Catholic church launches campaign against gay marriages

The Catholic church will oppose gay marriages even if penalised under new legislation, the Bishop of Palmerston North, Peter Cullinane, said today.

Bishop Cullinane has written to all MPs today saying the church believed same sex unions were immoral and it would oppose laws recognising gay marriage.

The Civil Union Bill, being drafted, will create a new relationship status for same-sex and heterosexual couples by legalising and registering civil unions.

"Marriage is a very specific kind of commitment to a specific kind of sexual sharing, it's not just any commitment between two people (they) might wish to make," he told National Radio.

"Therefore to treat (marriage) as unique, far from being unjust, it's just acknowledging reality."

The church also believed same sex couples having children was not acceptable, he said.

Lobby groups were pursuing the bill as the first step towards allowing gay marriages, he said.

But former Presbyterian minister and gay helpline co-ordinator, Neville Creighton, said the majority of gay couples only wanted legal recognition for their relationships and the same rights as married people.

The Catholic church hated gays "and discriminate against us in every possible way they can", Mr Creighton said.

The bill would not change laws on marriage, it would give rights to same sex and de facto couples that they did not have.

Bishop Cullinane said gay couples could get the civil rights they sought from legislation that did not affect marriage.

The Government has indicated it will give MPs a conscience vote on that bill and the Omnibus Bill, which would amend up to 100 other laws that give rights only to marriages sanctioned by the state and church.

Both bills would be necessary to give meaningful recognition to gay relationships.

Associate Justice Minister David Benson-Pope said people should not jump to conclusions without reading the legislation.

They should read the bill, base their comments on it, and get involved in the parliamentary process to modify and improve it, he said.

The bill would allow those in relationships who can not or do not want to marry the chance to formalise their partnerships in civil law terms.

New Zealand lagged behind the rest of the world on the issue, he told National Radio.