Catholic Hierarchy Is a Shining Light in Dark Moment for LGBT Rights in India

December 16, 2013

Cardinal Oswald Gracias

India’s Supreme Court reinstated a law that bans homosexuality as a “crime against nature” earlier this week, intensifying divisions between LGBT advocates and the religious communities they blame for this development. Catholic leaders have varied in responding to the Court’s decision, but there are hopeful signs as at least one bishop spoke out against the law.

Outlawing homosexuality in India dates to British colonial rule more than a century ago. Recent legal debates began after a New Delhi court overturned the law in 2009. Anti-LGBT organizations, including faith-based ones, have sought to re-criminalize homosexuality since then. The Supreme Court’s ruling now says it is up to the nation’s legislators to repeal the law if that is what is desired.

The Times of India reports that religious groups have welcomed the ruling, with leaders using extremely homophobic language and advocating “ex-gay therapy” in their statements. Relative to these, Catholic leaders’ remarks have seemed muted and even positive. Archbishop Anil J T Couto of Delhi merely reaffirmed the hierarchy’s position on marriage equality and a spokesperson stated the archdiocese opposed any law that would criminalize homosexuality. Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai is quoted by UCANews.com as saying:

“[T]he Catholic Church has never been opposed to the decriminalisation of homosexuality, because we have never considered gay people criminals. As Christians, we express our full respect for homosexuals. The Catholic Church is opposed to the legalisation of gay marriage, but teaches that homosexuals have the same dignity of every human being and condemns all forms of unjust discrimination, harassment or abuse.”

Two interesting notes in this story. First, in addition to heading up the Mumbai Archdiocese and India’s bishops’ conference, Gracias is also a member of the eight member Council of Cardinals formed to advise Pope Francis. The pope has been noted for his pastoral tone when speaking about LGBT people and his emphasis away from social issues.

Second, India’s Christians are a minority struggling for recognition of their own rights. In the same week that homosexuality was criminalized, police injured Catholic demonstrators, including ten nuns, and arrested Archbishop Couto. Relations between the government and the Catholic Church are contentious, as UCANews.com reports. Defending all minority rights, including LGBT equality aside from marriage, is seemingly a position with which leading Catholic voices seem comfortable.

With elections about to occur in the coming week, and conservative nationalist politicians gaining popularity, it seems unlikely India’s government will act to decriminalize homosexuality. That said, the Catholic Church in India now has a concrete opportunity to act upon oft-stated teachings against LGBT discrimination and continue to speak out and work against this law.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Justice Antonin Scalia Misusing Catholic Faith to Promote Anti-Gay Bias

October 13, 2013

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia

Just weeks ago, Pope Francis shook up the Catholic Church with a wide-ranging and welcome interview that included positive words about gay and lesbian people. Now, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is making waves in an interview with New York Magazine where he speaks about his Catholic faith and homosexuality.

Justice Scalia is normally an outspoken Catholic, but he offered little when asked about Pope Francis. The interviewer pressed him on the issue of homosexuality, asking (New York Magazine’s questions are in bold):

“I was wondering what kind of personal exposure you might have had to this sea change [of LGBT rights].

“I have friends that I know, or very much suspect, are homosexual. Everybody does.

“Have any of them come out to you?

“No. No. Not that I know of.”

He is asked in the interview whether his views on homosexuality have “softened” given the pope’s new welcome of gay and lesbian people, but Scalia is unable to understand how they could soften because in his mind the issue is set Catholic doctrine. The interviewer asks how these personal views affect his role on the Supreme Court, and Scalia answers:

“I still think it’s Catholic teaching that [homosexuality is] wrong. Okay? But I don’t hate the people that engage in it. In my legal opinions, all I’ve said is that I don’t think the Constitution requires the people to adopt one view or the other…

“Maybe the world is spinning toward a wider acceptance of homosexual rights, and here’s Scalia, standing athwart it. At least standing athwart it as a constitutional entitlement. But I have never been custodian of my legacy. When I’m dead and gone, I’ll either be sublimely happy or terribly unhappy.”

He pivots from here into a lengthy discussion of heaven and hell, the Devil, and atheism, all of which you can find here.

Yet, as a justice on the US’ top court and a prominent Catholic, Scalia’s record on LGBT issues is less “standing athwart” on legal grounds and more a clearly defined legacy of anti-gay bias rooted in his understanding of the Catholic faith.

