This past week, Rhode Island became the 10th state (plus the District of Columbia) to legalize marriage equality for lesbian and gay couples. The Rhode Island victory is a particularly sweet victory for Catholics since the state is one of the densest Catholic states in the union.
“Ten U.S. states — including a long uninterrupted swath from New York to Maine — now allow gay and lesbian couples to marry now that gay marriage legislation has been signed into law in heavily Catholic Rhode Island.
“Gays, lesbians, their friends and families erupted into cheers Thursday following a final 56-15 vote in the Rhode Island House, and then again an hour later when Gov. Lincoln Chafee signed the bill into law on the Statehouse steps.”
The Huffington Post noted that the victory came “after a 16-year effort to extend marriage rights in this heavily Roman Catholic state.”
The news of Rhode Island’s marriage equality victory did not sit well with the Diocese of Providence’s Bishop Thomas Tobin, who was a chief opponent of the bill. WPRI reports that he gave a warning to the state’s Catholics about attending marriages of lesbian and gay couples:
“Bishop of Providence Thomas Tobin said Thursday he was ‘profoundly disappointed’ that Rhode Island leaders have decided to allow same-sex marriage and warned Catholics to think hard before going to the weddings of local gays and lesbians.
” ‘Catholics should examine their consciences very carefully before deciding whether or not to endorse same-sex relationships or attend same-sex ceremonies, realizing that to do so might harm their relationship with God and cause significant scandal to others.’ “
You can read Tobin’s full response here.
Tobin’s advice is not well-thought out. Many factors come into play when someone decides whether or not to attend any event. Most important for the majority of people is the relationship one has with those who are celebrating. The true scandal would be if people were to ignore their personal relationships when making decisions about what to do.
Catholics, in vast numbers, support marriage equality, as the Rhode Island victory illustrates. I doubt that any Catholics who support LGBT equality will follow Tobin’s suggestion.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry