September 23, 2010 | by Chris Johnson
New Catholic LGBT organization launches

A new advocacy organization debuted this month that seeks to educate Catholics on issues such as same-sex marriage and the importance of LGBT inclusion in immigration reform.

The group, Catholics for Equality, seeks to mobilize American Catholics who believe LGBT people should have rights such as workplace protections, access to marriage and the ability to serve openly in the military.

Phil Attey, executive director of Catholics for Equality, said the organization plans to give voice to Catholics who already support rights for LGBT people.

“Catholics in the pews already understand these values, but are sometimes afraid to speak out,” Attey said. “Today, we are asking Catholics of conscience to engage in honest, loving conversations in the Catholic Church, in our families and in our community.”

Catholicism is the largest religious denomination in the United States. Around 68 million people in the country identify as Catholic, according to the National Council of Churches.

Aniello Alioto, a board member charged with the group’s grassroots campaign, said the main goal for the remainder of this year is encouraging Catholics to have discussions on LGBT issues.

Alioto said the organization’s website would be a primary tool for achieving this goal.

“We’ll be providing American Catholics with role models, facts and tips on how to have family discussions, how to challenge misinformation in the parishes and to ensure, as Catholics, their voices are heard in their community,” Alioto said.

One premise of the new group is that Catholic support for LGBT rights is among the highest among religious people in the United States.

Joseph Palacios, a gay Catholics for Equality board member and a sociology professor at Georgetown University, presented polling data showing a vast majority of Catholics support LGBT rights.

Palacios said a Gallup poll recently reported 62 percent of Catholics believe homosexuality should be accepted by society, which he said is up 16 points from 2006.

Additionally, Palacios said 69 percent of Catholics believe in civil unions for same-sex couples in committed relationships while 48 percent of all Catholics support same-sex marriage.

“In short, Catholics are the largest Christian body in the United States and members overwhelmingly support basic American freedoms and rights for their fellow LGBT family members, co-workers and neighbors,” Palacios said.

But although polls show many Catholics support rights for LGBT people, church leadership is known for opposing such rights. The Catholic Church is known for its role in promoting Proposition 8 in California, which ended same-sex marriage in the state. The church also had a lead role in the campaign for the referendum in Maine that last year abrogated the state’s marriage law.

Anne Underwood, a Maine resident and board member for the organization, said she’s taking part in Catholics for Equality in part because of the church’s role in the Maine marriage referendum.

“For many Catholics in Maine like me, 2009 was a soul-searing year,” she said. “During a six-month campaign leading up to the November vote, our liberties became vehicles for the hierarchy’s political agenda.”

On one particular Sunday, Underwood said the church required priests to preach about traditional values and its incompatibility with same-sex marriage.

“Specially printed envelopes for the political action committee Stand for Marriage appeared in our pews for our weekly collection,” she said.

Underwood said Catholics for Equality will help address these issues by providing church-goers who support LGBT rights with information.

“Telling our stories and listening to others will change the lives of our gay and lesbian relatives and friends, neighbors and colleagues,” she said. “We pro-equality Catholics are neither silent nor isolated anymore.”

The group is already working in anticipation of future fights in Maine and California to restore same-sex marriage to those states.

Palacios said Catholics for Equality has already reached out to Equality California and Equality Maine to link up grassroots efforts in those states and to connect them “into larger networks of people of faith doing outreach around critical issues in our battle states.”

In addition to the marriage issue, the organization says LGBT inclusion in comprehensive immigration reform legislation is another priority for the group.

Advocates are seeking language in immigration reform that would enable Americans to sponsor their foreign same-sex partners for residency in the United States.

However, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, strong proponents of immigration reform in general, has said it would withhold support for legislation inclusive of same-sex couples.

Palacios said Catholics for Equality has already started conversations with religious partners working on immigration reform and plans to be at the forefront of the issue.

“This is a really clear issue on inequality that the bishops of following,” he said. “That they would hold up comprehensive immigration reform over this is incomprehensible.”

Steve Ralls, spokesperson for Immigration Equality, said his organization welcomes Catholics for Equality as part of the faith coalition working for LGBT-inclusive immigration reform legislation.

