PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — The leader of Rhode Island’s Roman Catholic Diocese on Monday urged state lawmakers to drop legislation to legalize gay marriage, which he called ‘‘immoral and unnecessary.’’
Bishop Thomas Tobin released a statement Monday urging lawmakers to drop legislation to allow same-sex couples to wed. He said that while ‘‘individuals with same-sex attraction’’ are invited to be members of the Catholic Church, the church cannot support gay marriage.
‘‘The proposal to legalize ‘‘same-sex marriage’’ in the State of Rhode Island is immoral and unnecessary,’’ Tobin said.
In the statement, part of a column to be published in the diocese newspaper, he wrote: ‘‘It is our very concern for their spiritual welfare, however, that motivates our rejection of the homosexual lifestyle and same-sex marriage,’’ he wrote in the statement, part of a column to be published in the diocese newspaper.
Tobin said Rhode Island lawmakers should wait for the U.S. Supreme Court to take up challenges to the federal law which defines marriage as being between a man and a woman. He added that if the state must consider gay marriage, it should be placed before voters as a referendum.
He wrote, ‘‘The natural law, the Holy Scriptures, and long-standing religious tradition are very consistent in affirming that homosexual activity is sinful, contrary to God’s plan. It should never be encouraged, ratified or ‘‘blessed’’ by the state.’’
Meanwhile, a coalition of more than 100 leaders from other religious groups issued a statement Monday supporting the legislation.
‘‘No one church or leader represents all persons of faith,’’ said the Rev. Gene Dyszlewski, chairman of the Rhode Island Religious Coalition for Marriage Equality, a group with members from 13 denominations.
Dyszlewski said his group believes ‘‘all loving, committed couples should be recognized, respected and treated equally under the law.’’
Gay marriage legislation was introduced last week in both the House and Senate. House Speaker Gordon Fox has called for a vote on gay marriage in his chamber by the end of the month.
Nine states — including the other five in New England — and the District of Columbia now allow same-sex couples to marry.