Thursday, October 28, 2010

Despite Anti-Gay Activism of Catholic Hierarchy, Marriage Equality Seems "Poised to Prevail"


The Rainbow Times, the LGBTQ newspaper of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Vermont, is predicting that marriage equality is “poised to prevail” in Rhode Island and Minnesota, and that, as a result, the Catholic hierarchy “may lose ground” in both states.

In his October 27 Rainbow Times article, Chuck Colbert notes that “equality gridlock may soon be lifted [in Rhode Island and Minnesota] as marriage equality proponents appear poised to prevail in key gubernatorial and legislative races regardless of church influence.”

Colbert highlights this “church influence” (which is really “clerical caste influence”) by documenting the efforts of Rhode Island’s Bishop Thomas Tobin and Minnesota’s Archbishop John Nienstedt to thwart the legalizing of same-sex civil marriage.

Colbert’s article also mentions this Sunday’s action at the Cathedral of St. Paul being organized by CPCSM, Catholics for Marriage Equality MN, Dignity Twin Cities, and Rainbow Sash Alliance.

Following is part of one of the media releases that the above groups have jointly issued about this Sunday’s event at the cathedral.

Minnesota citizens will have an opportunity this Sunday to respond to Archbishop Nienstedt and the MN bishops’ recent anti-gay marriage campaign. A coalition of church reform and LGBT Catholic groups are inviting people to the Roman Catholic Cathedral in downtown St Paul for a non-verbal “speak out.”

The organizers will offer fellow Catholics the opportunity to wear the Rainbow Sash at the noon Mass. That group will meet on the Selby Ave. side of the Cathedral at 11:30 a.m.

Those who do not want to attend Mass, but wish to be present to celebrate LGBT diversity and demonstrate inclusiveness, will be able to meet on the front steps at 12:30 p.m., and then fan out to form a human circle around the Cathedral. Some Rainbow Sashes will be available to this group, but people are encouraged to bring their own signs, banners, and symbols too, and to wear bright rainbow colored clothes. When Mass is over, the Rainbow Sash wearers will join the “circle of love” around the Cathedral, and then all will assemble for a group photo on the steps.

“Our circle will symbolize inclusiveness – in contrast to the non-Gospel message of exclusion being pushed by the MN bishops’ anti-gay marriage campaign,” says organizer Michael Bayly. “All are welcome to join us in the circle – especially since the bishops’ anti-marriage campaign has the potential to impact all Minnesotans.”

Adds organizer Brian McNeill: “Our presence at the Cathedral on October 21 is intended to be a celebration of support for marriage equity – not an angry expression of feelings towards the archbishop.”

Following is Chuck Colbert’s Rainbow Times article in its entirety (with added links).


Marriage Equality Poised to Prevail,
Catholic [Hierarchy] May Lose Ground in Two States

By Chuck Colbert

The Rainbow Times
October 27, 2010

At a crucial 2010 midterm-elections crossroad, this is a tale of two states and the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy along the road to marriage equality Minnesota and Rhode Island, with respective 20 percent and 59 percent Catholic populations, have had two-term Republican governors adamantly opposed to same-sex marriage and equally vociferous church leadership vehemently against it. But equality gridlock may soon be lifted as marriage equality proponents appear poised to prevail in key gubernatorial and legislative races regardless of church influence.

“If our endorsed candidates win, we can really move marriage,” said Monica Meyer, executive director of OutFront Minnesota, the state’s leading LGBT organization, explaining, “If the Democrats keep control of the House and Senate and Dayton wins, we’ll be able to make history in Minnesota and enact marriage equality.”

Meyer was referring to Democrat-Farm-Labor Party candidate Mark Dayton who leads Republican Tom Emmer by seven percentage points in a recent Minneapolis Star-Tribune poll among 999 likely voters, conducted between Oct. 18 and 21, using both cell phone and land-line phones. The poll has sample-size margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.

As the Star-Tribune reports, “Democrats could be closing in on their best chance to win the governor's office in more than two decades, while Republicans may have a lot of convincing to do if they want to continue the Republican streak that Gov. Tim Pawlenty started eight years ago.”

A Rasmussen poll of 750 likely voters, conducted on Oct. 20, shows Dayton leading Emmer by three percentage points.

A third party Independent Tom Horner, also a marriage equality proponent, is polling between 10 to 14 points overall, a distant third. While his support appears to be slipping, Real Clear Politics still calls the race a toss but notes, ”Dayton underperformed his polls substantially in the primary; there may be a similar phenomenon here.”

Meanwhile, very Catholic Rhode Island also stands at the threshold of marriage equality. No less than four gubernatorial candidates favor equal marriage rights – Democrat Frank Caprio and three other Independents, including former Republican US Senator Lincoln Chafee who leads in the most recent Rasmussen poll of 750 likely voters by a seven-point margin over Caprio. While opposing same-sex marriage, Republican candidate John Robitaille favors civil unions.

