Monday, July 20, 2015

Progressive Catholic Perspectives on the U.S. Supreme Court's 2015 Marriage Equality Ruling


It's been almost a month now since the U.S. Supreme Court's June 26, 2015 decision (Obergefell v. Hodges) that upheld the constitutional right of civil marriage for same-sex couples. As a result, same-sex couples can, through the right of civil marriage, have their love and commitment recognized and honored in every state of the Union.

In light of this landmark ruling, I offer today a compilation of quotes – along with links to articles and commentaries – whereby progressive Catholics share their thoughts on the Supreme Court's marriage equality decision.

And what do I mean by "progressive Catholics"?

Progressive Catholics are Catholics open to God's presence throughout creation (including the lives and relationships of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people). Accordingly, they are also open and responsive to the church's capacity and responsibility to grow and evolve in its understanding of gender and sexuality.

I start with my friend and fellow Catholic blogger William Lindsey's "very personal and immediate unvarnished reaction" to the news of the Supreme Court's marriage equality decision. As you'll see, in sharing his reaction, William highlights the significant rights, benefits and responsibilities that civil marriage confers on couples.

Now, I know some people who complain that marriage is simply a "bourgeois construct," a form of domestic partnership that has become a cultural norm and which enacts and expresses profoundly classist and sexist interests. I appreciate how my friend Kathleen recently responded on Facebook to a straight (and married) individual who was stridently promulgating this view.

[As a married person] why would you decry others who seek similar legal status and protections as "bourgeois" and unimportant? While I completely agree with you that marriage equality isn't the be-all and end all and that there are pressing issues of economic and racial inequality – not to mention the oppressive forces of global capitalism – that also need to be challenged, I do celebrate the winning of marriage equality for same-gender couples as a remarkable liberatory moment. I would rather not stack these against each other. I don't believe that I am less an ally in the work of racial and economic justice because I now have legal protections for my relationship. Also, my experience, unlike yours, is that most of the people I know who were most actively engaged in marriage equality work, locally and across the nation, are also very engaged in an array of other forms of justice and ally work. They see the connections, experience them, and are continuing to resist. Many of them have been throwing themselves into the fray of Black Lives Matter, among other things.

So, with all this in mind, here are 12 progressive Catholic perspectives on last month's marriage equality ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court.


Tears as I read Justice Kennedy's statement in today's Supreme Court ruling:

As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.

Hard to keep from crying right now. I (and so many others, many of whom have gone before us and today's victory, people I loved and cherished who lived towards this day but did not see it arrive), have lived so long waiting to be recognized as full citizens of this nation, as equal in humanity to all other citizens. The stress and complications created by the inequality and injustice have caused tremendous pain and difficulty—for so many including Steve and me, right to this week, as the clock ticks to the end of the period (the end of June, that is) when I can make final choices about Medicare coverage, as the state of Arkansas continues, to its tremendous shame, to drag its feet about permitting legally married same-sex spouses of state employees to receive healthcare coverage through their spouses' healthcare plans.

For years now, we have had to make hard choices about what medical care we can afford, when we can afford it, when we need to defer it. We've still had to make those choices because of the binds that the refusal to accord us legal rights as a married couple has created in the area of healthcare coverage. I was told by a dentist two weeks ago that I need a root canal, but when I called the endodontist he recommended and heard the price of that procedure, Steve and I decided it would be best to wait and see what happened with the Supreme Court ruling, and whether I might finally have a health insurance plan that would include dental coverage (that component of my coverage under the ACA was cancelled this year). Manage the pain in the meanwhile . . .

Hearts can, for sure, be full to overflowing. There are rivers of overflowing hearts in the U.S. right now.

With this Supreme Court victory, Catholics recommit themselves to working to make sure that all LGBT people are treated equally in both church and society. While we are delighted with this victory, there is still much work to be done to ensure those goals.

Catholics have been at the forefront of working for equal marriage rights for lesbian and gay couples. The overwhelming majority of U.S. Catholics have consistently been in favor of marriage equality, and have put their support into action in legislative, judicial, and electoral campaigns.

Their Catholic faith has inspired them to make sure that their lesbian and gay family members, friends, neighbors, and co-workers receive equal treatment by society. The Supreme Court’s decision embodies the Catholic values of human dignity, respect for differences, and the strengthening of families.

