Equal Marriage Rights Progress Around the World–Especially in Catholic Nations

April 16, 2013

As marriage equality legislation increases in the United States, there is also progress being made in several nations around the world, including notably Catholic ones. Bondings 2.0 provides brief updates on five nations that are moving towards greater LGBT rights, and we encourage readers to use the provided links for more information.

Uruguay

In this predominantly Catholic nation, 71 of 92 deputies in Congress voted for marriage equality sending the legislation to the pro-LGBT president, Jose Mujica, for his signature within weeks. BBC News reports that Uruguay becomes the second Latin American country to pass full marriage equality, after Argentina. In both cases institutional Catholic opposition was strong. Bondings 2.0 reported on the Uruguayan Senate’s passage of a similar bill last week. The legislation also allows for positive changes in same-gender adoption regulations.

Italy

A leading judiciary figure in Italy has called for equality in one of the final European nations without legal recognition for same-gender relationships, and one of the most Catholic. The Sacramento Bee reports on both the Italian judge’s statements and the Vatican’s stance on Italian law:

“President Franco Gallo said the Italian Constitutional Court has ‘ruled out the constitutional illegitimacy’ of laws limiting marriage to heterosexual couples.

“‘At the same time, the Court has stated that two people of the same sex still have the fundamental right to obtain legal recognition of their stable union, with attached rights and obligations,’ he said…

“In February, the Vatican’s top official on family matters, Monsignor Vincenzo Paglia, said: ‘gay marriage is one thing, and our position on that is well known, while discrimination is another matter.’

“‘Individual rights must be guaranteed’ through ‘private law,’ including for same-sex couples, Paglia said, referring to ‘patrimonial’ aspects. He stated that it was ‘time for lawmakers to worry’ about the issue.”

France

The French Senate passed legislation allowing same-gender marriages and extending adoption rights to lebian and gay couples. The National Assembly passed similar legislation in February. The debate over marriage equality in France inspired massive demonstrations and heated exchanges in the past year, reported here and here on Bondings 2.0. France is a historically Catholic nation, and it has been Catholic lay movements and French bishops leading opposition to LGBT rights. Bloomberg BusinessWeek provides further details, as France is now just months away from full marriage and adoption rights being passed.

Ireland

Members of a Constitutional Convention voted on April 14 in favor of a national referendum on equal marriage rights, with 78% seeking an amendment with language directly enacting same-gender marriage and another 17% for language that allows the government to do so. The Irish Times reports on the way forward as government officials take up the Convention’s recommendations:

“The Government was committed to holding a discussion on the report of the Constitutional Convention, [Minister for Justice Alan Shatter] said. ‘The issue of a constitutional referendum will thereafter be considered by Cabinet,’ he said. It was for the Cabinet to decide on the holding and the timing of the referendum, he added…

“The members of the Convention also voted yesterday in favour of recommending that the State pass laws ‘incorporating changed arrangements in regard to the parentage, guardianship and the upbringing of children’.

“’I think there would be a great deal of wisdom in that legislation being progressed and published before we go to a constitutional referendum,’ Mr Shatter told RTÉ today. The issue was omitted from the 2010 Act legalising civil partnership for same-sex couples, he said. Mr Shatter is due to publish details of a Family Relationships and Children’s Bill to address such issues in the coming months.”

Ireland is considered one the world’s most Catholic nations, and the bishops there have already threatened to cease issuing marriage licenses if marriage equality becomes legal. The next steps will be for the Irish government to take up the Convention’s recommendations and enact legislation, either for constitutional changes or changes in the law under existing constitutional strictures.

New Zealand

Legislators will expand same-gender rights in New Zealand, where civil unions currently exist, as a full equal marriage bill receives a final vote tomorrow. On Top Magazine reports:

“Big crowds are expected to be on hand to witness Labour MP Louisa Wall’s marriage equality member’s bill receive its third reading in Parliament.

“The measure received overwhelming approval at its committee stages last month. Wednesday’s final vote is considered a formality. Bills are rarely rejected at this stage…

“If the bill is approved, it is expected to take effect in August.”

