A sign supporting same-sex marriage is seen in Berlin June 30. German lawmakers voted to legalize same-sex marriage the same day. (CNS photo/Felipe Trueba, EPA)
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OXFORD, England (CNS) -- Germany's bishops' conference expressed regret over a June 30 parliamentary vote to allow same-sex weddings, vowing to defend the "Catholic understanding of marriage."
The vote by lawmakers "abandons the differentiated perception of various forms of partnership in order to stress the value of same-sex partnerships," said Archbishop Heiner Koch of Berlin, chairman of the bishops' Commission for Marriage and Family.
"But differentiation isn't discrimination, and same-sex cohabitation can be valued through other institutional arrangements without opening up the legal institute of marriage," he said.
Germany's parliament, or Bundestag, voted 393 to 226 with four abstentions to allow same-sex couples to marry.
Archbishop Koch said Article 6 of Germany's 1949 constitution stressed the heterosexual "classic marriage concept," adding that the Catholic Church would "face an increasing challenge" over the "vitality of Catholic marriage," but not change its "sacramental understanding" of marriage as a male-female union.
"As a church, we respect same-sex partnerships in which mutual responsibility and care are taken," he said.
"But it is worth noting how many who long fought the institution of marriage have now become fervent advocates of 'marriage for all,' and how prudent convictions about marriage have been abandoned citing changing times and popular moods," he said.