Marriage equality is advancing in states across the U.S., as court rulings and legislature look to provide equal rights for same gender couples in the new year. Yet, Catholic leaders’ responses remain ambivalent, with some continuing the harsh rhetoric of past campaigns and others potentially downplaying anti-LGBT efforts to refocus on those justice issues considered more important. Below, Bondings 2.0 provides summaries of recent events in several US states.
Indiana’s bishops came out in support of a constitutional ban on same-gender marriages currently being considered by that state’s legislature. The Indiana Catholic Conference released a statement in December which repeated the hierarchy’s claims about marriage, but explicitly stated that the statement could not be considered an endorsement of the proposed ban. LGBT advocates expressed hope at that time that Indiana’s bishops would follow Pope Francis’ lead and forgo actively supporting the constitutional ban.
Instead, the head of the Conference testified before a legislative committee last week and put the bishops on record as supporting a ban which would limit the rights of LGBT partners and their families. Indiana already bans same-gender marriages in law, but anti-LGBT activists are hoping to alter the state’s constitution as well by bringing it up for a statewide referendum in the 2014 elections. The bill must pass a vote in the General Assembly, according to The Chicago Tribune.
Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City strongly criticized a federal judge’s ruling that Oklahoma’s ban on same-gender marriages was unconstitutional, as it violated the US Constitution’s equal protection clause. LGBTQ Nation reports:
“The Most Reverend Paul Coakley said in a statement released Wednesday that the ruling by U.S. District Judge Terence Kern ‘thwarts the common good.’ Coakley called the definition of marriage as between one man and one woman a basic truth about humanity.”
On a more positive note, Catholic bishops in New Mexico lobbied dozens of lawmakers earlier this week and made no mention of marriage equality, despite the issue being raised recently in that state. Last month, New Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled that same-gender marriages should be legal after local governments began issuing marriage licenses. In their meetings with legislators, the bishops lobbied about early-childhood education, immigration, and economic issues. The Santa Fe New Mexican reports on the only comment made about LGBT equality:
“[Bishops' spokesperson Allen] Sanchez said the bishops probably would support a constitutional amendment by Sen. Bill Sharer, R-Farmington that, if approved by voters, would define marriage as between one man and one woman.
” ‘But right now we have an emergency on the early-childhood issue,’ Sanchez said. ‘That is their priority for this session.’ “
As with Indiana, it could be the New Mexico bishops are simply waiting for the right time to come out against marriage equality. Yet, couples are marrying in that state, and the legal right to marry in New Mexico seems clearly established. Perhaps New Mexico’s leaders realized that marriage equality is the reality and they could do far more good defending those on the margins of society than fighting fatigued cultural battles. Maybe Pope Francis is having an effect stateside sooner than once thought.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry