President Biden is butting heads with Catholic bishops again, this time over same-sex marriage protections expected to reach his desk this week.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) opposes the Respect for Marriage Act, arguing it doesn’t include enough leeway for religious organizations.
“I disagree,” Biden, only the second Catholic president in U.S. history, told reporters on Tuesday about the bishops’ objections.
The fight between Biden and the bishops is all too familiar after the they spent much of his first year in the White House trying to deny him communion over his stance on abortion rights.
Conservative Catholic bishops had called for the church not to offer communion to Biden or other pro-abortion rights politicians, but, in November of last year, the USCCB signaled an end to the debate by issuing a document on communion without mentioning the president or other politicians.
Before the document was finalized, Biden received support from Pope Francis, who the president said told him he should keep receiving communion.
Throughout his time as president, Biden has consistently called for protections for abortion access, and he has often been found attending Catholic mass either in Wilmington, Del., or in Washington.
Biden also regularly calls for defending the rights of LGBTQ Americans.
He has urged Congress to send him the Senate-passed bill that would repeal of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which recognized marriage as “only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife.”
The White House describes the Respect for Marriage Act as “personal” to the president, presenting another balancing act for Biden between his faith and his support for a social issue that is in opposition to the church’s teaching.
The House is posed to pass the bill this week after the Senate cleared the measure last week in a 61-38 vote. Twelve Republicans joined on to the bill once it included an amendment outlining some protections for religious beliefs.
That amendment was also crucial for gaining support from religious institutions because it shields them from having to provide services supporting same-sex marriage. Faiths and groups including the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America and the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities all support the religious freedom protections in the bill.
But the changes haven’t been enough for the Catholic bishops.
“This bill fails to include clear, comprehensive, and affirmative conscience protections for religious organizations and individuals who uphold the sanctity of traditional marriage that are needed,” said Bishop Robert E. Barron, chairman of the USCCB’s committee on laity, marriage, family life and youth.
Barron added that “decades of social and legal developments” have led to society losing sight of the “purpose of marriage.”
Same-sex marriage has been legal nationwide since the Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, while the Catholic Church is one of several that only recognizes marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
The debate over same-sex marriage was resurrected this summer when the Supreme Court ended the decades-long right to abortion access by overturning Roe v. Wade. In Justice Clarence Thomas’s concurring opinion for that ruling, he called on the court to also reconsider the precedent for Obergefell v. Hodges.
Since then, Biden and other Democrats have sought to move quickly to protect marriage equality, and the White House celebrated the Senate passing the bill as a historic step.
“This is a huge step forward,” Karine Jean-Pierre, the first openly LGBTQ person to serve as White House press secretary, said last week. “And it is historic that we saw this movement from Congress in a bipartisan way to protect same-sex marriage.”
—Updated at 6:29 p.m.