Good News In Maryland, Bad News In New Jersey

By Francis De Bernardo, New Ways Ministry

Yesterday, the Maryland House of Delegates approved a marriage equality bill, virtually guaranteeing it would become law, since the bill is likely to pass the Senate, and Governor Martin O’Malley, a Catholic, has promised to sign it.

Yesterday in New Jersey, however, Governor Chris Christie, a Catholic, vetoed that state’s marriage equality bill which had passed both Assembly and Senate.  The legislature has until January 2014 to override the veto.


The Baltimore Sun report rightly noted O’Malley’s role in the bill’s success in Maryland, and quoted him saying:

“We are a good people. We all want the same things for our kids.”

The Washington Blade’s story carried a quote from O’Malley that reflected the Catholic social teaching principle behind the issue of marriage equality:

“Today, the House of Delegates voted for human dignity.”

Earlier this week, The Baltimore Sun carried a news report on a talk O’Malley gave in which he described the evolution of his thinking on marriage equality.  New Ways Ministry’s Sister Jeannine Gramick is quoted in that article about her thoughts to O’Malley’s support of the issue. Sister Gramick said:

“I’m proud of him for being a Catholic and for witnessing real Catholic values. … I’m so glad he’s supporting the marriage equality bill.”

Last night, Bondings 2.0 posted New Ways Ministry’s response to the vote, along with a link to The Washington Post article about the news.

Even after the bill would become a law, the struggle would still not be over, as opponents have promised to mount a referendum campaign


In The New York Times account of Christie’s veto, they explain that

Governor of New Jersey at a town hall in Hills...

Image via Wikipedia

“The governor’s veto was conditional, asking the State Legislature to amend the bill, so that rather than legalizing same-sex marriages, it would establish an overseer to handle complaints that the state’s five-year-old civil union law did not provide gay and lesbian couples the same protections that marriage would.

“Mr. Christie also affirmed his call for the Legislature to put a referendum on same-sex marriage on the ballot in November. . . .

“At the same time, Mr. Christie repeated what the State Supreme Court said in 2006 — that same-sex couples deserve the same benefits enjoyed by married couples. Answering testimony that same-sex couples in civil unions had more trouble than married couples in matters like obtaining mortgages and making health care decisions, the governor said he wanted to set up a new ombudsman to make sure gay and lesbian couples did not suffer discrimination.”

Steven Goldstein, chairman of Garden State Equality, responded in the Timesstory to the ombudsman idea by calling it

““the equivalent of gold-plating a separate water fountain for a specific class of people.”

In a posting two days ago, Bondings 2.0 noted that Washington State’s Catholic governor Christine Gregoire, who this week signed a marriage equality bill into law, sent a letter to fellow Catholic Christie, offering to discuss her evolution on the issue. Christie had not responded.

In their editorial column, the Times opined about “Governor Christie’s Misguided and Intolerant Veto,”

“Sadly, there was no surprise to Gov. Chris Christie’s veto on Friday of the same-sex marriage bill that cleared New Jersey’s Assembly and Senate this week. Mr. Christie had said all along that he would block the measure as soon as it reached his desk. That does not change the message of intolerance or lessen the pain for gay residents and their families. Mr. Christie compounded the insult when he dismissed the Legislature’s support for the rights of gay people as merely ‘an exercise in theater.’ The only one who deserves that accusation is Governor Christie, who is clearly pandering to his own conservative base. . . .

“This isn’t about theater and shouldn’t be about politics. Marriage equality is a basic right.”

A Catholic Case For Same-Sex Marriage

Marriage Equality USA logo

Friends Jeannine Gramick and Frank DeBernardo from New Ways Ministry had an excellent Valentine’s Day Op-Ed in The Washington Post. In one of the most well prepared (both theologically and sociologically) essays I’ve read, they make the case for marriage equality:

