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Chicago’s Cardinal George: gays ‘invited obvious comparison’ with K.K.K.

Growing calls for resignation may lead to rare backtracking on LGBT issues by historically anti-gay leader

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Cardinal George fears a parade route that takes revelers past Our Lady of Mt. Carmel church near Boystown will 'morph into something like the Ku Klux Klan.' (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

After a surprising statement released by Chicago’s Cardinal George, in which Chicago’s Catholic leader says that organizers of the city’s LGBT Pride parade “invited obvious comparison” to the Ku Klux Klan, calls for his resignation are mounting.

On Tuesday, the Archdiocese of Chicago released a statement on behalf of the Cardinal in response to the uproar over several comments from the Cardinal over the past several weeks that compared revelers in the 2012 Chicago Pride parade with the Ku Klux Klan.

Last week, the Cardinal seemed to be backing away from the statement, but Tuesday’s statement stoked the coals of controversy anew.

“The Chicago Gay Pride Parade has been organized and attended for many years without interfering with the worship of God in a Catholic church,” the statement, which sought to clarify the Cardinal’s statements, began. “When the 2012 Parade organizers announced a time and route change this year, it was apparent that the Parade would interfere with divine worship in a Catholic parish on the new route.”

However, the next few sentences in the statement are causing more organizations to line up behind those LGBT groups that have already began calling on the Cardinal to resign.

“When the pastor’s request for reconsideration of the plans was ignored, the organizers invited an obvious comparison to other groups who have historically attempted to stifle the religious freedom of the Catholic Church,” the statement continued. “One such organization is the Ku Klux Klan which, well into the 1940’s, paraded through American cities not only to interfere with Catholic worship but also to demonstrate that Catholics stand outside of the American consensus. It is not a precedent anyone should want to emulate.”

The Cardinal was already under fire for the initial Ku Klux Klan statement, last week.

“You don’t want the gay liberation movement to morph into something like the Ku Klux Klan, demonstrating in the streets against Catholicism,” the Cardinal said on a Chicago Fox affiliate last week.

“Part of the issue here is that [Cardinal] George still needs to take responsibility for his comments, and apologize,” said Anthony Martinez, Executive Director of Illinois LGBT group, the Civil Rights Agenda. “Until that happens, I don’t see that the community of Catholics here in Illinois may be able to heal. This is sort of an open wound now, and the fact that he’s only reiterating his stance is disheartening to say the least. Especially for LGBT Catholics.”

On whether or not relations were now souring between the LGBT community and the previously welcoming Our Lady of Mt. Carmel parish, Martinez hopes that reconciliation is possible.

“He was the one who initiated these calls,” Martinez said of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel’s pastor Father Thomas Srenn’s calls for the parade start time to be changed so that Sunday morning services would not conflict. “Of course the hierarchy of the Church often decides how a priest should approach these issues. In the past he has been very supportive of the LGBT community, and they have a whole LGBT section of their parish that are in fellowship with each other, so I would venture to say that the church is still supportive. Hopefully the priest is still supportive of these issues, however these last few weeks its definitely not clear to me that he is.”

Last week, Tracy Baim, the editor of Chicago’s LGBT newspaper, The Windy City Times, took the unprecedented step to call for the Cardinal’s resignation.

“In comparing the LGBT community to the Ku Klux Klan — in his remarks about the potential disruption and inconvenience of the new Pride Parade route and start time — Cardinal George has gone too far, and he should graciously apologize, and step down from his post,” Baim wrote in the editorial. “Other religious facilities have long endured the Pride Parade passing their doors on Pride Sunday, with no “anti-religious” problems reported in four decades. In fact, religious groups, including gay Catholics, have been a part of Pride almost since it first began. Ironically, the KKK did march against the Pride Parade in its early years, and many spiritual people helped counter their presence.”

The continuous refusal by the Archdiocese to disavow the comments, for for the Cardinal to apologized have sparked rage in the LGBT community in Chicago, as well as with their allies in the region and around the nation. The Cardinal, on the other hand, has only stood by his own statements.

“If you organize a parade that looks like parades we’ve had in our past because it stops us from worshiping God, well then that’s the comparison,” he told a Chicago NBC affiliate this week.

“I’ve sort of held off calling for his resignation, but after the statement yesterday he’s showing that he’s completely disassociated the laypeople within the Catholic church,” Martinez told NBC in response Wednesday.

