A U.S. District Court judge’s ruling that Arizona’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional “overturns the will of Arizona voters and reflects a misunderstanding of the institution of marriage,” the state’s Catholic bishops said Oct. 17.

“For centuries, marriage has been recognized as the lifelong union of a man and a woman that benefits the common good by respecting the unique and complementary gifts of both a mother and a father in the lives of children,” they said.

“As Catholic bishops, we remain committed to affirming the truth about marriage and its goodness for all of society.”

On Oct. 16, Judge John W. Sedwick struck down an amendment to the state constitution approved by voters in 2008 that defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman, saying it was unconstitutional because it denied same-sex couples equal protection under the law.

The judge also refused to stay his decision, adding that he felt any appeal to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals “would not succeed.”

On Oct. 9, Sedwick said he thought an Oct. 7 ruling by a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit that struck down same-sex marriage bans in Idaho and Nevada applied to Arizona, which is in the geographic area covered by the circuit court.

He had given the parties that challenged Arizona’s ban and the Alliance Defending Freedom, an organization defending the state’s law, until Oct. 16 to respond.

Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne Oct. 17 said the state will not appeal Sedwick’s ruling.

In a letter to the clerk of the court for Maricopa County Superior Court, Horne said the state’s courts “can no longer treat marriage exclusively as ‘a union of one man and one woman’ under state law” and he directed clerks to immediately begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

In their statement, Arizona’s Catholic bishops reiterated their “pastoral concern for all people, including our brothers and sisters with same-sex attraction, and denounce any unjust discrimination toward anyone.”

“It is our fervent hope that the Supreme Court will eventually reconsider the issue of marriage in the future. In the meantime, we pray that the church may continue to serve as a loving and joyful witness of the truth about the family and human sexuality,” they said.

Signing the statement were Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted and Auxiliary Bishop Eduardo A. Nevares of Phoenix; Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson; Byzantine Bishop Gerald Dino of the Holy Protection of Mary Eparchy of Phoenix; and Bishop James S. Wall of Gallup, New Mexico, whose diocese includes part of Arizona.