This month in Maryland and the state of Washington, an extraordinary dynamic is playing itself out:  Two Catholic governors are prodding legislators to pass bills legalizing same-gender marriage. Like Govs. Andrew Cuomo in New York and Pat Quinn in Illinois — whose states recently legalized same-sex civil unions — Govs. Martin O’Malley and Christine Gregoire are acting against the strongly expressed opposition of their church’s bishops.As Catholics who are involved in lesbian and gay ministry and outreach, we are aware that many people, some of them Catholics, believe that Catholics cannot faithfully disobey the public policies of the church’s hierarchy. But this is not the case.The Catholic Church is not a democracy, but neither is it a dictatorship. Ideally, our bishops should strive to proclaim the sensus fidelium , the faith as it is understood by the whole church. At the moment, however, thebishops and the majority of the church are at odds. A survey published in September by the Public Religion Research Institute found that 52 percent of Catholics support marriage equality and 69 percent support civil unions.Those numbers shouldn’t surprise people who are familiar with the Catholic theological tradition. For example, Catholic thinking dictates that we should use the evidence we find in the natural world to help us reach our conclusions. Many Catholics have reflected on the scientific evidence that homosexuality is a natural variant in human sexuality, and understand that lesbian and gay love is as natural as heterosexual love.

In forming our consciences, Catholics also consult scripture and our theological tradition. Here, again, there is little firm reason to oppose marriage equality. The Bible presents us with a marital landscape that includes polygamy, concubinage, temple prostitution and Levirate marriages (in which a man is bound to marry his brother’s widow.) Jesus disputed the Mosaic law on divorce, saying that what God has joined man must not separate, but this dictum was modified in the letters of St. Paul.

When we see the manifold changes that marriage has undergone throughout history, many Catholics wonder why our bishops believe that heterosexual marriage in its current 21stcentury state is a matter of divine revelation.

Those who delve into the theology of marriage will encounter the writings of St. Augustine of Hippo, who articulated what Christians have come to call “the goods of marriage.” These are enumerated in contemporary terms as partnership, permanence, fidelity and fruitfulness. Same-sex couples demonstrate all of these attributes just as opposite-sex couples do, unless one defines “fruitfulness” narrowly as the ability to procreate. But many heterosexual couples cannot or choose not to procreate, and the church marries them anyway.

English: St. Augustine of Hippo

Image via Wikipedia

The deeper one looks into the church’s core teachings, the more one realizes that the bishops are not representing the breadth of the Catholic tradition in their campaign against marriage equality. Nowhere is that more true than in the area of Catholic social justice teaching.Catholic social teaching requires that all people be treated with dignity, regardless of their state in life or their beliefs. It upholds the importance of access to health-care benefits, the protection of children, dignity in end of life choices, and, most importantly, the promotion of stable family units. Marriage equality legislation would be an obvious boon to same-sex couples and their children in each of these areas, yet the bishops are spending millions of dollars opposing it.

Brilliant. If you’re a pray-er, these two deserve all you can give them.

Full story here

Guest Post: All Across The Land, Religious support For Marriage Equality Continues To Grow

(From Bondings 2.0)
By Francis DiBernardo, Director, New Ways Ministry

As if the legislative victory on marriage equality in Washington State were not evidence enough of a major shift in the landscape of public opinion on this issue, Robert Jones of the Public Religion Research Institute has highlighted important data about religious (including Catholic) support for these initiatives.  In a HuffingtonPost.comcolumn he writes:

Icon for Wikimedia project´s LGBT portal (Port...

Image via Wikipedia

” . . . a new exploration of 2011 polling by Public Religion Research Institute offers decisive evidence that the old assumptions about battle lines between secular proponents and religious foes no longer hold. Majorities of five major religious groups and the religiously unaffiliated favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry, compared to three major religious groups who oppose same-sex marriage. On the side supporting same-sex marriage, the religiously unaffiliated (72 percent) are joined by majorities of Jews (76 percent), Americans affiliated with a non-Judeo-Christian religion (63 percent), white Catholics (56 percent), Hispanic Catholics (53 percent) and white mainline Protestants (52 percent). Together, these religious groups make up approximately 45 percent of the general population.”

