With LGBT Rights Under Attack in 2017, Catholics Must Seek Justice with Renewed Vigor (Part II)

Today’s post is the second half of an analysis of how Catholic LGBT issues in the United States will play out in the new year, and with a new president taking office. Yesterday’s post, which you can read here, discussed emerging issues at the state and local level, contrasting the responses of two Catholic politicians in Virginia as an example.

A demonstrator waves a rainbow flag in f
LGBT advocates rallying outside the U.S. Capitol

I turn now to the national landscape. Writing for Religion Dispatches, Sunnivie Brydum has identified areas at the federal government level where LGBT rights are likely to be threatened. In reading her article, we again ask: what can Catholics expect in the church and in society? And how can Catholics respond effectively?

First Amendment Defense Act

First, Brydum says the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA) “is all but certain to become law.” This bill “exemplifies the ways in which the bedrock principle of religious freedom” has been weaponized to block the advance of LGBT equality.”

FADA is a federal version of the “right to discriminate” legislation which has appeared in state legislatures, allowing people and corporations to deny services to LGBT people if the person or corporation acts according to their religious beliefs. Brydum suggested that FADA’s passage in Congress will strengthen local efforts to enact “right to discriminate” laws.

Unfortunately, U.S. Catholic bishops have been leading figures in misusing religious liberty, particularly in regard to LGBT issues. Brydum noted that it was in a letter to Catholics that President-elect Trump said he would support FADA’s passage. These realities mean LGBT Catholics and their allies will have to challenge not only political but ecclesial forces in the coming year. We have to demand that church leaders adhere more closely to Catholic teaching which supports non-discrimination protections for LGBT people and the equality of persons rooted in human dignity.

Attacks on Healthcare Access

Brydum identified healthcare access as a second threatened area. She specifically identified the impact that proposed Secretary of Health and Services Tom Price will have. Price, a congressman from Georgia, has repeatedly voted against LGBT rights and “defended false equivalencies between pedophilia and homosexuality as nothing more than harmless ‘Christian beliefs regarding proper sexual ethics.'” Brydum continued:

“Crucially, Price also denounced the Obama administration’s landmark support for transgender students as an ‘absurd’ and ‘clear invasion of privacy.’. . .For the first time under the [Affordable Care Act], transgender Americans could not be denied gender-affirming health care simply because they were transgender.”

For sexual and gender minorities, changes to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) could eliminate vital programs which help many Americans, and particularly vulnerable populations, to obtain healthcare. One study estimated that 36,000 people would die each year if the ACA is repealed. Rea Carey, executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force, is quoted by Brydum saying, “If confirmed, Tom Price would steer HHS in a dangerous direction that’s motivated by profit and the desire to control our bodies.”

Again, despite Catholic teaching affirming healthcare as a human right, it has been Catholic bishops and political operatives who have repeatedly tried to stop passage of and then undermine the ACA. Healthcare that is affordable and informed about gender and sexuality issues is not always accessible to LGBT people, but many steps were taken under President Barack Obama to address systemic problems. Catholics will have to challenge any movement to reverse these lifesaving measures, and again demand that church leaders shift their focus.

Curtailed Civil Rights

The third and final national area Brydum addressed are LGBT civil rights, and, specifically, the impact changes at the Department of Justice might have. Brydum wrote:

“President Trump’s Department of Justice may use the muscle that agency developed under Obama to suppress voting rights, privatize education, and strip away existing civil rights protections. That last provision is particularly important for LGBT Americans, who enjoyed an unprecedented growth in legal equality under President Obama.”

However, Brydum said, the approval of Senator Jeff Sessions as Attorney General would mean “the fate of American civil rights law is effectively sealed” and the Department of Justice would become “a powerful foe.”

Catholics in the United States have repeatedly proven to be among the most LGBT- supportive religious believers, and Catholic politicians like Governor McAuliffe who have done much to advance LGBT rights in civil law. Civil rights is one area where it would be easy for church leaders to raise their voices; human rights are a settled matter in church teaching. The chilling silence of most U.S. bishops after 49 people were massacred at an LGBT club in Orlando cannot be repeated.

Looking Ahead in 2017

cca_nondiscrim
Click to share this graphic on Facebook

The road ahead will be much harder than it was under the previous presidential administration.Wherever civil rights come under attack, Catholics must step forward. Catholic LGBT advocates must be in solidarity with Muslim Americans, communities of color, people with disabilities, immigrants, women, and other marginalized groups who may come under attack. It is helpful to keep in mind these words from the Catholic Committee on Appalachia:

“Catholics are called by God to oppose discrimination in all of its forms. No religious conviction justifies our treatment of anyone as a second-class citizen.  All are made in the image and likeness of God. Therefore, religious freedom does not trump civil rights, as both are important and should be protected equally.”

Now, more than ever, we must cultivate deeper roots of faith in Jesus Christ in which to ground our witness for equality in the church and in the world.

For the latest updates on Catholic LGBT issues, subscribe to Bondings 2.0 in the upper right-hand corner of this page.

–Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, January 8, 2017

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6 thoughts on “With LGBT Rights Under Attack in 2017, Catholics Must Seek Justice with Renewed Vigor (Part II)

  1. John Hilgeman January 8, 2017 / 1:45 am

    We have had to fight governments and church leaders for years. It has only been in recent years that we have made significant gains, winning the support of various local and state governments, and of our federal government in our behalf. We will fight again as politicians on the federal level attempt to justify bigotry through unjust and discriminatory laws.

    As far as church leaders are concerned, it would take a miracle for the massive change of heart that would find the leaders as a whole (there have always been some leaders on our side) to take seriously their own teaching that we deserve justice and full involvement in the community. So we will have to continue to be prophets, forcefully speaking truth to power and bringing pressure to bear as needs be.

  2. Don Siegal January 8, 2017 / 10:53 pm

    Off topic

    This is a very sad summary of what may happen. I’m stunned and don’t know how to reply. This is very important to me because of my ministry to the RCIA process in my parish. Last evening two of the members of my RCIA community were married (traditional) in one of our local parishes. I am a gay man. The presiding priest was the same person that anointed me and my partner when my partner was passing away. So new life and old life were happening in my presence.

    Later at the reception the priest greeted me and asked, “How are you doing living alone?” I replayed that I was doing very well. That a priest still remembered my situation six years later was very significant to me.

    • Friends January 9, 2017 / 8:28 pm

      It’s not off-topic at all, Don! We all need to hear everything which is made available for us to hear, concerning the example set by those rare priests (or bishops) who truly embody the divinely-illuminated wisdom and compassion exemplified in the public activities of Jesus Himself. Prerequisite for priestly ordination should be a seminary course called “WWJD 101”. In other words: what would Jesus do, in His own interactions with human beings who cultivate an attitude of good faith and good will toward others? I think the answer is perfectly obvious — and Jesus’ attitude is clearly NOT represented by the harshly negative judgmental attitudes of far too many contemporary priests and bishops.

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