Speakers at a recent Georgetown University event argued that the legalization of gay marriage in Washington, D.C. was done with the influence of religious groups, and therefore debunked the myth of “gay versus God.”
For example, Cathy Renna, managing director of Renna Communications, argued that winning marriage equality in D.C. “struck a blow [to] two things,” namely, “the whole paradigm of gay versus god” and a perceived lack of diversity in the gay community.
“From a media perspective and just from an activist perspective in my years of doing this, you know, what happened in D.C. was incredible,” said Renna. She called it an amazing victory “not just for our community” but for the country as a whole.
The event, “Legalized Gay,” was cosponsored by Georgetown University (GU) Pride, the Freedom to Marry, the Human Rights Campaign HBCU Outreach Program and Campus Progress and was held on the Georgetown campus. A similar event, held on March 30, took place at Howard University.
DC Councilmember David Catania (I) said at the event that he was proud of how much tolerance and inclusivity at Georgetown had increased in the two decades since he graduated from the school.
Renna said that 200 clergy members from a variety of denominations had stood up for marriage equality in the District. “Our religious traditions and scriptures teach us that wherever love is present, God is also present,” states the “Declaration of Religious Support for Marriage Equality” authored by the Clergy United for Marriage Equality. “We therefore affirm the right of loving same-gender couples to enter into such relationships on an equal basis with loving heterosexual couples,” it later adds.
However, comments made by Georgetown assistant professor Joseph Palacios insinuated that some might use the religious mantle for political reasons rather than religious ones. Rev. Palacios, a priest and sociologist, was asked why he wore his Roman collar to testify on behalf of marriage equality when the questioner had “never seen him” in his priest’s garb before. Rev. Palacios explained how he perceived his Roman collar—his religious sign of office—as a “prop” for the media. “Well, I mean my story is an odd one but I am a sociologist and [when] I do public statements I talk as a social scientist with a Roman collar on,” he said. “And why do I do that? Because the media loves it.”
“They [the media] like icons and the Catholic church is iconic with priests, good and bad, okay, so they eat up priests, okay, and so it’s just a fact. We’re a clergy-dominated religious group …I’m kind of anticlerical myself. However, with the political times necessary you bring out your props, okay, so, so it’s kind of a political political [sic] theology to bring that prop and I am a priest I’m proud to be a priest and I am not embarrassed to be a priest but when I give testimony personally and this is the challenge with clergy—you know, to be caught in [an] anti-dogmatic statement can get you in an [awful] lot of trouble, so…”
He compared being a priest to being a military officer “…and you convey through your office a lot of authority and so, you know, usually knowing how to use that well is very important and strategic, so when we have, you know, becoming a spokesperson for this campaign as the Catholic, it would have been very nice, in my opinion, had we had a group of Catholic laity that could have been carted out in front and then say the Catholic laity [you know, exists], so I had to represent Catholic laity in the use of my statistics and this is a challenge for like the new organization we’re forming, Catholics for Equality” (emphasis added).
Following the legalization of sex marriage in D.C., the District’s Catholic Archdiocese, through the social service program Catholic Charities, ended its foster care program and stopped offering health care benefits to CC employees not already receiving these benefits in order to avoid recognizing homosexual marriage, reported Michelle Boorstein and William Wan for the Washington Post on March 3.
Barbara Bradley Hagerty reported for NPR the same day that “….Rev. Joseph Palacios, an openly gay priest affiliated with Georgetown University, says the new policies were ‘written by the lawyers.’”
“He says while the policies may allow the Catholic Church to keep its contracts with D.C., the church will lose the faithful,” she writes. “‘The church will find itself in increasing isolation with its own Catholic community,’ Palacios says.”
In fact, Rev. Palacios told the Georgetown audience that he saw religion as a powerful influence on politics in the U.S. “So you have people within the organizations doing the creative change necessary to move theology toward inclusive theology that sees gay rights as human rights,” he said.
Richard Sincere, co-founder and Chairman of Gays and Lesbians for Individual Liberty (GLIL), asserted at the event that “Nobody who is in a heterosexual marriage is going to get divorced because that gay couple down the street got married and I think that’s the message that got through in D.C. and needs to get through across the country as well.”
No one was on hand to offer a robust defense of traditional, heterosexual marriage.
Bethany Stotts is a staff writer at Accuracy in Academia.