A surprising new group will reportedly announce their support of same-sex marriage in Washington state this week.
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer notes that 63 former Roman Catholic priests will publicly back Referendum 74, which would make Washington the seventh U.S. state to legalize same-sex marriage, on Oct. 11.
“We are uneasy with the aggressive efforts of Catholic bishops to oppose R-74 and want to support the 71 percent of Catholics (Public Religion Research Institute) who support civil marriage for gays as a valid Catholic position,” the 63 priests, who collectively have more than 800 years of service to the Church, said in a statement.
The stance follows a campaign of pastoral statements and videos, produced by the state's four Catholic bishops, in an effort to urge voters to vote against marriage equality, The San Francisco Chronicle points out. Among those to oppose same-sex marriage in the state was Bishop Joseph J. Tyson of the Diocese of Yakima, who told his 41 parishes that Referendum 74 “jeopardizes freedom rather than expands it."
"Although our surrounding popular culture may define human identity by the terms 'gay' and 'straight,' our Church has a deeper and more accurate understanding of human identity based on male and female -– sexual difference," he is quoted as writing in a new pastoral letter, which was reportedly read at all Saturday Vigil Masses and Sunday Masses in the Diocese of Yakima Oct. 6 and 7. "Marriage is founded on sexual difference and ordered toward the good of husband and wife and the procreation and rearing of children."
The 63 former priests will join now another religion-based, pro-Referendum 74 group called "Catholics for Marriage Equality." Members of that group said they were "shocked" by Tyson's letter. "The message of Jesus is love and compassion, not fear,” Kirby Brown is quoted by the Post-Intelligencer as saying.