PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island, April 13, 2011 ( – Civil unions, said Bishop Tobin in a recent interview, are “just another name for what would be same-sex marriage.”


“We’ve found invariably whenever civil unions are introduced in a state that is quickly followed by full-fledged gay marriage,” he told GoLocalProv in the exclusive interview.

Legalizing homosexual “marriage,” the outspoken Providence bishop said, “is an ill-advised attempt to redefine the very basic parameters of marriage” as “one man and one woman … as they’ve existed from the very beginning of mankind.”  True marriage, he said, is “designed to create new life and to encourage the love of the spouses.”

Bishop Tobin has been quick to oppose the efforts of legislators in Rhode Island who try to push a homosexual “marriage” agenda.  In January, he blasted Governor Lincoln Chafee for his support for gay “marriage.” 

Tobin said he had personally contacted ten to twelve lawmakers to express concern and to challenge them to uphold true marriage.  Even if legislation does not initially affect religious groups, he said, allowing gay “marriage” could still infringe on religious freedom by forcing religious groups to grant benefits to homosexual couples.

Further, while perhaps not directly affecting true marriages and married couples, the legalization of gay “marriage” would undoubtedly affect the meaning of marriage, said Tobin. 

Marriage between a man and woman “means something in particular.” “If two other people come along who don’t meet that definition and claim they’re married then, in a way, that diminishes that special relationship the married couple does have.”

“I call it the ‘champagne principle,’” he added. “Champagne has a very special definition before it can bottled, labeled, and sold as such. If somebody comes along with sparkling water and labels it ‘champagne,’ they’ll say, ‘What harm is it?’ … ‘We call it champagne, you call it champagne, what’s the difference?’ Well, there is a difference and you are advocating a name that belongs to somebody else.”

In his interview, Tobin maintained the state should not sanction these “marriages” and said that voting in favor of such legislation could be sinful.

“Is it a sin for someone to vote for gay marriage? It could be but it is not necessarily so,” Tobin said. “Because if they really believe in their conscience that they’re doing the right thing, then that removes them from any subjective guilt of sin. But if the lawmaker knows that it’s wrong and he or she votes for it anyhow, then that’s a problem for their conscience — Why would they go against their conscience?”

However, Tobin suggested that there might be acceptable legislation that could grant rights to two members of the same sex, although it was unclear exactly what type of legislation he was suggesting, and to whom it might apply, with the examples he gave being relatives, rather than homosexual partners.

“The legislation we would support is what is often called ‘reciprocal benefits,’” Tobin told GoLocalProv. “It does not use marriage as a reference point. It would grant some legal benefits [and] some legal rights to two people who have some kind of established relationship without any particular reference to marriage. So it could be someone and their grandfather. Could be two cousins. Could be two elderly sisters.”

GoLocalProve points out that a bill to this effect was introduced in the House in March; it would grant certain rights (such as inheritance rights) to any two unmarried people, without reference to sexual orientation.

While declining to elaborate more on such legal benefits, Tobin argued that, whether homosexual or not, certain rights do apply. “People deserve human rights whether or not they’re gay,” Tobin said. “Now the reciprocal benefits [bill] recognizes some rights and some privileges irrespective of their orientation and that’s the key I think.”

Asked by the interviewer whether homosexuality is genetic or acquired, Tobin said he wished to stay clear of the issue.  “The question whether or not some people are made that way—I think that’s still an open question. I’m not quite ready to cede that,” Tobin said.

He reiterated, however, that regardless of someone having a “disposition” they are still required to “control their behavior.”  For instance, adultery and pre-marital sex are immoral regardless of sexual orientation.  Church teaching on homosexuality would not change even if it were proved to be genetic, he added.

“The fact that a person is made a certain way is not immoral — again that’s the difference between orientation and activity,” Tobin said. “Having a homosexual orientation is no more or less immoral than having a heterosexual orientation. But, in both cases, whether it’s heterosexual or homosexual, we have to be able to control our behavior.”


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