The Archdiocese of Seattle is deploying parishioners and using Church funds and resources to help collect 120,000 signatures that will put Washington State’s same-sex marriage law on November’s ballot, essentially repealing it. Governor Christine Gregoire signed Washington’s marriage equality bill into law earlier this year, but opponents are waging war against the measure, and will likely force residents to vote on the law in November.
“The two bishops of the Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle, in a letter to the faithful, say they will deploy parishes to collect signatures for Referendum 74, a measure for the November ballot designed to roll back same-sex marriage in Washington,” the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports:
While asking that signatures not be collected on Easter Sunday, the bishops described the issue as “critically important” and said information on the signature drive is being sent to pastors throughout the Western Washington diocese.
In their letter, the bishops specifically deny that refusing marriage to same-sex couples equates to discrimination — an argument made by Gov. Christine Gregoire, a Catholic, in arguing for marriage equality.
“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.”
State Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, a Catholic and long-partnered gay man 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 (gay) marriages. Using the church in promoting a referendum . . . is very disappointing.”
The bishops noted that, under the state’s domestic partnership law (which the Catholic Church lobbied against), same sex couples “already enjoy the rights and privileges of married couples.”
Anne Levison, a former judge and co-owner of the Seattle Storm, and leader in the marriage equality campaign, responded that the bishops’ letter is a case of clerical error.
“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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