YAKIMA, Wash. — Same-sex marriage “jeopardizes freedom rather than expands it,” and “endangers our religious liberty and the right of conscience,” according to Bishop Joseph Tyson, the Catholic bishop of Yakima, Wash.
Tyson’s remarks came in a recently released pastoral letter, where he delivered yet another apocalyptic denunciation of Referendum 74, the upcoming ballot initiative in Washington that will allow voters to approve or reject the state’s new marriage equality law.
“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,” wrote Tyson. “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.”
However, it was noted by pro same-sex marriage advocates that the prelate did not specify how these rights would be challenged by passage of the measure by Washington voters.
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported that the pro-Referendum 74 group, Catholics for Marriage Equality, delivered a sharp response to Tyson and his fellow bishops in the Archdiocese of Seattle and the Diocese of Spokane, who have issued letters and videos opposing marriage equality.
“We are shocked when we read the language and examples used by our bishops to incite fear in our Catholic brothers and sisters if Referendum 74 passes — the message of Jesus is love and compassion, not fear,” said Kirby Brown spokesman for Catholics for Marriage Equality Washington.
In statements regarding the issue, Tyson has called same-sex marriage “offensive to basic human rights and equality” and “a loss of civil rights and equality for the most vulnerable among us, children,”
“The terms ‘husband and wife’ and ‘father and mother’ will continue to recede as so-called gender-neutral terms overwhelm our public lexicon,” he warned.
Experts, political analysts and observers all agree that the debate over the issue of same-sex marriage has sharply divided the state’s faith community.
Episcopal Bishop Greg Rickel has endorsed Referendum 74 as a “conservative proposal” consistent with basic Christian teaching and the Christian life. Two prominent Methodist pastors in Seattle have endorsed marriage equality in campaign ads paid for by same-sex marriage advocates.
Catholics for Marriage Equality is asking its supporters to distribute a brochure that supports Referendum 74, entitled “Love Overcomes Fear” outside their churches, even as bishops’ letters are read inside.