Minn. redefines marriage despite religious freedom warnings

St. Paul, Minn., May 14, 2013 / 05:04 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The state of Minnesota has redefined marriage to include same-sex couples despite concerns over social wellbeing and religious liberty raised by Catholics and other faith leaders. 

A statement from the Minnesota Catholic Conference said that the bill’s passage, “though expected, is no less disappointing.”

“The full social and legal effects of marriage redefinition will begin to manifest themselves in the years ahead,” the conference cautioned.

“The Church, for its part, will continue to work to rebuild a healthy culture of marriage and family life, as well as defend the rights of Minnesotans to live out their faith in everyday life and speak the truth in love.”    

The Minnesota state Senate passed a measure to redefine marriage by a 37-30 vote on May 13, following a 75-59 vote of approval by the state House of Representatives last week.

Democratic Governor Mark Dayton signed the bill into law on May 14, making Minnesota the 12th state to change the legal definition of marriage to include same-sex couples.

In a previous statement on the legislation, the Minnesota Catholic Conference warned that it would “set in motion a transformation of Minnesota law that will focus on accommodating the desires of adults instead of protecting the best interest of children.”

The bill amounts to “an injustice that tears at the fabric of society,” the conference said, and it “poses a serious threat to the religious liberty and conscience rights of Minnesotans.”

While the new law includes some provisions to protect the conscience rights of clergy and religious organizations, the conference noted that it fails to “protect the people in the pew – individuals, non-religious non-profits, and small business owners who maintain the time-honored belief that marriage is a union of one man and one woman.”

Pointing to legal experts both for and against a redefinition of marriage, the Minnesota Catholic Conference asserted that this failure will result in numerous lawsuits and complaints in court.

Leaders of other faiths had also voiced their concerns over the bill. In an April letter to the state legislature, a group of pastors, rabbis, imams and other religious figures emphasized the stability that marriage offers families and societies.

Redefining marriage, they warned, “degrades the cultural understanding of marriage to an emotional bond between any two adults, and creates a profound interference with the exercise of religious freedom for people and institutions whose faith and doctrine recognize the spiritual foundation of marriage exclusively as a union between a man and a woman.”

The faith leaders also cautioned that “if marriage is redefined in civil law, religious individuals and other organizations – regardless of the foundational tenants of their faith – will be required to consider same-sex unions as the equivalent of marriage in their lives, ministries, and operations.”

“An imposition of this nature is a violation of conscience and of religious liberty,” they said.

During the debate that preceded the passage of the new law, Bishop Paul D. Sirba of Duluth stressed the need to continue in charitable defense of truth.

The bishop lamented that “this debate has often been used as an occasion to sow mistrust and doubt, as if followers of the God who is Love, and whose love for all people we proclaim each day as the Body of Christ, are acting instead out of some sort of ill will.”

In a statement published before the Senate vote, he said that he is “particularly mindful of our brothers and sisters who have same-sex attractions,” emphasizing that all the faithful must offer them “unconditional love and respect.” 

At the same time, he said, “(w)e unconditionally reaffirm our understanding of marriage.”

“For Catholic Christians, the call now is to be even stronger witnesses to the Good News about marriage, both when it is popular and when it is not.”

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