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D.C. Archbishop Joins Marriage Debate


Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl has increased the Catholic Church's involvement in opposition to marriage equality in the nation's capital.

Wuerl addressed 300 Catholic priests in the area, reminding them in a letter about the church's stance on same-sex marriage. He also gave interviews to several news sources to further vocalize the church's view in the debate.

Wuerl has joined forces with Baptists, mainly African-American preachers, in pressuring D.C. officials to allow public voting on the legalization of same-sex marriage.

David A. Catania, the openly gay city council member who introduced the bill to legalize same-sex marriage in D.C. this fall, is undaunted by the Catholic Church's participation in the debate. "We have a long tradition in this city of evolving toward equality and a better, more expansive view of human rights, and in 2009 this includes marriage equality for same-sex couples," said Catania. "I respect the bishop for his view...but we live in a representative democracy where there is a separation of church and state. We do not live in a theocracy."

Wuerl's involvement in the debate began the same day that eight opponents of marriage equality approached the D.C. Board of Elections & Ethics to hold an initiative in 2010 defining marriage as being between a man and a woman. The initiative states that "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid and recognized in the District of Columbia."

Before the initiative request can be considered, the election board must first decide if the request is sound. In D.C., referendums cannot be held on matters that violate the city's Human Rights Act, which protects minority groups, including gays and lesbians, from discrimination.

"It is ironic that at the same time the city is asking for voting representation in the U.S. Congress, its leaders are denying residents the opportunity to participate in the democratic process for an issue with widespread implications for children and families," said Ronald Jackson, executive director of the D.C. Catholic Conference.

Wuerl became archbishop in 2006 and has not been outspoken on any other controversial issues affecting the region except marriage, which he says is "a path toward as members of the church we are obliged to be all the more attentive to the challenges that weaken marriage."

D.C. currently recognizes same-sex marriages performed in other states, but some fear that Congress will intervene if the city attempts to allow same-sex marriages to be performed in the nation's capital.

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