63 former Catholic priests back gay marriage in Washington

At least 63 former Catholic priests in Washington state said they support Referendum 74, which will make Washington the United States’ seventh state to legalize same-sex or gay marriage.

“We are uneasy with the aggressive efforts of Catholic bishops to oppose R-74 and want to support the 71 percent of Catholics who support civil marriage for gays as a valid Catholic position,” the former priests said in a statement.

Pat Callahan, a former priest who organized the statement, said in a report by the San Francisco Chronicle: “This is the first public action we’ve taken.”

Washington’s four Catholic bishops have meanwhile started to intensify their campaign to vote against same-sex marriage.

Bishop Joseph J. Tyson of the Diocese of Yakima said in a pastoral letter that Referendum 74 “jeopardizes freedom rather than expands it” and “endangers our religious liberty and the rights of conscience.”

“Once marriage is redefined as a genderless contract, it will become legally discriminatory for public and private institutions such as schools to promote the unique meaning of marriage . . .This law will challenge our right to educate about the unique value of children being raised by his or her own mother and father in a stable home,” Tyson wrote.

The states of Washington, Maryland and Maine will vote on marriage equality this November.  Minnesota is voting on a constitutional amendment that would enshrine marriage as exclusively between a man and a woman.

Minneapolis-St. Paul Archbishop John Nienstedt has warned any active priests opposing the gay marriage ban to keep their feelings to themselves.

With no threat of ecclesiastical retaliation, three retired priests and dozens of former priests have made public statements against the proposed amendment.

With same-sex marriage fueled by an $8.5 million campaign warchest, the Catholic bishops are taking their case to the pews, the San Francisco Chronicle report said.

“Although our surrounding popular culture may define human identity by the terms ‘gay’ and ‘straight,’ our church has a deeper and more accurate understanding of human identity based on male and female — sexual difference,” Tyson said.

Same-sex marriage has never won a statewide vote, although Washington voters approved civil unions in a 2009 referendum.

But the statewide Elway Poll last week pegged support for Referendum 74 at 57 percent.


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