N.Y. Times Reports Incorrectly on Catholic Opposition to Marriage Equality

The wonderful news is that Washington State seems poised to become the seventh state with marriage equality for lesbian and gay couples.  The state’s Senate voted 28-21 in favor of marriage equality.  Since Governor Christine Gregoire has promised to sign the bill into law, that leaves only a House vote, which can come as early as next week, as the last hurdle–and according to all reports, this vote should be an easy win.

The New York Times carried a story about the Washington Senate vote, which carries an amusing bit from State Senator Ed Murray, a gay Catholic who introduced the legislation. Speaking to his colleagues in the Senate, he said:

“ ‘Regardless of how you vote on this bill, an invitation will be in the mail,’  Senator Ed Murray of Seattle, the prime sponsor in the Senate, said in his final remarks before the vote. Mr. Murray, who is gay, has noted many times publicly that he and his longtime partner hope to marry in their home state.”

What was disappointing about the Times story, though, is that in discussing opposition to the bill, it states:

“The Roman Catholic Church is among the opponents.”

Technically, this is incorrect. While it is true that the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church opposes the bill, the entire Roman Catholic Church–defined by Vatican II as ALL the people of God”–does not.  As many readers of this blog probably already know, according to a 2011 Public Religion Research Institute report, 74% of U.S. Catholics support some kind of legal protection and recognition of committed lesbian/gay couples:  43% favor marriage and 31% favor civil unions.  Only 22% oppose any recognition or protection.

The Times article itself contains clues to Catholic support, but it doesn’t make the references explicit: while it mentions both Governor Gregoire and Senator Murray, the reporter doesn’t mention (and probably didn’t realize) that they themselves are Catholics who support marriage equality.

Part of the reason that Catholic support for marriage equality is not well-known is because the hierarchy has such a well-publicized voice.  Part of the reason, though, is also because news reporters need to be more precise in their writing.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

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