Even more importantly, Jones notes that even where opposition to marriage equality does exist among religious groups, evidence is strong that the younger generation is much more supportive than their elders, signaling that future change is imminent:

“. . . [A] generational gap signals that with the passage of time, this intense resistance may ebb. Even among white evangelical Protestants — the group most opposed to same-sex marriage — nearly 4-in-10 (39 percent) white evangelical Protestant Millennials favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally, a rate that is more than 20 points higher than that of white evangelicals ages 30 and older (18 percent). The same is true of Catholics: 66 percent of Catholic Millennials favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry, 15 points higher than Catholics ages 30 and above (51 percent).”

Jones is not the only voice proclaiming this new evidence.  On February 7th, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life issued a report that went deeper into the statistics on Catholics:

“Among Catholics as a whole, supporters of same-sex marriage now outnumber opponents (52% vs. 37%). In 2010, Catholics were more evenly divided on the issue, with 46% favoring same-sex marriage and 42% expressing opposition. A majority of white Catholics (57%) now express support for same-sex marriage, while Hispanic Catholics continue to be closely divided (42% favor same-sex marriage, 42% are opposed).”

On the Washington Post’s “On Faith” blog, Ross Murray of GLAAD, also notes the important shift in how the media covers the religious angle of the marriage equality debate:

“In 2008, the ‘gays versus religion’ frame was strongly entrenched in the mentality of the American public. Much of the driving force behind Prop 8, in terms of both organization and money, came from the leadership of the Roman Catholic and Mormon churches. People of faith who were personally supportive of marriage equality didn’t speak out, or felt that their support of LGBT people would be seen as being at odds with their faith.

“That is no longer the case. We are in a new reality.”

Murray’s blog post continues with example after example of religious groups speaking out for marriage equality in the media, including the Catholic coalition, Equally Blessed, of which New Ways Ministry is a member, along with Call To ActionDignityUSA, and Fortunate Families.

Murray notes that the religious voice in political debates is not only good for the outcome of the debate, but good for religious LGBT people themselves:

“It is indeed a new reality. In less than four years, our country has come from being one that pitted LGBT people against people of faith. Those of us who hold both of identities of LGBT and faithful no longer have that same struggle. We are not being called to deny our God or the way that God made us. This affirmation from the courts, the increasing public acceptance, and the leadership of people of faith in the call for LGBT inclusion affirms us in our faith, our identity, and our place in this country.”

(The prolific Murray also has a HuffingtonPost column on the same topic, but from a slightly different perspective.  It is definitely worth a read, too.)

And by the way, in the Washington State initiative, which began this post, the only thing left for it to become law is the signature of Governor Christine Gregoire, a Catholic, who has pledged to do so.  Reports say that signature can come as early as next week.

Spokesman-Review Opinion: “Gays Deserve Same Rights”

English: John Eder at the Portland Pride Festi...

Image via Wikipedia

In Spokane’s Spokesman-Review, the marriage equality issue in Washington State is given some real-life background for its readers: the story of a couple who’d like to be legally married. Governor Chris Gregoire has recently announced her support for marriage equality in Washington- a state that has had domestic partnerships for same-sex couples in place since 2007. Eastern Washington- traditionally more conservative than the Sound Side- is the audience served by the Spokesman Review, and a great place to see this rational and reasonable opinion piece getting such great play. Some Washington Republican legislators have recently announced their support as well. I think it’s looking better and better every day to expect marriage equality to pass the Washington legislature this year.

The times, they are a-changin’. Warms my heart.

Here’s a taste of the story- with the money quote in bold:

Flannery doesn’t expect churches to change their stances on same-sex marriage, but he does believe government should treat everyone equally.

So does Susan Hammond, a Spokane nurse. Late Wednesday night, after Gregoire’s speech, Hammond posted on Facebook a letter to her legislators. She invited her friends to forward it as well.

She wrote, “I am counting on your leadership and humanity to do the right thing so that my young adult son, who is gay, can live in a society that affirms who he is and allows him the same right his brothers already have: to marry the person of his choice.”

The opposition to same-sex marriage baffles Hammond. “I honestly don’t get it,” she says.

After all, the strongest argument against changing the law is that marriage has traditionally been defined as being between a man and a woman. But that’s like using a long-standing definition of slavery as an argument against emancipation.

I’m making that my facebook status today.

Full story here.