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Three dozen religius leaders issue U.S. letter on importance of marriage, religious freedom

Thirty-nine leaders of a variety of faiths today issued an open letter to all Americans on the close connection between protecting the meaning of marriage as the union of one man and one woman and protecting religious freedom in the United States.

The letter warns that changing the legal definition of marriage to include same-sex couples changes hundreds of laws in which rights depend on marital status — such as employment and discrimination, employment benefits, adoption, education, health care, elder care, housing, property and taxation.

Four Catholic bishops were among the religious leaders signing the letter: Cardinal-designate and USCCB President Timothy M. Dolan of New York; Bishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of Oakland, Calif.; Bishop William E. Lori of Bridgeport, Conn.; and Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Ind.

Other signers included top representatives of the Southern Baptist Convention, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Assemblies of God, the Church of the Nazarene and the Salvation Army, along with a collection of smaller Protestant denominations, seven pan-Christian associations including the National Association of Evangelicals, and two representatives of Orthodox and Hasidic Judaism.

The letter was released to precede the U.S. president's yearly proclamation for Religious Freedom Day, which is Mon., Jan. 16.