By Chris Pett, Dignity/Chicago
Just before Christmas, a bill was introduced into the Illinois House and Senate to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples. Dignity/Chicago president Chris Pett was involved in gathering support for this bill in his role as chair of the Equality Illinois outreach committee to faith communities. Through these efforts, over 250 religious leaders across the state have signed a statement in support of marriage equality. While several prominent Catholics, including Governor Quinn, support the bill, our Catholic bishops have been active opponents, calling same-sex marriage a legal fantasy, and arguing that it is against natural law. Cardinal George sent a letter to be read in parishes across the state. Below is Dignity/Chicago's statement in support of marriage equality. The bill will be voted upon sometime in January and is expected to pass.
Dignity/Chicago, an advocacy organization for LGBT Catholics, joins over 250 religious leaders from across the state in support of marriage equality in Illinois.
As an authentic voice for LGBT and supportive Chicago-area Catholics for over 40 years, Dignity/Chicago has been consistent in its mission to affirm the sanctity of same-sex relationships and all expressions of gender identity. We recognize that stable families are vital to a healthy society and believe that all of society benefits by enlarging the circle of those who can receive the rights and responsibilities of civil marriage. Contrary to recent arguments from Cardinal Francis George, Dignity/Chicago, like the majority of Catholics, believes that all couples and families that come together in love are 'natural' families.
As a community rooted in the Catholic tradition, Dignity recognizes the sacred nature of the life-long commitment of marriage and believes that religious organizations can and should bless and celebrate such unions for LGBT people, as we have done throughout our forty-year history. Such committed couples are mature, responsible, free, and willing to commit themselves to one another in a lifelong relationship of fidelity before God and community. Should such couples be blessed with children, they are to be further embraced and supported by the community.
Scripture shows that time and again, God's love for creation is revealed in the most unexpected places. We have just celebrated the birth of the Christ in a manger, a child not of wealth and status, but born of a simple young woman. We now see God's love given witness in another unexpected place: through the love, lives and relationships of thousands of LGBT couples.
We recognize that our position is in opposition to that of our Church hierarchy,” said Chris Pett, president of Dignity/Chicago, “but polls show that the majority of lay Catholics support opening civil marriage to LGBT couples. For lay Catholics and for many religious, this is an issue of justice and an issue of family. While I respect the right of Cardinal George to speak out in opposition to marriage equality for same-sex couples, his position does not reflect the full truth on this issue. It does not reflect the lived experience of LGBT couples in committed relationships, nor the experience of their families. I know that the Cardinal has had conversations with LGBT Catholics and our allies on this subject, and I am saddened that this witness has fallen on deaf ears. Had he truly listened to these very real people, both same-sex and heterosexual couples, when they talked about their lived experience of committed love, he might base his position on this truth rather than on natural law theory. He might use this truth to better understand how we can build a more just church and society.”
Pett continued, “Statements that the Church welcomes and respects LGBT people ring hollow for us when we are not welcomed and respected equally with our heterosexual brothers and sisters. When we are asked to be silent about our families, our participation in the community is diminished and we cannot be our authentic selves, as we are called by Christ to be. When church ministries maintain that the only viable path for gay people is celibacy, they cause those individuals to deny who God has made them to be, or worse, to live duplicitous lives.”
Dignity/Chicago calls upon all people of good faith to join with us in affirming a just and caring society that recognizes the rights of all people, including those in loving, committed same-sex relationships. We also call on our legislators to support passage of the Illinois Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, which grants the full legal and societal recognition that same-sex couples seek in justice and in support of their families.
As Cardinal George states, “This proposed legislation will have long term consequences because laws teach; they tell us what is socially acceptable and what is not…” Indeed, this is true, and Dignity/Chicago hopes that most people will learn through this law that LGBT families are not “less than,” but are rather full members of our society with all the rights and responsibilities that entails.