The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, who took the Chicago Fox affiliate to task over re-airing the original comments on Christmas day, report that nearly 75% of Catholics are supportive of equal protections for LGBT people.

“In fact, there are a vast number of gay and transgender people who are devout Catholics,” the statement from GLAAD reads. “The LGBT movement is in no way anti-Catholic.”

The the letter reinforced the comparisons between the LGBT community and the Ku Klux Klan, the tone of the Cardinal’s statement, however, did shift abruptly to the conciliatory in the second paragraph.

“It is terribly wrong and sinful that gays and lesbians have been harassed and subjected to psychological and even physical harm,” it said. “These tragedies can be addressed, however, without disturbing the organized and orderly public worship of God in a country that claims to be free. I am grateful that all parties concerned resolved this problem by moving the Parade’s start time so as not to conflict with the celebration of Mass that Sunday.”

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7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Timothy

    December 29, 2011 at 12:39 am

    I think the key point here is: “nearly 75% of Catholics are supportive of equal protections for LGBT people.”

    Great article!

  2. Bradley Thomas Horton

    December 29, 2011 at 7:54 am

    it is always great to hear a religious leader, who does not know what is going on in reality…

  3. Mary

    December 29, 2011 at 7:42 pm

    Christianity is supposed to be loving of all human beings. People did not choose to be gay or lesbian but are born as gay and lesbian and are loving and kind just like all others. I think the Catholice Church if it is going to survive will have to change and be what it is supposed to be..loving and accepting of all human beings.

  4. ramblingwriter

    December 30, 2011 at 1:37 am

    and they wonder why laity-led, synod based Independent and Old Catholic churches are growing by leaps and bounds, and hundreds of thousands of Romans walk away from the faith everyday….calling for a Cardinal to resign worked wonders for Romans in Boston with pedophile-loving Bernard Law. He got a promotion instead.

    Calling for a Roman Cardinal to resign is useless, as he doesn’t hold allegiance to God or human, only to the Pope and Vatican power brokers. Best thing that could happen is for the parishes themselves to separate and occupy, just like the ones in Weymouth, Ma and other Boston area towns did, and then hold a synod and elect their own bishops like the Old Catholics did and do.

    Pity the poor sheep, who now have to decide if they are willing to become rams in charge of the herd, or forever remain the weaker, smaller prey. Thank you, God for making the Romans only one of the Catholic denominations. Please God, keep trying to teach them so they can join the rest of us in the Catholic world.

    All I can say is this man is a Papist, a Roman, but I am in serious doubt that he is a Catholic.

  5. Peter the saint

    December 31, 2011 at 3:48 am

    Or, as the ad banner below says, “SHAMELESS!!!” (danke, showtime)
    Anyway, they all consider themselves infallible… the pope, the bishops etc etc.
    Wake up: gawd didn’t create the universe- the UNIVERSE created the universe.
    The church(es) just want to take your money. And you should stop giving it to them.
    Stop giving them your money, or your time. STOP already.
    You won’t die. Only they will (eventually anyway).

  6. Katie Murphy

    January 1, 2012 at 9:14 pm

    Bottom line – the whole church is a tryanny. They consider themselves / the Pope Infallible.
    And the Pope in 2009 UNexcommunciated Bishop Williamson, who is a holocaust denier / minimzer

    This is all from the church that gave us
    Adolph hitler who learned his hate of Jews growing up in very cath Austrai, He was btw a baptised catholic.

    The same church that concluded a treaty with the nazi govt. The church got religiigous freedom -( btw its lastest BS its complaining about losing) in return for not using its moral power to fight the nazi regime.

    [URL removed]

    the same church that has raped children and then hidden these vile crimes virtually all over the world

    just google “(country name) – catholic church molestation ” and understand what it is all about.

  7. Bald headed fool

    January 2, 2012 at 8:30 am

    Why can’t this church move it’s services to a time earlier or later to avoid the parade? I suppose that’s out of the question. So who’s more like the K.K.K here?

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Minnesota

Minnesota middle school principal ousted for displaying Pride flag

Critics ramped up attacks on the career educator- some compared her to the Devil after publicly associating with LGBTQ+ people and students

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Screenshot via Marshall Public Schools, YouTube Channel

MARSHALL, Mn. — A former middle school principal in Minnesota who lost her job after displaying a Pride flag alleges in a federal lawsuit that the school system retaliated against her for supporting LGBTQ+ students.

