Little Rock Catholic Bishop Plays Incest Card in Marriage Case

by HRC Staff

Washington - The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation, the educational arm of the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, today denounced Bishop Anthony Taylor of the Catholic Diocese of Little Rock for writing a legal brief in which he invoked incest in urging the Arkansas Supreme Court to keep the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.

Taylor’s petition carried the fetid odor of anti-LGBT politician Rick Santorum on his worst day, suggesting that allowing committed same-sex couples to marry would lead to unions of  “couples such as mother and daughter, sister and sister, or brother and brother.”

The bishop also took an unusual step for a Catholic Church leader, arguing that the will of voters should determine the rights of LGBT couples seeking to marry -- an astonishing assertion in a state where interracial marriage was banned until the late 1960s, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the practice unconstitutional.

“In a state with a history of oppression, we would hope that religious leaders above all would understand that defending freedoms under the Constitution protects people in the margins -- those who have rarely been protected by popular vote,” said Lisbeth Melendez Rivera, director of Latino/a and Catholic Initiatives at the HRC Foundation.

Taylor’s invocation of incest would be laughable, she said, if it weren’t so tragic, particularly given that Taylor insists that his opposition to marriage equality doesn’t reflect “animus” toward LGBT people in Arkansas who seek to legalize their unions.

“Bishop Taylor’s language is not only un-Christian, but so utterly offensive that it only serves to undermine his integrity and the already-untenable notions contained in his anti-marriage equality brief,” Melendez Rivera said. “While Catholics in church pews across America are increasingly embracing the LGBT faithful, and Pope Francis is encouraging inclusion, regressive bishops like Taylor sadly continue their heartless rhetoric.”

Arkansas state Judge Chris Piazza in May struck down as unconstitutional the state’s ban on same-sex marriages, which was enacted by Arkansas voters in 2004. He cited the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in U.S. v. Windsor that allowed federal recognition of same-sex marriages. Several hundred same-sex marriage licenses were issued before Piazza’s ruling was suspended by the state Supreme Court pending its review of the case.

The high court has set Oct. 15 as the deadline for parties to submit briefs for their deliberation on the issue of whether marriage equality will come to Arkansas.

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation is the educational arm of America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

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