PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — After playing a key role in defeating a push for gay marriage, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence has urged Rhode Island lawmakers to reject an alternative establishing civil unions for gay couples, calling them a “stepping stone” to gay marriage.

The comments came in an unsigned editorial in the diocese’s newspaper, the Rhode Island Catholic. It followed state House Speaker Gordon Fox’s decision to stop his push for gay marriage and offer civil unions as a compromise.

Fox, who is openly gay, said he didn’t believe he could deliver the votes needed for gay marriage to pass, but that civil unions legislation would keep the issue alive and grant vital legal rights to same-sex couples. The legislation is expected to be introduced in the coming week.

The diocese’s editorial, published Thursday, urged lawmakers to reject the compromise and instead pass legislation defining marriage as only between one man and one woman.

“However well-intentioned it is the experiment called “Civil Unions” is not an acceptable alternative to marriage as it too undermines the unique relationship of one man and one woman in holy matrimony by giving equal status, albeit by another name, to same-sex relationships,” it read.

The editorial said civil unions don’t settle the debate over recognizing same-sex relationships, but often lead to eventual recognition of gay marriage. It cited precedent in states including Connecticut, New Hampshire and Vermont.

Pro-gay marriage advocate Marriage Equality Rhode Island also opposes civil unions, but because it believes such unions continue to treat same-sex couples as “second-class citizens.”

“So the question becomes, why is the speaker attempting to be the architect of a compromise no one wants?” group spokesman Bill Fischer asked.

Fischer called on Fox to allow lawmakers to vote on gay marriage.

“At the end of the day, we have full faith people will do the right thing,” he told The Providence Journal.

Fox and his communications director didn’t respond to requests for comment from the Journal.

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