Mary Kay Thomas filed the complaint against Marshall Public Schools in the U.S. District Court of Minnesota Tuesday after anti-LGBTQ+ middle school staff, parents, students and local clergy began efforts to remove the Pride flag that she put up in her middle school’s cafeteria in 2020 as a part of an inclusiveness effort.

According to the lawsuit, Thomas has been a teacher and principal for more than three decades with a long track record of success. She held the principal position at Marshall Middle School for 15 years, receiving contract renewals, pay raises and praise for her performance.

“But when Thomas decided to display an LGBTQ Pride Flag in the school cafeteria in early 2020, everything changed,” reads the complaint. 

Thomas refused to take down the Pride flag as critics ramped up attacks on the career educator. The lawsuit alleges that some even compared her to the Devil after publicly associating with LGBTQ+ people and students. 

“Sadly, the Marshall School District has sided with these critics,” her lawyers wrote. 

What followed was an “escalating series of adverse actions” taken by the Marshall School District, said the lawsuit. She claims that the school targeted her by threatening her employment, conducting a “bad-faith” investigation, putting her on indefinite involuntary leave, suspending her without pay and putting a notice of deficiency in her personnel file. 

The complaint says that the deficiencies were “false, distorted, and/or related to Thomas’s association with members of the LGBTQ community.”

Thomas also claims that the District attempted to get her to quit by removing her as principal and assigning her to a “demeaning ‘special projects’ position.”

At one point, Marshall Public Schools Superintendent Jeremy Williams, who is named as a defendant in the case, told Thomas he could “make this all go away” if she stepped down, according to the complaint. 

The school removed the Pride flag in August 2021 after settling a lawsuit brought by residents who opposed it. 

The Blade reached out to Williams for comment but did not receive a response. However, according to the Marshall Independent, Williams did release a statement on the matter. 

“Marshall Public Schools is committed to the education of every child and has strong policies and practices in place against discrimination, against both students and staff members. The school district is committed to creating a respectful, inclusive, and safe learning and working environment for students, staff and our families,” Williams said. “While the school cannot comment about the specific allegations made in the complaint, the school district strongly denies any allegation of discriminatory conduct. The school will vigorously defend itself against these allegations.”

In addition, Thomas alleges that she resisted unwanted sexual advancements from school board member Bill Swope. She claims she told Williams about the sexual harassment.

As of Thursday, the school has not filed a response, and no hearing has been scheduled yet. 

Thomas is seeking a jury trial, damages and reinstatement as principal of Marshall Middle School.

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Matthew Shepard honored at National Cathedral

Daylong services held to mark his 45th birthday

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Matthew Shepard, gay news, Washington Blade
Matthew Shepard Thanksgiving and Celebration at the National Cathedral in 2018. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The parents of gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard, who was murdered in a 1998 hate crime that drew international attention to anti-LGBTQ violence, were among those attending a day of religious services commemorating Shepard’s 45th birthday on Wednesday at the Washington National Cathedral.

The services, which the Cathedral organized in partnership with the Matthew Shepard Foundation, included tributes to Shepard at the Cathedral’s St. Joseph’s Chapel, where his remains were interred in a ceremony in 2018.  

“Matthew Shepard’s death is an enduring tragedy affecting all people and should serve as an ongoing call to the nation to reject anti-LGBTQ bigotry and instead embrace each of our neighbors for who they are,” the Very Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith, Dean of Washington National Cathedral, said at the time of Shepard’s interment.

“In the years since Matthew’s death, the Shepard family has shown extraordinary courage and grace in keeping his spirit and memory alive, and the Cathedral is honored and humbled to serve as his final resting place,” Hollerith said.

The first of the Cathedral’s Dec. 1 services for Shepard began at 7 a.m. with prayers, scripture readings, and music led by the Cathedral’s Rev. Canon Rosemarie Logan Duncan. The service was live streamed on YouTube.

An online, all-day service was also held from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. that Cathedral officials said was intended to “connect people around the world to honor Shepard and the LGBTQ community and pray for a more just world.”

The Shepard services concluded with a 5:30 p.m. in-person remembrance of Shepard in the Cathedral’s Nave, its main worship space. Among those attending were Shepard’s parents, Dennis and Judy Shepard, who have said they created the Matthew Shepard Foundation to continue their son’s support for equality for all.

A statement released by the Cathedral says a bronze plaque honoring Matthew Shepard was installed in St. Joseph’s Chapel to mark his final resting place at the time Shepard was interred there in 2018. 
Following the Cathedral’s Dec. 1 services for Shepard, the Adams Morgan gay bar Pitchers hosted a reception for Dennis and Judy Shepard, according to Pitchers’ owner David Perruzza.

