CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA, March 26, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – The Roman Catholic bishops of North Carolina have stood up to the president of the United States over the state’s proposed marriage protection amendment.

Earlier this month, Barack Obama made a rare comment on a pending state issue, saying he opposed the North Carolina voter referendum that would amend the state constitution to preserve marriage as a union between one man and one woman. His North Carolina campaign spokeswoman Cameron French, said, “While the president does not weigh in on every single ballot measure in every state, the record is clear that the president has long opposed divisive and discriminatory efforts to deny rights and benefits to same-sex couples. That’s what the North Carolina ballot initiative would do – it would single out and discriminate against committed gay and lesbian couples – and that’s why the president does not support it.”

Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Raleigh and Bishop Peter J. Jugis of Charlotte responded in a letter dated March 21 sent to thousands of registered members of CatholicVoiceNC.org.

“In his comments on the upcoming referendum in our state, the president regrettably characterized the marriage amendment as a matter of discrimination,” they wrote, adding: “While we are respectful of the office of the president, we strongly disagree with this assessment.”

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“His stated opposition to the referendum on the marriage amendment in North Carolina is a grave disappointment, as it is reported to be the first time the president has entered into this issue on the state level, further escalating the increasing confusion on the part of some in our society to the very nature of marriage itself.”

The Catholic Church has strongly supported the amendment, which will appear on the ballot during the May 8 primary election. The state’s pro-family organizations say they are thankful for the bishops’ leadership.

“Both the bishop in Charlotte as well as the Bishop in Raleigh responded to the president’s position, stated it’s a grave disappointment, and they went on to point out the unique place marriage has, not only in the church but into our society,” Jere Royall, legal counsel at the North Carolina Family Policy Council, told LifeSiteNews.com. His organization has led the campaign for the amendment.

The bishops’ letter states, “Children have the right to the indispensable place of fatherhood and motherhood in their lives as they grow, are loved, nurtured, and formed by those whose unique vocation it is to be a father and a mother through the unique bond of one man and one woman in marriage.”

Royall agreed, saying, “there are thousands of studies” from “a Biblical, medical, social, scientific perspective” that show “the best place environment for raising children is with their married father and mother.”

Although the state has laws protecting true marriage, Royall is supporting a marriage amendment to the constitution to make the definition permanent. “By putting [the definition of marriage] in the constitution, then the institution of marriage would be protected from being changed by either the courts or the legislature,” he said.

“If private corporations want to offer benefits to unmarried couples, they can still do that,” he added, “but the government won’t recognize any other domestic legal union other than one man and one woman.”

Although it would only affect state government employees, the North Carolina amendment has become a political issue nationwide. In addition to the president, homosexual activist organizations and the California state Democratic Party are trying to defeat the measure.

“California Democrats stand ready to help and we will soon be in touch with ways that Democrats here can start getting the word out to voters in North Carolina about the need to defeat Amendment One,” party chairman John Burton said last week.

Tami Fitzgerald, the chairwoman of Vote For Marriage NC, replied, “The fact that the Democrat Party of California wants to help defeat North Carolina’s marriage amendment will only help us. The voters of North Carolina want to determine for themselves, without interference from activists outside the State, that marriage cannot be re-defined to be genderless.”

Royall says he is working with local churches to counteract the outside pressure. He and other marriage supporters have organized voter registration and education drives, he said. Under 501(c)3 regulations, churches cannot campaign for a person or a party but may take sides on a pending ballot issue.

Christians must be involved in society to fully live out the Gospel, he stated. “It’s part of how we love our neighbors, to be involved in the public policy process, as well as the election process,” Royall said. “If we’re committed to the greatest good of our neighbor, then we will be involved.”

The Democratic National Convention will be held in Charlotte this summer.

Polls currently show the amendment with strong support statewide.