PROVIDENCE, June 30, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – “Can there be any doubt that Almighty God will, in His own time and way, pass judgment upon our state, its leaders and citizens, for abandoning His commands and embracing public immorality?”  That was how Providence Bishop Thomas Tobin reacted to today’s passage of legislation approving homosexual civil unions in Rhode Island.

The Rhode Island Senate approved the final version of the bill by a vote of 21 to 16. Gov. Lincoln Chafee, who advocated the legalization of homosexual “marriage” in his inaugural address, is expected to sign it into law.

The bill was passed by the House in May and made it through the Senate without amendment, despite opposition from both sides of the issue.

Homosexual advocacy organizations have objected to the legislation because it includes a provision protecting religious entities, including hospitals and schools, from being forced to recognize the legal standing of same-sex unions.

Martha Holt, Board Chair of Marriage Equality Rhode Island, called the bill “hurtful and ill-conceived,” and asked the Governor to veto it, in a statement released today.

Defenders of traditional marriage, however, argue that the provision does not go far enough to protect people of faith. 

“By not extending these protections to individuals the Senate has put at risk the myriad of small businesses and practices run by people of faith,” read a National Organization for Marriage blog post. “These voters do not have the resources to defend against lawsuits and as such are left with the tragic choice of betraying their faith or risking their livelihoods.”

The organization also warned that because the bill does not include a definition of marriage, it has “opened the door for the courts of Rhode Island to redefine marriage without a vote of the people.”

For his part, Bishop Tobin expressed his deep disappointment, saying, “The concept of civil unions is a social experiment that promotes an immoral lifestyle, is a mockery of the institution of marriage as designed by God, undermines the well-being of our families, and poses a threat to religious liberty.” 

The bishop stressed that the “Church continues to have respect and love for persons with same-sex attraction.”  However, he said, “the Church reminds its members that homosexual activity is contrary to the natural law and the will of God and, therefore, is objectively sinful.”

He warned that “Catholics may not participate in civil unions,” and should they do so it would be “seriously sinful.”