A Lesson In Underestimating The People In The Pews


A Lesson to Be Learned from Marriage Equality Victories

by newwaysministryblog

The news is almost too incredible to believe.

Yesterday, marriage equality was made the law of the land in three states–Maine, Maryland, and Washington State–and a proposed constitutional ban against marriage equality in a fourth state–Minnesota–was defeated.

Catholics played a significant role in all four states.  In Maine, Maryland, and Washington State, the original laws that were upheld by the referendum were all signed by Catholic governors.  In those states and Minnesota, active groups of Catholics for Marriage Equality worked tirelessly to get out the vote.

What makes the efforts of these Catholics for Marriage Equality so significant is that they have worked against incredible odds.  In each case, Catholic bishops have worked against marriage equality, and their power and influence is formidable when it comes to election campaigns.

It’s not the moral authority that the bishops have.  Indeed, due to the sexual abuse crisis among other things, their moral authority has seriously decreased in the last decade.  What they do have though is a vast communication infrastructure:  parishes, sermons, letters, mailing lists, bulletin inserts, schools–these are incredibly powerful tools to mobilize voters to vote the way the bishops instruct.  Despite these advantages, the bishop failed.

The lesson of this election for Catholics interested in LGBT equality is that lay organizing is becoming more powerful than the bishops’ organizing.  Despite that lay organizers do not have the access to Catholics that the bishops have, they have found a variety of methods to get their message across:  public vigilsYouTube videoscommunity forums, and newspaper advertisements, to name only a few.

We’ve also seen that having courageous priests and religious who are not afraid to speak out for equality are emerging.  Their witness gives us hope that others will soon step forward to urge people to form and follow their consciences with regard to marriage equality.

May the victories today inspire Catholics to continue to work for justice and equality for LGBT people.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

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:

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” . . . 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.