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Same-Sex Marriage Proposal for San Francisco ~ Statement by Archbishop William J. Levada

2/18/2004 - 12:00 AM PST

Catholic PRWire


CONTACT: Maurice Healy 415-614-5636


The action taken by Mayor Gavin Newsom regarding same-sex marriages in San Francisco is counter to long-established California law, which was reaffirmed overwhelmingly by California voters just four years ago. In addition, his action is counter to the will of the majority of citizens at the state and national levels as evidenced by the fact that 38 states and the federal government have approved laws or amendments barring the recognition of same-sex marriages.

In the current national discussion of same-sex marriage, some voices define marriage only in terms of "personal choice," as if marriage were merely a design of two persons - with nothing to do with family or society. Marriage is a relationship defined by nature, a reality which takes its origin in creation itself. Society does not create marriages, even though it sets parameters protecting it - such as the ban on polygamy and an age requirement to protect a mature decision to enter marriage.

Society grants benefits to marriage for the purpose of fostering families, which in turn nurtures the future. Benefits are not primarily given to individuals who are married, but rather they are provided to establish a nurturing environment for children. Any discussion about same-sex marriage that misses this point becomes mired in confusion, for it is impossible to justify special benefits to married couples if these benefits are seen first as benefits to the spouses themselves. Heterosexual marriage, procreation, and the nurturing of children form the bedrock of the family, and the family unit lies at the heart of every society. To extend the meaning of marriage beyond a union of a man and a woman, their procreative capacity, and their establishment of family represents a misguided understanding of marriage itself.

It is not discriminatory to limit "marriage" to heterosexual couples, as same-sex couples cannot bring into existence what marriage intends by its very definition. Other remedies can be found to protect the valid rights of persons in non-marital unions, for example civil rights given to individuals such as bereavement leave and inheritance rights, as well as benefits and protection for any children involved. Changing the definition of marriage to achieve benefit goals is ill-advised and harmful to society.

Some may call this age-old stance discrimination against gay and lesbian persons. Such an interpretation is false, and offensive to people whose goodwill is clear. The Catholic Church has often spoken of the respect, compassion and sensitivity demanded in our interactions with and attitudes toward homosexual people. Withholding support for same-sex marriage should never be equated with hostility toward homosexual people.

While the Catholic Church affirms that God created marriage as a union of a man and a woman, giving them a co-responsibility to establish a family by bringing children into the world, this tenet is not solely a Catholic one. Rather, it is the result of natural reason mirrored in every culture throughout humankind's history.

We need God's wisdom as part of the current conversation on this subject. We need local, state and national debate conducted with respect, knowledge and understanding. Rushing to grant same-sex partners the right to "marriage" for the sake of status or benefits could not help but undermine human society's foundational institutions of marriage and family.

Here in San Francisco, the recent election of Mayor Newsom brought with it an expectation that he would invite the participation of the entire community in seeking solutions to issues such as the homeless crisis, affordable housing, budget difficulties and other important matters.

For many of us, Mayor Newsom's abrupt action on the issue of same-sex marriage - about which our society is so divided -- raises concern and causes disappointment. We hope the mayor's action on behalf of one segment of the community does not signal an abandonment of his commitment to respect the views of all groups in the community - and to use his leadership to draw our city together to address the pressing issues identified in the mayoral campaign .


Archdiocese of San Francisco  CA,  US
William Levada - Archbishop, 415 614-5500


marriage, gay, same-sex



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