Traditional marriage supporters criticize court ruling on DOMA

BRAINTREE -- A federal judge's recent ruling regarding federal legislation that upholds heterosexual marriage has drawn criticism from both local and national traditional marriage supporters.

U.S. District Judge Joseph Tauro ruled on July 8 in two separate cases that Section 3 of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a federal law that defines marriage as a union of one man and one woman, is unconstitutional because it prevents the state from exercising its right to define marriage.

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley filed one of the challenges in United States District Court, contending that a part of the law is unconstitutional because it unfairly excluded Massachusetts same-sex couples and their families from important rights and protections and interfered with the state's authority to regulate marriage.

Locally, Massachusetts Family Institute President Kris Mineau accused Tauro of legislating from the bench and questioned the strategies of same-sex marriage advocates.

"Same-sex marriage activists have tried time and time again to win public approval of their agenda, and they have failed each time. This is why their strategy is to force same-sex 'marriage' through judicial fiat, as they did here in Massachusetts and other states.

Since 2004, five states have legalized same-sex marriage -- Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont and Iowa -- as well as the District of Columbia.

However, according to Mineau, public sentiment of the people indicates otherwise.

"Americans overwhelmingly believe marriage to be the union of one man and one woman," Mineau said.

Many states have implemented their own bans on homosexual marriage.

In a November referendum, Maine voters struck down homosexual marriage, and Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle vetoed a bill July 6 that would have granted gay, lesbian and opposite-sex couples the same rights and benefits that her state provides to married couples.

The chairman of the U.S. bishops' Ad Hoc Committee for the Defense of Marriage July 12 also criticized Tauro's ruling.

"To claim that defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman is somehow irrational, prejudiced or even bigoted is a great disservice not only to truth, but the good of the nation," Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., said in a July 12 statement.

"Marriage exists prior to the state and is not open to redefinition by the state," he explained. "The role of the state, instead, is to respect and reinforce marriage."

In the rulings, which only affect the law as it applies to Massachusetts, Tauro said the federal ban also violates the Equal Protection Clause; the plaintiffs had argued the U.S. law discriminates against spouses.

Archbishop Kurtz argued that Tauro's decision "uses the power of the state to attack the perennial definition of marriage, reducing it merely to the union of any two consenting adults."

"Only a man and a woman are capable of entering into the unique, life-giving bond of marriage, with all of its specific responsibilities. Protecting marriage as only the union of one man and one woman is not merely a legitimate, but a vital government interest," the committee chairman said.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Office of General Counsel described Tauro's rulings as "mistaken" because of the unique meaning of marriage and said, "Nothing in the Constitution forbids Congress from defining marriage -- as that term is used in federal statutes, regulations and rulings -- as the union of one man and one woman."

The fabric of U.S. society depends on the definition of marriage as remaining unchanged, Archbishop Kurtz said. "Nothing compares to the exclusive and permanent union of husband and wife," he added.

"The state has a duty to employ the civil law to reinforce -- and, indeed, to privilege uniquely -- this vital institution of society. The reasons to support marriage by law are countless, not least to protect the unique place of husbands and wives, the indispensible role of fathers and mothers and the rights of children, who are often the most vulnerable among us," he said.

Catholic News Service and Associated Press materials contributed to this report.