“We have long known that Catholic parishioners are far more welcoming and affirming than groups like the Conference of Catholic Bishops would have us believe,” Ralls said.

Ralls said support from Catholics for Equality underscores that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is a group of about 425 bishops who have been “disproportionately loud and “out of step with their more than 68 million congregants.”

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

10 Comments
  • “Gay christian” is an oxymoron. It makes no more rational sense than “christian prostitute” or “christian drug dealer” or “christian child molester”. God has declared homosexuality to be EVIL and nowhere does He change His mind. You are not Christians … you are evil doers who have infiltrated the Church just as Judas infiltrated the group of 12 apostles. He was among them, but never one of them.

    • Ok, Mary. Now that you have shown the world your ugly bigot mindset of hate, do you feel all better now? God did not declare homosexuality to be evil, and in point of FACT, Jesus never even mentioned it…never spoke about it at all. Maybe you could bring yourself to read the Holy Bible before you write untrue claims about what it says.

    • Mary, the Bible plainly says that women should not teach, but be silent (1 Timothy 2:12). Therefore, by posting, you have gone against your own religion. Have a blessed day.

    • Mhmmm… I’m sure you don’t have the power/authority to define who is a Christian and weho is not, I bet Jesus would tell you very ugly things about white sepulchers and probably call you a hypocrite…

    • Oh Mary, I’d like you to show me, in Aramaic and Greek, where in the bible it says homosexuality is evil. No one can do it because it’s only in the English translation. Please, find the Greek and Aramaic texts. The word used for Homosexual in Romans is translated as “soft” or “weak willed” in every other incidence, for example. I dare you to do the research and think for yourself.

      • WAY TO GO COOPER, THESE CHRISTIAN BIBLE HYPOCRITES THINK THEY KNOW IT. WE STUDIED THIS BOOK IN PURE FORM, AND NOTHING WAS MENTIONED. I DON’T EVEN PARADE AROUND WHAT I READ IN THE BIBLE. THE UNIVERSAL GOODNESS AND FAIRNESS TO ALL IS WHAT MATTERS. THESE SHAMEFUL MARY”S PRAY FOR MONEY AND COMFORT.. THAT IS WHAT THEY KNOW OF THE BIBLE… THANKS COOPER, YOU MADE MY DAY,,,,

    • the bible was written by human beings who have sinned, let’s establish this.
      and for you mary, and your choice of words, God must be excited to see you potty mouth yourself. WHAT IS OXYMORON IS A HUMAN BEING CALLING HERSELF CHRISTIAN FOR NOBODY CAN BE LIKE CHRIST WHO LOVES ALL CREATION UNCONDITIONALLY. CERTAINLY MARY, IN ALL YOUR IGNORANT HYPOCRISY AND I SEE THERE’S A LOT OF YOU FUNNY AND CONVENIENT “CHRISTIANS” IN AMERICA, WHAT DO YOU KNOW AND WHAT RIGHT DO YOU HAVE TO SPEAK FOR MORALITY? ANOTHER OXYMORON IS “GAY REPUBLICAN” AND A BIGGER ONE, “CONSERVATIVE GAY REPUBLICANS/ TEA PARTY” THESE ARE JUST KILLERS. WHAT BIBLE? TO CONDEMN OTHERS,,, DON’T THINK SO…

  • The Bible also says that you can’t wear wool and cotton together, you can’t shave your beard, or eat pork right next to the scripture that says a man cannot lay next to another man. I’m pretty sure that you don’t think people who shave their beards are evil doers who infiltrate the Church.

    • Modern thinking teaches us not to wear wool with cotton because cotton inhibits wool’s fiber’s wicking and warming qualities. Polypro and Coolmax are also better than cotton, which is better only during summer or indoor.
      The brilliance of the ancient Jews taught us monotheism; the equality of the sexes and that women are not beasts of burden; and a guide (Leviticus) to healthy practices.
      Some modern practices, like cooking pork to kill trichinosis, are obsolete but the warnings in Leviticus about male homosexual practices are still apt.

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