“We are right on the cusp of marriage equality here in Rhode Island,” said Kathy J. Kushnir of Marriage Equality Rhode Island (MERI), a statewide advocacy group. Recently MERI’s political action committee rolled out a list of endorsed candidates for the General Assembly, giving MERI’s stamp of approval to 29 out of 75 House races and 12 out of 38 Senate seats. MERI’s PAC endorsement list includes current House Speaker, openly gay Gordon Fox.

“Our endorsement list is huge,” Kushnir said, explaining, “That’s just candidates on paper.” MERI only endorses candidates who return a survey, she said. “Some just don’t return questionnaires.”

The road to marriage in Rhode Island has been paved with lots of political hard work. “We’ve been on the ground since last September,” Kushnir said, collecting 20,000 postcards and knocking on 30,000 doors. The response rate for requesting postcard signatures is about 68 percent, she said.

Similar support has surfaced in public opinion sampling. A recent poll conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research that surveyed 502 likely Rhode Island voters from July 7 to 12 showed 59 percent support for allowing same-sex couples to marry legally in the state, with practicing Catholics favoring marriage equality by 57 percent. The polls sample size margin of error was plus or minus four percent.

A rising tide of public and legislative support notwithstanding, Minnesota Catholic Archbishop John C. Neinstedt and Rhode Island Bishop Thomas Tobin remain resolute.

Tobin said same-sex marriage is “spiritually harmful” in a 2006 letter-to-the editor of the Providence Journal shortly after a Rhode Island lesbian couple, Wendy Becker and Mary Norton was legally married in Massachusetts.

More recently, Tobin said “homosexual activity is unnatural and gravely immoral. It’s offensive to Almighty God. It can never be condoned, under any circumstances. Gay marriage, or civil unions, would mean that our state is in the business of ratifying, approving such immoral activity.”

But this summer Tobin declined to speak at National Organization for Marriage (NOM) rally held in Providence, the state capital. A recent state court ruling has cleared NOM to run anti gay-marriage ads, provided the organization discloses its funding of the advertisements. So far, NOM has not taken to the airways.

Meanwhile, Archbishop Neinstedt has infuriated many Catholics statewide by distributing a DVD to more than 400,000 of Minnesota Catholics in defense of traditional marriage. In the DVD, entitled “Preserving Marriage in Minnesota,” Neinstedt said, “At best so-called same-sex marriage is an untested social experiment, and at worst it poses a dangerous risk with potentially far-reaching consequences.”

Recently Neinstedt also took the unusual step of denying communion to college students wearing rainbow-colored ribbons during a Mass he said at the College of Saint Benedict and St. John’s University, a Catholic liberal arts school located 70 miles from Minneapolis.

One local gay Catholic activist and blogger, however, said the archbishop’s rhetoric and actions have “backfired.” As Michael Bayly, who serves on the board of directors of the Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities (CPCSM), a pastoral ministry, explained, “People who have never been vocal before are coming out in all sorts of ways to show their displeasure and outrage” over the DVD.

CPCSM and the local chapter of DignityUSA, the nation’s oldest LGBT Catholic organization, are preparing to stage a human “circle of love” surrounding the Cathedral of St. Paul’s church during the noon Mass on Sunday, Oct. 31, explained Brian McNeill, president of Dignity Twin Cities Rainbow Sash Alliance (RSA) will don rainbow colored sashes during Mass even as they expect to be denied Communion.

“It’s important to be visibly present at the Eucharist as part of the people of God,” said McNeill, also a RSA coordinator. “The sash is a symbol of celebration,” he said, “and also a call to the archbishop to dialogue with us.” Explained McNeill, “We’re saying to Nienstedt that we still want to talk with you about your positions on LGBT issues and sexual ethics.”

– Chuck Colbert
The Rainbow Times
October 27, 2010

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
The Minnesota Bishops’ Last Ditch Effort
It’s a Scandal
Misplaced Priorities
Archbishop Nienstedt Calls (Again) for a Marriage Amendment to MN’s Constitution
Exposing NOM’s Shameful Behavior in Minnesota
A Message to NOM (and the Catholic Hierarchy)
A Hopeful and Encouraging Trend
At UST, a Rousing and Very Catholic Show of Support for Gay Marriage
A Catholic Voice for Marriage Equality at the State Capitol
Minnesotan’s Rally for Love and Equality at the State Capitol
Daniel Maguire in Minneapolis
Dale Carpenter on the “Win-Win” Reality of Gay Marriage
American’s Acceptance of Gay Relations Crosses 50% Threshold
A Surprising Finding Regarding Catholics and Gay Marriage
Steve Chapman: “Time is On the Side of Gay Marriage”

Image: Michael J. Bayly.

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