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Cordileone and Santorum: Find New Ways to Defend Marriage

Mark Stricherz
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Speakers at March for Marriage discuss engaging a culture that is increasingly tolerant of gay unions.

WASHINGTON — Two leading supporters of traditional marriage suggested that their movement fight back against the growing intolerance of their cause in new ways.

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco implied that Catholic teaching on the sanctity of marriage has not been explained adequately to Catholic politicians like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

"I think we’ve fallen down on the teaching of the faith to our own people," Archbishop Cordileone said, leaning against a silver metal railing at the March for Marriage on the western lawn of the Capitol Thursday. "Pelosi’s not so different from some of the others (Catholic politicians). We need to do a better job," he said.

Rick Santorum, a Republican presidential candidate in 2012, said traditional-marriage supporters are too quick to concede defeat and speak out in favor of the family.

"We give up these battles before we even fight them, and we wonder why we’re losing," Santorum said in an interview. "We didn’t explain our position at all in the  last campaign. We just didn’t talk about it. You never hear the other side doing that."

Some traditional-marriage activists at the March used novel means to fight what they believe is a growing hostility to marriage. Supporters of the conservative organization Act Right handed out red decals with a picture of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. "Impeach Eric Holder," the sticker said, referring to Holder’s decision not to defend the federal Defense of Marriage Act in court.

Minority organizations and Protestant Hispanics were prominent at the rally, which attracted roughly 1000 participants. The Coalition of African American Pastors and the Frederick Douglas Foundation were two of the sponsoring organizations. Salsa music was pumped in before several speakers addressed the throng. One family brought handmade tamales, and placards bore signs that read "Cada Nino Se Merece Un Papa Y Una Mama."

Santorum said the heavy presence of Hispanics at the rally was no accident. "If you look at California’s vote, you see that minorities are strongly supportive of marriage. New York’s too," Santorum said, referring to the 2008 vote in California on Proposition 8 and the 2011 vote in the New York legislature on gay marriage.

The march came 51 weeks after the Supreme Court made two key rulings that relate to homosexual marriage. The high court struck down a 1996 federal law that allowed states not to recognize gay marriages granted in other states and a 2008 initiative in California that banned homosexual marriage. Ever since, traditional-marriage supporters have been thrown on their heels.

A string of court rulings have struck down state bans on gay marriage. The CEO of Mozilla Firefox was ousted when it was learned that he had made a donation to the Proposition 8 campaign. And last week, the San Francisco Chronicle published a leaked letter from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in which she urged Archbishop Cordileone not to attend the March for Marriage.

The feeling that gay marriage is inevitable has extended to some traditional Catholic intellectuals. Last August, former First Things editor Jody Bottum wrote a long essay in Commonweal in which he argued that on prudential grounds the fight against same-sex marriage "ought to come low on the list of priorities" for the Catholic Church in America.

For same-sex marriage supporters, there were a few signs of old hostility to their cause and their growing numbers. "Gay Marriage is Satanic" read one banner unfurled behind the podium. A knot of protesters held rainbow flags on the steps of the Capitol near the western lawn.

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