Right Wing Watch offers a rundown of Scalia’s harshest moments against the LGBT community, as when he previously compared homosexuality to murder and cruelty against animals or when he wrote a scathing opinion in Lawrence v. Texas that would justify discrimination against gay people. Then there is the unusual step the justice took in reading aloud from the bench his blistering dissent when the Supreme Court struck down DOMA this past June.

It appears Pope Francis’ effect on Justice Scalia is minimal given the New York Magazine interview, and it is doubtful the justice would act like other Catholics on the court in endorsing the rights of all people regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. It is also clear in his language that Scalia continues to view homosexuality in terms of sexual acts, instead of as an integral part of a person’s identity. It is telling that someone as well-connected as the justice claims to know no gay people personally, and does little to show compassion, sensitivity, or respect for them as the Church asks of him.

With LGBT rights expanding in the US and Pope Francis preaching words of welcome, the moment is prime for the justice to reconsider how he speaks about and interacts with gay people. Perhaps acknowledging those he knows who are LGBT identified is a start. Perhaps he could consider aspects of his Catholic faith, like the dignity of each person and the common good pf all, when it comes to homosexuality. Perhaps he could simply start by echoing Pope Francis’ words in interviews and say, “Who am I to judge?

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Bishops Try to Stem Marriage Equality’s Spread in the U.S.

October 6, 2013

As marriage equality becomes an emerging reality in the United States, opponents are employing new challenges in court and elsewhere to limit the spread and, in some cases, punish supporters of LGBT people. Below, Bondings 2.0 offers several incidents across the country that have made headlines with links provided if you wish to read more.

Michigan

In Detroit, arguments open on October 16th for a federal court case challenging the state’s ban on same-gender marriages and stirring up anti-equality opponents in defense of the ban. Equality advocates are hopeful that the US Supreme Court’s decision in June to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act will help their case against a similar state-level ban passed by Michigan in 2004.

Initially, the two plaintiffs, April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, who are partnered with three children, challenged a Michigan law denying them adoption rights. The lawsuit grew, and the Detroit Free Press now reports the case has now drawn the attention of the Catholic hierarchy:

“U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman has allowed other parties to file arguments in the case. The Michigan Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the Roman Catholic Church, said ‘every sign of unjust discrimination’ must be avoided yet marriage should remain between a man and a woman.”

Yet, others are filing in support of the DeBoer and Rowse.  Professors at the Thomas M. Cooley Law School wrote a brief that said, in part:

“Ours is not a constitution of caste or class. It is not a constitution that allows a political majority to subordinate a defenseless minority just because it can…It is not a constitution that turns its back on any class, much less a class that is morally blameless.”

U.S. Congress

At the federal level, more than 60 members of the House of Representatives brought forth legislation that would shelter those wishing to discriminate against same-gender couples under the name, “Marriage and Religious Freedom Act.” Religion News Service notes:

“The bill signifies a shift in strategy for gay marriage opponents: Increasingly resigned to the reality that they’re unlikely to stop gay marriage, they’re now trying to blunt its impact by carving out explicit protections for dissenters…

“Under Labrador’s bill, no institution could lose its federal tax-exempt status because it promotes traditional marriage. Neither could the federal government deny a grant, contract or employment to a person or institution based on their belief that marriage should only be between a man and a woman.”

The bill has the support of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, among other anti-equality organizations, who claim it protects those who do not agree with LGBT rights. Marriage equality advocates counter that  the bill would provide a legal basis for discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. With the government preoccupied with budget considerations, it looks like this bill will not become law. However, the actions reveal the Catholic hierarchy’s insistence on mitigating the legal rights of LGBT people and perpetuates the idea recently expressed in Hawaii that ‘just discrimination’ exists.

North Carolina

Catholic bishops have withdrawn from the North Carolina Council of Churches because some of the members support marriage equality, just as Pope Francis called the hierarchy to stop obsessing about the issueReligion News Service reports:

“For more than 30 years, North Carolina enjoyed a unique ecumenical alliance between Protestant and Catholics. The state council’s members advocated as one on issues such as economic justice, equality and peace…

“But in a joint statement, Bishop Michael Burbidge of Raleigh and Bishop Peter Jugis of Charlotte, said the alliance has resulted in religious leaders being associated with positions ‘that are at times in contradiction with their practice and the teaching of their faith.’

“Specifically, the more liberal state council opposed a state constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage. The amendment passed in 2012 with the enthusiastic support of the two Catholic dioceses.”

