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As Four States Prepare to Vote on the Definition of Marriage, the Bishops Teach

This November voters in four states will face ballot questions about the definition of marriage. In Maryland and Washington State, voters will have the chance to stop legislation redefining marriage to include two persons of the same sex, while in Maine proponents of the redefinition of marriage are getting a second chance after a 2009 referendum stopped a similar law.  Minnesotans, on the other hand, will have the opportunity to enshrine the definition of marriage as a union of one man and one woman in their constitution.

Since the Church teaches that “No human law can abolish the natural and original right of marriage, nor in any way limit the chief and principal purpose of marriage ordained by God’s authority from the beginning: ‘Increase and multiply,'” (Pope Leo XIII, Rerum Novarum, 12) it is only fitting that the bishops in these states have responded with pastoral teaching.


In Maryland, where Question 6 asks voters whether they are ‘for’ or ‘against’ the legislature’s attempt to redefine marriage, Cardinal Edwin F. O’Brien, then apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, wrote a column in the Baltimore Sun, “A radical redefinition of marriage”. The Cardinal called marriage a “unique human relationship — the only such one capable of bringing life into the world.” We are trying to protect the definition of marriage because it is “what is best for society — not out of some hostility toward our sisters and brothers who are attracted to others of the same sex.”

Earlier bishops’ columns, as well as handouts prepared by the Maryland Catholic Conference, can be found on the Maryland Catholic Conference’s website.


Question 1 in Maine asks voters: “Do you want to allow the State of Maine to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples?” Portland’s Bishop Richard J. Malone (now of Buffalo) sent a 26-pages letter to his flock, “Marriage: Yesterday – Today – Always” (PDF). He uses this letter as an opportunity “to reflect with you, through this pastoral letter, upon the greatness and the beauty of marriage—as an original gift of the Lord’s creation and, consequently, as a vocation and as the foundational institution of family and society.” We looked at highlights from the bishop’s letter in an earlier blog post. Bishop Malone also spoke about marriage as the building block of civilization in this video:


Minnesotans will have a chance to adopt Amendment 1 this November, which would amend Minnesota’s state constitution to read that “only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota.” The state’s bishops collectively published A Brief Catechesis on Marriage, where they explain that marriage is “a lifelong commitment between one man and one woman in an enduring bond of love.” Bishop John Quinn of Winona testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee (PDF) and Bishop Paul Sirba of Duluth testified before the House of Representatives Civil Law Committee (PDF). Catholics in Crookston received a letter from Bishop Michael J. Hoeppner. In New Ulm, Bishop John M. Levoir produced a video. Archbishop John Nienstedt of St. Paul and Minneapolis gave an interview to the National Catholic Register about the marriage referendum, and wrote a column about why the marriage amendment “deserves our support.” Archbishop Nienstedt had earlier produced a video about marriage and the importance of the marriage amendment (below) that was sent to Catholics throughout Minnesota.

The Minnesota Catholic Conference website has a page dedicated to the marriage referendum with many additional articles, handouts, and resources.

Washington State

Referendum 74 in Washington State gives voters a chance to “approve” or “reject” a bill to redefine marriage to include two persons of the same-sex. The state’s bishops collectively issued a pastoral statement, Marriage and the Good of Society: A Pastoral statement regarding Referendum 74 (PDF). Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle and his auxiliary Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, M.Sp.S. sent a letter to the faithful (PDF) this past April. In August, Spokane Bishop Blase J. Cupich published three documents about the definition of marriage: A Letter to Parishioners: Referendum 74Some Reflections on Referendum 74, and “Believing in Marriage”. And in October, Bishop Joseph J. Tyson of Yakima sent A Pastoral Letter on Marriage and Referendum 74 (PDF) to his flock.

Archbishop Sartain (Seattle) and Bishop Cupich (Spokane) have also produced videos about marriage and Referendum 74:

The website of the Washington State Catholic Conference has additional resources, including handouts.


One response to “As Four States Prepare to Vote on the Definition of Marriage, the Bishops Teach”

  1. john cornell says:

    read and consider seriously, the comments of Geroge Weigal in his latest column for the Denver Catholic Register regarding our response to the HHS mandate/same sex marriage/religious liberty issues. As a married man and deacon, i think he’s right about the witness value of being pro active.
    thank you for listening.

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