Bishops Try to Stem Marriage Equality’s Spread in the U.S.

As marriage equality becomes an emerging reality in the United States, opponents are employing new challenges in court and elsewhere to limit the spread and, in some cases, punish supporters of LGBT people. Below, Bondings 2.0 offers several incidents across the country that have made headlines with links provided if you wish to read more.


In Detroit, arguments open on October 16th for a federal court case challenging the state’s ban on same-gender marriages and stirring up anti-equality opponents in defense of the ban. Equality advocates are hopeful that the US Supreme Court’s decision in June to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act will help their case against a similar state-level ban passed by Michigan in 2004.

Initially, the two plaintiffs, April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, who are partnered with three children, challenged a Michigan law denying them adoption rights. The lawsuit grew, and the Detroit Free Press now reports the case has now drawn the attention of the Catholic hierarchy:

“U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman has allowed other parties to file arguments in the case. The Michigan Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the Roman Catholic Church, said ‘every sign of unjust discrimination’ must be avoided yet marriage should remain between a man and a woman.”

Yet, others are filing in support of the DeBoer and Rowse.  Professors at the Thomas M. Cooley Law School wrote a brief that said, in part:

“Ours is not a constitution of caste or class. It is not a constitution that allows a political majority to subordinate a defenseless minority just because it can…It is not a constitution that turns its back on any class, much less a class that is morally blameless.”

U.S. Congress

At the federal level, more than 60 members of the House of Representatives brought forth legislation that would shelter those wishing to discriminate against same-gender couples under the name, “Marriage and Religious Freedom Act.” Religion News Service notes:

“The bill signifies a shift in strategy for gay marriage opponents: Increasingly resigned to the reality that they’re unlikely to stop gay marriage, they’re now trying to blunt its impact by carving out explicit protections for dissenters…

“Under Labrador’s bill, no institution could lose its federal tax-exempt status because it promotes traditional marriage. Neither could the federal government deny a grant, contract or employment to a person or institution based on their belief that marriage should only be between a man and a woman.”

The bill has the support of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, among other anti-equality organizations, who claim it protects those who do not agree with LGBT rights. Marriage equality advocates counter that  the bill would provide a legal basis for discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. With the government preoccupied with budget considerations, it looks like this bill will not become law. However, the actions reveal the Catholic hierarchy’s insistence on mitigating the legal rights of LGBT people and perpetuates the idea recently expressed in Hawaii that ‘just discrimination’ exists.

North Carolina

Catholic bishops have withdrawn from the North Carolina Council of Churches because some of the members support marriage equality, just as Pope Francis called the hierarchy to stop obsessing about the issueReligion News Service reports:

“For more than 30 years, North Carolina enjoyed a unique ecumenical alliance between Protestant and Catholics. The state council’s members advocated as one on issues such as economic justice, equality and peace…

“But in a joint statement, Bishop Michael Burbidge of Raleigh and Bishop Peter Jugis of Charlotte, said the alliance has resulted in religious leaders being associated with positions ‘that are at times in contradiction with their practice and the teaching of their faith.’

“Specifically, the more liberal state council opposed a state constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage. The amendment passed in 2012 with the enthusiastic support of the two Catholic dioceses.”

Lack of Catholic support will cost the Council about ten percent of their budget, but more distressing is the lack of Christian unity that it reveals and the lost efforts on common justice issues.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

7 replies
  1. Linda Karle-Nelson
    Linda Karle-Nelson says:

    A number of board members from an interfaith advocacy group, Inclusive Justice, were interviewed by the local Fox News channel in Detroit on Friday. The members spoke about the growing number of clergy in Michigan who have indicated they will perform same sex marriages if and when the law banning same sex marriage is eventually overturned in Michigan. This is in support of the upcoming court challenge to the Michigan law denying adoption rights to same sex couples. The interview is linked here. It includes words from a Catholic father of a gay son:

  2. Larry Quirk
    Larry Quirk says:

    Again, this shows how the Catholic hierarchy squanders it moral authority. It is more important to them to stop CIVIL gay marriage than it is to be part of ecumenical organizations. And the bishops think that no one notices that they are not doing Christ’s work?

  3. Friends
    Friends says:

    Perhaps Pope Francis himself should pay a visit to this country, and “read the riot act” to these retrograde bishops who are ignoring his leadership example of pastoral healing. If the Pope himself can say “Who am I to judge?”, when referring to gay Catholics (including gay clergy in his own administration), what is the problem with these guys?

  4. Michael Ellis
    Michael Ellis says:

    The amendment actually did not enjoy “enthusiastic support of the two Catholic dioceses”. A majority if NC catholics (52%) voted against it, defying the narrow view if the bishops. If left solely to catholic voters, the amendment would have been defeated.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] later distanced himself from the law after it received international criticism. The bishop withdrew his diocese from the North Carolina Council of Churches in 2013 over marriage […]

  2. […] opportunity to oppose state and federal legislation that ensures employment non-discrimination and marriage equality for LGBT people.  If the story stopped here, then we would have good reason to be gloomy […]

  3. […] committed lesbian and gay couples.   Last month, the two Catholic bishops in North Carolina even pulled out of the state’s Council of Churches because of the organization’s favorable outlook on marriage […]

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