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Forward, not Backward

By Lewis Speaks-Tanner, DignityUSA Vice President

During a recent Sunday homily, I heard the opening sentences of the Vatican II document, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, also known as Gaudium et Spes. It begins with, “The joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the people of our time, especially of those who are poor or afflicted, are the joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the followers of Christ as well. Nothing that is genuinely human fails to find an echo in their hearts. For theirs is a community of people united in Christ and guided by the Holy Spirit in their pilgrimage towards the Father’s kingdom, bearers of a message of salvation for all of humanity. That is why they cherish a feeling of deep solidarity with the human race and its history.”

What a powerful statement about our Church. It is the Gospel message; it is what the work of DignityUSA and other social justice organizations are about.

Unfortunately, we are seeing a regression and undoing of Vatican II. It feels as if the Church leaders want to turn back the clock on the strides we have made. But we must not despair; we must continue our work. There is love here. There is hope here. We continue to spread this message through the DignityUSA website and publications, our Queer Catholic Faith webinars, and our conventions.

This is not always easy to do. For the last few months, we have been bombarded with political ads forecasting doom and gloom, and have been listening to the presidential debates. Paul Ryan promises to fight back against the tide of swelling gay rights. Governor Romney wants to limit hospital visitation rights for gay and lesbian couples. And perhaps, in an issue most dear to us, the decision to expand marriage equality hangs in the balance in four states this election season: Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington.

Fighting for our civil rights is nothing new. We have been working hard to gain marriage equality throughout the country as far back as 1991 in Hawaii. Today, we have six states and the District of Columbia where there is marriage equality. According to marriageequality.org, 48% of Americans live in 21 states, counties, or cities that recognize various forms of legal, same-gender relationships, from full marriage to domestic partnerships. This year alone, the 1st and 2nd Circuit Courts of Appeal have found the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional. We will continue to participate in the political process to elect leaders who will fight for full equality for LGBT Americans. And as each year progresses, we have gained momentum with more friends and allies. It is no longer if, but when.

So as we posit ourselves between the recent time warp to pre-Vatican II, and the hope and progress we see all over the country, let us remember that love is love and God is God. This Thanksgiving day, we are thankful for our ministry and work in our fight for equality. We are thankful for our friends and allies. We are thankful for a country that is ever so slowly supporting what we have known all along in our hearts to be true.