Mass. bishops join religious groups in filing DOMA case brief

BOSTON -- The state's Catholic bishops are partnering with 17 other Jewish and Christian groups in support of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, also known as DOMA, that upholds traditional marriage.

The Massachusetts Catholic Conference (MCC), the bishops' public policy arm, partnered the other major religious communities to file a amicus brief in case now before Boston's First Circuit Court of Appeals seeking to overturn Judge Joseph L. Tauro's district ruling last year that the federal Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional as applied to Massachusetts.

Same-sex marriage was recognized by Massachusetts's Supreme Judicial Court in 2004.

The Defense of Marriage Act, which was passed in 1996, prevents those unions from being recognized for federal purposes and also gives others states the right to refuse to recognize them.

The brief was submitted on Jan. 27, and faulted Judge Tauro for characterizing the Defense of Marriage Act as bigoted.

In the brief, the groups told Court of Appeals that despite their theological differences, they agree on the social and legal ramifications of defining marriage as between one man and one woman. At the same time, they also condemned hatred of homosexuals.

"We believe that God calls us to love homosexual persons, even as we steadfastly defend our belief that traditional marriage is both divinely ordained and experientially best for families and society," the brief states. "This considered judgment is informed by our moral reasoning, our religious convictions, and our long experience counseling and ministering to adults and children. The district court's ruling that, in enacting DOMA, Congress could only have been motivated by bigotry against homosexuals--and, hence, by implication, that our own support for DOMA and traditional marriage is so motivated--is inaccurate and unfair."

Oral arguments will occur likely sometime later this year, and the case could end up before the U.S. Supreme Court, especially if the appellate court upholds the lower court's ruling against DOMA.