Lack of Catholic support will cost the Council about ten percent of their budget, but more distressing is the lack of Christian unity that it reveals and the lost efforts on common justice issues.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


In Australia, Shifting Leadership Leaves Marriage An Open Question

September 29, 2013

Kevin Rudd, left, and Tony Abbott, right.

After the defeat of former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd recently, anti-marriage equality leaders in Australia are using this moment to stall progress and leaving legislation for equal marriage rights an open question.

The incoming archbishop for Canberra and Goulburn called for a moratorium on any marriage related legislation. The Canberra Times reports that Archbishop-Elect Christopher Prowse publicly questioned a proposed bill that would equalize marriage rights because of the “fragile moment” that “heterosexual married life” is in. He continued:

” ‘I would be calling for more of a moratorium to suspend pending legislation so that we, over the next period of time, can discuss this in a more reasoned way, where both subjective and objective arguments can be put forward and discussed in an atmosphere of calm and reason, particularly holding forward the importance of traditional marriage and its role in society. ”’

Of note is the shift that Archbishop-Elect Prowse brings to the archdiocese from his predecessor Bishop Pat Power who, while opposing marriage equality, spoke kindly of gay and lesbian people. Power is on record as saying:

” ‘I think it is really important to honour homosexual people and to understand that if that is their orientation, that is the way God has made them’…

” ‘If they are expressing their sexuality in a particular way, I don’t know I would want to be too judgmental about that. I think God is often kinder in any judgments that would be made than sometimes other Christians are.’ “

Alongside ecclesial shifts are political ones. In mid-September elections, Kevin Rudd, who is Catholic and made a strong defense of marriage equality because of his faith only days before the election, lost a re-election bid for prime minister. His opponent, Tony Abbott who is also Catholic, ran on a strong record opposing equal rights for LGBT people. Many credit Abbott’s victory with the internal failings of Rudd’s Labor Party and not their positions on marriage equality.

It appears that marriage equality is stalled at the federal level, but LGBT advocates remain hopeful that provincial legislatures can pass laws in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory. Similar to the United States, progress on marriage will be ‘incremental’ according to one columnist in The Guardian.

Not yet accounted for are recent comments by Pope Francis that the Church should no longer focus on marriage politically, and perhaps this will mean there is room to grow equal rights in Australia under Abbott’s government. There is also the reality that the new prime minister’s openlylesbian sister is pressuring him to advance LGBT rights.

If you missed Bondings 2.0‘s coverage of Kevin Rudd’s faith-filled defense of marriage equality, you can watch the video clip here. It is well worth a view. 

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Russian Olympics Is an Opportune Time for Catholic Human Rights Witness

September 3, 2013

Russia’s passage of anti-gay laws and  discrimination against LGBT people in that nation have made the upcoming Olympic Games in Sochi increasingly controversial. Opinions remain divided over a US boycott, pressuring corporate sponsors, and how LGBT athletes should act while competing.

Catholics lack consensus as well over how to respond to Sochi 2014, but still it seems poignant to explore how faith can inform this debate about human rights, athletic competition, and witnessing to the Gospel.

Catholic leadership is muted on the evolving situation in Russia. The secretary-general of the nation’s bishops’ conference stated the Church in Russia would have no position on either the law banning “homosexual propaganda” or on a potential boycott of the Sochi 2014 Games. CatholicPhilly.com reports that Msgr. Igor Kovalevsky, a Russian Catholic leader, said:

” ‘It’s hard to predict whether homosexual athletes and fans will face problems at the Olympics — these are issues connected with the life of society in Russia…’

“Msgr. Kovalevsky said homosexuality was a marginal issue in Russian society.

“There are very few homosexuals in our Catholic communities, and we direct our pastoral work at individuals, not groups. But we don’t exclude homosexual people either…”

As for the United States, a conservative extremist group called the Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute has actively supported Russia’s law and the expansion of similar legislation in Eastern Europe, as OutInJersey.net reports. Alternatively, a columnist in The New Yorker cast Pope Francis as the progressive on LGBT issues in his takedown of Russian President Vladimir Putin:

“This is a time in which Pope Francis can ask, “Who am I to judge” gays and lesbians of good will, and have it largely well received among his followers—Putin is the one who is out of step. As the new leader of the Catholic Church acknowledged that gay priests were worthy of dignity, an old autocrat denied that dignity to his own citizens and, come the Olympics, to citizens of the world.”

