HRC Blog

Catholic Conference Outlines Legislative Priorities, Attacks LGBT Families

The following is a guest post from HRC Religion Council member, and co-founder of Catholics for Marriage Equality, Anne Underwood:   Catholics for Equality

Recently, Archbishop Timothy Dolan, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, sent a letter to Congress outlining the Conference’s legislative priorities for the 112th Congress.  The Archbishop begins by expressing the best of Catholic social teaching when he calls on the new Congress to “advance the common good and defend the life and dignity of all, especially vulnerable and poor persons.” But tragically the Archbishop immediately departs from that tradition by denigrating and undermining the importance of family, specifically LGBT families.

Before urging Congress to address poverty, health care or immigration, the primary concerns of U.S. lay Catholics, the Archbishop exhorts against any legislation that might recognize and protect LGBT families.  He writes: In close connection with our defense of all human life and particularly the most vulnerable among us, we stand firm in our support for marriage which is and can only be a faithful, exclusive, lifelong union of one man and one woman.  There is good reason why the law has always recognized this, and why it should continue to do so.  In a manner unlike any other relationship, marriage makes a unique and irreplaceable contribution to the common good of society, especially through the procreation and education of children.  Children need, deserve and yearn for a mother and a father.  All human societies in every era of history, differing greatly among themselves in many other ways, have understood this simple wisdom.  No other kinds of personal relationships can be justly made equivalent or analogous to the commitment of a husband and a wife in marriage, because no other relationship can connect children to the two people who brought them into the world.  For this reason, we will continue to vigorously support the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and strongly oppose legislative or executive measures that seek to redefine or erode the meaning of marriage. 

We suggest Congressional oversight of executive actions that have the effect of undermining DOMA, such as the expansion of spousal benefits to two persons of the same sex, and the weak defense of DOMA in court against constitutional challenge. While his missive reflects the political agenda of many American Bishops, it is out of touch with the 62% of American Catholics who support some sort of relationship recognition for gay and lesbian couples. It further exhibits pastoral blindness and hierarchal arrogance to the thousands of loving, committed gay and lesbian couples and the millions of children being raised by them in America today.  The Archbishop and all the bishops whom he represents need to emerge from their dogma and examine the reality of love as practiced by Catholic and non-Catholic LGBT families.

All should listen to 19-year-old Zach Wahls’s eloquent defense of the love of his two moms against anti-LGBT forces in the Iowa House.  If that’s not a demonstration of the core family values espoused by the Catholic Church, what is? Even more insulting to faithful Catholics who value freedom and fairness for all people, is the Conference’s call on Congress to investigate “executive actions that have the effect of undermining DOMA, such as the expansion of spousal benefits to two persons of the same sex.”  What, pray tell, are these?  Hospital visitation protections?  Letting federal employees use sick leave to take care of their ailing domestic partners?  Evacuating the partners of Foreign Service officers when a foreign posting becomes unsafe?  Protecting low-income LGBT families from discrimination in federally-subsidized housing?  Unfortunately, the Archbishop wasn’t more specific as to which of the Obama administration’s changes will “redefine or erode the meaning of marriage.”  Perhaps his lack of specificity reflects the absence of substance to his claims? All the above are important steps forward for LGBT Americans.  They will help many families’ lives be just a little bit easier.  

It is appalling and duplicitous that the Conference would on the one hand call on the new Congress to help all Americans and, at the same time, demand they scrutinize and attack any signs of compassionate fairness for same-sex couples and their children.  American Catholics deserve to have their values and views better represented by their leadership and LGBT people, regardless of faith, deserve better from the Catholic hierarchy that calls for a Congress that respects “the dignity of all”.

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