.- Colorado Catholics and others in a coalition opposed to a civil unions bill will gather on the state capitol’s eastern steps on March 31 for a noontime prayer vigil.
Auxiliary Bishop James D. Conley of Denver has invited others to join him at the event.
“The domestic Church (founded on marriage between one man and one woman) is the very basis of society and an image of the Triune God,” he said.
He asked those who cannot make the vigil to “please join in prayer where ever you are for this most important issue.”
Catholic laity, seminarians and a contingent from the Colorado Springs-based evangelical Christian ministry Focus on the Family will be among the attendees.
A rally for supporters of the bill, including homosexual activist groups, will take place at the same time on the western steps.
The proposed legislation would grant “the legal benefits, protections, and responsibilities that are granted under the law to spouses” to both same-sex and heterosexual civil unions for unrelated individuals. These benefits include property inheritance, dependent coverage under life insurance and health insurance policies, and hospital visitation rights.
However, according to the website of the gay activist group Human Rights Campaign, as of July 2009 any two unmarried Colorado adults can "enter into a Designated Beneficiary Agreement providing certain rights and responsibilities, including hospital visitation, medical decisionmaking, and inheritance."
The civil unions legislation has already passed the Senate by a vote of 23-12. The House begins debate on the bill on March 31.
E. Christian Brugger, a professor at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver, said in an e-mail circulated to Catholics that there is a chance of defeating the legislation in the House.
If it passes, he warned, “You can be sure that we will not get the genie back in the bottle in
our lifetime, perhaps never.”
“It’s important for as many defenders of traditional marriage as possible to get out there and show their face,” he commented.
Jessica Haverkate, director of the Colorado Springs-based Colorado Family Action, said on March 30 that the vigil was “just bringing people together to pray and support the legislators.”
If the legislation passes out of committee, she predicted “a huge floor battle.”
“The voters out here in Colorado already voted on this issue. We chose to define marriage as one-man, one-woman, we chose to defeat Referendum I,” she said, referring to the state’s marriage amendment and a 2006 ballot initiative to recognize domestic partnerships.
Haverkate thought the effects of the bill could be “extremely concerning,” especially for children.
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Denver, in his March 2 column for the Denver Catholic Register, said that civil unions are “essentially marriage under another name” and the long-term impact of the legislation has not been fully discussed.
“How this legislation will impact Catholic ministries and the benefits the Church affords to her employees are very real concerns,” he wrote.
The archbishop noted that state legislation benefiting “a variety of non-marital domestic arrangements” had already passed in 2010.
“Attempts to redefine marriage, whether direct or indirect, only serve to weaken the already difficult family structure of our society,” he said.