Michael Sean Winters, a columnist for the National Catholic Reporter  has written about solving the perennial problem of nations with terrible human rights records hosting the Olympic Games. His column contains a detailed history of this record, but in summary Winters states:

“Changing venues at this late stage is never going to happen. And, a boycott would be ineffectual…But, these two remedies miss the larger point: Russia never should have been awarded the Olympic Games in the first place.”

Winters identifies Russia’s long-standing record of abusing human rights against many populations; the LGBT community is only the latest group suffering a crackdown. Why is it, Winters asks, that the participants, administrators, and fans allowed nations like China and Russia to host the Games when their reputations are so well known?

Sochi 2014 is an opportunity for LGBT advocates to reflect on their role in the broader movement for human rights. Winters rightly wonders why it is Russia’s anti-gay law that would trigger a boycott, while past abuses by President Putin were acceptable for the nation to continue hosting the Games. While the struggles for LGBT rights are of utmost importance, this advocacy cannot forget others whose human rights are limited and deprived. Sochi 2014 is a reminder that the Catholic LGBT community must speak out for the rights of others, just as it advocates for its own rights because this is a common struggle for God’s just and equitable reign.

Sochi 2014 also presents an opportunity for unity among Catholics often divided on issue of LGBT rights here in America. Even those who oppose marriage equality or non-discrimination laws can assuredly agree that persecuting people with criminalization and violence because of their sexual orientation or gender identity is an indefensible affront to each person’s dignity. Catholics should urge the Russian Church, the Vatican, and their local leaders to speak out against any and all laws that encourage the persecution of LGBT people.

While the Games will begin next February, it looks like controversies will persist right on through to the opening ceremony.  The period leading up to the Games is an opportune moment for Catholics to raise their voices for LGBT rights and for the human rights of all people in Russia.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Catholic Governor Chris Christie Must Choose on LGBT Equality

August 24, 2013

Governor Chris Christie

New Jersey’s passage of a law  advancing LGBT rights is raising questions about Governor Chris Christie because of 2016 presidential campaign potential. While several states have passed marriage equality and  LGBT protections under Catholic leadership, Christie’s unique path of moderation leaves some hopeful and others disappointed. Either way, delaying much longer on LGBT equality is no longer an option for the governor.

Governor Christie signed the law on Monday, which bans ‘conversion’ therapy and other attempts at changing a youth’s sexual orientation by those with state licenses. Christie, who is a Republican, said the protection of LGBT youth from harm is the spirit behind this bill, as reported in newstimes.com:

“In signing the ban, Christie reiterated his belief that people are born gay and homosexuality is not a sin, a position he first stated in a 2011 interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan

“Christie said on ‘issues of medical treatment for children we must look to experts in the field to determine the relative risks and rewards,’ citing a litany of potential ill effects of trying to change sexual orientation, including depression, drug abuse and suicide.

” ‘I believe that exposing children to these health risks without clear evidence of benefits that outweigh these serious risks is not appropriate,’ he said.”

Opponents of the law claimed the ban overrides parental choice and suppresses their First Amendment rights, and U.S. Catholic reports at least one group plans to file a lawsuit.

As much as this ban on ‘conversion’ therapy is a step forward, LGBT advocates in New Jersey are also dissatisfied with Christie because of his failure to support marriage equality. The Washington Post reports on his mixed record:

“Christie vetoed same-sex marriage legislation last year and severely criticized the Supreme Court’s decision striking down a ban on federal rights for same-sex married couples. At the same time, he is ‘adamant’ that same-sex couples deserve equal legal protection, wants a referendum on gay marriage, and vows to abide by a same-sex marriage law if New Jersey voters approve it.”

New Jersey voters overwhelmingly support equal rights, including marriage, but future aspirations mean Christie is walking a fine line. The governor must appeal to conservative voters in the Republican presidential primaries, ensure more liberal New Jersey voters reelect him next year, and also appeal to swing voters in the middle throughout. As political pundits and campaigners calculate what it might take for  Christie to win three years from now, the governor should instead look to his  faith for guidance.

