Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Save the Date!

WHEN: February 14, 3:00 p.m.
WHERE: State Capitol Rotunda, St. Paul, MN

Organized by Minnesotans United for All Families, the Freedom to Marry Day Rally will be a key first step in working with state legislators to ensure that in 2013, Minnesota state law is changed to reflect our shared belief that loving and committed same-sex couples should have the freedom to marry.

This will be the first time this year that marriage proponents gather at the Capitol.

Will you join with hundreds of others in showing legislators that a broad and diverse coalition of Minnesotans support marriage for same-sex couples?

For more information or to RSVP for the rally, click here.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Coalition of Nuns, Evangelical Catholic Group Back Illinois Gay Marriage Bill

By Tony Merevick

Note: This article was first published January 4, 2012 by the Chicago Phoenix.

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Sister Donna Quinn, a Chicago native who has been a Catholic nun for over 50 years, said it’s about time for Illinois to approve legislation that would legalize same-sex marriage.

“We believe in this, this has to be done,” she said. “We can do nothing less.”

Quinn, the coordinator of the National Coalition of American Nuns, which comprises over 2,000 nuns from across the country, said giving gay and lesbian couples the right to marry is about fairness and respecting the love of people in committed relationships.

This breaks away from messages from the Chicago Archdiocese of the Roman Catholic Church, which is advocating against the bill.

“It’s more of a belief in people, in all people, gay and lesbian and — it doesn’t matter,” said Quinn. “Their choice to marry is important and the benefits are crucial for their living, their livelihood, and the children they raise.”

Quinn and other members of the local faith community have thrown their support behind the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, a bill that could potentially see a vote in the Illinois Senate as early as Thursday and in the Illinois House as early as Sunday or Monday.

“I think the support from the religious community is heartwarming,” said Rick Garcia, longtime LGBT rights activist and director of the Equal Marriage Project at The Civil Rights Agenda. “It’s critical. It’s critical to counter the anti-gay fundamentalists and Catholic bishops.”

Quinn and several religious leaders are condemning recent comments by Chicago Cardinal Francis George of the Roman Catholic Church, in which he said same-sex marriage violates natural law because gay and lesbian couples cannot produce children. George sent a pastoral letter to local Catholic priests, urging them to lobby against the bill.

“Civil laws that establish ‘same sex marriage’ create a legal fiction,” George wrote, “The State has no power to create something that nature itself tells us is impossible.”

But a recent poll conducted by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University released in late September that shows a majority of Illinois Catholics approve of legally recognized same-sex unions.

Eighty-one percent of Catholics surveyed support either full marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples or the right to a civil union. Specifically, 39.9 percent said they support marriage rights and 40.1 percent said their position is for same-sex couples to have civil unions. Only 15.7 percent said there should be no legal recognition of same-sex relationships, according to the poll.

The numbers suggest that Catholics, too, are part of the growing wave of support for the bill, and others in the faith community won’t let George’s calls against it go unchallenged.

Bishop Alan Wilkowski of the Evangelical Catholic Diocese of the Northwest issued his own letter Wednesday to lawmakers and made direct phone calls to some, urging them to support the bill and debunk “the myths advocated in the Cardinal’s letter,” he said.

“Based on our baptismal promise, I think that as men an women of faith, we have a right and obligation to enhance and protect the civil and human rights of all people,” Wilkowski said. “When religious communities — when they recognize their obligation as stewards of God’s creating — we have to do everything possible to improve the lives of all people. We cannot sit by silently and let people get relegated to less than equal status than other people.

Wilkowski argues that George is overstepping Catholic teachings, as well as the concept of an individual’s internal forum, by demanding government policy match the rules of his church, he said.

“We don’t live in a theocracy,” the Bishop said. “For the Cardinal to state that because of Roman Catholic ecclesiology, civil law must mirror that — that is voicing their beliefs on every man and woman in this state.”

However, Wilkowski believes the Cardinal and the Roman Catholic Church have the right to their own beliefs.

“If Rome wishes to limit marriage to just heterosexual couples, they can do that,” he said.

