Catholic bishops vow to defend religious liberty, fight gay marriage


BALTIMORE — U.S. Roman Catholic bishops on Monday vowed to defend their religious liberty, and in calling the growing acceptance of gay marriage an attempt to marginalize their faith, launched a new website aimed at promoting traditional, heterosexual marriage.

Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport, Conn., leader of the Catholic Church‘s new national religious liberty committee, condemned federal and state policies that he said interfered with the church’s ability to provide social services.

At a meeting of 300 bishops gathered for the Conference of Catholic Bishops, the newly appointed committee on religious liberty announced plans to respond to legislation it says comes between citizens and their Catholic beliefs.

The bishops singled out the U.S. Department of Justice‘s opposition to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage as a legal union between a man and a woman, and the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which prevented gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military, as challenges to religious liberty.

Lori cited other examples, including a New York town clerk who faces legal action for refusing to administer same-sex marriages after New York, and the decision by Illinois Catholic charities to adbandon adoption and foster care services rather than place children in homes of gay and lesbian parents.

“We should not be obliged to provide services or other initiatives that are contrary to our conscience,” Lori said.

And in launching their new website — Marriage: Unique for a Reason — the bishops hope to persuade federal lawmakers to retain the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which was declared unconstitutional in 2010 by a federal court judge. The Obama administration has said it would no longer defend the law.

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