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Catholics Urged to Support Gays on Freedom To Marry Day

Washington, DC, February 8, 2001 — Leaders of DignityUSA, the nation's largest organization of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered Roman Catholics, today issued a call for Catholics to demonstrate their support for same-sex couples on National Freedom to Marry Day. The annual event will be celebrated this year on February 12.

DignityUSA Executive Director Marianne Duddy said, "This year, we feel it is especially urgent for the millions of Catholics who support justice for same-sex couples to make that support known. Gay and lesbian couples need to know that the Pope and bishops are not speaking for all Catholics when they say all those awful things about how we are making a mockery of marriage."

Pope John Paul II has spoken against legal protections for same-sex relationships on numerous occasions in recent months. He has called them "unnatural" and "a moral disorder" in response to European efforts to extend rights such as inheritance and child custody benefits to gay men and lesbians in committed relationships.

In the US, Catholic bishops have been vocal opponents of efforts to grant same-sex couples the rights and benefits granted to married couples. In California, the statewide Bishops Conference gave over $300,000 to support a referendum that limited the definition of marriage to "one man and one woman." There are over 1,047 benefits accorded to married people under federal law that same-sex couples cannot access.

"The fact that the Pope has taken on this issue so often shows what an important public policy matter it is," said Mary Louise Cervone, Dignity's national president. "We believe that most Catholics feel that discrimination is always unjust, and will support efforts to remove this inequity in our nation's laws."

Cervone and Duddy asked Catholics to "come out of the closet about your support for same-sex couples on Freedom to Marry Day." They urged Catholics to do something visible, such as writing a Letter to the Editor expressing support for legislative initiatives to gain equality for gay couples.

"Catholics should also sign the Marriage Resolution sponsored by Lambda Legal Defense's Marriage Project, and ask friends, family members and coworkers to sign it as well," Duddy said. Another option would be to attend a local interfaith service on Freedom to Marry Day. She noted that religious leaders from many other denominations had supported the Marriage Resolution, but that to date DignityUSA was the only Catholic organization to do so.

"The simple act of phoning a same-sex couple you know and telling them you will support equality initiatives is important," said Cervone.

DignityUSA also noted its unique role as the only Catholic group with an established program of support for lesbian and gay couples. The national organization has developed guidelines for couples interested in celebrating their commitment. Dignity Chapters offer same-sex unions, and many provide counseling programs for couples entering into a public commitment. DignityUSA maintains a national registry of couples that have had ceremonies through a local Chapter.

"Marriage is an important issue for our community, both religiously and politically," said Duddy. "DignityUSA will continue to work for equality and justice for all gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people, including those in loving relationships. We believe this is what the Gospel and our Church's social justice teachings call us to do."

DignityUSA is the nation's oldest and largest organization of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered Catholics and their friends. Founded in 1969, it is an independent nonprofit with Chapters and members across the US.