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Originally published Monday, April 16, 2012 at 3:31 PM

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Some Catholic parishes are skittish about Referendum 74

Referendum 74 disparages the best efforts of contemporary, committed couples to raise families within the bounds of Washington's legal rights and responsibilities.

Seattle Times Editorial

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IN their own way, Washington lawmakers came to a formal conclusion echoed by St. James Cathedral, which announced it would not allow petitions for Referendum 74 to be circulated on the Catholic church campus.

"We are a diverse community that welcomes, accepts and celebrates the differences we all bring," the parish reminds its members and tells the world.

The Legislature passed and Gov. Chris Gregoire signed into law a bill that allows same-sex couples to marry. As the governor noted at a festive ceremony in February, "It's a day historians will mark as a milestone for equal rights — when we did what was right, just and fair and did it together, Republicans and Democrats, gay and straight, young and old."

The law becomes effective June 6, unless more than 120,577 valid signatures can be gathered to put Referendum 74 on the November ballot.

The Most Rev. J. Peter Sartain, archbishop of Seattle, opposed the legislation in testimony before the Legislature, and followed with a letter this month that approved gathering of petition signatures after Easter.

Significantly, the opportunity was left open for local parishes to prohibit signature gathering, and several have said they will not permit petitions to be circulated. What they articulate is a respect for and welcoming embrace of the complex society reflected among their parishioners.

Washington's pending law is a recognition of a civic reality. One that understands, encourages and supports families in all their contemporary expressions.

Referendum 74 would undo a law that does not interfere with the exercise or proclamation of religious values, sacraments or practices. Religious groups remain free to wag fingers, condemn and talk among themselves.

Allowing loving couples to raise families recognized within the rights and responsibilities of state marriage laws promotes social stability — some-thing devoutly to be desired.

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