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(RNS) California’s top Catholic clerics are trying to sooth hard feelings over the recent passage of the state’s gay marriage ban, explaining the church’s support for the measure while attempting to assure gays and lesbians that they are “cherished members of the church.”
“The passage of Proposition 8 in the state of California does not diminish in any way the importance of you, our homosexual brothers and sisters in the church,” wrote Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony in an open letter published last week (Dec. 5) in “The Tidings,” the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. The letter was signed by Mahony and six auxiliary bishops in the archdiocese.
On Nov. 5, a slim majority of Californians voted for Proposition 8, which amends the state constitution by defining marriages as the union of a woman and a man. Gay rights activists continue to fight the referendum in court, and many have expressed anger at the Catholic Church and Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, both of which strongly advocated for the proposition.
Archbishop George Niederauer of San Francisco also published an open letter recently, defending the rights of religious leaders to participate in civil debates and calling for a cease fire in personal attacks.
“We need to stop talking as if we are experts on the real motives of people with whom we have never even spoken,” Niederauer wrote. “We need to stop hurling names like `bigot’ and `pervert’ at each other. And we need to stop it now.”
Mahony and Niederauer said their support for Proposition 8 was intended to preserve the traditional definition of marriage, not harm gays or lesbians.
“Your intrinsic value as human beings and as brothers and sisters continues without change,” Mahony wrote. “If we had ever thought that the intent of this proposition was to harm you or anyone in the state of California, we would not have supported it.”
By Daniel Burke
Religion News Service
Copyright 2008 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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