Efforts to legalize same-sex marriage (SSM) in Washington State:
2012-JAN: Catholic Church attacks SSM bill.
Bill introduced into the State Senate. Bill contents.
2012-JAN-13: Catholic Church bishops in Washington State oppose "Marriage Equality and Religious Exemption" bill:
Archbishop J. Peter Sartain and Auxiliary Bishop Eusebio Elizondo of Seattle; Bishop Blase J. Cupich of Spokane; and Bishop Joseph J. Tyson of Yakima issued a statement opposing SSM. It said, in part:
"Marriage in faith and societal traditions is acknowledged as the foundation of civilization. It has long been recognized that the stability of society depends on the stability of family life in which a man and a woman conceive and nurture new life. ... In this way, civil recognition of marriage has sought to bestow on countless generations of children the incomparable benefit of a loving mother and father committed to one another in a lifelong union."
A marriage of one man and one woman has certainly been the main model for marriage. However, the Bible describes eight different marriage and family styles, of which some deviate from that model and none have been condemned in Scripture. For example, Solomon had many hundreds of wives and many hundreds of concubines.
Although the concept of a marriage between two persons of the same sex is a violation of the Roman Catholic Church's doctrine, numerous studies have shown that children thrive in families led by same-sex couples as well as children thrive in those led by opposite-sex couples.
Referring to the existing law which does not allow loving, committed couples to marry, the bishops said:
"This same law also prohibits marriage to close-blood relations, a clear indication that the definition of marriage is related to bringing children into the world and the continuation of the human race."
At the time the current law was written, the concept of same-sex marriage was years in the future. Legislators in Washington, as in almost every jurisdiction in the world, were and are concerned about allowing opposite-sex persons who are too closely genetically related to marry with the possibility of conceiving children with serious genetic defects. Even allowing first cousins to marry doubles the chances of genetic defects in children.
The bishops also asked everyone to join them in praying "for married couples and families and to do everything possible to support them." It is unclear whether they were asking people to pray for only opposite-sex married couples or to pray also for loving committed same-sex couples and their children who have legally married in other states or countries or who want to marry in Washington State.
Their statement also said:
"... by defining marriage both in terms of the relationship between a man and a woman and its important role of guaranteeing the succession of generations, the state is recognizing the irreplaceable contribution that married couples make to society."
Their statement seems to imply that the contribution that loving, committed same-sex couples and their children make to society is negligible. It also seems to imply that same-sex couples do not raise children. In reality, many lesbian spouses conceive and raise children. Many gay couples adopt children -- many of whom would otherwise languish in foster homes.
It continued that changing the law:
"... would mean that the state would no longer recognize the unique sacrifices and contributions made by these [opposite-sex married] couples, thereby adding to the forces already undermining family life today."
We are at a loss to interpret this statement. It is unclear how that allowing same-sex couples who are anxious to marry would detract in any way of the "sacrifices and contributions" made by opposite-sex couples. Many commentators claim that allowing SSM would strengthen marriage by bringing more couples into the institution who are willing to sacrifice for their families.
It refers to:
"... the unique and irreplaceable potential of a man and woman to conceive and nurture new life, thus contributing to the continuation of the human race."
They appear to denigrate the contribution to society by many lesbians in same-sex relationships who have conceived and nurtured new life.
"Married couples who bring children into the world make particular sacrifices and take on unique risks and obligations for the good of society. For this reason the state has long understood that it has a compelling interest in recognizing and supporting these mothers and fathers through a distinct category of laws."
Again, they appear to ignore the sacrifices, risks and obligations taken by lesbian couples who conceive children. They ignore the efforts of both lesbian and gay couples who adopt. Further, their statement seems to denigrate the tens of millions of opposite-sex couples who are infertile and who also adopt or become foster parents of children. They seem to imply that the only families that matter are those with children whose DNA is made up of combination of their father's and mother's DNA. The bishops are attacking not only loving committed same-sex parents but their children as well. 1
It is important to realize that the views of the hierarchy are definitely not shared by the Catholic laity. In Washington State, a significant plurality of voters favor SSM. Catholic laity are even more supportive than the average Washingtonian.
2012-JAN-14: Marriage Equality Bill introduced at the Senate:
Bill SB 6239 was introduced to the Senate with 23 co-sponsors and a supportive note by Governor Gregoire (D). 25 votes are needed to pass. The Stranger's Tally estimates that there are six undecided senators: two Republicans and four Democrats. With Democratic voters solidly in favor of the SSM bill, it is surprising that so many Democratic senators have not committed to vote for the bill.
