Nearly 40 religious leaders, including Catholic, evangelical, Jewish and Mormon figures, issued an open letter Thursday that argues that the battle against same-sex marriage is a fight on behalf of religious freedom.

“Marriage and religious freedom are both deeply woven into the fabric of this nation,” clergy members wrote in their letter, “Marriage and Religious Freedom: Fundamental Goods That Stand or Fall Together.” It calls on all Americans to promote and protect marriage “in its true definition.”

The “most urgent peril” associated with legalizing same-sex unions is that religious individuals and organizations would be forced or pressured to treat same-sex sexual conduct as the moral equivalent of marital sexual conduct, they explained.

These conflicts would arise in countless ways, “because altering the civil definition of ‘marriage’ does not change one law, but hundreds, even thousands, at once,” the clergy said. Already, religious people and groups are being labeled “bigots” and their activities and services punished or targeted because they believe marriage is only the union of one man and one woman.

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