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R.I. Bishop: Civil Unions Are a " 

R.I. Bishop: Civil Unions Are a " 

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Roman Catholic bishop Thomas J. Tobin of Rhode Island has called civil unions a "mockery of the institution of marriage" and warned that Catholics may not join in such unions.

"Because civil unions promote an unacceptable lifestyle, undermine the faith of the Church on holy matrimony and cause scandal and confusion, Catholics may not participate in civil unions," Bishop Tobin said in a Thursday statement, TheProvidence Journal reports. "To do so is a very grave violation of the moral law and, thus, seriously sinful. A civil union can never be accepted as a legitimate alternative to matrimony."

On the other side of the debate, gay rights groups have been deeply dissatisfied with the Rhode Island civil union bill's religious exemptions (the bill passed the state Senate on Wednesday; Gov. Lincoln Chafee is expected to sign the legislation). Marriage Equality Rhode Island campaign director Ray Sullivan told the Journal that while his group supported "commonsense" exemptions, other exemptions are "a license for any religious institution to operate outside the boundaries of law."

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R.I. Bishop: Civil Unions Are a " 

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