On September 10th, The Human Rights Campaign today expressed its extreme
disappointment at a statement from the U.S. Conference of Catholic
Bishops (USCCB), supporting the Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA), a bill
proposed in Congress that would permanently deny same-sex couples the
rights and protections of civil marriage.
"It is extremely disappointing and heart wrenching that the USCCB would
engage in a political effort to deny fundamental rights and protections
to same-sex couples and their families," said HRC Executive Director
Elizabeth Birch. "Civil marriage is entirely separate from religious
marriage. No one is trying to change the beliefs or traditions of
churches. Same-sex couples are simply seeking the same rights and
protections under the law that most Americans take for granted."
The General Accounting Office found in a 1997 study that there are more
than 1,000 federal rights, benefits, protections and responsibilities
that same-sex couples are currently denied as they are not permitted
civil marriage licenses. Those rights include protections as
fundamental as being able to visit a partner in the hospital and make
decisions for them should they be unable to, the ability to inherit
property without a will or tax penalties, and access to Social Security
"In our society, government benefits for couples and their children are
available only through a civil, secular 'marriage license.' Until state
and federal governments administer benefits on some other basis, tax
paying gay couples and their families should have access to such
safeguards on an equal basis," said Birch.
In the statement, the USCCB voiced its strong opposition to "any
legislative and judicial attempts, both at state and federal levels, to
grant same-sex unions the equivalent status and rights of marriage –by
naming them marriage, civil unions or by other means."
The Constitution has only been amended 17 times since the Bill of
Rights. Passage of the anti-gay Federal Marriage Amendment would mark
the first time in U.S. history that the Constitution was amended to
specifically deny rights and protections to a single group of Americans.
"Gay Americans are whole and complete human beings, they are parents,
children, brothers, sisters, friends, workers, church goers and make
important contributions in every community in the country each day,"
said Birch. "It is difficult to imagine that with all of the problems
and challenges facing the country today, the USCCB would spend time and
energy trying to deny rights and protections to same-sex couples and
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