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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 6, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 14
Seattle's Catholic Bishops OK parishes to work R-74 petitions
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Seattle's Catholic Bishops OK parishes to work R-74 petitions

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Roman Catholic Archbishop J. Peter Sartain and his auxiliary bishop Eusebio Elizondo have ordered churches in their jurisdiction to collect signatures to put Referendum 74 on the November ballot.

In a letter to parishioners, the Archdiocese of Seattle bishops say the signature drive is 'critically important' and they will send information on it to parishes throughout western Washington.

In a nod to religious scruples, the bishops asked that petitions not be circulated on Easter Sunday.

Their whole-hearted endorsement of the challenge to the state's new marriage equality law puts the bishops at odds with many lay Catholics.

A New York Times/CBS News poll conducted in February showed that two-thirds of U.S. Catholics believe in some kind of relationship recognition for same-sex couples. Forty-four percent said they support equal marriage rights and another 25% said they would endorse civil unions.

A Public Religion Research Institute poll in August 2011 showed 55% of all Catholics and 66% of Catholics under 30 supporting marriage equality.

Sen. Ed Murray (D-43), a practicing Catholic who sponsored the same-sex marriage bill, described the bishops' deployment of parishes to gather signatures as 'fairly reprehensible.'

'To use church resources, in advancing a measure that promotes discrimination, is incredibly disappointing,' Murray said.

'As a Gay person and a Catholic, I can understand their refusal to perform [same-sex] marriages. Using the church in promoting a referendum & is very disappointing.'

In their letter, the bishops deny discriminating against Gay and Lesbian couples.

'Treating different things differently is not unjust discrimination,' the bishops claim.

'Marriage can only be between a man and a woman because of its unique ends, purpose, and place in society. The word 'marriage' isn't simply a label that can be attached to different types of relationships.

'Instead 'marriage' reflects a deep reality - the reality of the unique, fruitful, lifelong union that is only possible between a man and a woman. There is nothing else like it, and it can't be defined or made into something that it isn't.'

Gay and Lesbian couples, the bishops said, already have domestic partnership rights that are essentially the same as those of married couples.

Anne Levinson, a former judge and former chair of the Referendum 71 campaign to endorse domestic partnership rights, said that the bishops themselves misunderstand the institution of marriage.

'Of all institutions, the Church should understand why domestic partnerships can't replace marriage,' said Levinson.

'Marriage is so much more than a collection of legal rights. The essence of marriage remains the same whether the two people are straight or Gay or Lesbians: Two people affirming their love and commitment to each other.'

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