Thursday, January 31, 2013

Droppings from the Catholic Birdcage: From Boy Scouts to Gay Marriage, U.S. Catholic Bishops Defend Discrimination

In 1999, in its amicus brief in the case of Boy Scouts v. Dale, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops argued the following:

The Boy Scouts of America, like many organizations, including many religious groups, teaches that homosexual conduct is wrong. That message is part of the moral code of Scouting as it is for many other organizations, especially religious groups. Whether one agrees with that message is irrelevant, as the First Amendment broadly protects the dissemination of messages, even those that some might think to be out of vogue. 
For the judiciary effectively to direct the Boy Scouts to convey, through its Scout leadership, another and directly contrary message is indefensible and threatens the integrity of a wide range of American institutions. Churches and religious organizations and other groups that exist to promote strong social and moral messages, and take firm stands in support of those messages, are particularly at risk.

Two days ago, in its amicus brief in the case of United States v. Windsor, the USCCB argued:

Application of heightened scrutiny in this case would not only have a distorting effect on this Court’s equal protection jurisprudence as a whole, but would undermine the defense of state laws that define marriage as the union of one man and one woman, or that otherwise involve a classification based on “sexual orientation.” Such a ruling would compromise the ability of states to accommodate religious and moral objections to homosexual conduct on the part of employers and individuals. In the end, a decision applying heightened scrutiny would seriously impede democratic solutions to questions about the legal treatment of persons in same-sex relationships.

Note the recurring phrases in the two documents, phrases that overlap: prohibiting bald-faced discrimination against gay persons in the Boy Scouts would threaten the integrity of American institutions. It puts at risk churches and other organizations that have everything invested in upholding discrimination against those who are gay.

Permitting same-sex marriage would undermine the defense of state laws. It would compromise the ability of states to turn a blind eye to discriminatory treatment of gay and lesbian persons in the workplace. It would seriously impede democratic solutions to questions about how LGBT human beings are to be treated in American society.

From 1999 to the present, whether the issue is defending anti-gay discrimination in the Boy Scouts of America or in state and federal laws prohibiting marriage equality, one thing remains constant: the intent of the U.S. bishops to uphold discrimination against those who are gay in every way possible--including, by their own admission in their latest brief, in the workplace, where laws in many states permit people to be fired or denied employment (or refused housing or healthcare) solely because they are gay.

One thing remains constant: no matter how often they protest that they love, love, love gay folks and deplore discrimination, the U.S. bishops have for a long time used their powerful and well-funded political lobby, and continue to use their powerful and well-funded political lobby, to fight against the most basic human rights of gay and lesbian human beings--the right to equal treatment in the workplace, in housing, in healthcare, and yes, when it comes to marriage.

The U.S. bishops overtly defend, promote, and seek to extend anti-gay discrimination. They work without apology to shove those who are gay back into the closet and to demand that they be treated as second-class citizens. In taking these stands, they place themselves alongside some of the most despicable "Christian" bigots in the nation, including Westboro Baptist church in Topeka, which has similarly filed an amicus brief in the case of United States v. Windsor.

Westboro Baptist church, which joins the U.S. Catholic bishops in arguing that permitting gay and lesbian human beings to enjoy the full range of human rights enjoyed by all other U.S. citizens will erode the moral fiber of this nation and lead to its destruction . . . . In both cases, sheer unfounded hysteria about an imaginary loss of "Christian" control if members of an historically maligned and despised minority group are finally permitted to be treated as human beings . . . .

What would Jesus do? It's very difficult for me to imagine him picketing alongside the Phelps family, holding signs screaming GOD HATES FAGS. Or, for that matter, hobnobbing with the U.S. bishops and their rich right-wing handlers, as they meet in cushy boardrooms behind closed doors to decide how best to keep homophobia alive in order to siphon off a few more ill-informed Catholic votes for the GOP.

No comments: