In Wake of Anti-Gay Violence, Catholic Cardinal Launches New Attack on Same-Sex Families

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Tuesday May 28, 2013

2013 is only half over, but New York City has seen almost twice as many anti-gay hate crimes take place this year as in 2012. This, a May 26 New Civil Rights article noted, is part and parcel of a rising trend in recent years of violence targeting gays. But that worrisome uptick in brutal physical attacks against victims based on their sexual orientation didn't stop Cardinal Timothy Dolan for calling for Catholic priests nationwide to preach from the pulpit against family equality.

Moreover, Dolan chose the month of June -- traditionally the month when cities around the country and around the world celebrate Pride -- to launch this latest attack on same-sex families by the Catholic Church.

"Dolan, who is the President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and thus the top representative of the Roman Catholic Church in America, is also the Archbishop of New York, but has said not one word about the skyrocketing anti-LGBT violent hate crimes in his own back yard," the New Civil Rights Movement article noted.

"According to police, they have seen a 70 per cent spike in violent incidents targeting the LGBT community, from 14 last year to 29 in 2013," a Daily Mail article said, going on to report on the response from local GLBT equality leaders.

"No more violence," the head of Empire State Pride Agenda, Nathan Schaefer, said. "We won't stand for it as a community or as a city."

That's not the message Cardinal Dolan sent out in a bulletin insert he issued for national circulation.

"For the first time in our nation's history, the Supreme Court is considering two cases about whether or not marriage should be redefined to include two persons of the same sex," the bulletin insert reads. "These cases involve the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California's Proposition 8, both of which define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. The Court is expected to rule on both cases by the end of June. A broad negative ruling could redefine marriage in the law throughout the entire country, becoming the "Roe v. Wade " of marriage."

"Roe v. Wade" is the Supreme Court case that found a woman has the right to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. In the wake of that case, instances of religiously motivated violence, including arson targeting family planning and abortion clinics, and assassinations of doctors providing abortion services, have taken place.

DOMA, a federal law signed in 1996 by then-president Bill Clinton, denies same-sex couples any and all federal recognition, and allows states to refuse to honor marriages granted elsewhere. The law is the reason why couples legally married in one state are rendered legal strangers simply by crossing a state line. The law also denies married same-sex couples federal tax benefits, pensions, and other protections routinely enjoyed by heterosexual couples.

DOMA is especially hard on bi-national gay and lesbian couples that, unlike heterosexual families, are denied the ability to sponsor their same-sex spouses, even if they are legally married.

Proposition 8 is the voter-approved ballot initiative that, in 2008, rescinded the then-existing right of California's same-sex families to enter into legal marriage. It was the first time that an existing right had been taken from a minority at the ballot box, and was subsequently found unconstitutional by two federal courts.

"The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has joined with many other organizations in urging the Supreme Court to uphold both DOMA and Proposition 8 and thereby to recognize the essential, irreplaceable contribution that husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, make to society, and especially to children," the insert continued.

Church teaching calls gays and lesbians "disordered" and says that God "calls" those who are romantically and sexually attracted to those of their own gender to lives of celibacy. As such, the Church holds that gays and lesbians should be denied married life.

The church has also declared that sexual affection between gay and lesbian spouses is "intrinsically evil," and stated that same-sex parents inflict "abuse" upon their children simply by providing them with loving, stable homes.

Dolan's tract used a number of coded references, including "religious liberty" and "freedom." It has been the claim of anti-gay people of faith that their own freedoms of worship and expression are eroded by laws recognizing same-sex relationships and allowing gays and lesbians to partake in the civil contract of marriage, with its 1,000+ legal rights and protections.

The bulletin insert outlined the religious, rather than the civil, meaning of marriage, and proceeded from an assumption that people of all faiths -- or no faith -- ought to be required to structure their family lives according to Catholic dogma.

"What is marriage?" the insert asks at one juncture. "Marriage is the permanent and exclusive union of one man and one woman, for the good of the spouses and for the procreation and education of children. One man, one woman - for life."

Indeed, although the Bible contains a scant half-dozen references to same-gender sexual activity -- most of them vague or mistranslated, and contested by scholars -- both the Old and New Testaments condemn divorce in no uncertain terms. However, to date, no ballot initiative has appeared in any state that would ban divorce, nor has the Church advocated for such a ballot initiative. The Church has, on the other hand, been highly active in bans targeting same-sex families from gaining marriage rights.

Marriage equality is now the law in twelve states. Thirty states have seen their constitutions amended at the ballot box to exclude same-sex families from marriage. The 2012 elections marked only the second time that anti-gay ballot initiatives have failed, with several anti-gay measures failing in a number of states.

Despite the plethora of legal protections and benefits available to married couples, especially on the federal level, Dolan's insert claims that marriage equality is not substantially beneficial.

"There are many ways to protect the basic human rights of all," the insert says, "but redefining marriage serves no one's rights, least of all those of children."

The bulletin encourages parishioners to work actively in efforts to derail and roll back legal progress for gay and lesbian families.

"Please consider contributing time, talent, and/or treasure to local or national efforts seeking to protect the unique meaning of marriage," the text reads.

The insert also calls for married heterosexuals to speak out about their own experience with marriage, while evidently ignoring the deep importance of marriage for same-sex couples.

"Be a witness for the truth of marriage in word and action," the insert advises. "Take advantage of opportunities to speak about marriage's unique meaning in conversation with friends, family, neighbors or co-workers." The text goes on to urge readers to "Share the truth in love."

But truth and love are often victims to politically motivated messaging, and The Raw Story suggested, in a May 26 posting, that anti-gay sermons from the pulpit could add fuel to the flames of anti-gay brutality and lethal violence in New York and elsewhere.

Indeed, the article noted, "While other stridently anti-LGBT groups like the Family Research Council and the National Organization for Marriage are denouncing the violence in New York, Dolan's move in the opposite direction is puzzling. But by encouraging more anti-equality sermons in Catholic churches across the nation and more expressions of anti-LGBT sentiment by parishioners, the potential for conflict and by virtue of that, violence, only grows."

Such an escalation in anti-gay violence would not be unprecedented, and anti-gay speech from religious leaders -- some of it exceedingly virulent -- is not uncommon. Last year, a number of comments and sermons targeting gays caught the attention of the media, including a pastor who said that parents should "give... a good punch" and otherwise inflict physical abuse on boys who seem effeminate, a pastor who called for a concentration camp for gays, and a religious leader who said that the government should impose the death penalty on gays.

One government that has mulled just such a death penalty for gays in recent years is Uganda, where lawmaker David Bahati -- a man with ties to American anti-gay organizations -- introduced the so-called "Kill the Gays" bill shortly after three American evangelicals visited that country.

In March of 2009, several American evangelicals traveled to Uganda and presented what they called the "Seminar on Exposing the Homosexuals' Agenda." Their talks contained assorted claims about gays and the "dangers" that gays pose to society, reported the New York Times in a Jan. 3, 2010 article.

The conference was put together by the Ugandan group the Family Life Network, which purports to uphold "traditional family values." The speakers included anti-gay writer and missionary Scott Lively -- author of a book that claims to tell parents how to "gay-proof" their offspring -- and Don Schmierer, a board member of Exodus international, an organization dedicated to the idea that gays can be "cured" through prayer and counseling.

A third speaker was also in attendance: Caleb Lee Brundidge, who claims once to have been gay, but now to be heterosexual. Mr. Brundage heads seminars focused on "healing" gays -- that is, attempting to turn them straight.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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