SEATTLE — The two bishops of the Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle said they will call on parishioners to collect signatures in support of Referendum 74, a ballot measure aimed at overturning the recently passed marriage equality law in Washington state.
In a letter to the archdiocese, Archbishop J. Peter Sartain and Auxiliary Bishop Eusebio Elizondo described the issue as “critically important” and said information on the signature drive is being sent to pastors throughout the Western Washington diocese, reported the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
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), an openly gay, Catholic lawmaker who sponsored the same-sex marriage bill, described the bishops’ efforts as “reprehensible.”
The marriage equality law does not require churches to marry gay couples or make church facilities available for same-sex unions.
The petition drive is being coordinated by the group Preserve Marriage Washington, a coalition that opposes same-sex marriage and filed R-74.
Opponents hope to collect 120,577 signatures by June 6 to place the ballot measure before voters in November seeking to repeal the marriage equality law.
The measure allowing same-sex marriage was signed by Gov. Chris Gregoire in February, and takes effect June 7, but will be placed on hold pending the outcome of the November vote if Preserve Marriage Washington collects the required number of signatures to quality for the ballot.
Recent polling in Washington shows 50 percent of voters would uphold the marriage equality law, versus 46 percent who would vote to repeal.