During the past week, Sister Jeannine Gramick, New Ways Ministry’s co-founder, and I were in Washington State to present presentations about Catholic support for marriage equality. The state legalized marriage equality in February of this year, the bill being signed into law by the Catholic governor, Christine Gregoire, but now it is being challenged in a referendum on election day in November. (Over the next week, I hope to post several times about situation here in Washington State.)
In Seattle, the presentation was sponsored by Call To Action–Western Washington, and it was covered by the Seattle Gay News:
” ‘Catholics are more supportive of marriage equality than any other denomination in the country,’ said [Francis] DeBernardo.
” Citing polls from the Public Religion Research Institute, DeBernardo said only 22% of Catholics oppose same-sex marriage and 71% are in favor of same-sex civil marriage. According to DeBernardo, the reason these numbers are surprising to many people is because the leadership of the Catholic Church is so outspokenly against marriage equality. . . .
” ‘That’s what’s causing that perception problem,’ said DeBernardo. ‘The people with the microphones are giving those negative messages, not the people in the pews.’ “
Additionally, the speaker listed why Catholics are so supportive of equal marriage rights:
“1) What matters is love, not gender. Love is what makes a family. The quality of a relationship is what Catholics should call moral or immoral.
“2) Not supporting same-sex marriage is discriminatory, and the Catholic faith tells its adherents not to discriminate.
“3) Catholics want to protect children. All children, regardless of what kind of family they live in, should have the same support and benefits.
“4) Likewise, same-sex couples deserve equal protection, with the same societal and social rights of straight couples.
“5) Marriage equality helps develop strong families and thus makes society stronger. The Catholic faith tells adherents that they should work for the common good of all people and the progressive development of society.
“6) The church should not dictate public policy for all people.
“7) Even if a Catholic disagrees with homosexuality, Catholics believe in equality and fairness for all. “
Sister Jeannine offered a brief history of the evolution of marriage in regard to whether it is controlled by the church or state:
“Gramick, a co-founder of New Ways Ministry and member of the Sisters of Loretto, an order of nuns deeply concerned with social justice, gave an overview of the history of Christian-era marriage in relation to the church and society, in an effort to dispel myths and empower the audience to do the same in conversations with other Catholics.
“She detailed how marriage evolved from a private affair between families, with no civil or religious significance.
” ‘They [marriages] gradually became civil ceremonies, as civil arrangements were made to define the right and responsibilities that people had in marriage, like to manage property and inheritance,’ said Gramick. ‘But it grew from a private family affair.’
“‘In fact,’ Gramick continued, ‘Some early Christian writers said that the church should not be involved in the institution of marriage at all. ‘Leave it to the state [they said], because it inevitably involves sexual intercourse, and that’s a little dirty.’ “
Attending the program was Washington State Senator Ed Murray, the Catholic gay representative who introduced the marriage equality bill and who fought tirelessly for its passage:
“DeBernardo, who is New Ways Ministry’s executive director, said he wanted to acknowledge a very special local Catholic in the audience that night – State Sen. Ed Murray, who, along with the state’s Catholic governor, Christine Gregoire, have made same-sex marriage a potential reality here in Washington.
“DeBernardo said Murray was ‘instrumental’ in the fight to achieve marriage equality in the state, and that ‘he is really the hero of this campaign.’
“Murray received a standing ovation from everyone in the room.
“‘Were going to have to show them that enthusiasm in November and all the way through to November,’ added DeBernardo after the applause died down. “
Special thanks to Barbara Monda and Betty and Tom Hill of Call To Action–Western Washington for organizing this event.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry