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Bishops: No to Same-sex Unions From Other States
Source: Catholic News Service
Published: Saturday, February 27, 2010
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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (CNS)—Maryland's Catholic bishops took "strong exception" to a Feb. 24 opinion by Maryland's attorney general stating that state agencies should recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.

"We trust our legislature and the people of Maryland will also object, and will act accordingly to counteract this opinion," said a joint statement released Feb. 24 signed by Archbishop Edwin F. O'Brien of Baltimore, Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl of Washington and Bishop W. Francis Malooly of Wilmington, Del., whose dioceses all include parts of Maryland.

The statement was released by the Maryland Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the state's bishops, based in Annapolis.

Attorney General Douglas Gansler issued the opinion on same-sex marriage in response to a legislator's request he look into a question some say in unclear in state law.

Maryland is one of 41 states with a statute that defines marriage as only between a man and a woman. Measures to allow same-sex marriages in Maryland have failed, although the state's lawmakers have extended some benefits to same-sex couples.

Although it will not change state law, Gansler's opinion can guide Maryland officials. The attorney general's office, for example, can defend a state agency in court for recognizing a same-sex marriage from another state.

Legislation stating that Maryland would recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states has not made it through the General Assembly.

The state's bishops noted that the General Assembly has "repeatedly and explicitly upheld Maryland's definition of marriage 'between a man and a woman' even as certain limited benefits have been extended to same-sex couples."

They said the attorney general's opinion "chips away at our society's foundational institution" and demonstrates a "fundamental disregard for the nature and purpose of marriage and its impact on society, as well as for the expressed will of the legislature and previous attorney general opinions."

"We urge lawmakers, the governor and the courts to uphold the definition of marriage through all appropriate means," the bishops stressed.

The bishops said they "respect the dignity of homosexual persons and roundly reject all unjust discrimination against them," but noted that Maryland's marriage statute reflects the "convictions of Maryland's citizens and their legislators."

They noted that marriage between a man and a woman is not "merely a fact of religious faith or an institution established by civil authorities" but is "invariably reserved to the union of one man and one woman because of their unique ability to bring children into the world, thus forming a stable and secure foundation for our society."

"Allowing the decisions of out-of-state jurisdictions or courts to dictate public policy in Maryland undermines the proper role of the legislature and the citizens they represent," the bishops added.

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