The battle over same sex marriage in our state is taking a
big step from the political arena to the pulpit, as the
Catholic Church has formally endorsed signature gathering
at local parishes in the effort to overturn the state’s
recently passed marriage equality law.
In a letter to churches in the Seattle Archdiocese, which
encompasses all of Western Washington, Archbishop J. Peter
Sartain writes “Marriage between a man and a woman is the
foundation of our society.”
Sartain has been an outspoken critic of the “redefinition
of marriage.” He testified in the state Legislature
against the measure passed earlier this year and signed
into law by Governor Gregoire.
The law goes into effect June 7 if opponents can’t get
approximately 120,000 valid signatures to put Referendum
74 on the ballot, which would allow voters to defeat the
measure. Sartain calls it “such a far-reaching and
radical decision that it should not be left simply to a
vote of legislators and the signature of the governor.”
“The key to understanding the Church’s view of marriage
can be found in the two fundamental ends or purposes
toward which it is oriented: the good of the spouses and
the procreation of children,” Sartain writes.
But it’s causing a big rift in many congregations. Many
local Catholics are criticizing the Archbishop for taking
such a strong stand against what they see as an issue of
“I was disappointed. I think the Catholic Church is so
good on so many issues tied to social justice,” says
Barbara Guzzo, co-founder of the newly formed Catholics
for Marriage Equality in Washington.
“I’d rather they put their energy into economic reform and
immigration reform and housing, things that I think have a
much more significant impact on people’s lives, much more
significant than who marries who,” says Guzzo.
State Representative Jamie Pederson (D-Seattle) helped
lead the effort to pass the legislation approving same sex
marriage. He says he’s disappointed the church is taking a
more active role in opposition, but not surprised.
Pederson points out many other religious groups have
strongly supported same sex marriage, including his own
“I think it’s unfortunate that a church that has such a
long history of advocacy for civil rights for all people
would think that in a time like this, it’s a priority to
take away rights from families,” Pedersen says.
But in his letter, Sartain writes, “Some have suggested
that the Catholic Church’s opposition to the redefinition
of marriage amounts to discrimination. That is not the
case. Treating different things differently is not unjust