Catholics in government are called to pursue the common good of all people, including the LGBT community, which means advancing justice through the law. Christie might hope he can wait out the debate on marriage and remain essentially neutral, but marriage equality is having its moment. The sweeping victories for LGBT rights will seemingly continue and Christie must choose now, rather than later the side which he will take. As the nation commemorates fifty years since the March on Washington, I offer the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. for all Catholic politicians who have yet to commit fully to LGBT equality:

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

What do you think? Will Chris Christie answer the Gospel’s call and fully embrace LGBT rights? Will he become worse on the issue as 2016 approaches? Leave your thoughts in the ‘Comments’ section below.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Excommunicated Priest Suing Diocese is Inspired by Pope Francis

August 21, 2013

Fr. Roberto Francisco Daniel, aka “Fr. Beto”

Excommunicated this spring for making public comments in support of LGBT people, Robert Francisco Daniel is turning to the Brazilian court system to seek justice from Catholic Church. Fr. Beto, as he is commonly known, is acting now partially due to Pope Francis’ positive remarks about LGBT people at the end of World Youth Day.

Fr. Beto was a popular priest and media personality before the Diocese of Bauru charged him with “heresy” and “schism” and forced him to leave the priesthood in April. Folha de S. Paulo reports on the recent legal developments, noting that the former priest has considered a civil lawsuit since his excommunication and believes the local hierarchy’s treatment of him was unjust.

The former priest also published a book, “Forbidden Truths,” since then. Iglesia Descalza carries a translation of Fr. Beto’s recent interview with BBC Mundo about everything that has happened since April. When asked why he is choosing legal action, Fr. Beto replied:

“The Bishop of Bauru gave me two alternatives — retract all materials published on the Internet and apologize, or canon law would be applied to me. In the face of this, I thought it was good to leave the priestly ministry and return at another period of time…

“But facing excommunication, I decided to get into the common justice system, not simply because I want to come back, but because no institution can do to a person what the local Church did to me. I was treated like an adolescent and expelled without the right to defend myself.

“The Church didn’t respect me as a human being, it didn’t respect the 14 years I’ve been in the priesthood, it didn’t respect my family.”

Yet, he also credits Pope Francis’ remark on gay priests as important in going ahead with the lawsuit. Fr. Beto calls the pope a “moderate progressive,” saying:

“[Francis is] trying to get back to a more open, reflective Church. When he says that if a Christian isn’t revolutionary, he’s not a Christian, that’s where he’s going. When he says that the pastor ['the shepherd'] should smell like the faithful ['the sheep'], he’s indicating that we priests have to live a simpler life along with the other faithful. He doesn’t have a vision of a hierarchical Church.

“And when he talked about gays, he ended on a high note. ‘If a gay person is seeking God, who am I to judge him?’ It means that what he cares about is the person’s character, not their sexual orientation.”

The acclaimed comment was the pope’s response to a journalist’s question about a ‘gay lobby’ in the Church, and Fr. Beto offers his own views on this perennial issue:

“The gay lobby exists, but it isn’t for the Church to accept homosexuals. It’s a power struggle and the gays within the Church are much more homophobic than the heterosexuals, incredible as it may seem. They’re more conservative; they’re struggling for power. A power that’s more focused on aesthetics, on positions.

“They’re mostly people who entered the priesthood fleeing their sexuality and they’ve ended up living out their sexuality in an almost schizophrenic way within the Church hierarchy.”

As for the root of Fr. Beto’s problems, namely his rejection of homosexuality or same-sex acts as sinful, the former priest contrasts his work as a theologian with Pope Francis’ public role:

“There’s a big difference between what [Pope Francis] says and what I’m trying to reflect about. Is saying to a gay person ‘we accept you but not your sexuality’ really loving one’s neighbor? It’s condemning a person to celibacy and instilling in them that their sexual desire is a sin, something they’ll have all their lives.

“Is this respecting human knowledge? That’s my question, which is neither a sin nor an attitude that merits excommunication…

“That two people of the same sex, who are intimate, are freely giving pleasure to one another and perhaps even expressing love…what about that would be a sin? A sin is a loveless act. And lovelessness isn’t present in a homosexual relationship.”

Finally, Fr. Beto is asked about his current relationship with the Catholic Church and offers words familiar to many who identify as Catholic, even as contemporary leaders and institutions might turn them away:

It’s ambivalent: I feel I’m Catholic, belonging to this Church. I didn’t choose to stop being a priest, so I continue to be a priest. But through the Diocese of Bauru, through the local Church, I’m excluded.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


NEWS NOTES: August 19, 2013

August 19, 2013

News NotesHere are some items that may be of interest:

1) Using hyperbolic language, the Catholic bishops in England released a document responding to that nation’s passage of marriage equality earlier this year. The document reiterated common messages from the hierarchy, while adding new concepts about Catholics being alienated in their own country because of the new law. You can read more at The Catholic Register. Marriage equality in England has at least one columnist asking if the Catholic Church should remove itself from marriage altogether.