As always, Bondings 2.0 will update our readers as progress for full LGBT rights proceeds in these nations and others. If you have not done so, use the ‘Follow’ box in the upper right hand corner of this page to receive daily email updates.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


Cincinnati School Administrator Is Penalized for Supporting Marriage Equality

February 11, 2013

An assistant principal at a Catholic high school in Cincinnati is about to be fired because he wrote statements in support of marriage equality on his personal blog.

Mark Moroski

Mark Moroski

News.Cincinnati.com reports about the decision directed against this Purcell Marian High School staffer:

“The Archdiocese of Cincinnati placed Moroski on administrative leave Feb. 4 and plans to fire him, Moroski said. He says he has hired a lawyer.

“Moroski refused to take down his statements on the blog.

“ ‘I believe in Catholicism,’ Moroski said in an interview. ‘But my conscience will not permit me to recant my statement.

“ ‘I put it up there because I really truly honestly believe it,’ he added. ‘I’m absolutely willing to lose my job over this. The only difficult thing for me now is the students.’ ”

Moroski admitted that he knew he was making a statement that was not in accordance with church teachings about marriage, but his conscience directed him to do so.

Of course,  church teaching clearly states that we must follow our consciences, so, in reality Moroski is following church teaching by stating his beliefs.  In doing that, he is teaching his students an invaluable lesson about the importance of following one’s conscience–a very Catholic lesson.

On January 27th, Moroski wrote the following statements on his blog, www.mikemoroski.com:

“I unabashedly believe that gay people SHOULD be allowed to marry. Ethically, morally and legally I believe this. I spend a lot of my life trying to live as a Christian example of love for others, and my formation at Catholic grade school, high school, 3 Catholic Universities and employment at 2 Catholic high schools has informed my conscience to believe that gay marriage is NOT something of which to be afraid.”

Since then, Moroski has posted several times about his reflections on the situation, including this post, entitled “Prayer”:

“Many folks are beginning to say that they will pray for me to repent and realize the error in my ways.

“I, too, am praying for them to realize that this stance is NOT an attack on them or their church.  It is about trying to make us all a little bit better.  And who knows, I may be wrong in God’s eyes.  I have no idea what God thinks.  I just try to live my life in a way that doesn’t harm anyone.  And I realize all of these other folks feel the same way about their lives.  I respect that.

“But my conscience tells me that I am not doing anything wrong.

“Between the two camps of prayer, I fully expect that we will find God in the middle.”

Moroski’s case is similar to the New Zealand teacher who was fired last year for criticizing his principal’s derogatory comments about lesbian and gay parents.   Unfortunately, it is similar to the increasing number of cases here in the United States where employees of Catholic institutions are being fired either because they support marriage equality or because they have married a same-gender partner.

Instead of teaching students about the primacy of conscience, the Archdiocese is instead teaching them about homophobia.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Minsitry


NEWS NOTES: Following Up on Previous Stories

October 26, 2012

Here are some items that may be of interest which follow up on stories that we have already posted:

1) Back in April, we posted about Anna Maria College, a Catholic campus in Worcester, Massachusetts, disinvited Victoria Reggie Kennedy, the widow of Senator Edward Kennedy, from speaking at the school’s commencement ceremonies, in part because of her support of marriage equality.  This past week, Anna Maria College welcomed Ms. Kennedy as the keynote speaker at an academic symposium on “Faith and the Public Square: Balancing Religious Beliefs with the Common Good.”  The Worcester Telegram and Gazette article on her speech notes that she received a standing ovation when introduced.

2) In September, we reported that Nigel Studdart, a Catholic high school teacher in New Zealand, was fired from his job because he criticized his principal’s negative remarks about gay parents, and because he supported the students’ protest of the remarks.  Recently, a follow-up story in The New Zealand Herald notes that Mr. Studdart is considering legal action to get his job back.

3) Over the past year, we’ve been following the story of Ontario’s new law which requires state-funded Catholic schools to establish gay-straight alliances, if requested by students.  A possible law suit against the government may be brought by a group who feels that Catholic education rights are being violated by the new law, reports The Globe and Mail.