One of the two men charged with Shepard’s murder, Russell Henderson, pleaded guilty to the charge after prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty for him. The second of the two men charged, Aaron McKinney, was convicted of the murder following a lengthy jury trial.

Prosecutors said McKinney repeatedly and fatally struck Shepard in the head with the barrel of a handgun after he and Henderson tied Shepard to a wooden fence in a remote field outside Laramie, Wy., on Oct. 6, 1998. Police and prosecutors presented evidence at McKinney’s trial that McKinney and Henderson met Shepard at a bar in Laramie on that day and lured him into their car, where they drove him to the field where authorities said McKinney fatally assaulted him.

Shepard died six days later at a hospital in Ft. Collins, Colo., where he was taken after being found unconscious while still tied to the fence.

In a dramatic courtroom scene following the jury’s guilty verdict for McKinney, Dennis Shepard urged the judge to spare McKinney’s life by not handing down a death sentence. He said that out of compassion and in honor of his son’s life, McKinney should be allowed to live. The judge sentenced McKinney to two consecutive terms of life in prison without the possibility of parole, the same sentence given to Henderson.

(VIDEO COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON NATIONAL CATHEDRAL VIA YOUTUBE)
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‘Very familiar’: Mark Glaze’s story brings into focus mental health for gay men

Experts see common story as LGBTQ people enter middle age

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Mark Glaze's death by suicide is bringing into focus mental health issues faced by gay men.

The death by suicide at age 51 of Mark Glaze, a gun reform advocate who was close to many in D.C.’s LGBTQ community, is striking a chord with observers who see his struggles with mental health and alcoholism as reflective of issues facing many gay men as they enter middle age.

Glaze’s story resonates even though much of the attention on mental health issues in the LGBTQ community is devoted to LGBTQ youth going through the coming out process and transgender people who face disproportionate violence and discrimination within the LGBTQ community in addition to a growing focus on LGBTQ seniors entering later stages of life.

Randy Pumphrey, senior director of behavioral health for the D.C.-based Whitman-Walker Health, said Glaze’s story was “very familiar” as a tale of mental health issues facing gay men in the middle stage of life.

“You’re talking about a gay-identified man who is in his 50s, somebody who has struggled with alcohol misuse — or maybe abuse or dependence— and also depression,” Pumphrey said. “I think that there has always been a higher incidence of suicide for men in general in their middle age 50 and above, but this increases when you’re talking about gay men, and also if you’re talking about gay men who suffer with mental health issues, or substance use disorder issues.”

Several sources close to Glaze said his death did not come as a surprise. His family has been open about his death by suicide last month while he was in jail after allegedly fleeing the scene of a car accident in Pennsylvania and a long history of depression and alcoholism.

Pumphrey said Glaze’s situation coping with mental health issues as well as the consequences for his role in the accident, were reflective of someone who might “begin to perceive that this is an issue that they can’t get away from, or the consequences they can’t get away from exposure and that can lead somebody to a fatal outcome.”

“My experience is that there have been gay men that I have worked with over the years — particularly in their 50s and early 60s — it’s taken them a long time to recognize the severity of the problem, whether it’s their depression or their substance abuse, and then they find themselves in a very precarious situation because of shame, and so they may not necessarily seek help even though they need help.”

A 2017 study in the American Journal of Men’s Health found the prevalence of depression among gay men is three times higher than the general adult population, which means they are a subgroup at high risk for suicide.

The study found “scant research exists about gay men’s health beyond sexual health issues,” most often with HIV, which means issues related to depression and suicidality “are poorly understood.”

“Gay men’s health has often been defined by sexual practices, and poorly understood are the intersections of gay men’s physical and mental health with social determinants of health including ethnicity, locale, education level and socioeconomic status,” the study says.

The study acknowledged being male itself is one factor incorporated in addressing mental health issues in this subgroup because “regardless of sexual orientation, men can be reluctant to seek help for mental health problems.” Another study quoted in the report found 23 percent, less than one quarter of gay men, who attempted suicide sought mental health or medical treatment.

In addition to mental health issues facing gay men in Glaze’s age group, others saw his situation as a common story in the culture of Washington, which is notorious for celebrating and prioritizing success with little tolerance for personal setbacks.

