Thursday, November 17, 2011

Terry Weldon on Catholic Voices Group and "the" Catholic Position on Marriage Equality

As I write about the U.S. Catholic bishops' crusade to protect "religious freedom" (I'm referring to what I've just posted as I make this statement), I'd like to draw readers' attention to a valuable statement about this topic at Terry Weldon's Queering the Church blog.  Terry's perspective is important, because it's the perspective of a Catholic actively involved in the movement to defend LGBT rights in a cultural context other than the American context.  Terry lives in and blogs from England, and so he brings a valuable outsiders' perspective (and one of a Catholic actively involved in the struggle for gay rights) to the American discussion.

In England, the struggle for LGBT rights (including the right of civil marriage) is parallel to and yet different from the struggle in the U.S., in some key respects.  Neither Britain nor European nations in general have been as significantly roiled by this struggle as has been the case in the U.S.  The British and European debates about gay rights have been less politically charged than has the American debate, and have been far more resistant to the attempt of conservative religious groups to determine the outlook and laws of secular societies.

In the British context, there has been outright and courageous opposition from some faith groups to the discrimination enshrined in current British law, which has a two-tiered system separating the unions of same-sex couples from the civil marriages of opposite-sex couples.  For instance, in 2009, British Quakers decided to celebrate same-sex marriage, and the Friends have led the way in England in resisting the current law, on the ground that it upholds insupportable discrimination that makes LGBT people second-class citizens.  

The Friends and a number of other faith communities are lobbying for the right of churches that want to celebrate same-sex marriages to do so within their church context--a move forbidden by current English law with the active support of the Church of England, which wants to restrict the religious freedom of other faith communities who believe in same-sex marriage.  And which is using "religious freedom" arguments similar to those of the U.S. Catholic bishops to support its decision to curb the religious freedom of churches that accept gay marriage and want to celebrate same-sex marriages.

Needless to say, the Catholic bishops in England are standing resolutely with the leaders of the Church of England in opposition to changes in the nation's laws that would permit the preceding steps.  On the involvement of the group Catholic Voices, which managed press coverage for the papal visit to England and which now apparently seeks to position itself as the vehicle for presenting "the" Catholic voice re: marriage equality in Britain's public square, see an important comment of Terry Weldon's yesterday responding to a previous Bilgrimage posting.

For my commentary on "the" Catholic position advocated by Austen Ivereigh, one of the Catholic Voices leaders, vis-a-vis marriage equality, see the following previous postings (and click his name in the labels below for further information): "U.S. Catholic Bishops' Response to DOMA Decision: Continued Demands for the 'Right' to Discriminate"; and "Austen Ivereigh on Change in Marriage Laws in UK: 'Stand Up Against Equality'".

This will be a story to watch.

The graphic shows the results of a Quinnipiac University poll published in January 2011 in which registered voters in New York were asked to whether they support or oppose permitting same-sex couples the right to civil marriage.  Results are broken down by religious affiliation--Jewish, Catholic, and Protestant.  

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