“This Month in Catholic LGBT History” is Bondings 2.0’s feature to educate readers of the rich history—positive and negative—that has taken place over the last four decades regarding Catholic LGBT equality issues. We hope it will show people how far our Church has come, ways that it has regressed, and how far we still have to go.
Once a month, Bondings 2.0 staff will produce a post on Catholic LGBT news events from the past 38 years. We will comb through editions of Bondings 2.0’s predecessor: Bondings, New Ways Ministry’s newsletter in paper format. We began publishing Bondings in 1978. Unfortunately, because these newsletters are only archived in hard copies, we cannot link back to the primary sources in most cases.
Hawaii Bishop Raises Funds Opposing Marriage Equality
One of the earliest U.S. cases to sue for the right of same-sex couples in Hawaii was the Baehr v. Miike case in Hawaii, which was in state courts from 1990-1999. Perhaps not surprisingly, it was also one of the first instances where a Catholic bishop became involved to prevent a marriage equality outcome.
In 1993, Baehr v. Miike was decided by a split Hawaii Supreme Court decision which sent the case back to a lower court to be retried. The Supreme Court put the burden on the state to show that it had a compelling interest in the matter of marriage rights for lesbian and gay couples.
Hawaii responded with a legislative commission to study marriage equality, and in 1995 recommended the passage of a law granting marriage rights to lesbian and gay couples.
In response, some legislators proposed a state constitutional amendment to define marriage as being only for heterosexual couples. The amendment was put on the ballot for a state-wide referendum in 1998. And that’s where the Catholic bishop of Hawaii stepped in.
A June 19, 1998, news story in The National Catholic Reporter revealed:
“In a novel move, Honolulu Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo has appealed to his mainland colleagues to urge wealthy lay Catholics to back a Hawaii lobbying group opposed to same-sex marriage.
“The Hawaii State Supreme Court’s effort to mandate same-sex marriages has to be stopped, DiLorenzo wrote last month in a letter to all U.S. bishops.
In the letter to his brother bishops, DiLorenzo warned that the Hawaii case had “implicates for all the people of the United States.”
The newspaper reported the type of donations he was seeking:
“DiLorenzo wants donations (not in excess of $1,000 per person) to go to a ‘grassroots, nonreligious, nonpartisan, non candidate political action committee, Save Traditional Marriage 98.’ DiLorenzo said at an opening fundraiser that STM needs ‘almost a million dollars.’
The Hawaii campaign against marriage equality was successful in 1998, and the constitutional amendment passed. In 1999, the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that, in light of the new constitutional amendment, their earlier decision was no longer in effect.
Hawaii passed a marriage equality bill in 2013, after the U.S. Supreme Court case United States v. Windsor invalidated the Defense of Marriage Act and similar laws.
Bishop DiLorenzo was appointed as Bishop of Richmond, Virginia, by Pope John Paul II in 2004. Marriage equality became legal in all 50 states in 2015.
Many millions and millions more dollars were spent by Catholic officials and organizations to oppose marriage equality.
—Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, June 18, 2017