Catholics are voicing their support for the Equality Act after it passed the U.S. House of Representatives recently. But Catholics are also criticizing the U.S. bishops for harsh rhetoric about the Act, including denials that LGBTQ people face systemic discrimination.
Several supportive Catholic groups issued statements after the House’s passage of the Equality Act. Sr. Simone Campbell, SSS, executive director of NETWORK said:
“I want to be very clear, because some leaders in the Catholic Church have attempted to manipulate our faith by spreading misinformation and fear about this legislation. It is our duty as Catholics to affirm and protect the God-given dignity of every person. Catholics who embrace discrimination are rejecting the Lord’s call. Jesus of the Gospel cared for those who some in society turned away and called his followers to ‘love one another.’ For me, passing the Equality Act will be one step toward ensuring that we have a society where the dignity of all is honored and protected.”
Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, said the group was “thrilled” by the bill’s passage, which presents an “historic opportunity.” Of Catholics support, she commented:
“As of October of 2020, 87% of Hispanic Catholics and 83% of White Catholics supported nondiscrimination laws, representing majorities of Catholics of both political parties. Catholics understand it is wrong to discriminate against anyone because of their identities. We are confident Senators are taking note of this support among Catholic voters.”
As reported previously on Bondings 2.o, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) opposed the Equality Act, claiming the legislation would discriminate against religious believers and also mandate abortion care. Other USCCB materials and its social media channels likewise spread myths last week, like a reliance on the anti-transgender myth that the Equality Act would “require women to compete against men and boys in sports, and to share locker rooms and shower facilities with men and boys.” Perhaps most notably in all of this opposition is a backgrounder on the legislation wherein the bishops’ conference denied multiple times the real harms LGBTQ people face in the U.S.:
“‘LGBT'” people are not subject to systemic discrimination on the scale that has historically warranted the creation of a new federal policy. . .Widespread patterns of segregation or denial of basic goods, services, or opportunities to people who identify as ‘LGBT’ are not evident. On the contrary, ‘LGBT’ people today are often held in high regard in the market, as well as the academy, local governments, and media. Some studies suggest that people who identify as homosexual earn higher incomes than the national average.”
But some Catholics also took the Equality Act’s passage as an opportunity to point out and criticize the USCCB’s aggressive efforts to stop the legislation.
Patrick Flores of Vine and Fig wrote in a commentary against the bishops conference’s statements:
“As queer Catholics, we would like to invite the U.S. bishops to journey up the mount with us, and see if some recalculations are in order. To see our lives for all that they are, not just what they have previously seen. To paraphrase Catholic and gay activist Bill Kraus, we merely ask that an institution which talks an awful lot about human rights, recognize that the queer people of this country, are also human.”
In the end, perhaps theologian Jason Steidl had the most helpful reminder for those upset by USCCB’s rhetoric and actions. He wrote in a tweet that helpfully repositions what and who the Catholic Church really is:
“The @USCCB speaks for a few hundred bishops in the US. That’s about .000535% of the US Catholic population. They do a lot of damage to our faith, but their numbers are few.”
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, March 3, 2021