The Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence is urging Rhode Island lawmakers not to approve a civil unions bill.

On Wednesday, House Speaker Gordon Fox announced an effort to make the state the sixth to legalize gay marriage was dead. He cited insufficient support in the Senate as reason to alter course toward civil unions.

State Representative Peter Petrarca is expected to introduce a civil unions bill on Tuesday modeled after similar laws recently approved in Illinois, Delaware and Hawaii.

Catholic Church leaders who objected to the gay marriage bill are now refocusing their opposition to civil unions.

“Proponents will undoubtedly argue that civil unions are no threat to the institution of marriage. All one has to do is look to the west to see that’s not the case. Last year a federal judge ruled that California’s attempt to grant civil union-like benefits to same-sex couples created a 'second-class citizenship'– and he ordered same-sex marriage as the way to fix the 'problem' – despite California’s state marriage amendment which supposedly protected marriage. Currently Rhode Island law has no marriage amendment and even if it did there is no guarantee that it would deter activist judges from issuing a ruling in imitation of the California courts,” Catholic leaders wrote in an op-ed titled Civil Unions Are Not The Answer posted at the church's website.

(The decision handed down last year declared California's gay marriage ban, Proposition 8, unconstitutional. Plaintiffs were not challenging the state's domestic partnerships law.)

“If legislators believe that the object of providing equal benefits and protections with civil unions will settle the issue for them, they are sadly wrong. Far from settling the issue, the passage of civil union legislation only advances the drive to same-sex marriage by framing the perception of same-sex relationships as 'separate but equal.'”

“Government sanctioned civil unions cannot be supported by those who truly understand the unique nature and status afforded a man and a woman in marriage.”

The Catholic Church ends its editorial by calling on lawmakers to abandon civil unions legislation in favor of a constitutional amendment that bans gay marriage.