big-ot-ry - noun, stubborn and complete intolerance of any creed, belief, or opinion that differs from one’s own.
Jim Baron has written an insightful editorial, entitled “Opponents of Same-Sex Marriage Display Bigotry,” in the May 13 edition of the Pawtucket Times. The impetus for this editorial was Baron’s witnessing of a recent Rhode Island Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on same-sex marriage.
Following is an excerpt from Baron’s editorial:
Bigotry is an ugly word, but we are not going to get anywhere trying to look the other way when ugliness is staring us in the face.
Anti-gay prejudice is the only reason that the law will not allow same-sex marriage. The opponents, for many of whom religion is either a reason or an excuse, don’t want to get gay cooties all over “their” sacred institution. What else does a so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) – which essentially defines marriage as the union between one man and one woman – defend marriage against?
That position is childish. Not child-like, with its implication of innocence, wonder and acceptance, but childish, as in selfish, petty and small-minded.
In many ways, including its connection to religion, the gay marriage issue is like the abortion debate – there is no room for compromise. No middle ground. Just about everybody’s mind is made up, and those opinions are polarized. Unless you are the guy who stands up and says, “how about civil unions?” In which case you get the hairy eyeball from BOTH sides.
Gays resent civil union because it is half-a-civil-rights-loaf. It still makes them “other” and “less than,” even though to a smaller degree. And it will not effectively confer many of the rights and privileges of marriage, particularly on the federal level, that they are looking for and deserve. The opponents, on the other hand, don’t want it “because...because...well, because they’re a bunch of queers. That’s why, dammit.”
I don’t want to imply that religion equates with anti-gay bigotry. To the contrary, there were several clergymen, some wearing clerical garb, testifying in favor of the same-sex marriage bill. One provided a list of approximately 100 clergy from churches all over the state endorsing the bill.
As several of the witnesses – including one of the clergymen – noted, much of the opposition is generated by the Roman Catholic Church. Although to be fair, in previous years I remember preachers from fundamentalist Baptist congregations speaking against it as well.
. . . Many people, including some of the opponents of gay marriage, do not begrudge same-sex couples togetherness, or even basic rights as making medical decisions, being considered next-of-kin, and sharing health care, Social Security and other benefits. It is just the word marriage – and all the traditional and religious baggage that accompanies it – that sticks in their craw.
They probably don’t recognize that as bigotry, but that is what it is. And as soon as we get past that, we’re going to wonder what all the arguing was about.
To read Jim Baron’s editorial in its entirety, click here.
Closer to Home
Throughout 2005-2006 there was a concerted effort here in Minnesota to pass a constitutional amendment banning “gay marriage and all legal equivalents.” Thankfully it failed, but as with the current situation in Rhode Island (as reported by Jim Baron above), this bigoted effort in Minnesota was also actively endorsed and encouraged by powerful representatives of the Catholic Church.
For instance, in the fall of 2005, Archbishop Flynn of the Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis, sent out a letter to all priests within the archdiocese, encouraging them to not only support the proposed “marriage amendment,” but to attend the “Pastors Summit” – an event planned and hosted by fundamentalist Christians opposed to gay marriage. Adversity certainly can make for strange bedfellows!
Many Catholics were dismayed by this development. One group, Catholic Rainbow Parents, wrote and sent its own letter to the priests of the archdiocese.
Following is the text of this letter, one that serves as a powerful testimony of faith and an insightful historical document in the ongoing struggle for GLBT equality.
We are Catholic parents of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) children writing to you to express our concern and deep disappointment with Archbishop Flynn’s decision to actively endorse the Pastors’ Summit scheduled to take place November 10 at Grace Church, Eden Prairie. This summit aims to help pastors mobilize their congregations in support of a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban all forms of legally recognized unions of same-gender couples.
The goals of this summit thus reach far beyond the parameters of sacramental marriage. They seek to deprive an entire class of human beings their equal rights to civil marriage. We think it’s important to clarify that the Church itself distinguishes between sacramental marriage (or matrimony) and civil marriage. The Church, for instance, never uses the term “Holy Marriage,” but rather “Holy Matrimony,” and when the Church does talk about the “sanctity of marriage,” it is referring to the religious or sacramental aspect of matrimony, not the civil aspect of marriage.