4) In September, we reported that Catholic organizations were among over 30 religious groups that endorsed the passage of a California bill which would outlaw forcing minors to undergo “conversion therapy” to change their sexual orientations.  The bill was passed into law and signed by California’s Catholic Governor Jerry Brown.  CNN.com reports that in signing the law, Brown hoped that conversion therapy would be consigned “to the dustbin of quackery.”

5) Last week, we reported on Equally Blessed’s report which detailed how the Knights of Columbus are spending millions of dollars to prevent marriage equality from becoming the law of the land.  Today, the Washington Post’s “On Faith” blog carries an op-ed essay by Marianne Duddy-Burke, a representative of Equally Blessed and executive director of DignityUSA, which provides some context and analysis for this report.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Fired New Zealand Teacher’s Final and Most Powerful Lesson

September 25, 2012

Nigel Studdart

A science teacher at a Catholic high school in New Zealand has been fired because of criticizing the school principal’s remarks against gay parents.  Though fired, the teacher has taught his students a remarkable lesson about standing up for one’s beliefs.

According to New Zealand’s Northern Advocate newspaper:

“Three weeks after being suspended for speaking out against what he called discriminatory comments by the Pompallier Catholic College [high school] principal, science teacher Nigel Studdart has been sacked.

“The school board’s decision to end his tenure came as no surprise to the teacher, who has many students as well as gay rights groups speaking in support of him.”

In August, the principal, Richard Stanton, wrote an essay in the school’s newsletter, decrying efforts in New Zealand to legalize marriage equality, which stated, in part:

“Same sex couples will almost inevitably argue for the ‘right’ to children. Such a voice is heard now and my fear is that we are moving towards a society where children become an ‘entitlement’ or ‘right’ and are therefore commodities, or possessions to be acquired, rather than a gift to be received. I  acknowledge that possessive parents are not exclusively found in same sex relationships, but I contend that such relationships may be more disposed towards such a mind-set.

“Parents who see their children as gifts bring a very different mind-set from those who see children as an entitlement. They tend to be more open to the flowering of their child in whatever direction they venture. This tends to encourage children to be more confident and open to the world around them.”

According to MSN.nz, Studdart criticized the principal’s remarks:

“Mr Studdart said he thought the comments were prejudicial toward gay parents and potentially harmful to gay students or the children of gay people.

“The principal’s inference that gay people were inferior parents was ‘untenable,’ he said.”

Additionally, Studdart supported a student-led protest of the principal’s remarks.

In his comments to the Northern Advocate after learning of the decision, Studdart offered a powerful lesson in the power of conscience:

“I’m not sorry I spoke out. I couldn’t have done anything else. The issue has led to a lot of debate about homosexuality which is irrelevant, really.

“The issue raised in the school newsletter and what I stood up over was discriminatory and prejudicial and has no rightful place in a decent society.

“I slept well last night [after being officially dismissed] with a clear conscience and I will face my tomorrows in the knowledge that I could not in all conscience have acted any differently.”

In firing Studdart, the school board acknowledged his fine teaching record.  So it is no surprise that his students have been strongly supportive of him during this ordeal.   According to the New Zealand Herald:

“Several students have left messages on the popular science teacher’s Facebook page disappointed with the school’s decision.

“i cant believe it, just like that my favourite teacher is gone,” Leshego Mpe wrote.

“There goes the best teacher in the school ='( good luck with whatever you plan to do now,” Nikki Bedford added.

“The whole family is outraged by this. The whole family are supporting you with any decision you make.

Thanks to you I felt so confident in my chem and bio paper today! You were the best teacher!” Zoe Pearse said.
Parents have been equally upset, some threatening to remove their children from the school.  Sharon Teh, a parent, said:
“Pompallier has lost one of the best teachers they have and we are seriously considering moving our son to a different school – we have no faith in Pompallier College at all. As well as a fantastic teacher, you are a wonderful man – you aren’t the one who should be leaving that school.”