In addition, Wilkowski explains in his letter that marriage has been through several evolutions since the beginning of mankind and that it should no longer be attached to procreating.

“There’s never been a set concept of what marriage is. If we go back to before christianity, marriage was simply for procreation. Men had wives, it was simply for the purpose of procuring male offspring. That was considered the norm for centuries,” he told Chicago Phoenix.

“The Cardinal’s letter insults the intelligence of men and women by reducing natural law to some sort of circus acrobatic act,” he said, referring to sex for procreation. “The vocation of marriage is more than what one does in the bedroom. It is how two people come together, sharing their faith and the holy spirit in their lives. What do they do to build up the kingdom of God on earth.”

Both Quinn and Wilkowski are optimistic about the bill’s chances in the General Assembly but point out that the Catholic Church is pouring a lot of money into the same-sex marriage debate here.

“A lot of money is spent by leaders in the Catholic community against this issue,” Quinn said. “I don’t think that is as well known as other issues. When so much money is spent against women, marriage equality, reproductive justice — these are issues that when Catholic money is thrown to lobby against it, people need to rise up against it in protest.”

They praise people throughout the religious community and elsewhere for supporting the bill.

“I just feel very hopeful for this movement,” Quinn said.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Pope Signals Inter-Faith Alliance Against Gay Marriage

By Philip Pullella

Note: This article was first published December 21, 2012 by Reuters.

Pope Benedict on Friday signaled the Vatican was ready to forge alliances with other religions against gay marriage, saying the family was threatened "to its foundations" by attempts to change its "true structure".

The pope's latest denunciation of gay marriage came in a Christmas address to Vatican officials in which he blended religion, philosophy, anthropology and sociology to illustrate the position of the Roman Catholic Church.

The Vatican has gone on the offensive in response to gains for gay marriage in the United States and Europe, using every possible opportunity to denounce it through papal speeches or editorials in its newspaper or on its radio station.

Throwing the full weight of his office behind a study by France's chief rabbi on the effects the legalization of gay marriage would have on children and society, he said:

"There is no denying the crisis that threatens it (the family) to its foundations - especially in the Western world."

The family had to be protected because it was "the authentic setting in which to hand on the blueprint of human existence", he added.

Speaking in the frescoed Clementine Hall of the Vatican's Apostolic Palace, the 85-year-old pope said the family was being threatened by "a false understanding of freedom" and a repudiation of life-long commitment in heterosexual marriage.

"When such commitment is repudiated, the key figures of human existence likewise vanish: father, mother, child - essential elements of the experience of being human are lost," the leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics said.

In the speech, one of the most important the pope gives every year, he said people could not "dispute the idea that they have a nature, given by their bodily identity, that serves as a defining element of the human being".

The "pre-ordained duality of man and woman" had to be respected, he said, if families and children were not to lose their place and dignity.

People could not become what he called "abstract human beings" choosing for themselves what their nature would be, added.

Religious Alliance

In some countries, the Catholic Church has already joined forces with Jews, Muslims and members of other religions to oppose the legalization of gay marriage, in some cases presenting arguments based on legal, social and anthropological analyses rather than religious teachings.

Significantly, the pope specifically praised as "profoundly moving" a study by Gilles Bernheim, France's chief rabbi, which has become the subject of heated debate in that country.

Bernheim, also a philosopher, argues that homosexual rights groups "will use gay marriage as a Trojan Horse" in a wider campaign to "deny sexual identity and erase sexual differences" and "undermine the heterosexual fundamentals of our society".

His study, "Gay Marriage, Parenthood and Adoption: What We Often Forget To Say", argues that plans to legalize gay marriage are being made for "the exclusive profit of a tiny minority" and are often supported because of political correctness.

In his own speech on Friday, the pope repeated some of the concepts in the Bernheim study, including an assertion that children raised by gay couples would be more "objects" than individuals.

Franco Grillini, a leader of Italy's gay community, called the pope's words "great foolishness," saying: "Where gay marriage has been approved, there has been no consequence on heterosexual marriage".

Last month, voters in the U.S. states of Maryland, Maine and Washington state approved same-sex marriage, the first time marriage rights have been extended to same-sex couples by popular vote.

