Catholic Clergy, Catholic Laity – Part 3

This is the third and final post in the Catholic series. In the first post we profiled a few individuals who were standing up to the Vatican. Then we took a look at a couple of organizations whose mission it is to reform the Catholic Church. Today we delve into the most general of categories – the whole of the 80 million or so Catholics in the United States.

“Let’s just agree to disagree and sit politely for the photo”.

For the past week, I have argued that there is a disconnect between mainstream Catholic America and the Church’s leaders, but it’s easy to claim that Catholics are liberal, conservative or whatever else.  Today I back it up with some evidence. I’ll try not to be so dry in my language but that’s the nature of such data. Here’s the disconnect on several contentious issues.

Abortion

The Church is clear on its position that life begins at conception and that abortion is always evil. On abortion, American Catholics are divided, much like non-Catholic America. Whereas only 40% of Catholics find abortion to be morally acceptable (2009 Gallup), about half wish to keep it legal in all or most cases (2008 Pew). Both figures mirror the feelings of non-Catholic Americans. Abortion is probably the only major issue where even half of American Catholics are in line with Vatican teachings – this still means that half are opposed to it. The Gallup poll mentioned above also found that an overwhelming majority of Catholics supported medical research using human embryonic stem cells, which the Vatican categorically opposes.

Contraception  Continue reading “Catholic Clergy, Catholic Laity – Part 3”

99 Problems, but Gay Marriage Ain’t One

The ham-fisted view that African Americans oppose gay marriage is narrow-minded and fails to capture a dynamic cultural evolution.

For the longest time we have been told that the Black community strongly opposes marriage equality, aka “gay marriage”. Since President Obama’s announcement  of his support nearly three weeks ago, a surprising number of prominent members of the Black community have come forward with similar sentiments.

On May 19, the NAACP (perhaps the most prominent civil rights organization in the country) endorsed marriage equality. On May 23rd, Colin Powell did the same. But the most powerful and bravest (by far) comments came from the hip-hop world, in which homophobia and blatant anti-gay hatred is rampant and often celebrated. Here’s the biggest man in the industry.

This fits into Jay-Z’s effort to clean up his image following his marriage to the nontarnishable Beyoncé and the birth of their daughter Blue Ivy. The following, I did not see coming. 

50’s views on the issue aren’t perfect (like many straight men, he is afraid of the legions of gay men that desire him), but hey, it’s a sign of progress and a testament to how far the country has come. So how did we get to our current view of the Black community and gay rights anyway? Surely, the polls contain at least a grain of truth, but it misses the larger picture.

A major reason is that so many of the country’s Black leaders are members of the clergy, who are disproportionately against same sex marriage. Until the President’s feelings were made public, there has been a great deal of silence on the issue, except among the pastors – and we assumed that the rest of the community felt the same way. Consider the Catholic Church for instance – whereas the clergy are among the most vocal opponents, the laity are, among Christians at least, among the most tolerant and supportive. Just wait until more prominent Blacks come out in support, just as Catholics have.

The Black community, like the President, will evolve its stance on LGBT rights and acceptance. Until now, no one has had an honest discussion with them about it.

Obama Endorses Marriage Equality

After years of evolving his position on the issue, Obama has become the first sitting President to support same-sex marriage.

For many this is an announcement that has been years in the making. When Obama stated during the 2008 campaign that he believed in traditional marriage, but that gay and lesbian couples should be treated fairly and equally, most of his supporters thought of it as a wink wink campaign tactic to win over those Americans who were opposed to or unsure about gay marriage. At the same time, his detractors thought of this as a wink wink campaign tactic to win over those Americans who were opposed to or unsure about gay marriage.

Almost four years later, the expectations of his supporters and the fears of his detractors have been actualized. Last night’s announcement came on the heels of Vice President Biden’s blunt (as always) statement supporting gay marriage last Sunday.

Many were quick to attribute the Veep’s comments as yet another gaffe. Now, however, it seems as if it was all part of some tactical plan to publicize the matter in advance of the big announcement. Well, here it is.

2012 has seen the issue of same-sex marriage rise to the forefront of political discourse and legislation. In February, Washington and Maryland became the 7th and 8th state, respectively, (in addition to D.C.) to legally recognize marriage equality. And yet, earlier this week, North Carolina became the 30th state in the country to explicitly ban gay marriage. It might seem like a losing battle for marriage equality supporters, but a slew of polls (here, here, here, here and here) have shown that, for the first time in history, more Americans support same-sex marriages than oppose it.

I give no major props to the President because I think he feigned confusion and adopted his evolving position to avoid taking a firm position earlier. But then again, had he taken a stand in 2008, he might not have been here to make this one in 2012.

Momentum Building on Marriage Equality

Microsoft joins the chorus of support for marriage equality on the grounds of business competitiveness.

On Thursday, Microsoft and five other corporations (Northwest employers Concur, Group Health, Nike, RealNetworks and Vulcan Inc.) based in Washington sent an open letter to Governor Chris Gregoire, expressing their support of Senate Bill 6239 and House Bill 2516, both of which seek to recognize marriage between same-sex couples. Washington would be the seventh state to have full marriage equality following Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont.

Microsoft’s official blog stated that “as other states recognize marriage equality, Washington’s employers are at a disadvantage if we cannot offer a similar, inclusive environment to our talented employees, our top recruits and their families…Marriage equality in Washington would put employers here on an equal footing with employers in the six other states that already recognize the committed relationships of same-sex couples”.

This is not Microsoft’s first foray into marriage equality. Late last year, Microsoft and 70 other companies (including Google, Xerox, CBS, Nike, Starbucks, Zipcar and Levi Strauss & Co.) filed an Amicus brief with the US Court of Appeals seeking to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act, which, since coming into effect in 1996, has defined marriage (by the federal government) as the legal union between one man and one woman.

In July 2011, New York became the sixth state to recognize same-sex marriages, but perhaps more importantly, it was the first “big” state to do so. The New York law was seen by marriage equality proponents as the first step in an eventual snowball effect of broader support nationally. Even former US Representative Bob Barr, the original sponsor of DOMA, has apologized for his involvement with the legislation and favors the proposed bill for the Respect for Marriage Act which seeks to overturn DOMA and recognize same-sex marriages at the federal level.

It will only be a matter of time before more states (another California referendum anyone?) join in, driven by both economics and ethics. If Washington steps up and recognizes what the majority of Americans already support, it will only be a matter of time before another Washington follows suit.