Rev. Thomas Tobin, Bishop of the Roman
Catholic Diocese of Providence, has barred gay Catholics from
entering a civil union.
Governor Lincoln Chafee on Saturday
signed a civil unions bill into law, making Rhode Island the fifth
after Illinois, New Jersey, Delaware and Hawaii to recognize gay and
lesbian couples with civil unions. Chafee, who supports giving gay
couples the right to marry, expressed reservations about the law but
added that it would protect thousands of families, saying that the
legislation “brings tangible rights and benefits to thousands of
Rhode Islanders” and that it “provides a foundation from which we
will continue to fight for full marriage equality.”
Even before Chafee signed the bill into
law, Tobin released a statement criticizing it.
“I am deeply disappointed that Rhode
Island will establish civil unions in our state,” he
wrote at The Rhode Island Catholic. “The concept of
civil unions is a social experiment that promotes an immoral
lifestyle, is a mockery of the institution of marriage as designed by
God, undermines the well-being of our family and poses a threat to
Lawmakers shifted from supporting a gay
marriage law to civil unions after it became clear a marriage bill
wouldn't clear the Republican-controlled Senate.
Gay rights groups objected to an
amendment sponsored by Rep. Arthur J. Corvese that exempts religious
organizations from the requirement that they treat gay couples in a
civil union as they would any other married couple.
Tobin, however, suggested he doesn't
support any government recognition of gay couples, and barred gay
Catholics from entering a civil union.
“[T]he Church reminds its members
that homosexual activity is contrary to the natural law and the will
of God and, therefore, is objectively sinful. Persons with same-sex
attraction are required to live the Christian virtues of chastity and
modesty, as all persons are.”
“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. 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.”