Following the California Supreme Court's decision Thursday to overturn a ban on gay marriage there, both the LDS Church and the Catholic Archdiocese in San Francisco released statements about the decision, reiterating their views of marriage and commenting on the court's action.

Both churches worked to help outlaw gay marriage in California several years ago.

The LDS Church released the following statement:

"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recognizes that same sex marriage can be an emotional and divisive issue. However, the church teaches that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is the basic unit of society. Today's California Supreme Court decision is unfortunate."

The church declined comment on what future action it may take to help challenge the court's decision. Opponents of the ruling are hoping a planned November ballot measure seeking to amend the state constitution to ban gay marriage will succeed.

The LDS Church was active in urging California residents to ban gay marriage through a public referendum in March 2000. Proposition 22 was designed to prevent formal sanction of same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions from gaining future legal recognition on par with traditional marriage. Voters approved the measure, with 61 percent in favor and 39 percent opposed.

Thursday's 4-3 Supreme Court decision said voters got it wrong.

Broad support for the California ballot measure came from a variety of conservative religious groups, including Catholics, Evangelicals and the LDS Church, which asked its members there to help pass the initiative by volunteering their time and money.

Religious opposition has came largely from liberal congregations whose leaders have voiced support for gay clergy and the blessing of same-sex unions within their churches. Three Southern California bishops — Lutheran, Methodist and Episcopal — also issued a joint statement opposing the measure.

Written by California Sen. Pete Knight, a Republican, the initiative stated: "Only a marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized."

The LDS Church's area presidency in California sent out a letter seeking support for the initiative that was read from the pulpit to some 740,000 members. Word of that action, and subsequent fundraising and financial support, pushed San Francisco Board of Supervisors member Mark Leno to publicly question whether the church's tax-exempt status should be revoked.

Church officials maintained they had a constitutional right to speak out on moral issues and that their members were free to act and vote their own conscience.

In San Francisco, where the court challenge began after Mayor Gavin Newsom declared same-sex marriage legal for several days in 2004, the Catholic Archdiocese — headed by Archbishop George Niederauer, who was formerly Bishop of Utah — released its own statement on the court's decision.

Quoting the gospel of Matthew about a man and a woman becoming one flesh, the statement said, "At a moment in our society when we need to reinforce the strength of marriage and family this decision of the Supreme Court takes California in the opposite direction.

"This action challenges those in society who believe in the importance of the traditional understanding of marriage to deepen their witness to the unique and essential role that marriage between a man and a woman has in the life of society."

The press release also reiterated a former statement by the Catholic Bishops of California:

"Catholic teaching maintains that marriage is a faithful, exclusive and lifelong union between one man and one woman joined in an intimate partnership of life and love-a union instituted by God for the mutual fulfillment of the husband and wife as well as for the procreation and education of children."


E-mail: carrie@desnews.com