- (Photo: REUTERS/Mike Segar)
A Catholic gay rights advocate has taken issue with a White House Petition to label the Roman Catholic Church a "hate group" over its opposition to same-sex marriage.
Frank O'Hara, spokesman for Catholics for Marriage Equality, told The Christian Post that the petition was "ill-conceived and counterproductive."
"Many Catholic voters -- possibly the majority according to some polls -- agree with us. We are all part of the Catholic Church. Our support for same-sex marriage arises out of our values that we learned as Catholics," said O'Hara.
"A blanket condemnation of our faith and of our Church is totally unjustified."
The petition was posted on Christmas day 2012 on the "We the People: Your Voice in Our Government" website, which was established by the Obama Administration to create more direct communication between Americans and the White House.
"The idea of petitioning the White House or the government isn't new, but this online platform is," reads the "How & Why" section of the site in part.
The petition, created by "Zach N" of Atlanta, Georgia, was made in response to remarks by Pope Benedict XVI regarding same-sex marriage at the annual Christmas address at the College of Cardinals.
"Pope Benedict said that gay people starting families are threatening to society, and that gay parents objectify and take away the dignity of children. The Pope also implied that gay families are sub-human, as they are not dignified in the eyes of God," reads the petition. "Upon these remarks, the Roman Catholic Church fits the definition of a hate group as defined by both the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League."
In order to get an official response, a White House petition must receive at least 25,000 signatures; as of Friday, an estimated 1,700 people have signed this petition.
The debate over same-sex marriage continues into 2013, with efforts to legalize or constitutionally ban the practice taking place across the country in both legislatures and courts.
When asked by CP if he felt that individuals Catholic or non-Catholic could have rational issues with same-sex marriage, O'Hara explained that he "certainly" felt so.
"In a historical perspective, civil same-sex marriage is a relatively new concept, and many people are understandably cautious about changing traditional marriage laws. There is nothing wrong or 'irrational' about them raising their concerns," said O'Hara.
"We think that the more this issue is aired and discussed, the more likely it is that civil same-sex marriage will become accepted."