Bishop Blase Cupich of Spokane, Wash., urged Catholics to demonstrate respect for individuals with same-sex attraction, while supporting the authentic definition of marriage in an upcoming referendum.

“My genuine hope is that we all can value the coming vote on Referendum 74 as an opportunity to have a substantial public debate regarding this critical issue, carried on with respect, honesty and conviction,” Bishop Cupich wrote in an Aug. 3 letter made available to parishioners in his diocese.

In November 2012, Washingtonians will vote to approve or reject the state law redefining marriage to include same-sex couples. 

Bishop Cupich asked Catholics to give “careful consideration” to a set of reflections on the reasons for opposing a change in the meaning of marriage.

“I offer these thoughts with respect, but also out of a sense of duty to contribute to the debate for the good of our state,” the bishop noted.

“But I also want to be very clear that in stating our position the Catholic Church has no tolerance for the misuse of this moment to incite hostility towards homosexual persons or promote an agenda that is hateful and disrespectful of their human dignity.”

Bishop Cupich acknowledged the passionate nature of many people's convictions on the question of marriage, as he encouraged people on both sides of the debate to conduct themselves with respect.

He urged proponents of same-sex "marriage” to give serious consideration to the arguments of its opponents, who “have sincere concerns about what a redefinition of marriage will mean for the good of society and the family, both of which face new strains in our modern world.”

Those who oppose the redefinition of marriage “are asking the public to take a serious and dispassionate look at what a radical break with centuries of marriage law and practice will mean,” the Spokane bishop explained.

In his own reflections on the referendum, Bishop Cupich stressed that the law should continue to acknowledge “sexual difference and its potential to create new life.”

“If there is anything we have come to appreciate and value more fully in this modern age, it is that men and women are not the same,” the bishop observed. “That is true not only biologically, but on so many other levels. Men and women are not interchangeable.”

While the two sexes are equal in dignity, “they each bring something of their difference to complement each other.” This union is given a special standing in law, as the only institution that unites a man and woman with one another and any children born of their union.

“The decision to unhinge marriage from its original grounding in our biological life should not be taken lightly,” Bishop Cupich warned, “for there are some things enacted law is not capable of changing.”

“Thoughtful consideration should be given to the significant consequences such unhinging will mean for children, families, society and the common good.”