In the last few years, LGBT rights have expanded rapidly in the United States. But 2017 will almost certainly have a different tenor as progress stalls and previously established rights come under attack.
In today’s and tomorrow’s posts, I explore the year ahead as it relates to Catholic LGBT issues. What can Catholics expect in the church and in society? And how can Catholics respond effectively? Today’s post focuses in on local politics, while tomorrow looks at the national landscape.
Contrasting Catholic Politicians in Virginia
An example of the contrasting responses which Catholics offer to LGBT people comes from Virginia. The state’s governor, Terry McAuliffe, who is Catholic, signed an executive order last week which prohibits employers contracted by state government from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity, reported the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Executive Order 61 establishes stipulations in contracts over $10,000 that prohibit “discrimination by the contractor, in its employment practices, subcontracting practices, and delivery of goods or services. . .”, and the order bans state employees from discriminating during the contracting process. McAuliffe commented in a statement:
“‘As my first act as governor, I signed Executive Order 1 to ban discrimination in the state workforce based on sexual orientation, take divisive social issue battles off the table and help build an open and welcoming economy.'”
But battles over LGBT rights have not stopped in Virginia. Indeed, just as McAuliffe signed his executive order, a fellow Catholic in the state legislature sought to curtail LGBT rights.
Delegate Robert Marshall introduced a bill that would “force transgender people to use the bathroom corresponding to the sex on their birth certificate,” according to the Times-Dispatch. It would also “require school principals to notify a student’s parents if the student makes any attempt to be ‘treated as the opposite sex.'”
The proposed legislation is similar to North Carolina’s HB 2 law and other state-level restrictions targeting LGBT people. Marshall’s proposal is not likely to pass, and Governor McAuliffe has promised to veto it if the General Assembly somehow approves the bill.
Increased Local Efforts to Stop LGBT Rights
LGBT advocates can expect many state-level political battles similar to what is playing out in Virginia, according to Sunnivie Brydum of Religion Dispatches, who wrote:
“Even before Trump’s unlikely electoral victory, each new legislative session brought a cornucopia of anti-LGBT bills introduced in state legislatures around the country. . .municipal involvement is going to be our best bet to resist Trump’s agenda. While it may seem counter-intuitive to focus a national resistance on regional or state offices, the truth is that local elections matter, and local politicians are often easier to access than high-ranking administration officials.”
Catholics in the United States now have a decision to make in the coming year. Will we act like Governor McAuliffe to ensure every LGBT person attains their human rights to the fullest extent possible? Will we act like Delegate Marshall by abandoning church teaching in the service of anti-LGBT ideology? Will we remain indifferent?
Thankfully, Catholics have previously proven to be willing and effective local advocates for LGBT rights. States with high numbers of Catholics were the first to pass marriage equality laws, and Catholics have successfully organized in recent elections to pass pro-LGBT referenda while stopping many anti-equality proposals. These local Catholic networks will have to re-organize themselves in offering a witness against attempts to roll back hard won rights. Beginning with town ordinances and state laws, Catholics must begin anew the hard work of achieving LGBT justice.
Tomorrow’s post will look at Catholic LGBT issues as they may play out on the national level, and offer some overall analysis about what may happen in 2017.
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–Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, January 7, 2017