While the U.S. Catholic bishops have consistently opposed marriage equality measures on all fronts, Catholic people in the pews have had a different perspective from their leaders. The lived faith of Catholic people has taught them that love, commitment, and sacrifice are the essential building blocks of marriage and family. Their daily experiences interacting with lesbian and gay couples and their families has taught them that these relationships are identical to heterosexual marriages in terms of the essential qualities needed to build a future together, establish a family, and contribute to social stability and growth.

– Francis DeBernardo
Executive Director, New Ways Ministry
Excerpted from "New Ways Ministry and U.S. Catholics Rejoice
at Supreme Court Marriage Equality Decision
Bondings 2.0
June 26, 2015

As Catholics, we celebrate the increase in justice that this ruling ushers in. We rejoice with all of the couples and families who will be able to access the legal protections that marriage will afford them. Mostly, we are thrilled that the Supreme Court has recognized that the love and commitment of same-sex couples is absolutely equal to that of other couples.

Catholics have been in the forefront of efforts to gain marriage equality for more than a decade. Our commitment to the values of love, inclusion, family, and justice have inspired millions of Catholics—both straight and LGBT—to work for this day, even when some leaders of our Church have instructed us to fight against it. It is wonderful to see the true values of our faith and our country affirmed today.

DignityUSA prays for consideration and solidarity as this ruling is implemented. We understand that there are many in our country, and in our church, who will be disappointed by this ruling, and urge that the sincerity of their beliefs be respected. At the same time, we expect that all people, no matter what their beliefs, abide by what the Supreme Court has affirmed as the law of the land, and treat same-sex couples and their families respectfully and in full accordance with the law.

– Marianne Duddy-Burke
Executive Director, Dignity USA
"LGBT Catholics Hail Supreme Court Decision
to Make Marriage Equality the Law of the U.S.
June 26, 2015

For far too long committed LGBT partners and families have endured discrimination and marginalization. This has come from many places – but none more forceful than from some members within the Catholic hierarchy. This decision, however, reverberates God’s love of everyone and celebrates the dignity and holiness of all loving families.

The sacredness of all loving couples, together with their welcome and inclusion in all facets of faith communities, is a reality that must now be given pastoral priority. We cannot act as if the Spirit hasn’t moved us to be more loving and just.

– Jim FitzGerald
Executive Director, Call To Action
"Supreme Court Decision Reverberates Love, Challenges Catholic Hierarchy"
June 26, 2015

Fortunate Families celebrates with our LGBT children the opportunity to share in the same rights as their straight siblings. The Supreme Court decision brings legal stability to our children's lives and security to our grandchildren. We applaud this decision and continue our work in the Catholic tradition seeking social justice for all our children, and we look forward to the next hurdle, the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act,” Deb Word, President of Fortunate Families.

– Deb Wood
President, Fortunate Families
Excerpted from "Catholics Across US Celebrate Win for Marriage Equality"
Equally Blessed
June 26, 2015

"The joys and hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the women and men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ” (Gaudium et Spes, no. 1).

With this now-famous line, the Second Vatican Council opened its “Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World” (1965). This passage immediately came to mind this morning as I heard of the U. S. Supreme Court decision (Obergefell v. Hodges) that upheld the constitutional right to same-sex marriage. My personal response was emotional in the way that the reaction of so many others has been in the wake of this landmark case. My reaction has been solidarity for a population of people who have indeed been “afflicted” and whose experience for so long, millennia perhaps, has been more “grief and anxiety” than “joy and hope.” But today, at least in the United States, things appear to be changing.

As a Christian, the “joys and hopes” of the LGBT women and men who have cried out for the recognition of their human dignity and value, these are the “joys and hopes” of me today.

. . . LGTB women and men have indeed suffered—and continue to suffer from—discrimination based on their sexual orientation. In some parts of the world this discrimination is made manifest with the threat of execution! It would appear that today’s decision could align well with this call for the church to “overcome and eradicate” such discrimination and affirm the “fundamental rights of the person.”

Similarly, we might look to Vatican II’s “Declaration on the Relation of the Church to non-Christian Religions” (Nostra Aetate) for parallel wisdom in how to approach reflecting on today’s decision. Early in the text, the Council Fathers write that there are truth and wisdom in the cultural and religious traditions, practices, and perspectives of those who do not affirm the Christian faith. We read: “[The Catholic Church] regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all [women and] men” (no. 2).

Perhaps we might look at what is affirmed in today’s decision about the inherent dignity and value of all women and men, regardless of their sexual orientation, as something to be referenced in the spirit of that which reflects a “ray of that Truth,” which is the love of God in Christ.