In the case of Glaze, who had sparred on Fox News with Tucker Carlson as executive director of Everytown for Gun Safety, the threat of exposure and threat to his career may have seemed overwhelmingly daunting.

Steven Fisher, who knew Glaze since the 1990s and worked with him at the D.C.-based Raben Group, said one factor that contributed to Glaze’s condition was “he could only see upward in terms of his career trajectory.”

“We saw that in him and it had me very concerned because I felt like he might end up in a place that wasn’t good once he left Everytown, and that’s tragically and sadly what happened,” Fisher said. “I think he just had trouble adjusting to what is usually a roller coaster ride, I think, in people’s careers, especially in the D.C. world.”

Along with Glaze, Fisher has worked on gun issues for Everytown, which has been a client of his since 2015 after he worked for them in 2012 after the Newtown shooting.

Compounding the challenges that Glaze faced is a culture among many gay men focused on sexuality, which prioritizes youth and appearance and presents problems as those qualities start fading when men enter middle age.

Fisher said another factor in Glaze’s condition was social media, pointing out public perception about his identity was important to him.

“If you look at his social media — I think this is instructive to the rest of us — a lot of the comments are about how Mark was so good looking and he was charming, and he was so smart and so funny,” Fisher said. “That’s all true, and that’s why he was very appealing to many people, but those qualities don’t really tell you everything about a person. In fact, one could argue they’re superficial in a way, and people have to remember people are more complicated than what you see on social media.”

One issue for gay men facing mental health issues as they enter middle age is they don’t have the same resources as those available to LGBTQ youth, who have been more of a focus in terms of mental health issues in the LGBTQ community.

Among the leading organizations for LGBTQ youth is the Trevor Project, which has resources and a hotline for LGBTQ youth facing mental health crises.

Kevin Wong, vice president of communications for the Trevor Project, said his organization would be receptive to an older LGBTQ person who calls the hotline, but ultimately would refer that person elsewhere.

“If an LGBTQ person above the age of 25 reaches out to The Trevor Project’s crisis services for support and expresses suicidal thoughts, our counselors will listen, actively and with empathy, and work with them to de-escalate and form a safety plan, like any other contact,” Wong said. “However, our organization has remained youth-centric since its founding and our volunteer crisis counselors are specifically trained with younger LGBTQ people in mind.”

Much attention is focused on the coming out process for LGBTQ people, a time that can upend close relationships — as well as reaffirm them — and a process more commonly associated with youth.

Ilan Meyer, senior scholar of public policy at the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, said data is scant about suicide rates among LGBTQ people, but information on suicide attempts shows they tend to be at a heightened rate for LGBTQ people as they go through the coming out process.

“What we do know is that there is a connection with the coming out period at whatever age coming out happens,” Meyer said. “And so, we see a proximity to coming out whatever age that happened, we see the suicide attempts proceeding and after that.”

Suicide attempts, Meyer said, are much higher for LGBTQ people than the population at large. The self-reported rate of suicide attempts in the U.S. population as a whole, Meyer said, is 2.4 percent, but that figure changes to 20 to 30 percent among LGBTQ youth, which about to 10 to 15 times greater.

Black and Latino people, Meyer said, have been less likely to make suicide attempts in their lifetimes, although he added that may be changing in recent years.

With the primary focus on mental health issues elsewhere in the LGBTQ community, Glaze’s death raises questions about whether sufficient resources are available to people in his demographic, or whether individuals are willing to seek out care options that are available.

Meyer said whether the resources for suicidal ideologies among LGBTQ people are sufficient and what more could be done “is the the million-dollar question.”

“It’s definitely not determined by just mental health,” Meyer said. “So many people have depression, but they don’t attempt suicide. And so, then the difficult thing is to find the right moment to intervene and what that intervention should be.”

Meyer said much of the focus on mental health is on a person’s last moments before making a suicide attempt, such as making suicide hotlines readily available, but some of the stressors he sees “are more chronic, ongoing things related to homophobia and the kind of experience that LGBT people have as they come to terms to realize their sexual identity.”

Pumphrey said another factor in mental health issues not to be underestimated for almost two years now is “dealing with the COVID and loneliness epidemic,” which appears to have no immediate end in sight with the emergence of the Omnicron variant.

“There was always this piece of sometimes the experience of being in your 50s and early 60s…we talk about the invisibility factor,” Pumphrey said. “But when there’s just this sense of being disconnected from community, especially in the early days of the pandemic, and kind of being locked down, I think that just raised the risk.”

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