San Francisco archbishop who pushed to ban gay marriage dies


SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A retired San Francisco archbishop who helped lead a contentious and successful 2008 California ballot measure to ban gay marriage has died. He was 80.

Archbishop George H. Niederauer died Tuesday of lung cancer at a San Rafael, California, care facility, Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone said in an online announcement .

It said Niederauer “was known for his spiritual leadership, intelligence and wisdom, compassion and humor, and was always focused on his responsibility to live and teach the faith.”

Niederauer loved to read, watch independent films and play bridge, the San Francisco Chronicle reported (http://bit.ly/2pFSnkH) Wednesday.

He also admitted to being a well-intentioned but “dreadful” high school trombone player, the newspaper said.

Niederauer, the eighth archbishop of San Francisco, gained notoriety during the campaign to pass Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriages. He is credited with persuading leaders of the Mormon church to join the effort and donate $20 million to the campaign.

He said at the time that religious leaders have a constitutional right to speak on public policy and that Catholic bishops have a responsibility to teach church beliefs on marriage and family.

“Tolerance, respect and trust often do not include agreement, or even approval,” he said after the campaign.

A federal court overturned the marriage ban in 2010. Three years later, the ruling was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Niederauer was born June 14, 1936, in Los Angeles. He was ordained in 1962 and served as bishop of the Diocese of Salt Lake City before being appointed archbishop of San Francisco in 2005.

At the time, he disputed allegations linking sexual abuse of minors to gay priests.

He retired in 2012.