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63 former priests defy church on same-sex marriage in Washington

A group of former Catholic clergy with a combined service to the church of more than 800 years has criticized efforts by Washington bishops to interfere in the debate on marriage equality in the US state

63 former priests defy church on same-sex marriage in Washington

A group of 63 former Catholic priests have released a statement calling on the church to butt out of the debate over same-sex marriage in Washington state, with voters poised to vote on the issue in November.

‘We feel the bishops are abusing their power in attempting to direct Catholics on how to vote on this civil matter and impose their position on all citizens, Catholic and non-Catholic,’ the former priests said in a joint statement on Monday.

‘We are uneasy with the aggressive efforts of Catholic bishops to oppose [efforts to legalize same-sex marriage] and want to support the 71 percent of Catholics … who support civil marriage for gays as a valid Catholic position.’

Washington state lawmakers have already voted to pass a marriage equality bill which was signed into law by Democratic State Governor Christine Gregoire, herself a Catholic, in February this year.

But the law will not take effect until after November elections after opponents organized enough signatures to force a referendum on the issue.

Catholic bishops in Washington state have been using online videos and pastoral letters to appeal to parishioners to vote against same-sex marriage, and clergy have been warned by state regulators to ensure they conform with state campaign finance laws in opposing the reform after Yakima Diocese Bishop Joseph Tyson (pictured) and others encouraged pastors to hand out and collect donation envelopes for the campaign against same-sex marriage.

However the group of former Catholic priests hope their statement will show that there were a diversity of views within the church on the issue.

‘Progressive-thinking Catholics need the reassurance that there is more than one authentic Catholic position,’ former Catholic priest Patrick Callahan told the Reuters news agency.