Postcard campaign aims to protect traditional marriage
By Nissa LaPoint
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Thousands of volunteers are expected to mobilize this weekend and sweep the state bringing postcards from parish to parish, person to person, to combat anticipated legislation that will legalize civil unions in Colorado.
The Colorado Catholic Conference, the public-policy organization that serves the dioceses of Denver, Pueblo and Colorado Springs, ordered 135,000 postcards it wants Catholic faithful to sign Jan. 14-15 at their parish in a unified effort to tell their state representatives to vote against legislation establishing civil unions.
“I think what we really want is to bring an awareness to this issue,” said Jenny Kraska, executive director of the conference. “If we’re going to protect traditional marriage in the state, we need to have people who agree with that to stand up and have their voices heard.”
The initiative is in response to a civil union bill—similar to Senate Bill 172 voted down last April—legislators are expected to propose during the Colorado General Assembly’s next session, which begins today.
The Knights of Columbus are joining parish volunteers in distributing the postcards and manning tables to gather as many signatures as possible. After the name and address lines are filled out, the postcards will be mailed to local representatives.
“What’s good about it is that not only will the postcards hopefully do some good, but the campaign is raising an awareness to all parishioners (about) the importance of doing something,” said Mary Dalton, a member of the Respect Life Committee and parishioner at St. Thomas More Parish in Centennial.
Some 30 parishes requested the postcards to distribute after Masses this weekend. Among the larger requests were St. Thomas More Parish, which ordered 5,000 postcards, and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Fort Collins, which ordered 2,000.
The three bishops in Colorado approved the postcards that read: “Protect traditional marriage. Vote ‘no’ on civil union legislation.”
On the back of the postcard is a short statement addressed to a senator and representative asking them to vote no because “traditional marriage is the cornerstone of our society that exists for the benefit of children and the protection of women.”
In a letter to parishes, Bishop James Conley, apostolic administrator for the Denver Archdiocese, asked all parishes to be involved in the initiative.
“It is imperative that we use our resources to educate the faithful about the Church’s teachings on these matters,” Bishop Conley wrote. “Civil union laws seek to give same-sex relationships a legal equivalency to marriage; they erode cultural and legal protection of marriage. This is fundamentally unjust.”
A key argument from civil union advocates is that it’s a fundamental civil right, Kraska said. Yet the rights claimed to be absent for same-sex couples—including hospital visitation and designated beneficiary agreements—are legally available, she said.
Catholic hospitals in Colorado do not prevent same-sex couples from visiting a partner, said Christine Woolsey, vice president of corporate communications for the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth Health System, which runs Exempla St. Joseph in Denver, Exempla Lutheran Medical Center in Wheat Ridge and Exempla Good Samaritan Medical Center in Lafayette.
“Our policy is to allow all loved ones in to visit,” Woolsey said.
In 2009, former Gov. Bill Ritter signed into law designated beneficiary legislation that enables any two people over 18 years old to sign a contract ensuring certain rights and financial protections, not limited to estate planning and medical decisions.
For some Coloradans opposed to civil unions, calling it a civil rights issue is misleading. Former state senator Ed Jones of Colorado Springs, who testified against civil union legislation in the 2011 session, finds it offensive.
“For me it’s just deplorable,” said Jones. “(Advocates) were comparing it to the civil rights movement, but the civil rights movement began in the ‘50s and ‘60s and there’s no comparison. You can look at me and you can assume that I am black. I cannot look at anybody on God’s earth and assume they are gay or homosexual … unless they tell me. This is a whole lot different than what blacks faced.”
In a joint statement the bishops of Colorado—Bishop Conley, Colorado Springs Bishop Michael Sheridan and Pueblo Bishop Fernando Isern—said in opposing civil unions, they have no desire to deny anyone his or her fundamental rights.
“Nearly every benefit being sought by this legislation is already legally available to Coloradans,” the bishops wrote in the statement. “The truth is the movement for recognition of ‘same-sex marriage’ and ‘civil unions’ is less about benefits and rights and more about societal acceptance and approval of homosexual relationships.”