|Coat of Arms|
Senate Bill 172 will get its first hearing in the Colorado Senate Judiciary Committee next week on March 7. Senate Bill 172 seeks to legalize civil unions. It would explicitly grant such unions the same status as marriage in the law.
Let’s be clear that all persons deserve our respect, and that opposing civil unions denies no one his or her fundamental civil rights. Nearly every benefit being sought by this legislation is already legally available to Coloradans. In fact last year the Colorado General Assembly passed, and then-Governor Ritter signed into law, “designated beneficiary” legislation. This law benefits a variety of non-marital domestic arrangements, without creating marriage-like legal structures.
The key flaw with SB 172 is that in its language and practical effect it creates an alternative, parallel structure to marriage using explicitly spousal language. This inevitably undermines the privileged place of marriage and the family. Marriage and the family are cornerstones of any culture—Christian or not. They ensure the future through the creation of new human life. Any diminishment of the identity of marriage and the family undermines society itself.
In Colorado we have enshrined in our constitution the definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman. It does little good to protect marriage in our state constitution, on the one hand, and then legally recognize other unions, such as civil unions, that compete with it for equality. Civil unions may attempt to mirror the marital relationship, but they lack the essential qualities of marriage. The nature of marriage is a matter of common sense and long tradition, it precedes the coming of Christianity by many generations, and it is not simply a “religious” issue. Marriage has long been recognized as a lifelong relationship between one man and one woman that exists for the benefit of children and the protection of women.
Civil unions are essentially marriage under another name. They provide a distinction without a difference, and the long term impact of granting civil unions many of the same benefits that marriage enjoys has not been fully discerned or discussed. How this legislation will impact Catholic ministries and the benefits the Church affords to her employees are very real concerns.
Coloradans have already spoken clearly regarding laws that seek to redefine marriage: In 2006 Referendum I was defeated. Coloradans understood what Referendum I sought to do and very wisely voted against domestic partnerships.
Senate Bill 172 is not a matter of “equal rights,” and casting it in that language obscures the very significant social and cultural consequences of such legislation. As Catholics we should do all we can to ensure that our laws and public policies protect and preserve marriage. Attempts to redefine marriage, whether direct or indirect, only serve to weaken the already difficult family structure of our society. Pleasecontact your senator and representative today and ask him or her to oppose Senate Bill 172 and protect marriage in Colorado.
Most Rev. Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M., Cap. is the Archbishop of Denver. To read more from Archbishop Chaput, click here.