New Report Invigorates Pro-LGBT Catholics
A new report that shows unprecedented levels of support for LGBT equality among American Catholics has only invigorated those who continue to seek a more gay-friendly church.
The Public Religion Research Institute reported 71 percent of responding Catholics were in favor of gay and lesbian couples legally entering into civil marriages "like you get at city hall." Even when a similar question referred specifically to "same-sex marriage," 43 percent of respondents remained in favor. Seventy-four percent of respondents said gays and lesbians should at least be able to enter into legally-sanctioned civil unions. And a solid majority, nearly three-quarters of respondents, also favored laws protecting gay men and lesbians against discrimination in the workplace.
The report noted Catholics are more supportive of legal recognition of same-sex relationships than members of any Christian denomination, as well as the American public as a whole.
Catholics for Equality is a relatively new organization working to mobilize and increase the visibility of pro-LGBT lay people who are speaking out against the church’s still hesitant leadership. Its executive director, Phil Attey, told EDGE the report’s findings were not surprising.
"It’s not a surprise that people of faith support equality," he said. "So many of our faith traditions compel us to support social justice and above most are Catholics. Our social justice tradition-taking care of the less fortunate, misunderstood, oppressed and downtrodden-is part of the fabric of who we are."
The report, expectedly, has its fair share of detractors.
Prominent Catholic blogger Thomas Peters wrote on CatholicVote.org that the Arcus Foundation, the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr., Fund and other pro-LGBT groups financially supported the report-and it is therefore not independent. He further pointed to the report’s finding that Catholics who attend Mass more often were less likely to support marriage equality.
Peters, it should be noted, is a cultural director for the National Organization for Marriage. Attey noted the Southern Poverty Law Center continues to investigate NOM for what he argued has been the group’s continued use of misinformation that has demonized LGBT Americans, potentially qualifying it as a "hate group."
Another critic of the report; Mark A. Gray, director of CARA Catholic Polls, also described the report’s margin of error of six percent as troubling in an interview with the Catholic News Agency. And Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, stressed those who attend Mass regularly adhere to more traditional church teachings.
"Catholics who are Catholic in name only can be expected to entertain a secular vision of morality, i.e., one that prizes radical autonomy," he said. "Those who are serious about their religion look to more authoritative sources for guidance."
Regardless; Attey and other activists are confident the report reflects real progress among lay Catholics, progress the church’s leadership will need to address as they continue to play an active funding role in the efforts to block legal recognition of same-sex couples in many states. In Maine alone, more than 50 dioceses from across the country donated more than $550,000 to help thwart marriage equality in late 2009.