By Marianne Duddy-Burke, DignityUSA Executive Director
As each month goes by, I am more aware of the tremendous variability in the experience of LGBT Catholics and family members across our nation, as well as around the globe. The number of places where same-sex couples’ marriages are now legally recognized continues to grow. President Obama made a point of naming openly gay and lesbian athletes to the official US delegation to the Olympics. High school students in Washington have received international attention for their sustained activism in support of their vice-principal, fired after marrying his male partner. Increasingly, LGBT people who choose to be part of parishes report finding acceptance and welcome among both community members and parish staff. At the same time, recent reports continue to document disturbing rates of suicide, victimization, and homelessness among transgender people and LGBT youth. A year ago, I had a piece published on Huffington Post titled “Same-Sex Marriage IS Dangerous—To Church Workers” that discussed the plight of lesbian and gay employees fired by Catholic institutions for marrying their partners. Sadly, in the past 12 months, this situation has only escalated as our bishops continue to penalize LGBT people who access their civil rights. In India, Uganda, Nigeria, Russia and other nations, sanctioned attacks against our brothers and sisters put many in danger, and most of our bishops refuse to speak out against this.
While we believe that the arc of history is bending towards justice, we are clearly not there yet. Our work, nurtured and sustained by the love we experience—the love of our God, the love of supportive community, the love of family, partners, and friends—is compelled by the fact that many of our sisters and brothers do not yet know the fullness of respect and dignity that should be their unquestioned right.
DignityUSA turns 45 this year. Our Church and our world are vastly different from what they were in 1969. As I think back to the days when Dignity members, even leaders, were known by pseudonyms or by first names only, when being lesbian or gay and Catholic was considered impossible, when we had little concept of “transgender,” and when many Catholic reform groups thought having Dignity involved would undermine their effectiveness, I am astounded by how much has been accomplished by the courage of our members who dared to live with honesty and integrity. I think that the experience and longevity we bring to the struggle for LGBT equality is of tremendous value to the movement, and to all those who continue to deal with the reality of discrimination and oppression.