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Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality in D.C.
Topics: LGBTQ

On October 26, the Washington D.C. City Council held a 7-hour hearing on the “Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act of 2009,” which would legalize same-sex marriage in Washington D.C. One of the prominent voices testifying in favor of the bill was Rev. Dr. Joseph Palacios, a sociologist at Georgetown University and a priest in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Dr. Palacios, who is also the founder of Catholics United for Marriage Equality, noted that…

“On a great many social issues a majority of [Catholics] have divergent opinions regarding issues pertaining to the Church’s positions regarding family, sexuality, reproduction, gender, and identity issues that rely on natural law arguments for the Church’s logic.These positions often conflict with the lived experiences of Catholics as they encounter social injustice.”

To illustrate his point and to make the case for marriage equality Dr. Palacios drew heavily on research and analysis by Public Religion Research, particularly on our report, “Roman Catholics and LGBT Justice Issues,” which he called “the most comprehensive study of Catholics and gay and lesbian issues to date.”

Dr. Palacios drew on the following findings in making his case for marriage equality:

  • ACCEPTANCE OF HOMOSEXUALITY:Catholics are the single most favorable Christian denomination toward LGBT acceptance in U.S. society: 58% believe homosexuality should be accepted by society versus 30% who do not.
  • MARRIAGE EQUALITY:While 46% of all Catholics are opposed to marriage equality for gays and lesbians, 43% do accept full marriage equality.Among Catholics 18-29 years of age 60% are for full marriage equality, compared to 37% who do not.
  • LEGAL RECOGNITION OF GAY AND LESBIAN RELATIONSHIPS:69% of Catholics favor the legalization of the basic rights accorded to married heterosexual couples for gays and lesbians in long-term committed relationships, such as hospital visitation rights, health insurance, and pension coverage.This is a significant statistic compared to 63% of mainline Christians, 36% of white evangelicals, and 44% of black Protestants.

Dr. Palacios concluded by drawing the following implications from the data:

“This data indicates that Catholics are a key religious group in the debate toward the acceptance of civil marriage for same-sex couples.Catholics under 65 favor marriage equality and this number will increase year-by-year as these younger Catholics continue to shape public opinion toward full civil and human rights for gays and lesbians. …

“Bill 18-482 guarantees the protection of each religious organization’s marriage doctrine and practices and not forcing same-sex marriages to be performed in the Catholic Church or other religious organizations.”

To read the full report on Catholics and LGBT Equality, click here.