Sanction of same-sex marriages prompts strong reactions

A city named after the Roman Catholic Church's only canonized king of France has sanctioned same-sex marriages, which are contrary to the Church's teachings as well as to the constitution of its state.

Four couples were issued marriage certificates June 25 after exchanging vows in the office of St. Louis Mayor Francis C. Slay. Municipal Judge Joseph Murphy conducted the civil ceremonies of a female couple and three male couples. Slay took cellphone photos of the couples, according to an account on stltoday.com — the website of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The website quoted Slay, thusly: "It makes me proud as a citizen and as a mayor. ... I, and all of us standing here, are doing this to force the issue and to get the law settled for everyone who wants to get married in the state of Missouri."

According to the website, the mayor added, "If we weren't doing this, no other city in Missouri would."

As expected, the ceremonies prompted a lawsuit from Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster in his role of enforcing state laws. The city, which vowed to fight the suit to the U.S. Supreme Court, agreed to not sanction further ceremonies while the case is being litigated.

In a statement June 26, the Missouri Catholic Conference (MCC) noted that as "the public policy agency of the Catholic bishops of Missouri, (it) is charged with seeking the common good of all Missourians" and urged Koster "to defend the state constitution and to protect the institution of marriage, an institution that is vital to the continued well-being of our state."

Missourians voted in 2004 to ban same-sex marriages, but city officials argue that ban violates the U.S. Constitution. After Missouri's action in '04, voters passed bans in other states. Like Missouri, those states define marriage as between a man and a woman, as does the Catholic Church.

Also in a statement June 26, the Archdiocese of St. Louis termed itself "disappointed" that the city granted the civil marriage licenses.

"It is disheartening to see our wonderful city, named after the great Catholic civil leader St. King Louis IX, so eagerly cast aside the laws of our state and disregard the laws of nature," the statement read. "The fact is, the union of two men or the union of two women is not the same as the union of a woman and a man."

The archdiocese stressed the importance of caring for individuals with same-sex attractions, and also stressed Catholic teaching in terms of sexuality.

"Loving a person does not mean accepting all their behaviors," the archdiocese stated. "The Church does not condemn individuals for having same-sex attraction. Persons who struggle with same-sex attraction must be loved with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.

"At the same time, the Catholic faith teaches that all people are called to responsibility regarding sexuality -- whether they are homosexual or heterosexual, priest or lay person. Part of that responsibility means understanding that sex is to be reserved for marriage, and that marriage between a man and a woman is the only kind of union from which children can come."

Likewise, in its statement June 26, the MCC described itself as "deeply disappointed" that Slay and other city officials "have chosen to conduct same-sex ceremonies in open defiance of the Missouri Constitution, which protects marriage as a union of one man and one woman."

"Marriage has existed for centuries as the union of one man and one woman for the benefit of the spouses, the creation of a stable environment for the upbringing of children, and to serve as the fundamental building block of society for the common good," the MCC stated. "Public officials fail in their duty to protect this institution and the common good by taking actions designed to redefine marriage.

"Catholic teaching respects the dignity of all people, including those with same-sex attraction; but this same teaching proclaims the truth that marriage is the union of one man and one woman only. This teaching on the true nature of marriage is shared by many other faith traditions, as well as people of good will."

The archdiocese pointed out that, according to Catholic teaching, "we are defined by something far deeper than sexual orientation: we are defined by our identity as children of God. We agree with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI when he said, 'Every human being is loved by God the Father. No one need feel forgotten, for every name is written in the Lord's loving heart.'

"We encourage Catholics and all people of faith to pray that our culture will grow in the love of God, and that our actions and laws will respect the laws of nature and its creator." 

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