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Bishop files brief to support traditional marriage

Definition of marriage challenge to be considered by Arkansas’ state supreme court

Published: October 2, 2014   

Bishop Anthony B. Taylor filed a motion Sept. 15 with the Arkansas Supreme Court to submit a “friend of the court” brief, supporting the state’s definition of marriage as a union of one man and one woman. 

“The diocese has a strong interest in protecting the traditional institution of husband-wife marriages because of the religious beliefs of its members and the institution’s benefits to children, families and society,” the brief stated. “The Catholic Church teaches that marriage has its origin in the nature of the human person, created by God as male and female. When joined in marriage, a man and woman complement one another spiritually, emotionally and physically — in the latter element, a man and woman complement one another in the capacity for procreation that, by nature, is unique to such a union.”

If the motion is granted, the amicus brief will be submitted for the Arkansas Supreme Court’s consideration of the appeal in Wright, et al. v. Smith, et al. Plaintiffs are same-sex couples who want to be married in Arkansas or were married in other states and want their marriages recognized in the state. Defendants are various state and county officials who are charged with enforcing the laws of Arkansas, including the state’s definition of marriage.

On May 9 Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Chris Piazza struck down Arkansas’ definition of marriage as between one man and one woman. On May 17 the state’s Supreme Court stayed Piazza’s decision until arguments could be heard. Arkansas legislators enacted the legislation defining marriage in 1997, and Arkansas voters approved a similar constitutional amendment in 2004.

“The suggestion that any opposition to the redefinition of marriage arises from animus against those who experience same-sex attraction is offensive and wrong,” the motion stated. “In the eyes of the diocese and the entire Catholic Church, each and every human person, regardless of sexual orientation, has a dignity and worth that derives from his or her creator. The diocese’s support for the established meaning of marriage arises from an affirmative view of the family and not from animosity toward anyone.”

The diocese’s amicus curiae brief presents several arguments in favor of maintaining the same-sex marriage ban.

  • The court should defer to the definition of marriage enacted by the Arkansas Legislature and approved by voters.
  • There are unique features of opposite-sex unions, such as procreation, that distinguish them from other relationships.

The motion is a similar request made by other bishops around the country when traditional definitions of marriage in their states have been overturned by judges.

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