Furthermore, the proposed marriage amendment endorsed by the summit is not really about protecting sacramental marriage – which owing to the separation of church and state, needs no protection; it is about discriminating against families. If passed, it would deny same-gender couples and their families the 1138 protections afforded to families headed by mixed-gender couples. If passed, this amendment would mark the first time in history that the Minnesota Constitution would be amended to enshrine discrimination, rather than extend rights to people.
Does the Church lobby against civil marriage for divorced couples? Of course not. Neither should the Church lobby against civil unions for same-gender couples.
Try to imagine our frustration and anger as we watch our Catholic pastoral leaders support efforts that have been well-funded and orchestrated by Christian fundamentalists to stereotype our children and deny their rights. The instigators behind this anti-gay movement base their views on GLBT people and their relationships on outdated, misleading, and incorrect pseudo-scientific findings. Such findings have been widely debunked by the vast majority of well-respected associations of social scientists and medical health professionals.
Further, we ask you as well trained pastoral professionals, to consider the backgrounds and credentials of the primary sponsors of this upcoming summit. With the exception of our archbishop and a few priests whom you all know, the endorsers of this event are primarily leaders of fundamentalist evangelical churches that do not represent mainline religious congregations. Would you spend even one minute listening to these fundamentalist preachers teach you about scriptural interpretation or about the need to be “born again” to achieve salvation? Should we as Catholics now look to them for spiritual guidance regarding other issues?
The first group among the signers of this event’s invitation is the Minnesota Family Council, which for 20 years was known as the fundamentalist-driven Berean League. Back then, with more overt hostility and anti-Christian slogans, their volunteers worked as feverishly as they are now working under their more politically palatable facade to lobby the Minnesota Legislature to vote against all human rights for GLBT persons in the state. Finally, in 1993, with support from the bishops of the state of Minnesota, the legislature amended the Human Rights Act to protect all people from discrimination based on sexual orientation.
As Catholic parents, we can no longer stand by and watch as our Church leaders feign ecumenical interests while openly working to disparage our children and to deny their rights in the name of God and Jesus – the same Jesus who demanded that we love God and each other as God loves us.
Some of you have already decided not to participate in this summit and for this we applaud your conviction. To the rest, we ask that you refuse to go or if you feel you must be there, to please break the conspiracy of silence that endorses discrimination in the name of religion.
Enclosed is a copy of our group’s Declaration about our children, which almost 100 parents from across the US and the world have endorsed and which we have recently sent to the Vatican and to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Who knows what role the Catholic Rainbow Parents’ letter played, but very few Catholic priests ended up actually attending the Pastors Summit. A few even joined with Catholic Rainbow Parents, CPCSM, Dignity/Twin Cities, SoulForce, and others to protest outside the summit and to rally for equal civil marriage rights.
Above: Michael Bayly (executive coordinator of the Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities) and Randi Reitan (of SoulForce Minnesota) at the November 10, 2005 rally to support equal civil marriage rights for all Minnesotans.
Image 1: ChinaDaily.com
Image 2: MSNBC
Image 3: H&F
Image 4: Center for AIDS Prevention Studies
Image 5: Beyond Church Street
Image 6: Catholic Church vs. Gays
Image 7: David McCaffrey
See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
The Real Gay Agenda
Voices of Parental Authority and Wisdom
OutFront Minnesota’s 2007 Lobby Day
The Bishop’s “Guidelines”: A Parent’s Response
Coadjutor Archbishop Nienstedt’s “Learning Curve”: A Suggested Trajectory
Good News from Minnesota
On Civil Unions and Christian Tradition
The Bible and Homosexuality
Catholic Rainbow (Australian) Parents
Gay Adoption: A Catholic Lawyer’s Perspective
Making Sure All Families Matter
The Non-Negotiables of Human Sex