Maryland Catholics Spread Marriage Equality Message

September 29, 2012

Maryland Catholic parents and the state’s Catholic governor are spreading their message of support for marriage equality in the state’s upcoming referendum via the traditional press and YouTube.

Erma Durkin

Erma Durkin, who describes herself as an 83-year old “cradle Catholic” penned an op-ed piece published in The Baltimore Sun, in which she cites her Catholic faith as the reason she is voting for question #6 in the fall:

“We should be acknowledging in everyone — including my gay son — the inherent dignity and fairness due them as human beings. As a cradle Catholic, my parents and my church taught me to treat everyone as I wanted to be treated. I have tried to live according to this teaching. . . .

“Both my head and my heart tell me that each child in our family should enjoy the same opportunity to be married. It is only right to treat everyone fairly and equally in the public square. I cannot understand how my gay son getting married to the person he loves can do harm to anyone else’s marriage.”

Ms. Durkin, who is a regular reader and frequent commenter to the Bondings 2.0 blog, acknowledges that for some, acceptance of marriage equality is a journey, but she is hopeful that others will arrive at the same place that she is:

“I do understand that, for many people, to come to a point where they can say they support marriage for gay couples will be a journey. And there are many lay Catholics on this journey now. In fact, a majority of Catholics in pews across the country support marriage equality. But we all come to this issue at our own pace, and that’s fine. . . .

“I hope Catholics in this great state vote their conscience on election day and support Question 6.”

Pat and Jenny Nugent, of Cambridge, Maryland (who are also frequent readers and contributors to this blog), are featured in a two-and-a-half minute video, explaining how their Catholic faith, plus the experience of having a gay son, have motivated to support this issue of justice and equality.

The Nugents, who have been married 48 years, and have seven children and eleven grandchildren, relate their moving story of how their faith and family experience molded their views.  You can view the entire video here:

In the video, Jenny states:

“I want him to have the same sense of security and fidelity in a relationship, where you know there’s one person you can always rely on.

“I also want for him to be able to say, to the world, this is who I love, this is who I’m committed to, and this is who is committed to me. And that they can do that publicly, like all of our other kids.”

And Pat adds:

“I’m going to vote my conscience and vote for QuestionNo. 6 in November.”

Another Maryland Catholic, Governor Martin O’Malley, was the subject of a ReligionDispatches. org essay this week, and author Peter Montgomery highlighted the governor’s argument about the strong religious protections in the law:

“Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who is actively campaigning for voter approval of a marriage equality law he signed earlier this year, said Monday night that his support for equality under the law is “very much informed” by his Catholic faith and his commitment to protecting the human dignity of every person in Maryland. . . .

“O’Malley said that expansive religious freedom language in the law was important to its passage and in keeping with the traditions of the state of Maryland. The referendum language makes clear that the law protects clergy from having to perform any ceremony that violates their beliefs, guarantees each faith control over its marriage doctrine, and ‘provides that religious organizations and certain related entities are not required to provide goods, services, or benefits to an individual related to the celebration or promotion of marriage in violation of their religious beliefs.’ ”

You can watch a video of O’Malley’s other comments here:

Baltimore’s Archbishop William Lori also spoke out about marriage equality this week,  opposing the referendum question.  His comments are not available, however, since the event at which he spoke was closed to the media.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


More Details on Catholic Support for Uganda’s Anti-Gay Bill

June 15, 2012

Earlier this week, we reported on a statement released by the Uganda Joint Christian Council (UJCC), an ecumenical group which includes Catholic Church officials, in which they expressed support for that country’s notorious legislation which proposes severe criminal penalties for homosexuality.   At that time, there were scant details about the present incarnation of the bill, which in the past had included the death penalty as a punishment.

ReligionDispatches.com has published an essay by Peter Montgomery, their associate editor and Senior Fellow at People For the American Way, which offers a few more details. Montgomery confirms that the news of the UJCC’s support

“is especially noteworthy since Roman Catholic Bishop of Uganda Cyprian Lwanga previously denounced the bill’s death penalty and imprisonment provisions as contrary to ‘a Christian caring approach to this issue,’ though he also said ‘We, the Catholic Bishops of Uganda, appreciate and applaud the Government’s effort to protect the traditional family and its values.’ “

You can view video of Lwanga’s earlier (2009) denouncing of the bill here, and you can read the text of that earlier statement here.  Around the same time, the Vatican made oblique reference to the bill in a statement denouncing anti-gay violence to the United Nations, which you can read here.

Montgomery offers some insight into the recent confusion about whether or not the death penalty is included in the current version of the bill which Lwanga and the UJCC now support:

“The Anti-Homosexuality Bill was shelved last year, but reintroduced this February by its sponsor, Member of Parliament David Bahati (the same month the government shut down a conference of LGBT activists). Some news reports at the time said the death penalty had been removed from the bill. But Warren Throckmorton noted that the death penalty in fact remained.

“A BBC report quoted Bahati saying the original bill was reintroduced for procedural reasons, and that the death penalty would be removed in committee. ‘However,’ notes a commentary on Care2.com, ‘readers familiar with the legislation’s history will know that such assurances have been made before only for the bill to go to the voting stage intact and without the death sentence deleted.’ ”

Montgomery also notes that the bill still includes:

  • A 7-year jail sentence for consenting adults who have gay sex;
  • A life sentence for people in same-sex marriages;
  • Extradition and prosecution of LGBT Ugandans living abroad;
  • The death penalty for adults who have gay sex with minors or people with disabilities, consensual or no, or who communicate HIV via gay sex, regardless of condom usage or consent;
  • Jail for anyone who doesn’t report suspected gay people within 24 hours;
  • A ban on the “promotion” of homosexuality so open-ended that it would endanger HIV/AIDS treatment and sexual health clinics in the country and could effectively exclude gay people from petitioning the courts by making those representing them liable for criminal action;
  • A mandate to break all ties with international commitments and laws opposing the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

Since about 42% of Uganda’s population is Catholic (the largest denomination in the country), the influence of Catholicism can be very strong there.

The story of Archbishops Lwanga’s reversal of stance on this bill highlights how dangerous it is when Catholic leaders do not take seriously the church’s condemnation of discrimination and violence against LGBT people.  A commenter on Twitter noted that perhaps Lwanga’s support may be intended to prevent the more draconian aspects of the bill. Even if that were the case, such an ambiguous position is irresponsible in such a highly volatile and dangerous political situation.  Moreover,  Lwanga’s “defense of traditional family and values” rhetoric certainly makes it difficult to interpret his message in a way that is other than anti-gay.

When it comes to condemning same-sex relationships and marriage equality proposals, Catholic bishops often claim that they must be clear, strong, and consistent in the denouncements.  Why doesn’t the same clarity, strength, and consistency apply to their denouncements of proposed legislation which is such a gross violation of the human rights of LGBT people?

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


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