Catholic churches
lead signature drive to ban same-sex marriage in

The campaign to
end same-sex marriage in Massachusetts has found
traction in the state's churches, with thousands of
Catholics and other worshippers lending their
signatures to a petition drive seeking to abolish
same-sex unions in the state. With the backing of the
state's four Roman Catholic bishops, opponents of
marriage equality set up shop at more than 200
churches across this heavily Catholic state, and some
Protestant churches have also joined in the effort.
"It just seems so strange for me to stand here
today and preach what I think is so obvious: Marriage
is between a man and a woman," said the Reverend
Walter Waldron, pastor of St. Patrick Church in Boston's
Roxbury neighborhood, who used his Sunday homily to rally
support for the ballot initiative. "It's not just our
faith," he said. "It's for the good of society."
Organizers said they had collected about 25,000
signatures since September 21, The Boston Globe
reported Monday, including thousands gathered at
churches over the weekend. They must collect more than
65,000 signatures before November 23 for the question
to qualify for the 2008 ballot, but sponsors hope to gather
double that number to protect against a challenge.
Supporters of same-sex marriage, led by the
MassEquality advocacy group, gathered outside many
churches on Sunday to protest the signature drive. "We
completely respect people's right to worship," said Marc
Solomon, the group's political director. "However, we are
very concerned that the church hierarchy has made
taking away marriage equality—and replacing it
with nothing else—such a high priority."
Saying Mass Sunday at the Cathedral of the Holy
Cross, Boston archbishop Sean O'Malley also urged
parishioners to sign the petition. Massachusetts is
the only state that allows gay and lesbian couples to marry
following a 2003 ruling by the state's highest court.
Vermont and Connecticut recognize civil unions.
Opponents have rallied around the ballot
initiative after lawmakers last month defeated a
proposed constitutional amendment that would have banned
same-sex marriage but created civil unions. The proposed
question would ban both, but the earliest it can go up
for a statewide vote is November 2008. After
collecting the signatures, supporters must then win the
support of 50 lawmakers in two successive legislative
sessions before it can go on the ballot.
At St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Boston's Jamaica
Plain neighborhood, gay couples approached
parishioners and urged them not to sign the petition.
"I want them to see the face of someone who is married so
they can see how benign and human we are," said
Elizabeth Anker, 51, who married Aina Allen, her
partner of 20 years, last year.
Wendy Loveland, 41, and her spouse, Margaret
Williams, handed out copies of a letter they wrote
explaining their support for same-sex marriage. Some
parishioners appeared to be confused by why the protesters
were there. "So where do I sign the petition?" one
elderly woman asked Loveland.
"Oh, we're against that," Loveland responded.
"I won't even read the letter," the parishioner
said. "I want to sign the petition."
At St. Patrick, more than half of the roughly 50
people who attended Waldron's Mass signed the
petition. Earlier, at least 30 parishioners signed the
petition following a Mass said in Cape Verdean. "I don't
believe two men or two women should marry. That's not what
God intended," said Connie Fidalgo, who collected
signatures at a table outside the church.
Some St. Patrick parishioners said they wouldn't
sign the petition. "It's 2005. Times have changed,"
said Ilduce Brandao, of Boston. "It's time to accept
people for who they are." (AP)

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