitment of two people for one another, and to the many good and generous people raising children in nurturing environments that are different than the traditional nuclear family.

While the Senate added limited religious exemption amendments to SB 116, our opposition to this bill does not rest on a simple concern for the interests of religious institutions only. The bill lacks genuine protections for religious institutions that cannot recognize unions other than those between one man and one woman, and continues to provide no protections for an individual’s religious freedoms, such as those of a clerk forced to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple.

More importantly, our fundamental concern about redefining marriage is for the sake of our whole society, and particularly for children and their elemental desire to know, and ideally to be raised and loved by, their biological mother and father. Stripping marriage of its unique connection to parenthood erases from law the right of a child to a mother and father, and ignores an essential question of why government favors marriage between one man and one woman over all other relationships.

Treating heterosexual and same-sex relationships differently is not unjust discrimination, and upholding the truth of marriage does not ignore the rights or equal dignity of all human persons.

Maryland Catholic Conference advocates for the Church's public policy positions before the Maryland General Assembly and other civil officials. The Conference represents the three dioceses with territory in the state – the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the Archdiocese of Washington, and the Diocese of Wilmington.

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