WASHINGTON (CNS) – The Obama administration's decision to no longer support the federal Defense of Marriage Act is an "alarming and grave injustice," said New York Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
"Our nation and government have the duty to recognize and protect marriage, not tamper with and redefine it, nor to caricature the deeply held beliefs of so many citizens as 'discrimination,'" he said in a March 3 statement.
The Archbishop's comments were in response to a Feb. 23 announcement that President Barack Obama had instructed the Department of Justice to stop defending the federal law passed by Congress and signed into law in 1996 by President Bill Clinton.
The Defense of Marriage Act says the federal government defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman and that no state must recognize a same-sex marriage from another state.
Attorney General Eric Holder said Feb. 23 that although the administration has defended the law in some federal courts, it will no longer continue to do so in cases pending in the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Unlike in the previous cases, said the attorney general, the 2nd Circuit "has no established or binding standard for how laws concerning sexual orientation should be treated."
Attorney General Holder's statement said President Obama "has concluded that given a number of factors, including a documented history of discrimination, classifications based on sexual orientation should be subject to a more heightened standard of scrutiny."
Archbishop Dolan disagreed, saying the federal law "does not single out people based on sexual 'orientation' or inclination. Every person deserves to be treated with justice, compassion, and respect, a proposition of natural law and American law that we as Catholics vigorously promote. Unjust discrimination against any person is always wrong."
He said the marriage law was not "unjust discrimination" but instead, legislation that "merely affirms and protects the time-tested and unalterable meaning of marriage."
"The suggestion that this definition amounts to 'discrimination' is grossly false and represents an affront to millions of citizens in this country," he added.
"On behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, I express my deep disappointment over the administration's recent decision," he said, noting that he has written to the president to express his concerns in separate correspondence.
Archbishop Dolan said he prays that the president and the Justice Department "may yet make the right choice to carry out their constitutional responsibility, defending the irreplaceable institution of marriage, and in so doing protect the future generations of our children."