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San Francisco: Not the company line*

June 17, 2008 | 12:56 pm

For the longest time Tuesday morning, Brother Richard Jonathan, a member of the Society of Saint Francis, was the only one carrying a sign outside San Francisco City Hall as cameras whirred and gay men and lesbians filed in to be legally hitched.

Anyone who has paid attention to the Roman Catholic hierarchy’s official disappointment over the state Supreme Court's same-sex marriage ruling a month ago could be forgiven for looking twice at Jonathan’s placard. “Franciscans for Same-Sex Marriage,” it read.

Standing with his big bright sign and his long brown robe, all alone in his demonstration, Jonathan acknowledged that the slogan wasn’t  quite the company line voiced by Cardinal Roger M. Mahony and six Southern California Roman Catholic bishops. In a statement Tuesday, these clerics said that marriage “has a unique place in God’s creation, joining a man and a woman in a committed relationship."

* [This post should have noted that Jonathan belongs to an Episcopal, not Roman Catholic, order. Also, an earlier version of the post said seven bishops joined Mahony in issuing the statement on marriage. Actually, along with Mahony, six other bishops serve the L.A. diocese.]

But so what? Jonathan suggested.

St. Francis, the patron saint of this wide-open city, “starts with the belief that God is love,” Jonathan said. He “embraced the leper. He embraced the poor. He embraced the marginalized.”

As a result, he continued, Franciscans “see God’s presence in all persons. That’s where I start. Where there is God, there is love. I do this as a Franciscan with a long tradition of embracing all persons.”

-- Maria L. La Ganga