Zach Silk, Campaign Manager of Washington United for Marriage, the main pro-marriage equality group in the state said:
"Today we take the next step towards making the promise of equality a reality in Washington State.
The introduction of this bill not only recognizes the value that lesbian and gay families in Washington make to our united community, but also upholds the longstanding tradition of the separation of church and state in this country. Marriage is about dignity, commitment, love and respect -– it is the ultimate expression of a pro-family society. The foundation of marriage helps us build stable families, and now is the time to recognize the importance of treating all families in Washington State equally." 2
Laurel Ramseyer, writer for Pam's House Blend, a LGBT-positive web site, wrote:
"It’s tempting to assume that equality is in the bag when we’ve observed the incredible momentum created by Gov. Gregoire’s endorsement followed by the endorsement of Republican state Senators Litzow and Pflug and the councils of King County and City of Tacoma. But we’re still 2-3 votes short in the Senate." 3
Senator Ed Murray (D), a primary sponsor of the bill, wrote:
"It’s time for people to stop popping the champagne corks and get to work. People need to contact their legislators. They need to give to Washington United for Marriage. 4 They need to talk to their friends, their family members, their churches and synagogues. People need to step up. If you live in Seattle, write a check. If you live outside Seattle, contact your state legislators. We have work to do. Put the champagne away, it’s not time yet. ..."
"The rightwing will put it on the ballot. We saw that with R-71. The organizations down here working -- the gay organizations -- have hired lobbyists and community organizers. That has to be paid for. HRC has seven full-time community organizers in seven districts in Washington state and they’ve hired a business lobbyist to work with businesses, and all of that has to be paid for. And the way to do that is by giving to Washington United for Marriage."
"It’s not over when it passes the Senate. We can win in the Senate and lose at the ballot box—if we don’t get organized now." 5
The Washington State Catholic Conference is solidly against SSM, unlike the Catholic laity who are mostly supportive. The Conference has stated:
"Major controversial political questions will also be brought before the Legislature, including a bill to redefine marriage so it is no longer the union of a man and a woman. ... The preservation of marriage and preventing a requirement to cover abortion in health insurance plans are legislative policy priorities for the Washington State Catholic Conference." 6
2012-JAN-17: Content of the bill as introduced to the Assembly:
The bill is modeled after a law passed in New York State in mid-2011. 7 It contains two "religious freedom to discriminate" clauses:
- One would protect clergy and religious groups who wish to refuse to solemnize same-sex marriages. They could. with impunity, tell a same-sex couple with a valid marriage license to get lost. This is a redundent clause because clergy have always had the right under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to refuse to marry a couple for any reason: they were interracial, they appeared to immature, they did not appear sincere. In the case of the Roma Catholic Church, priests have refused couples because one of the spouses was disabled.
- The other clause would protect any "religious society, institution or organization, or any employee thereof" who wished to refuse services for same-sex couples wishing to get married. This would presumably include couples who wanted to rent a church hall for a reception, or register for an introduction to marriage course such as one that the Catholic Church and a few others run, etc. 8,9
References used in this essay:
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- Catholic News Service, "Bishops: Same-sex marriage 'not in the public interest'," 2012-JAN-17, at: http://ncronline.org/
- Laurel Ramseyer, "Washington Marriage Equality Bill Introduced with 23 Co-Sponsors," Pam's House Blend, 2012-JAN-14, at: http://pamshouseblend.firedoglake.com/
- Laurel Ramseyer, "Reality Check from Sen. Ed Murray on the Washington Marriage Equality Bill," Pam's House Blend, 2012-JAN-13, at: http://pamshouseblend.firedoglake.com/
- The pro-marriage equality group Washington United for Marriage has a web site at: http://washingtonunitedformarriage.org/
- Don Savage, "Ed Murray: Put the Champagne Away, Pull the Checkbook Out," The Stranger, 2012-JAN-13, at: http://slog.thestranger.com/
- "2012 Legislature Convenes," Washington State Catholic Conference, undated, at: http://thewscc.org/
- William Yardley, "With Bill, Washington State Shifts Its Views on Marriage," New York Times, 2012-JAN-16, at: http://www.nytimes.com/
Copyright © 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2012-JAN-13
Latest update: 2012-JAN-24
Author: B.A. Robinson