By Jim Smith, DignityUSA Program Manager
The Lutheran church near the Minnesota State Capitol was literally packed to the rafters on this night before a historic Senate debate and vote to potentially push marriage equality into law. A number of clergy and leaders from various faith traditions and denominations sat facing the crowd, each waiting their turn to stand and lead the crowd in this quickly prepared prayer vigil. One leader stood in the pulpit and introduced herself, saying simply, “I’m a member of Pax Christi Catholic Community, and I’m proud to be Catholic!” The crowd erupted in cheers. As the din subsided, she proclaimed a passage from the prophet Isaiah, and though the words were in front of her, she never took her eyes off the congregation. She spoke with authority, with an obvious understanding and belief in the words she voiced. She commanded everyone in the church that night, and for this participant at least, Joan and Isaiah were the highlight of the vigil.
Something has been happening across the country. People of different beliefs and no belief, reporters, and journalists have begun to grasp the distinction between the Catholic hierarchy and the rest of us folks who are the Church: Catholics in the pews, away from the pews, in lay ministry, even many priests and some bishops. People are realizing that the faith of Catholics does not always align with every Vatican proclamation.
Catholics are finding their voice. Catholics are refusing to believe that they are less than faithful because they stand with their transgender children and friends, their LGBT neighbors. In fact, Catholics are articulating an important truth: they stand with their LGBT sisters and brothers because of their faith, not despite it.
And other people of faith and of no faith recognize this conviction in their Catholic friends, and applaud it boisterously. They’ve got our back.
As I look across the country at Dignity chapter communities and caucuses, I wonder what potential exists in us to help empower our fellow Catholics to stand and speak with the authority of their conscience, their lived experience, their kinship with the risen Christ. We in Dignity have found our voice; in significant ways we’ve moved from claiming victimhood to claiming the dignity that comes in recognizing the gift of our gender identities and our sexuality. That liberating knowledge is worth sharing.
But have we done all we can do to share our voice with Catholics outside our Dignity circles? Have we met our potential to help others find their voice as allies of love and equality? LGBT church/ school workers desperately deserve the active solidarity of Catholics in and out of the pew. LGBT Catholic kids desperately deserve the explicit support of their Catholic peers and adults. Queer Catholic adults and families still worshiping in Catholic parishes desperately deserve to know that many, many other Catholics have their back.
Let your voice be heard! First, attend the upcoming Convention in order to be inspired, informed, and renewed. Then, write a letter to your newspaper, attend rallies in support of the LGBT community, volunteer with pro-LGBT organizations, and anything else you can think of. Let the world know that same-sex marriage is a civil right.