In 2004, Michigan voters went to the ballot and approved overwhelmingly a constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union between one man and one woman. Through the vote of the people, Michigan’s constitution recognized the natural importance of marriage as a unique relationship open to welcoming and caring for new life.
On Friday, March 21, U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman regrettably struck down Michigan’s voter-approved amendment. The judge’s decision attempts to redefine the institution, proposing marriage is an emotional arrangement that can be changed based on the desires of adults. In response, the seven Catholic bishops in this state collectively issued a joint statement regarding the judge’s decision and the importance of protecting marriage. The statement said, in part:
“Marriage is and can only ever be a unique relationship solely between one man and one woman, regardless of the decision of a judge or future electoral vote. Nature itself, not society, religion or government, created marriage…The biological realities of male and female and the complementarity they each bring to marriage uniquely allows for the procreation of children. Every child has the right to both a mother and a father and, indeed, every child does have lineage to both.”
As emphasized by the bishops, the word marriage cannot simply be reattached to any loving and committed relationship as cultural attitudes shift. While love and commitment are vital ingredients, marriage is unique because it brings two together “as one flesh” and, through their union, is open to the gift of new life from their love (Genesis 2:24). Redefining marriage does not promote equality as some claim, but instead denies the nature and purpose of marriage.
It is the responsibility of husbands and wives to work to strengthen their marriages, and it is also helpful for Catholics to promote the true teaching of marriage, recognizing that mothers and fathers are not interchangeable. At the same time, the bishops wrote in their statement that “persons with same-sex attraction should not be judged, but rather accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity.” As Pope Francis has often said, the Church must walk with those who need it, including those who desire to live in harmony with the Church’s teaching and struggle with questions of sexuality. These individuals must know that they are respected and have assistance through the Church.
Following the judge’s decision, Attorney General Bill Schuette asked the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals for a stay. The court granted the stay, placing the 2004 Michigan Marriage Amendment back into effect while the case is considered further. In a time where many state and local officials who take the law into their own hands have abandoned their duty to protect state laws and amendments regarding marriage, Michigan Catholic Conference is pleased with the leadership of the attorney general on this issue. The Office of the Attorney General has been given until May 7 to file its opening brief for a forthcoming appeals trial, with the plaintiffs’ brief due by June 9. Michigan Catholic Conference remains committed to upholding the truth about marriage and supporting the State of Michigan in its appeal of the judge’s decision.
To read the bishops’ statement in its entirety and to view the latest updates related to marriage in Michigan, please visit www.micatholic.org. For more information on the Church’s teaching on marriage, visit http://www.marriageuniqueforareason.org/.