Arizona bishops back proposed amendment to ban same-sex marriage

Arizona's three Catholic bishops support the principles of a state ballot initiative that would ban same-sex marriage and may issue a pastoral statement on marriage “when the appropriate time presents itself,” reported the Arizona Daily Star.

A state ballot initiative, banning same-sex marriage, was introduced last month. The amendment would also forbid different jurisdictions within the state from recognizing any legal status for unmarried couples. Health benefits for unmarried couples and the city's domestic partner registry would be nullified.

The three bishops — Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix and Bishop Donald Pelotte of Gallup — attended press conferences, announcing the ballot initiative.

But the Arizona Catholic Conference has said that while the three bishops support the principles of the amendment, they have not yet endorsed it, reported the Daily Star.

"We are considering a pastoral statement on marriage when the appropriate time presents itself," Bishop Kicanas said after meeting Wednesday with the other bishops.

"We don't have any opposition to the marriage amendment. The caution would be that rhetoric used is always respectful and not demeaning to any human beings," Bishop Kicanas reportedly said.

Bishop Kicanas explained that marriage is a "faithful and exclusive lifelong union of a man and woman" and deserves legal protection. Any non-heterosexual union that is made the legal equivalent of marriage is not appropriate, he stated.

More than a year ago, the state Court of Appeals ruled that heterosexual marriage promotes the state's interest in procreation and raising children in stable families and that homosexuals have no fundamental legal right to marry. The state Supreme Court upheld that decision.

Bishops Kicanas and Johnson do not believe the proposed amendment would prohibit government agencies from offering "reciprocal benefits" to unmarried people, including relatives, who live together.

“The bishops share the concern that the rhetoric is civil, and we express our concern for people of all sexual orientations, but we also need to preserve the unchangeable definition of marriage," Bishop Johnson was quoted as saying. "Reciprocal benefits can be extended to anybody in any relationship. It wouldn't be based on a civil union per se. It will give status to same-sex partners, as well as, for example, someone living with their elderly mother."

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