Washington State Catholics Fight Againt Marriage-Redefinition Law

Bill passed state Senate on Feb. 1.

(photo: Shutterstock)

The Washington Catholic Conference is preparing to fight against a bill redefining marriage, which is expected to become law after its passage in the State Senate on Feb. 1.

“We’re disappointed that they passed it, but suspected they were going to,” the conference’s executive director Sister Sharon Park told EWTN News Feb. 2.

“It hasn’t passed our House of Representatives yet, but they have enough votes there, and the governor has already come out saying she will sign it.”

“The next process is the referendum process,” Sister Sharon explained. “If a law is passed that the people don’t want, and they can gather a little over 120,000 signatures by a certain date, then a referendum can go on the ballot to repeal the law.”

She said a repeal effort is “definitely going to happen” after the expected passage and signing of the law that would redefine marriage to include same-sex couples.

She has “no doubt” that enough signatures can be gathered to put the prospective law up for repeal by voters in November 2012.

The state Senate debated the bill for under 90 minutes before passing it by a vote of 28-21. If signed into law, it would make Washington the seventh state, in addition to the District of Columbia, to shift the definition of marriage away from that of one man and woman.

Opponents of the proposed law cannot begin gathering signatures for their referendum until Governor Christine Gregoire, who identifies herself as a Catholic, signs it into law.

On Feb. 1, Gregoire stressed her ties to the Church, telling National Public Radio’s Neal Conan that she wanted to “understand religious freedom and respect it and honor it.”

But the governor also made it clear that she saw the government’s refusal to redefine marriage as an unacceptable form of “discrimination.”

In Washington, which Sister Sharon describes as the most “unchurched” state in the U.S., the Catholic Conference will seek to argue for the public purpose of marriage, the institution that unites a man and a woman with one another and any children born to them.

While not every married couple will necessarily have children, Sister Sharon said the nature of marriage as an institution was inseparable from the “procreation and rearing of children” by a man and a woman.

She indicated that the planned referendum has a solid chance of success, with polls indicating that a majority of Washington residents support the definition of marriage that preserves the connection and orientation to family life.

If the redefinition effort succeeds, she predicts that supporters of family-oriented marriage will be moved to act.

“It becomes much more important to the people once it becomes law. When the potential is out there, some people know about it, and many don’t.”

“But with only a few states having redefined marriage in this manner, people are going to be very much aware of it. We’re going to be much more likely to get the people involved.”