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Two Catholic archbishops — one of them the archbishop of the military archdiocese — have expressed concern about the potential effects of the Defense Department's new policy extending more benefits to same-sex domestic partners, to include negative effects on religious freedom and on children.
The two also expressed concern about President Obama's State of the Union comments about ensuring equal treatment for all service members, gay and straight, and equal benefits for their families.
"This new policy under the guise of ‘equal benefits' undermines marriage as the union of one man and one woman because it treats two persons of the same sex as spouses," said Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, in the statement issued by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. "Can the Secretary of Defense establish a policy that undermines federal law as established by [the Defense of Marriage Act]?"
Broglio said the new policy could have possible negative effects on religious liberty, and used the example of an attorney in the Judge Advocate General Corps. "Could a JAG officer choose, out of religious or moral convictions, not to give legal advice on marital and family issues to same-sex ‘partners' without being subject to discipline? Forcing the officer to violate his conscience would not be fair," he said in the statement.
Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman of the bishops' subcommittee for the promotion and defense of marriage, also expressed concerns about the policy's potential effects on children.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta issued a memorandum to the services Feb. 11 extending an additional 22 benefits to same-sex domestic partners, such as eligibility for dependent ID cards, commissary and exchange privileges, and legal assistance. The list does not specifically mention military chaplains or their counseling.
Panetta ordered that the benefits changes take effect by Oct. 1. "Our work must now expand to changing our policies and practices to ensure fairness and equal treatment and to taking care of all of our service members and their families, to the extent allowable under law," he wrote in the memo.
Cordileone focused on the potential effects on children. "There is no question that all service members should be treated equally, but it is not discrimination to treat different things differently. Only a man and a woman can bring children into the world, and so marriage, as the foundation of the family, by its very nature can only be between a man and a woman," he said.
"Children, who are our future, have a right to be raised by their mother and father together," he said. "For the sake of our nation, and especially for the sake of our children, marriage should be promoted and protected at every opportunity, never undermined."