WASHINGTON — The head of the U.S. bishops’ marriage committee is backing new legislation that thwarts the federal government from bypassing state marriage laws.

“Various agencies of the executive branch” are effectively, if not intentionally, trying “to circumvent state laws defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman,” wrote Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco in a letter to Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Rep. Randy Weber, R-Texas, sponsors of a new bill that would prevent such circumvention.

Cruz and Weber have introduced the State Marriage Defense Act of 2015 in the Senate and House, respectively. The bill would recognize a couple’s marriage in the state where they currently reside, not the state they were married in, to determine their federal marriage benefits.

The federal government was using language to bypass state laws upholding traditional marriage, instead giving benefits to a couple based on the state in which they received their marriage license.

Thus under this policy, if a same-sex couple was living in a state that upheld traditional marriage, they would still receive the federal marriage benefits and privileges.

Supporters of the new bill invoked the Supreme Court’s 2013 Windsor decision that struck down the federal law upholding traditional marriage — the Defense of Marriage Act — but, they argued, also affirmed the right of states to define marriage.

Windsor “reaffirmed the states’ long-standing authority to define marriage,” Cruz stated.

“The Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in United States v. Windsor, however, requires the federal government to defer to state marriage law, not disregard it.” wrote Archbishop Cordileone.  

The archbishop praised the State Marriage Defense Act for upholding traditional marriage.

“Marriage needs to be preserved and strengthened, not redefined,” he said, thanking the members of Congress for bringing up “this needed bill.”

The bill was introduced last year in the Democrat-controlled Senate and GOP-controlled House but was never brought up for a vote.

The states have the authority to define marriage, and that must be recognized by Congress, the bill begins: “Congress affirms the states’ legitimate and proper public-policy interests in regulating domestic relations and in defining marriage for the residents of their states.”

“I support traditional marriage,” Cruz stated, adding that his bill “helps safeguard the ability of states to preserve traditional marriage for their citizens.”

The bill has 11 co-sponsors — all of them Republican — in the Senate, according to Congress.gov, and the House version has 26 co-sponsors, all Republicans.