– Daniel P. Horan, O.F.M.
Excerpted from "How Should Christians Respond
to the Court's Decision on Marriage?
June 26, 2015

Now that [marriage equality] is the law of the land, it is going to continue to provide space for people in same-sex relationships to tell their stories. In the time ahead there is a chance for us to step away from the charged political debate to a pastoral dialogue on what it means to be LGBT and Catholic.

– Arthur Fitzmaurice
Resource Director, Catholic Association for Lesbian and Gay Ministries
Excerpted from Vinnie Rotondaro's article, "Supreme Court's Decision
on Marriage Called Everything from a 'Win for Love' to a 'Tragic Error'
National Catholic Reporter
June 26, 2015

Perhaps a good first step for Church leaders would be to applaud the Court's decision in light of its overlap with Catholic values regarding marriage. Of course, the Church may still refuse to marry lesbian and gay couples, just as it refuses to marry anyone with an un-annulled previous marriage. In time, I trust that Church teaching on sacramental marriage will evolve, too, and take note of the powerful sprit of love and commitment vivifying lesbian and gay marriages as well as straight marriages.

– Lisa Fullam
Excerpted from "SCOTUS Votes 5-4 in Favor of Human Dignity"
June 26, 2015

The Church teaches that the Holy Spirit speaks through the people, not just the hierarchy, so [certain] comments [of bishops in response to the Supreme Court ruling] make me wonder if the hierarchy is in touch with the people, the sense of the faithful. . . . [M]aybe we don’t have all the answers, maybe there’s more to this issue than we’ve been teaching so far.

– Ish Ruiz
Teacher at a Catholic school in San Francisco
Excerpted from Michael O'Loughlin's article,
"Catholics React to Supreme Court’s Marriage Decision"
June 26, 2015

With the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage throughout the United States, the U.S. Catholic bishops need a new strategy going forward. The bishops' fight against gay marriage has been a waste of time and money. The bishops should get a new set of priorities and a new set of lawyers.

Some opponents of gay marriage are calling for civil disobedience, telling government officials to ignore the decision and not to perform same-sex marriages. Others are calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn the decision. Many have argued that the court decision will not put the issue to rest any more than Roe v. Wade ended the abortion debate.

First, let's make clear what the decision does not do. It does not require religious ministers to perform same-sex marriages, nor does it forbid them from speaking out against gay marriage. These rights are protected by the First Amendment. The court has also made clear that a church has complete freedom in hiring and firing ministers for any reason.

The legal status of gay marriage is similar to that of remarriage after divorce. Divorce and remarriage is legal in every state of the union, but if a church is against remarriage after divorce, its ministers are not required to perform such weddings, and its preachers can continue to denounce divorce from the pulpit. If a minister gets divorced, his church can fire him or her.

The divorce analogy is apt. The bishops would do well to look at the record of their predecessors who opposed legalizing divorce but lost. These bishops eventually accepted divorce as the law of the land while not permitting remarriage without an annulment in their churches.

Today, Catholic institutions rarely fire people when they get divorced and remarried. Divorced and remarried people are employed by church institutions, and their spouses get spousal benefits. No one is scandalized by this. No one thinks that giving spousal benefits to a remarried couple is a church endorsement of their lifestyle.

If bishops in the past could eventually accept civil divorce as the law of the land, why can't the current flock of bishops do the same for gay marriage? Granted all the publicity around the church's opposition to gay marriage, no one would think they were endorsing it.

It is time for the bishops to admit defeat and move on. Gay marriage is here to stay, and it is not the end of civilization as we know it.

– Thomas Reese, SJ
Excerpted from "How the Bishops Should Respond
to the Same-Sex Marriage Decision
National Catholic Reporter
July 2, 2015

As a faithful Catholic in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, I cannot in good conscience allow Archbishop Charles Chaput’s June 26 response to the Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality to be the final word. His message does not reflect the Catholic voice of inclusion and equality. The Church is made up of all the baptized, and the majority of Catholics in the United States support same-sex marriage.

The archbishop is right that the truth of God’s word does not change. Our understanding of it, however, has, does, and should. Our understanding of God’s word has changed on slavery, capital punishment, war, and now, on marriage. It is not in spite of my Catholicism that I support marriage equality, but because of it.

Our Church teaches a preferential treatment for the marginalized. It teaches the dignity of all human beings. It teaches the primacy of conscience — the idea that it is our obligation to prayerfully consider tradition and doctrine, as well as our experience and the experience of those around us, in discerning what is moral and just.