2) Responding to the firing of educator Carla Hale this spring for marrying her wife, one set of Catholic parents began wondering about a Catholic burial for their gay son. While several Catholic officials and funeral directors assured them the institution denies a Catholic burial in only the most extreme instances, these parents remain dissatisfied. Alternatively, one gay Catholic man told The Columbus Dispatch: ” ‘One place the Catholic Church is really, really, really nice about is death.’ “

3)In the African nation of Cameroon, more anti-gay prosecutions and the seeming assassination of prominent advocate Eric Lembembe caused LGBT rights organizations to demand better conditions from the civil and religious authorities in Cameroon who support homophobic language and acts. LGBT advocates said in a statement reported by France 24: ” ‘The religious authorities, the Cameroonian Roman Catholic Church in particular, take a position on homosexuality in order to incite violence,’ ” Cameroon, where about a quarter of the population are Catholic, is one of the worst nations for LGBT rights.

4) A Michigan high school student won a lawsuit in which he claimed his First Amendment rights were violated during a 2010 classroom interaction. The student claimed his Catholic faith did not allow him to accept LGBT people, and was then written up by his teacher for disruptive behavior. Some observers in Education Week believe this case could have broader implications in the tension over free speech in schools and anti-bullying policies that seek to protect sexual orientation and gender identity.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Carla Hale Settles with Diocese of Columbus in Discriminatory Firing

August 17, 2013
Carla Hale

Carla Hale

Lesbian educator Carla Hale, who was fired from a Catholic high school earlier this year, has reached a settlement with the Diocese of Columbus. Hale will not return to her position as a physical education teacher and The Columbus Dispatch reports there were few details about the settlement:

“Carla Hale’s attorney and the diocese said in a joint statement yesterday that Hale will not return to Bishop Watterson High School ‘but will receive acknowledgement for her years of service.’ Neither Hale’s attorney nor the diocese would elaborate…

“Terms of the settlement, reached through private mediation, are confidential. Hale’s attorney, Thomas Tootle, would not say whether she will receive money…

“The agreement brings an end to all outstanding disputes between Hale and the diocese, including a complaint she filed with the Columbus Community Relations Commission under a city ordinance that makes it a misdemeanor for employers to discriminate based on sexual orientation, Tootle said.”

Hale was fired after her mother’s obituary included the name of the educator’s partner, sparking complaints from some Bishop Watterson High School parents. The ensuing controversy saw a Change.org petition gain 130,000 signatures in support of Hale, along with legal action and a social media campaign #halestorm. It also raised questions about civil law and church policy.

Even though the situation between Catholic leaders and Carla Hale is resolved, this incident causes many LGBT advocates in Ohio to reiterate the need for better laws. The Columbus Dispatch reports:

“Glen Skeen, president of the AFL-CIO’s Pride @ Work Ohio, said the group is pleased that the dignity of Hale’s work is being taken into consideration in some way.

“ ‘We will still continue to engage with the belief that LGBT folks are entitled to jobs and need to have access to the full range of jobs in the community,’ he said.

Elyzabeth Holford, executive director of Equality Ohio, an advocacy group for the LGBT community, said Hale’s firing highlights the need for statewide protections against job or housing discrimination based on sexual orientation.”

The trend in Catholic education of firing LGBT educators, or even heterosexual people who support equality,  is partially a byproduct of increased marriage rights.  As New Ways Ministry predicted over a year ago,, the more that marriage equality spreads, the more that we will witness these unjust firings in our church.   Amid celebrations, it is necessary for Catholics to continue advocating for employment protections in law that include sexual orientation and gender identity.

Bondings 2.0 has followed developments in this story since April, and you can read our coverage on Carla Hale below. For other incidents of Catholic educators being fired, visit the category ‘Schools & Youth’ on the right side of this page.

