In yesterday’s Bonding 2.0‘s post on marriage equality’s global progress as it relates to Catholics, we reported Mexico’s legalization of same-gender marriages and Australia’s failure to do so.
To many, it is a paradox that a highly Catholic nation advances LGBT rights while the land of “No Worries” is stalled after more than a decade debating the issue.
To Slate’s Oscar Lopez this seeming paradox actually makes a lot of sense and his claim reaffirms what we often say here: LGBT justice is supported by Catholics because of their faith, not in spite of it.
Lopez, who is gay and born to Mexican and Australian parents, asks “how could this happen?” in response to Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbot (a Catholic) effectively killing the equal marriage bill in favor of a national referendum after 2016:
“The question remains: Why have Mexico’s socio-cultural norms helped to advance legal recognition of same-sex relationships there, while Australia’s values have impeded progress on equality?”
Lopez begins with each nation’s religious identity to find his answer, contrasting 82% of Mexicans who are Catholic with just 25% of Australians:
“If you’ve ever read Catholic doctrine or heard anything coming out of the Vatican, you’d think this would make for a very homophobic society. But when you consider that Catholic bastions like Ireland, Spain, France, Argentina, Uruguay, and Mexico have all legalized same-sex marriage, it’s clear that’s not quite right.“Catholic social values have changed dramatically. A recent Pew Research survey found that 60 percent of U.S. Catholics supported same-sex marriage, while a 2013 survey of Mexican Catholics also revealed majority support. Meanwhile, the referendum results in Ireland, where 84 percent identify as Catholic, speak for themselves.”
This widespread and increasing support for LGBT rights among Catholic populations comes from many places, but for Lopez the “most important factor” is Catholicism’s teachings on family and their influence on broader cultural norms:
“Whenever I go back to Mexico, the dozens of cousins and second cousins and third cousins I have there—many of whom I haven’t seen in years—are quick to embrace me as primo, inviting me into their homes and telling me all the family gossip. By contrast, in Australia, I didn’t even know I had family outside of my first cousins until my grandmother passed away a few years ago and other relatives sent their condolences.
“In a country where family is the basis for society, it’s harder to exclude members of the population from legal recognition. It’s harder to kick out your gay son or hate your lesbian sister. When the sacrament of marriage is the cornerstone of the family, it’s only natural that this should be a right for everyone—as in Mexico. To see the contrast in Australia, one need only look at Tony Abbott’s constant refusal to recognize the legal rights of his own lesbian sister.
“That’s not to say that there aren’t homophobic Mexican families, or that Aussie families love their kids any less because they’re not Catholic, but it is undeniable that family values have played a role in moving gay rights forward in Latin America. For us Latinos, blood is always thicker than water.”
Lopez cites minor factors as well, which you can read about at Slate by clicking here. He is careful not to claim Australians are anti-gay given their 72% support for equal marriage rights. His conclusion about the lessons Mexico’s Catholic identity, though aimed at Australia, is more generally applicable to other nations–so that all can “fully recognize love.”
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry