U.S. President-elect Joseph Biden, who is being inaugurated today, should utilize his Catholic principles to enact policies which protect the LGBTQ community.
That is the view of Alphonso David and Michael Vasquez, respectively the president and religion and faith director of the Human Rights Campaign, laid out in an op-ed for the National Catholic Reporter. They predict that the Biden-Harris administration is “set to be the most pro-LGBTQ in American history,” and that their hoped for support of the Equality Act would be an important step towards the pursuit of justice and the common good in alignment with Catholic values.
Biden’s unique position as a “pro-equality Catholic” can extend beyond LGBTQ issues and beyond the civic realm, say David and Vasquez. Biden, they hope, can “lead American Catholics through a moral reckoning with the sins of white supremacy, homophobia and transphobia that plague the Catholic Church and have a major impact on American public policy.”
David and Vasquez write that “These [sins] and the many other crises that our nation is presently confronting, will continue to have disproportionate and devastating impacts on the LGBTQ community, most especially Black and Latinx transgender women.” The authors point out that 2020 was “the most violent year on record for fatal violence against Black and Latinx transgender women and non-binary people.”
In addition to the threat of violent attacks, in the past year LGBTQ people of color were also more adversely affected by the pandemic than the general population. David and Vasquez write:
“As the nation continues to face the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, data compiled by the Human Rights Campaign shows that the pandemic has had a disproportionate economic impact on LGBTQ people of color, especially transgender people of color. LGBTQ youth face discrimination in school, at home and in their faith communities that further compounds the mental health crises they are facing.”
Calling the Biden administration to action, they argue for “comprehensive and explicit legal protections,” as detailed in the Human Rights Campaign’s Blueprint for Positive Change. This document lists 85 policy recommendations the new administration can institute David and Vasquez write:
“These policy recommendations, in addition to working to pass the Equality Act, a piece of legislation that would provide LGBTQ people with comprehensive and explicit non-discrimination protections, are critical components to advancing the common good and achieving, in [Pope] Francis’ words, ‘a world where dignity is valued and respected through concrete actions’.”
David and Vasquez counter the arguments from some conservative religious leaders that LGBTQ equality initiatives blunt religious liberty, saying that such a perspective provides churches with a license to discriminate. They explain:
“While Catholic social teaching upholds a preferential option for the poor, the oppressed and the marginalized, nowhere in Catholic teaching is there a preferential option to discriminate, hate or claim superior rights over others.”
Concluding with an optimistic note, David and Vasquez remind us that “the majority of Catholics in the United States, including Biden who has long been an advocate for the LGBTQ community, understands that supporting pro-LGBTQ policies are in direct alignment with Catholic teaching on the common good.” They point out that Pope Francis illustrated how pro-LGBTQ protections can be held by Catholics:
“Francis’ statements in support of legal unions for same-sex couples, while making no changes in church doctrine, gives a roadmap for how Catholics can advocate for public policy in pursuit of the common good, even if their sincerely held theological convictions afford them different views on human sexuality.”
As we move today into a new era in our country’s history, guided by the first pro-LGBTQ Catholic president, we must continually push for policy changes which advance the common good and are in alignment with Catholic values. As David and Vasquez write, the Biden-Harris administration helping to pass the Equality Act and other explicitly pro-LGBTQ policies would be an important facet of the “good and sacred work of healing and rebuilding this republic into one that works for everyone.” May we continue to work, pray, and hope that our country will live up to its ideals and that the church will fight for the common good through advocating for protections for the LGBTQ community.
—Madeline Foley, New Ways Ministry, January 20, 2020