June 14, 2013: Administrator Affirms Anti-Lesbian Firing, As Support Continues to Grow for Carla Hale

May 20, 2013: Ohio Catholic Teachers’ Union Denies Support to Fired Lesbian Woman

May 8, 2013: Carla Hale’s Firing Raises Questions of Law and Church Policy

April 26, 2013: In the Wake of Discrimination, Carla Hale Hopes Students See Love and Support

April 24, 2013: Fired Lesbian Teacher Offers Hope Through Vulnerability

April 22, 2013: Support for Fired Lesbian Teacher Grows Rapidly As She Speaks Out

April 17, 2013: Lesbian Teacher Fired For Listing Her Partner’s Name In Her Mother’s Obituary

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


South America’s Marriage Equality Victories Mixed With Strong Catholic Backlash

May 17, 2013

Two more nations in South America acted on marriage equality in the wake of legislative victories in Uruguay and Argentina.  Colombian legislators rejected equal marriage legislation in a heated vote, while a leading Brazilian court ruled to allow same-gender marriages and all of this occurs in the shadows of an impending trip to the continent by the first pope from South America this summer.

Colombia

In a tense debate, the Colombian Congress rejected a marriage equality bill in a 51 to 17 vote which signaled a backlash to the growing acceptance of LGBT people in South America. Financial Times now reports couples seeking marriage licenses will need to register in the courts.

The legislation was prompted by a 2011 ruling from Colombia’s highest judiciary body, the Constitutional Court, that the Congress must enact equal marriage law within two years. Colombia has a dominant Catholic majority, many of whom vocally oppose pro-LGBT laws, however Cardinal Ruben Salazar is on the record endorsing civil unions as a form of legal protection for same-gender couples.

Brazil

The National Council of Justice, a high-powered judiciary body in heavily Catholic Brazil, ruled the government may not deny marriage licenses to same-gender couples. However, The Telegraph reports this rule has deeper implications than just allowing the legislature to act:

“‘This is the equivalent of authorising same-sex marriage in Brazil,’ said Raquel Pereira de Castro Araujo, head of the human rights committee of the Brazilian bar association.

“Supreme Court Chief Justice Joaquim Barbosa explained that there was no reason for government marriage licensing offices to wait for Congress to pass a law on same-sex marriage before extending gays rights they legally already have.

“‘Are we going to require the approval of a new law by Congress to put into effect the ruling that already has been made by the Supreme Court? That would make no sense,’ he said in comments quoted by the G1 news website.”

Brazil is the largest Catholic nation worldwide, and the institutional Church there has not been friendly to LGBT rights. Bondings 2.0 reported earlier in May about a priest who was excommunicated for speaking out about inclusivity and welcome for sexual minorities. It appears conservative Catholic influences remain strong in the legislature too, and opponents of LGBT rights insist room remains for a challenge:

“In Congress, a strong religious faction opposes same-sex marriage, and has not yet approved a law on same-sex marriage regulations. And the NCJ’s decisions are subject to appeal before the Supreme Court…

“While some state courts have recognised same-sex marriages, the council’s ruling was the first to set out a national standard.”

In the interim, it appears Brazil will begin issuing marriage licenses to same-gender couples as it simultaneously prepares for the arrival of Pope Francis for World Youth Day this summer.

Pope Francis

The effects of the new papacy on national hierarchies’ actions around pending marriage equality bills remains an open question, though Bondings 2.0 and others have mused about how he might act given his history of support for civil unions as a compromise. A piece in The National Catholic Reporter sheds further insights in terms of marriage. John Allen writes:

“On this score, I was told by three sources in Argentina that the [New YorkTimes basically got it right: Bergoglio did, in fact, favor civil unions…

“Guillermo Villarreal, a Catholic journalist in Argentina, said it was well known at the time that Bergoglio’s moderate position was opposed by [conservative bishops]…The difference was not over whether to oppose gay marriage, but how ferociously to do so and whether there was room for a compromise on civil unions…

“Behind the scenes, sources say Bergoglio tried to avoid fireworks on the gay marriage issue. One young Catholic told me, for instance, he had wanted to organize a public recitation of the rosary on the eve of the vote outside the legislature, knowing that supporters of gay marriage would also be there and the prayer would be a provocation. He wrote to Bergoglio seeking advice, he said, and Bergoglio called him directly, suggesting they pray at home instead.”

As highly Catholic nations, like Brazil and Colombia, continue slowly progressing towards full marriage rights for same-gender couples, perhaps the detente approach of Pope Francis on civil marriage will mute some of the most vocal anti-LGBT opposition. How the new Pope will deal with, if at all, the issue of marriage equality spreading throughout the Americas during his first return visit will be interesting to track. 

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


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