Devout Catholics Among Supporters of Family Parity

by Kilian Melloy
Wednesday Mar 23, 2011

The Roman Catholic Church teaches that although gays and lesbians do not "choose" their sexual orientation and are as deserving of respect as heterosexuals, they are nonetheless "disordered" when it comes to personal relationships and are "called" by God to lead celibate lives without the support and fulfillment of families to call their own.

The Church's leadership has gone so far as to say that gays are guilty of doing "violence" to their children simply by raising them in same-sex households. Church teaching also condemns sexual expressions of love and devotion between consenting adult partners of the same gender.

But Catholics themselves are setting a trend for the future. Marriage equality had become the law of the land in Catholic strongholds such as Spain. In America, Catholics are increasingly supportive of gay and lesbian families--devout Catholics more so than the public at large, reported Catholic in a March 23 article.

The article referenced a recent poll conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute that showed less than one-third of churchgoing Catholics as being foes of legal, civil recognition for same-sex couples. Only 31% of Catholics who attended church weekly said that there should be no legal acknowledgement of gay and lesbian families at all. By contrast, 38% said that same-sex couples should be granted civil unions, Over one-quarter--26%--said that gays should be granted the same access to civil marriage and its attendant perquisites--more than 1,000 rights and protections in all.

In total, the article noted, 64% of devout Catholics supported some form of legally recognized status for gay and lesbian families.

"Latino Catholics are more likely to be faithful to Church teaching on this issue than are white Catholics," the article said. "30% of Latino Catholics oppose the legal recognition of homosexual unions; only 19% of white Catholics do. In contrast, 58% of white evangelicals, 52% of black Protestants, and 33% of the general public oppose granting legal recognition to homosexual unions."

The article cited church doctrine regarding committed same-sex relationships and referring to them as "grave depravity."

Catholics for Equality celebrated the news, issuing a March 18 press release to trumpet the results of a similar poll conducted by ABC News and the Washington Post.

That survey, carried out by Laver Research Associates, showed strikingly different results, with respondents answering only to a question about marriage--not marriage versus civil unions. The numbers of family parity supporters generally mirrored the Public Religion Research Institute's findings, with 63% of respondents saying that gay and lesbian families should be accorded marriage equality.

Respondents were asked, "[D]o you think it should be legal or illegal for gay and lesbian couples to get married?"

"The issue remains divisive; as many adults 'strongly' oppose gay marriage as strongly support it, and opposition rises to more than 2-1 among Republicans and conservatives and 3-1 among evangelical white Protestants, a core conservative group," a news release on the ABC News / Washington Post survey says. "But opposition to gay marriage has weakened in these groups from its levels of a few years ago, and support has grown sharply among others--notably, among Catholics, political moderates, people in their 30s and 40s and men."

The release noted that acceptance of gay and lesbian families, once the sole province of those under 30, had crept into older demographics over time.

"In an ABC/Post poll five and a half years ago," the release said, "under-30s were the sole age group to give majority support to gay marriage, at 57 percent. Today it's 68 percent in that group--but also 65 percent among people in their 30s, up a remarkable 23 points from the 2005 level; and 52 percent among those in their 40s, up 17 points." Moreover, the release said, those over 50--while still "skeptical"--were notably more in favor, with one-third of 50+ years old respondents saying that marriage parity should be granted to same-sex couples.

By religious denomination, the numbers were also encouraging, the release noted.

"Support is up by a striking 23 points among white Catholics, often a swing group and one that's been ready, in many cases, to disregard church positions on political or social issues. But they have company: Fifty-seven percent of non-evangelical white Protestants now also support gay marriage, up 16 points from its level five years ago."

All in all, noted Catholics for Equality, 53% of the American public were now seen to be in favor of giving gays and lesbians the same legal rights and responsibilities before the law as those available to heterosexuals.

"The findings of today's poll are heartening, but not surprising," Phil Attey, the head of Catholics for Equality, said. "American Catholics consistently poll higher on progressive social justice issues--including the freedom to marry for all. Our Catholic faith tradition is strongly based on social justice and our duty to take care of those who are unjustly oppressed and marginalized.

"Our families have already dealt with this issue at a personal level and Catholics largely base their moral understanding of the world through their personal relationships, not by the dictates of institutional forces; be they from our church hierarchy in Rome or conservative political groups," continued Attey.

"We see healthy, happy gay and lesbian families within our [extended] families, parishes and communities, and we know love and commitment when we see it. On the issue of civil marriage equality, we Catholics support the freedom for gay and lesbian couples to marry. Period."

The place of gay and lesbian Catholics within the life of the Church is seen by some as "problematic." Many gays are people of faith, and the Catholic community has as many GLBTs as any other. While some gay Catholics feel rejected by their faith and respond by rejecting it in kind, others embrace the Church and create a path that includes both their faith and their sexuality.

Next: Reconciling the Faith and the Faithful


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