By Kathleen Gilbert

TRENTON, New Jersey, November 30, 2009 ( – New Jersey's six Catholic bishops have called on Catholics to combat the state's legislative push for same-sex “marriage” with a day of prayer aimed at protecting marriage in the state legislature. 

“This day of prayer is timely because marriage faces serious challenges from a society more focused on individual satisfaction than on the Gospel,” state the bishops. ”One of the most serious challenges is the current effort to pass Bills in the New Jersey legislature that would change the very definition of marriage as a union of one man and one woman in order to allow same sex 'marriage.'

“We must not stand silent in the face of this serious challenge.”

Sunday's proclamation as a Day of Prayer for the Vocation and Sacrament of Marriage was signed by Newark Archbishop John J. Myers and backed by eleven more New Jersey bishops, auxiliary bishops, and retired bishops.

The six bishops leading New Jersey's dioceses also issued a letter for distribution in New Jersey parishes this Sunday that outlines in similarly strong language the Catholic Church's unequivocal condemnation of same-sex “marriage.” 

The bishops assert that the Catholic Church has a prerogative to speak out about the legislative debate, because marriage “is a gift that our Creator bestowed on all of humanity through the first man and the first woman.” 

“Governments, therefore, have a duty to reinforce and protect this permanent institution and to pass it on to future generations, rather than attempt to redefine it arbitrarily for transitory political or social reasons,” they write.

The bishops also point out that, “In New Jersey, the debate about same sex marriage is not about benefits and rights,” since same-sex unions under the Civil Union Act are granted every legal marital benefit to homosexual couples.

(Click here to read the bishops' full letter.)

Although advocates have explicitly targeted New Jersey as one of the next big battlegrounds for the redefinition of marriage, the push to advance such a law appears to have flagged following Maine's rejection of same-sex “marriage” in November's ballot initiative. The defeat in Maine was decisive not only because the state is considered one of the most liberal states in the Union, but also because it marked the 31st time that voters had rejected same-sex “marriage” in ballot initiatives – a 100% pro-natural marriage success rate.

New Jersey lawmakers citing uncertainty of the bill's success have not scheduled introduction of the contentious measure, despite pressure from same-sex “marriage” advocates hoping to have a law passed in time for lame-duck governor Jon Corzine to sign.  Republican Governor-elect Chris Christie, who takes office in January, has vowed to veto any same-sex “marriage” legislation.

“If they are unable to pass gay marriage in New York and New Jersey, combined with the loss in Maine, it will confirm that gay marriage is not the inevitable wave of the future,” said Maggie Gallagher, president of the National Organization for Marriage, according to the AP.

A poll released November 18 by New Jersey's Eagleton Institute of Politics, conducted between November 6-10, found New Jersey adults favoring same-sex “marriage” 46 to 42 percent. However, a recent Quinnipac University poll found the majority opposing same-sex “marriage,” 49 percent to 46 percent.  Those numbers showed a shift from an April Quinnipac poll, showing voters favoring the measure 49 percent to 43 percent.

See related coverage:

Clock Running Out on Same-Sex “Marriage” in New Jersey