Positive Catholic Congressional Briefing on LGBT Rights

by Maureen Fiedler

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The Catholic Bishops of the United States have been lobbying for years against equal rights for the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender (LGBT) community. There were prominent in favoring repeal of same sex marriage in California and Maine, and they pushed hard to keep it from becoming law recently in Maryland. In addition, they have lobbied against adoption rights and even equality in employment.

Now, Catholics who favor human equality - no matter what a person’s sexual orientation - have come together to make a political impact for LGBT rights. Implicitly, they are saying to Members of Congress: you may hear from the Bishops on this, but they no longer represent most of the flock. We do.

On Wednesday, March 30, a coalition of Catholic groups called “Equally Blessed” sponsored a Congressional Briefing in the Rayburn Building on Capitol Hill. Congressional sponsors were Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-NY) and Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA). It was attended by at least 100 people. I was pleased to moderate the session.

Robert P. Jones of the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) “set the table” for discussion by presenting startling new data on Catholic attitudes on gay/lesbian issues. The results show that more Catholics support the legal recognition of same sex relationships than do members of any other Christian denomination, or Americans overall. Fully 74% favor either same sex marriage (43%) or civil unions (31%); only 22% want no legal recognition at all. Here is a link to the story:
tWith this backdrop, a panel of three Catholic leaders spoke to the issues at hand:
•tRev. Bryan N. Massingale, Associate Professor of Theology at Marquette University
•tSr. Simone Campbell, SSS, Executive Director of NETWORK
•tMr. David Saavedra, a marriage and family therapist, Call to Action board member and proud father of a gay son

Each panelist told poignant stories about gay or lesbian people they had met, and how these stories moved them to come and offer testimony in the nation’s capitol. Each emphasized fundamental Catholic teaching on the full and equal dignity and rights of every human being, regardless of human characteristics or behavior.

When it came time for Q & A, some questioners challenged the panelists’ adherence to Catholic teaching, but they re-emphasized Catholic bedrock values: the equal dignity and rights of every human being..

The upshot of all this? Move over, bishops and Members of Congress. There’s a new Catholic lobby in town. And – by the way – did you happen to notice who represents the majority of Catholics?

The “Equally Blessed” Coalition includes four groups: Call to Action, Dignity/USA, Fortunate Families and New Ways Ministry. Funding was provided by the Arcus Foundation.

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