My conscience has been formed with the help of family, friends, teachers, clergy, theologians, and strangers. Most of all, it has been formed through my relationship with God and my Church.

. . . I hope and pray that Church leaders will hear and understand the majority who support those in loving same-sex relationships. Love is of God and adults who have formed their consciences in faith are very capable of making good decisions about how to express their love for other human beings.

– Christa Kerber
Excerpted from "Catholic Voice Speaks Out for Same-Sex Marriage
July 6, 2015

The Catholic [hierarchy], which has used some of the most severe language of major denominations in its condemnation of homosexuality, labeling those with a homosexual orientation "intrinsically disordered," is especially challenged by the ruling.

At least its leaders are, for it has become clear in recent years that when it comes to believers, Catholics are among the most accepting of homosexuality. In terms of same-sex marriage, according to recent Pew Research polling, "Among Catholics and white mainline Protestants, roughly six-in-ten now express support for same-sex marriage."

Churches certainly don't run on polling data, but the bishops should at least be informed of what the flock is thinking. And the majority of the flock is not in agreement with assertions such as those voiced by Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., who called the decision "a tragic error."

. . . In a statement following the decision, Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich urged calm and "mature" reflection. "The Church must extend support to all families, no matter their circumstances, recognizing that we are all relatives, journeying through life under the careful watch of a loving God," he said.

We suspect that for a time, at least, the air will be full of warnings about the ongoing march of a "gay agenda" and threats to everything we have previously understood about marriage. The ruling was certainly due, in part, to the activity of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and its striving for rights during the past 40 years.

But bishops and others should not underestimate the power of human experience nor the depth of insights gleaned in the short period during which parents stopped being embarrassed by their children, and gay children stopped hiding themselves and their sexual orientation.

Cupich's "take a deep breath" approach seems a far more productive way to sort out the tangle of issues that certainly will unravel in the wake of this decision. The bishops – many of whom like to compare themselves to fathers of a family – might, before they commit to a protracted fight, sit down with gay and lesbian Catholics and their families and respectfully listen to their stories.

– The Editorial Board
Excerpted from "Go Beyond a Foot-Stomping 'No'"
National Catholic Reporter
July 15, 2015

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Breaking News: U.S. Supreme Court Legalizes Marriage for Same-Sex Couples Across the Nation
Quote of the Day – June 26, 2015
Something to Celebrate
Questions for Archbishop Kurtz re. the U.S. Bishops' Response to the Supreme Court's Marriage Equality Ruling
Quote of the Day – July 13, 2015
National LGBTQ Catholic Organization Honors Role Played by Catholics and Other Faith Groups in Securing Marriage Equality in Minnesota
Progressive Thoughts on Recent Developments in Ireland, El Salvador and the U.S.
More Progressive Catholic Perspectives on Ireland's Historic Gay Marriage Vote
LGBT Catholics Respond to Synod 2014's Final Report
Beyond the Hierarchy: The Blossoming of Liberating Catholic Insights on Sexuality

Related Off-site Links:
Bishops Must Do Some Soul-searching – Francis DeBernardo (Crux, June 26, 2015).
Some Catholic Reactions to U.S. Supreme Court Ruling on Marriage Equality – Francis DeBernardo (Bondings 2.0, June 28, 2015).
Catholics Continue to React to Supreme Court Marriage Equality Ruling – Francis DeBernard0 (Bondings 2.0, June 29, 2015).
Final Installment of Catholic Responses to Supreme Court Marriage Equality Ruling – Francis DeBernardo (Bondings 2.0, July 10, 2015).
Should Catholics Opposed to Marriage Equality Use Civil Disobedience? – Francis DeBernardo (Bondings 2.0, July 14, 2015).
The Coming Gay Rights Letdown – Samantha Allen (The Daily Beast, July 14, 2015).
Justice Kennedy Compares Gay Marriage Uproar to Flag Burning – Elliot Spagat (Associated Press viaYahoo! News, July 17, 2015).
The Global Backlash to America's Gay Rights Triumph – Lila Shapiro (The Huffington Post, July 21, 2015).
As a Gay Widower, What the Word 'Marriage' Means to Me – Keith Henry (HuffPost Gay Voices, July 21, 2015).
Ryan T. Anderson Accidentally Highlights the Weakness of the Lost Fight Against Marriage Equality – Zack Ford (Think Progress, July 24, 2015).

1 comment:

Marianne Duddy-Burke said...

Thank you, Michael, for this excellent compilation! A good record of Catholic social justice thought. I'm proud to have our organization's response included.

Marianne Duddy-Burke