Studdart has been praised by other New Zealand religious leaders.  According to GayNZ.com, Rev. Glynn Cardy, of Auckland’s St. Matthew’s-in-the-City Anglican Church, praised the example that Studdart offers students:

“It is this sort of courageous example that our young people need. . . .Your action also sends a wonderfully encouraging message to the many LGBT youth across New Zealand that discrimination is wrong, that some teachers are not prepared to be privately supportive but publically silent, and that there are people of religious faith who believe that the sacrament of marriage should be available to gay and lesbian couples.”

Cardy also offered a word of caution to New Zealand’s Catholic leaders:

“Cardy says he understands the position of New Zealand’s Catholic Bishops on the Marriage Amendment Bill, and that principal Richard Stanton might want to endorse that in his position as the leader of a Catholic school.

“ ‘However by stopping the expression of contrary opinions, and in particular by going to the extraordinary length of dismissing a popular and competent teacher, you are sending out a message that the school is not a place where robust debate can happen, and is not a place that can manage and appreciate diverse views,’ Cardy says.

“ ‘This seeming fear of difference is at odds with the best of Roman Catholicism’s social practice in New Zealand, a practice marked by tolerance and compassion.”

We pray that Cardy’s words will be heeded. And we pray in gratitude for Mr. Studdart’s courageous example.  He has turned what could have been a personal tragedy for him into a powerful teaching moment.

–Francis DeBernardo


New Zealand Member of Parliament to Catholic Bishops: “Love is love”

August 23, 2012

In New Zealand, a gay Member of  Parliament has publicly chastised the members of his nation’s Catholic hierarchy because of their opposition to a proposed law to enact marriage equality.

Kevin Hague

Criticism of the bishops came from Kevin Hague, a Green Party MP, who was responding to a recent letter that the prelates wrote to members of Generation Y (people in their 20s), urging them to oppose marriage equality.

GayNZ.com reported the story which is based on a blog post that Hague wrote on Frogblog, the New Zealand Green Party’s blog.   The following are excerpts from that post:

“It’s not a surprise that the NZ Catholic Bishops have chosen to oppose Louisa Wall’s Bill for marriage equality. After all, they opposed Homosexual Law Reform, they opposed human rights protection on the grounds of sexual orientation and they opposed Civil Unions. I’m beginning to sense a theme.

“The Catholic Bishops Pastoral Letter  is addressed to “Kiwis of Generation Y” and is entitled ‘From the Beginning of Creation’. I won’t take apart the whole letter but believe it could charitably be described as confused. Essentially the Bishops assert that the Church should not be able to define marriage, but then proceed, as the Church, to tell not only Church-going Catholics but also (explicitly) the entirety of Generation Y what they should think about the issue and the Bill. They also assert that it is not for legislators to define marriage, saying instead that ‘civil law reflects and protects human nature’.

“I respond by saying that there is overwhelming evidence that ‘human nature’ is, in fact, a very broad spectrum, which includes homosexual and bisexual orientation. “

Hague points out that the bishops’ message to New Zealand’s young adults is likely to be falling on deaf ears:

“Overall, twice as many New Zealanders support this change as oppose it. But for Generation Y, to whom the Bishops’ letter was addressed, four times as many support as oppose it.”

Hague offers an alternative message that he wishes the bishops would have said:

“Even though the Church also apparently believes that:

‘Every sign of unjust discrimination in their [homosexual persons] regard should be avoided,’ (2258 in the official Catechism of the Catholic Church)

the New Zealand Bishops have nonetheless opposed every initiative proposed to reduce or eliminate discrimination. How refreshing it would have been if the Bishops had, instead, said ‘marriage is both a civil contract and, in the eyes of the church, a sacrament. It is our constant belief that the latter has to be between a man and a woman since the validity of sacramental marriage has to be established by consummation. However, over the years the idea of marriage as a civil contract has developed in many ways (the easy availability of divorce for example). Any opposition to gay marriage, therefore, should be debated on its civil merits without regard to the Church’s religious position which will not be directly affected: is it necessary for justice to all? Is it in any way damaging to the civil contract? We have in the past made clear that while the church disapproves of homosexuality, the individual homosexual must not be discriminated against in any way.’ ”

Hague’s final message to the bishops is a simple sentence:

“Love is love.”

Hague closes his blog post with a video of an Australian commercial which went viral earlier this year.  I’ll let the video speak for itself:

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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