Over the years and across cultures and very different religious beliefs, marriage has been and is the foundation of the family. The family, in turn, is the basic unit of society. Thus, marriage is a personal relationship with public significance. Catholic doctrine teaches that marriage is both a natural institution and a sacred union because it is rooted in the divine plan for creation. As instituted by God and supported by the needs of human nature, marriage is a faithful, exclusive life-long union of one man and one woman joined in an intimate communion of life and love.
Nationwide, activist groups have filed lawsuits asking courts to redefine marriage as something other than a relationship between one man and one woman. Even though Pennsylvania has a law that defends marriage, it may not be enough to protect what is best for families in Pennsylvania if similar lawsuits are filed here.
The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference joins the Pennsylvania Family Institute, other faith leaders and concerned citizens in support of an amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution to protect and define marriage. The amendment language will say:
“Only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this Commonwealth, and neither the Commonwealth nor any of its political subdivisions shall create or recognize a legal status identical or substantially equivalent to that of marriage for unmarried individuals.”
Legislation to start the constitutional amendment process was introduced in January by State Representatives Scott Boyd (R-Lancaster), Daryl Metalfe (R-Butler), Tom Yewcic (D-Cambria, Somerset), Katie True (R-Lancaster) and Teresa Forcier (R-Crawford). State Senators Bob Regola (R-Westmoreland) and David J. “Chip” Brightbill (R-Lebanon) join their House colleagues in support of the effort.
Proponents believe a Constitutional amendment is necessary to protect and strengthen Pennsylvania’s existing Defense of Marriage Act. Judges in other states have deemed similar laws to be unconstitutional. Supporters believe Pennsylvania voters deserve an opportunity at the ballot box to prevent “activist” courts or local governments from imposing a new definition of traditional marriage.
The marriage protection initiative will protect the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman and protect the public institution of marriage from any alternative relationships.
Amending the Pennsylvania Constitution is a lengthy and challenging process. The amendment language must first be passed in two consecutive legislative sessions. Then is must be approved by a majority of the voters on a statewide ballot referendum. Proponents of the marriage protection amendment anticipate the earliest chance for voter referendum is 2007. Supporters of the marriage protection amendment are willing to assume this responsibility so the institution of marriage between one man and one woman alone will be protected and preserved in Pennsylvania.
PCC Column February 2006 by Amy Beisel, Communications Director of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference – the public affairs arm of Pennsylvania’s Catholic bishops and the Catholic dioceses of Pennsylvania.