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Catholics see same-sex marriage ruling in disparate lights

The U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in favor of same-sex marriage nationwide makes sense to Marcelino Victorio. The 43-year-old Catholic said he believes that as long as there is love, the couple's genders shouldn't matter.

"They should have the right to marry," he said.

Just a few feet away Maria Flores, 52, said she respects the high court's decision but doesn't agree with it because it doesn't align with the Bible's teachings.

On Sunday, Victorio and Flores listened to a sermon at the Episcopal Church of the Messiah in Santa Ana. Although both said that their faith shapes their takes on same-sex marriage, their views remain far apart.

The disparate opinions on the court's historic decision are indicative of how the issue has polarized people of faith across the nation.

Even in California — long progressive on same-sex marriage — the faith community's opinion is as diverse as the state's population.

Although the Catholic Church officially condemns same-sex marriage, Pope Francis has offered a more lenient view on gender identity, responding “Who am I to judge?” when asked about his views on homosexuality — a move that caused a stir not only among Catholics but worldwide.

At the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles, Lucille Leal said she was "sad" about the ruling, calling it the latest in a string of "immorality."

"I'd love to see it overturned," said the 87-year-old, who serves as a Eucharistic minister at the church."It's going to bring a lot of changes in our society, and I don't know if we are ready for all these changes."

Chuck Blair, a 31-year-old Catholic visiting from Minneapolis, also disagrees with the court's ruling. Still, he said, it's time to move on.

"There are bigger fish to fry," he said. "Poverty, there are people going hungry. The church does more than just marry people. It buries people, baptizes people.... In the great scheme of things, life goes on."

One congregant, who has attended the church for four years but didn't want to give her full name for fear of repercussions, called the ruling "awesome."

"I believe quiet prayer changes things," the 45-year-old woman said. "I think the Catholic Church needs to embrace love before embracing reasons to be afraid."

Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, who celebrated the 10 a.m. Mass, did not refer specifically to the court's ruling during his sermon. But in a statement that appeared in the church's online newsletter Friday, Gomez said that the "Supreme Court's decision is not a surprise. But it is disappointing and troubling."

"The court acknowledges that marriage has existed 'for millennia and across civilizations,'" Gomez said. "So it is hard to understand how the court can feel so assured that it has the power to discard and rewrite the definition of marriage that has existed since the beginning of history — as the lifelong union of one man and one woman."

At the Episcopal Church of the Messiah, the Rev. Abel E. Lopez took the same-sex marriage issue head on during the Spanish-language service.

He called the court's landmark decision an "important step forward for liberty and justice for all." He said the move would bring "healing" to the nation.

Lopez also warned congregants to not discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, saying that they were in danger of "losing their soul" if they did so.

"The love of God is for everyone, and if we don't love everyone, as God loves us, we are frauds," he said.

Irene Bautista, who has attended the church for the last 27 years and sings in the choir, said she may not agree with the court's ruling but said she respects it and everyone else's opinion on the matter.

"Who am I to judge?" she said. "Only God can judge."

Times staff writer Kim Christensen contributed to this report.

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