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US Bishops back ban on gay marriages

Stressing that they do not intend to offend homosexuals, and calling discrimination against gays unjust, the US Catholic Bishops have overwhelmingly approved a statement urging states to withhold recognition of same-sex marriages.

The leaders said they had an obligation to "give witness to the whole moral truth" and reinforce Catholic teaching that gay sex is a sin.

"Marriage is in crisis and will be further devalued and eroded unless we're strong in pointing out that same-sex unions are not the equivalent of marriage," said Bishop Kevin Boland of the Georgia diocese of Savannah, who led a committee that drafted the statement, which was approved by a vote of 234 to 3, with three abstentions.

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops in September gave its general support to amending the US Constitution to define marriage as a union of a man and woman. Pope John Paul II also spoke out last summer against gay marriage.

The bishops said they felt a need to make another public statement now, as gay couples gain greater acceptance in society and seek the same benefits as heterosexual couples.

Vermont allows gay civil unions, and laws in California and Hawaii extend some economic benefits to same-sex couples. Two Canadian provinces recently legalised gay marriage.

Earlier this year, gay rights groups scored a major victory when the Supreme Court struck down bans on sodomy.

Bishops Back Ban on Gay Marriages (Associated Press/Los Angeles Times)

Bishops say same-sex unions are not equivalent to marriage (Catholic News Service)
Text of US Bishops' Statement on Marriage (Newsday)
Bishops back tradition (The Advertiser)
US bishops look to revise abuse policy (Knight Ridder/Kansas City Star)
Bishops asked to check priests' backgrounds (Miami Herald/Detroit Free Press)
Bishops' Agenda Includes Response to Sex Abuse (Catholic News Service/Arlington Catholic Herald)
Catholic bishops put new focus on their investments (Star-Ledger)
Bishops approve document on popular devotions (Catholic News Service)
Bishops to consider devotions (Religion News Service/Staten Island Advance)
Catholic Bishops Meet to Discuss War, Devotions, Healing (Associated Press/Beliefnet)
US Catholic Bishops Move to Reinforce Ban on Birth Control (New York Times)

14 Nov 2003