The news organization reported that the lead plaintiffs in one of the four cases that will have their oral arguments next week, with a decision expected by the end of June, are a Catholic gay couple, who are active parishioners at Our Lady of Lourdes parish, Louisville, Kentucky.
Michael DeLeon and Greg Bourke have been together for 33 years, and they have two children: Bella, 16, and Isaiah, 17. They married in 2004, in Niagara Falls, Canada. The article says that at the parish they “are just like any other family.”
Indeed, the pastor at O.L. of Lourdes praised their involvement and their acceptance by parishioners:
” ‘I’ve been here almost four years, and there might be a handful of people who are uncomfortable,’ said Father Scott Wimsett, the pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes. ‘But [Bourke and DeLeon] are loved and respected and people call them. They’re involved, and you see how they fit in.’
” ‘They’re just good people,’ Wimsett went on. ‘And that’s kind of what it’s all about, isn’t it?’ “
The article described the legal and social dilemma that the couple are in because marriage equality is not yet legal in their home state of Kentucky:
“[T]hat’s the issue bringing them to the Supreme Court: Does the 14th Amendment require a state to recognize same-sex marriages that were lawfully licensed and performed out-of-state?
“While they wait, they still have to deal with the very real consequences of having a marriage that’s recognized by the federal government but not by their own state. For example, only DeLeon is listed as the legal parent of Bella and Isaiah.
“Their Supreme Court brief argues that if ‘Michael dies, Greg’s lack of a permanent parent/child relationship with the children would threaten the stability of the surviving family.’
“That legal distinction makes itself felt in day-to-day life in unexpected ways. For example, if Bella and Isaiah need passports, DeLeon will be the one to go with them, because in the eyes of the law, he’s their only parent.”
This is not the first time that the couple has been in the spotlight because of gay issues. In 2012, Bourke was expelled from his position as the leader of a Boy Scout troop by the leadership of the local Scout Council. The local community, including the parish and the pastor, came to his support during this crisis:
“[T]he community rallied behind Bourke. His troop and Wimsett, his pastor, stood up for him and refused to make him leave.
” ‘The Boy Scouts did the one thing they could do that was left in their arsenal… Our troop charter would have been revoked if I didn’t leave,’ said Bourke. ‘So because I love the troop and I love the boys and I love scouting… I resigned reluctantly.’ “
Ann Russo, a parishioner at O.L of Lourdes who is the leader of the Girl Scout troop offered her reflections on Bourke and DeLeon’s relationship:
” ‘I have a lot of admiration for Greg and Michael,’ said Russo. ‘They’re probably one of the first gay couples that I’ve gotten to know personally. And the fact that they’ve been together for so long just — I mean, they were just meant to be together. It’s been fun watching them post on Facebook — their anniversaries and birthdays and things like that.’
“She said she was proud to be a member of the parish when Wimsett stood behind Bourke and disagreed with the Boy Scouts’ policy.
” ‘I think that any of us, as parents, want to be involved with our kids,’ she said. ‘As a Girl Scout leader, I don’t talk about my sex life with any other leaders, much less children. That would never have come up.’ “
Bourke and DeLeon will not be the only Catholic dimension at the Supreme Court when these cases are heard and ruled upon. Six of the nine Justices on the Court are Catholic, including Anthony Kennedy, considered the swing vote that brought favorable outcomes in two other cases regarding gay and lesbian equality.
Bourke and DeLeon, like many Catholic gay and lesbian couples, are leading dedicated lives of faith and service in a way that is both remarkable and ordinary. But it sounds like the support of their pastor and parish are extraordinary in their support for this loving Catholic family.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry