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US bishops call for day of prayer in support of traditional marriage

Archbishop George J Lucas of Omaha (CNS)

As Nebraska’s ban on same-sex marriage is challenged in the courts, the state’s three Catholic bishops have called for prayers and criticised a recent ruling to strike down the ban as presuming “to nullify what God has written on human hearts — that marriage is between a man and a woman.”

“Marriage has been established by God before the state and before the Church, and the vitality of both depends on the fruitful union of husband and wife,” Archbishop George Lucas of Omaha and Bishops James Conley of Lincoln and William Dendinger of Grand Island said in a written statement.

The bishops called for today to be a special day of prayer, urging people to pray in private, attend daily Mass or an hour of adoration of the Eucharist, pray the rosary and take other prayerful actions for marriage.

US District Judge Joseph Bataillon effectively struck down Nebraska’s ban on March 2. Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson appealed to the 8th US Circuit Court of Appeals, which on March 5 stayed implementation and consolidated the case with three other same-sex marriage cases the court will hear during the week of May 11 in Omaha. Those cases are from South Dakota, Arkansas and Missouri.

Ultimately, whether states can ban same-sex marriage will be decided by the US Supreme Court, which will hear oral arguments on the issue on April 28 and is expected to rule on the question in June.

So far, 37 states and the District of Columbia recognise same-sex marriage.

Nebraska’s ban on same-sex marriage passed as a constitutional amendment in 2000 with 70 percent voter approval. The American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska sued the state in November on behalf of seven same-sex couples challenging the ban.

The Catholic Church upholds marriage as a union between one man and one woman and teaches that any sexual activity outside of marriage is sinful. The Church also teaches that homosexual attraction itself is not sinful and that homosexual people “must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity.”

“The consequences of Judge Bataillon’s decision are real,” the Nebraska bishops said. “His injunction undermines the democratically expressed will of the people, and it undermines the role of the family in our basic social order. Marriage is the civil institution that unites children with their mothers and fathers, not just the public recognition of a committed relationship for the fulfillment of adults.”

“We ask all Catholics and people of good will to continue to fast and pray that God’s plan for marriage and family will be affirmed,” the bishops said.