The newly-launched Catholics for Trump coalition in support of the president’s re-election is replete with anti-LGBTQ figures at odds with the views of U.S. Catholics overall.
Some of the members of Catholics for Trump’s advisory board who have made negative statements about LGBTQ people include Newt Gingrich, Tim Huelskamp, Marjorie Dannenfelser, and Sean Fieler, reported The Advocate.
Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, previously referred to marriage equality as a ‘pagan’ idea. His statements on transgender persons are equally troubling:
“He denounced the Obama administration’s guidelines on accommodating transgender students, saying boys ‘declare themselves transgender’ in order to use the girls’ restorooms and that people who support the affirmation of trans identity ‘are really lacking an understanding of human nature.’”
Opposition to marriage equality was the cornerstone of Kansas Republican Representative Tim Huelskamp’s time in office from 2011 to 2017. Huelskamp pushed for a “constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage” when the U.S. Supreme Court legalized marriage equality in 2015. He further criticized same-gender marriage by claiming that “the ultimate goal of the marriage equality movement was to destroy the institution [of marriage].”
Marjorie Dannenfelser, who heads the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List, has supported discriminatory LGBTQ policy initiatives enacted by the Trump Administration:
“[Dannenfelser has] praised the Trump administration’s creation of a Division of Conscience and Religious Freedom within the Department of Health and Human Services, designed to help health care workers opt out of procedures to which they object, no matter how marginal their role is, and worked closely with Pence on various ‘religious freedom’ initiatives and the effort to end the Affordable Care Act.”
Sean Fieler, chair of the American Principles Project, has characterized same-gender marriage as a harm to society. The New York Times quoted Fieler in 2013 as saying:
“‘The problem with gay marriage…is it promotes a very harmful myth about the gay lifestyle. It suggests that gay relationships lend themselves to monogamy, stability, health and parenting in the same way heterosexual relationships do. That’s not true…’”
Fieler has also demonized transgender identity:
“‘Unlike the gay lifestyle, the transgender lifestyle has not been, and perhaps never can be, normalized. Americans still believe that a man, even a man who thinks he is a woman, is still a man.’”
In strong contrast to these statements and policies, MetroWeekly’s interview with two leaders of LGBTQ Catholic organizations illustrated a different perspective on how Catholics understand LGBTQ persons.
Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, shared the following reflection:
“‘Trump has a position on LGBTQ issues that I think is out of line with the majority of Catholics in the pews…Survey after survey for the past 10 years shows that U.S. Catholics are overwhelmingly supportive of LGBTQ equality…
“Catholics in pews see LGBTQ issues as human rights issues, while the bishops and church hierarchy see those issues as being about sexuality…Catholic teaching is strong about the dignity of every human person, whether we agree or disagree with who they are or any facet of their personality. Catholics have absorbed that teaching and they see that discrimination against LGBTQ people as wrong.’”
Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, offered similar observations. She said there is a “disparity between official Church doctrine and Catholics’ personal political attitudes.”
Duddy-Burke disagrees with the rigid views espoused by the conservative Catholic political leaders involved with Catholics for Trump:
‘“Their attempt to impose a very narrow standard of understanding of morality and religious belief on a diverse country is really, really dangerous, and in opposition to the ideals of our faith……
“A commitment to social justice is crucial to the Catholic faith. Our faith places an importance on removing the structural oppression that people at the margins of society face. Catholics really understand what it means that society is structured unequally, and are really concerned about that. And they bring that concern with them into the political arena.”
These nuanced reflections from DeBernardo and Duddy-Burke are firmly rooted in the unconditional love and dignity that God holds for every human being, regardless of who they love or who they are. Indeed, the majority of Catholics strongly advocate that political leaders craft policies to protect and nurture LGBTQ people through all facets of society, rather than render them vulnerable to discrimination, harassment, and prejudice. New polling from the Public Religion Research Institute showed that 74% of Catholics support non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people.
The Catholic leaders of Catholics for Trump are out of touch with their church’s teaching, as well as with their fellow believers.
—Brian William Kaufman, New Ways Ministry, April 29, 2020