Pro-LGBT Equality Act Would Be “To the Detriment of Society as a Whole,” Say U.S. Bishops

U.S. Representative John Lewis at press conference in support of the Equality Act

Three leading U.S. bishops have announced their opposition to the Equality Act recently introduced in Congress, saying passage would be “to the detriment of society as a whole.”

The bishops, all heads of United States Conference of Catholic Bishops committees, raised their objections in a letter to Congress, reported the National Catholic Reporter. The Equality Act would add “gender identity” and “sexual orientation” to existing federal civil rights laws. But the bishops warned:

“‘[R]ather than offering meaningful protections for individuals,’ the Equality Act ‘would impose sweeping regulations to the detriment of society as a whole,’ they explained.

“‘The act’s definitions alone would remove women and girls from protected legal existence,’ the prelates said. ‘Furthermore, the act also fails to recognize the difference between the person — who has dignity and is entitled to recognition of it — and the actions of a person, which have ethical and social ramifications.'”

The letter’s signatories are Louisville’s Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, chair of the Committee for Religious Liberty; Venice’s Bishop Frank Dewane, chair of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; and Lincoln’s Bishop James Conley, chair of the Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage.

The bishops further expressed their belief that the Equality Act would put First Amendment protections at risk, in particular religious liberty, and would hinder quality healthcare by allegedly forcing providers to assist with gender transitions. It would also threaten social service agencies that do not work with LGBTQ clients. The bishops suggested:

“The measure ‘would force a multitude of charitable services to either violate their principles or shut down,’ they said in the letter. ‘With the lack of gender criteria, shelters would be required to house vulnerable, sometimes traumatized, women with biological men.’ Foster care and adoption agencies also ‘would be expected to place children with same-sex partners, regardless of some birth mothers’ wishes and children’s best interests,’ they added.”

Finally, the bishops raised the myth that allowing transgender individuals to use restrooms and locker rooms appropriate to their gender could cause emotional and physical harm to people.

It is unsurprising that these leaders, on behalf of their brother bishops nationwide, are opposing basic non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people. But what is notable in 2019 is the moving target of their opposition. For years, marriage equality was the U.S. bishops’ focus, a campaign into which they invested millions of dollars. But with its nationwide legalization in 2015,  political opposition to equal marriage equality is moot. Religious liberty has become the rallying cry, one with which they continue. Beyond discriminating against LGB people and same-gender couples, however, the bishops have strongly expanded their opposition into questions of gender identity. Their intensified targeting of transgender people should be deeply concerning to anyone concerned with equality and justice.

Polling repeatedly finds that majorities of Catholics reject legal discrimination against LGBT people and have generally supported LGBT rights. Unfortunately, passage of the Equality Act is unlikely as long as Republicans control the Senate and the White House. But Catholics should still raise our voices when bishops, who claim to speak for our faith, spout discrimination against LGBTQ people. Next time you call your legislator in support of nondiscrimination protections, call your bishop, too.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, March 26, 2019

10 replies
  1. John Hilgeman
    John Hilgeman says:

    I have almost finished reading Frédéric Martel’s book about the Vatican and the corruption in the RCC. If just half, or even a third of the claims he makes are true, none of this is surprising. But this continued series of attacks on LGBT people by an intellectually and morally bankrupt hierarchy is more and more obnoxious. I wonder when the whole structure will come tumbling down. It’s a sign of health that the majority of people in the Church are rejecting such ignorance. And of course, the hierarchy – despite the volume of their voices – are only a tiny fraction of the Church itself.

  2. Loretta
    Loretta says:

    They talk about protecting vulnerable women in shelters but fail to address their complicity in priests raping sisters and children.

  3. James
    James says:

    It’s because they still choose to believe, in spite of all science, evidence, stories and experience, that we’re gay on purpose, just to be evil I guess. They also believe, in our case only, that what we do with our genitalia is the sole measurement of one’s worth. Not kindness, generosity, patriotism, civic-mindedness. Some of them believe we’re not even capable of those things.

  4. Angie
    Angie says:

    The Christian Right is making a lifelong enemy out of me. I have done nothing to deserve this kind of treatment, and I am pretty sure I’m contributing more of value to this world’s future than they are right now.

    I see a bunch of petty, self-centered, vain narcissists telling us all how great they are.

  5. Don E Siegal
    Don E Siegal says:

    Don E Siegal
    45425 Sierra Dr
    Three Rivers CA 93271-9709
    Archbishop Joseph Kurtz
    Chair Committee for Religious Liberty
    212 E College St
    Louisville KY 40203

    Bishop Frank Dewane
    Chair Committee on Domestic Justice & Human Development
    1000 Pinebrook Rd
    Venice FL 34285

    Bishop James D Conley
    Chair of the Subcommittee for the Promotion & Defense of Marriage
    3400 Sheridan Blvd.
    Lincoln NE 68506
    Subject: “[T]he Equality Act would impose sweeping regulations to the detriment of society as a whole.”
    Dear Archbishop Kurtz and Bishops Dewane and Conley:
    “According to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they possess, [the Christian faithful] have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church. . .” (Code of Canon Law, 212)
    Accordingly, as a chaste gay Roman Catholic, I am calling all three of you out for your abject disregard for Catholic Social and Economic Justice and the Catechism of the Catholic Church concerning the civil rights and protections for this nation’s queer folk. I am referring to the collusion in your opposition to the Equality Act recently introduced in Congress.
    The Equality Act supports all of the tenants of Catholic Social Justice in dignity of the person, right to be able to work, right to housing and education. It is therefore immoral and scurrilous on your part to oppose the Equality Act. In addition, your behavior is contrary to the teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. On the subject of homosexuality, the CCC says in part: “…They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.” № 2358
    I urge you to cease and desist in your opposition to the Equality Act, and use your influence to support the Act.
    Don E Siegal

  6. WinterhavenLarry
    WinterhavenLarry says:

    Sometimes, In advocating for our rights, I feel conflicted, wondering if I am indeed doing the right thing. But In today’s Lenten Meditation, Richard Rohr says: “When you try to fight evil, you are invariably accused of doing evil yourself. Isn’t that interesting?” Find his words of encouragement here:

  7. Brian
    Brian says:

    These bishops make the same argument as the NRA about Gun Safety Laws taking peoples’ guns away! There is NO WAY that an Anti-Discrimination law would impact “1st Amendment Rights.” A Law CANNOT supersede a part of the constitution, but like the NRA these Bishops rely on ignorance as a means of attacking the LGBTQ Community, thus revealing their animosity toward the LGBTQ community!!!

  8. Richard Boyle
    Richard Boyle says:

    Will this action coming out of the NCCB be yet another step toward a schism in the Church? Many, many people, including myself, are just SO tired of hoping for, or speaking out for, justice in the current reality/institution of the RCC.


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