Same-sex unions have been legalized in six states and the District of Columbia by lawmakers or courts.

In November, Spain's highest court also upheld a gay marriage law, and in France the socialist government has unveiled a draft law that would allow gay marriage.

For Fortunate Families co-founders Casey and Mary Ellen Lopata's response to the pope's remarks, click here.

For Catholic theologian William D. Lindsey's thoughts and analysis, click here.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Co-Founders of Fortunate Families Respond to Pope's Recent Anti-Gay Remarks

Casey and Mary Ellen Lopata, co-founders of Fortunate Families, an organization that ministers with Catholic families with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender children, recently wrote the following op-ed for the Guest Voices blog of The Washington Post.


Peace Begins in the Gay-Friendly Home

By Casey and Mary Ellen Lopata

The Washington Post
January 1, 2013

As the new year begins, our list of threats to world peace includes the usual suspects: poverty, hunger, disease, environmental degradation, the availability of devastating weaponry and sectarian violence. To this list, Pope Benedict XVI would like to add our neighbor Bob.

In his message for the World Day of Peace, which takes place January 1, the pope said that allowing gay and lesbian people to marry “constitutes an offense against the truth of the human person, with serious harm to justice and peace.” That the pope holds these notions is not news. He has previously said that gay marriage threatens the “future of humanity itself.”

We are fortunate enough to be able to contrast the pope’s rhetoric with the reality of Bob’s life, and those of many other gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people whom we know. They don’t seem like threats to world peace or the future of humanity. They are men and women trying to earn a living, love their spouses, raise their children and contribute a little something to their churches and their communities.

The pope is losing the fight against marriage equality because Catholics weigh his abstract definitions of what it means to be human, what it means to be male and what it means to be female, against the evidence of their own experience. They understand instinctively that human beings are too complex to be captured in such arid taxonomies, that categories devised by celibate philosophers no longer make much sense in a world in which traditional gender roles were abandoned long ago. Rather, what they know, what they believe, is the evidence of their own experience. Like John the Evangelist, they testify to what they have seen and heard.

It is difficult to think of the pediatrician who cares for your children, or the Sunday school teacher who is introducing your children to their faith, or the couple who open their home for a community fundraiser, as threats to world peace. It is hard to believe that the pope and his advisors understand our neighbor Bob’s “nature” better than he knows it himself. At some point you come to realize that it is not same-sex couples who pose a threat to our shared future; it is the people who work so hard and spend so much money to deny these couples the love and support they need to live generous and productive lives.

An ever-lengthening stream of public opinion polls confirm that a majority of U.S. Catholics support marriage equality and want to get rid of laws that discriminate against LGBT people. According to Pew research this year, “among [American] Catholics as a whole, supporters of same-sex marriage now outnumber opponents (52 percent vs. 37 percent).” Whether because of the great value that Catholic voters place on the family—all kinds of families—or the commitment rooted in church social justice teachings to treat all people equally, the U. S. Catholic electorate has crossed a bridge on this issue and shows no sign of going back.

History gives us every reason to believe that the church will one day follow suit, but that journey will be long and tortured. The pope presents his arguments against equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people as immutable truth, just as the church once asserted that it was right when it argued against women’s suffrage, supported slavery, and banned new understandings of astronomy. On each of these issues, the church finally caught up with its people, but only after decades—and in the case of Galileo, centuries—of argument, exclusion and persecution. Catholics know that their leaders will eventually change their views on human sexuality.

In the meantime, most Catholics hear the pope’s increasingly strident rhetoric, think of our neighbor Bob and others like him, and scratch their heads. Then they go about their business of voting for marriage equality, opposing discrimination, and rejoicing at the unions of their gay and lesbian family and friends. We hope it doesn’t take several more popes and many more World Peace Day missteps before the Catholic hierarchy finally reforms its ways. Thankfully, ordinary, faithful Catholics are not waiting.

Casey and Mary Ellen Lopata are co-founders of Fortunate Families, which ministers with Catholic families with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender children, and is a member of the Equally Blessed coalition.