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Religious Leaders Sign Petition To Block Same-Sex Marriages

By David D. Kirkpatrick
THE NEW YORK TIMES


WASHINGTON

About 50 prominent religious leaders, including seven Roman Catholic cardinals and about a half-dozen archbishops, have signed a petition in support of a constitutional amendment blocking same-sex marriage.

Organizers of the petition said it was in part an effort to revive the groundswell of opposition to same-sex marriage that helped bring many conservative voters to the polls in some pivotal states in 2004. The signers include many influential evangelical Protestants, a few rabbis and an official of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

But both the organizers and gay rights groups said what was striking about the petition was the direct involvement by high-ranking Roman Catholic officials, including 16 bishops. Although the church has long opposed same-sex unions, and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops had previously endorsed the idea of a constitutional amendment banning such unions, it was evangelical Protestants who generally led the charge when the amendment was debated in 2004.

“The personal involvement of bishops and cardinals is significantly greater this time than in 2004,” said Patrick Korten, a spokesman for the Knights of Columbus, a lay Catholic group.

The Catholic bishops and many of the other religious leaders involved have pledged to distribute postcards for their congregants to send to their senators urging support for the amendment. The Knights of Columbus is distributing 10 million postcards to Catholic churches.

The petition drive was organized in part by professor Robert P. George of Princeton, a Catholic scholar with close ties to evangelical Protestant groups. Aides to three Republican senators — Bill Frist of Tennessee, the Republican leader; Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania; and Sam Brownback of Kansas — were also involved, organizers said.

Archbishop John J. Myers of Newark said that at a meeting in Washington in February, the Senate aides recommended the idea of a postcard campaign, recalling the success of a similar effort that the bishops organized in support of a ban on so-called partial-birth abortion.