Look for all these stories—and some of the not-such-good-news we covered in 2012—to continue making waves in 2013.
Civil Marriage and Uncivil Religion
On New Year’s Day, same-sex couples in Maryland started getting legally married—joining those in Washington state and Maine, where voters had also given a thumbs-up in a remarkable set of November election victories. Pro-equality activists are working to build on those victories with legislative campaigns in Illinois, Minnesota, and several other states to win marriage equality this year. And of course the Supreme Court will be hearing cases on Prop. 8 and DOMA in March, with decisions in June.
One of the biggest stories of last year’s marriage victories was the growing gap between the increasingly strident Catholic hierarchy and American Catholics themselves. Catholic governors Martin O’Malley in Maryland and John Baldacci in Maine played important roles in last year’s victories, and pro-equality Catholic activists were energetically visible and active in all the states with marriage on the ballot.
The message from the hierarchy doesn’t seem like it’s going to change. The Pope ended the year denouncing gays as contrary to nature in his Christmas message, and started this year, in his New Year’s Peace Day message, denouncing marriage equality as a kind of “false peace.” Meanwhile, in Illinois, Cardinal Francis George and his fellow bishops released a letter denouncing marriage equality as a “fiction” that “nature itself tells us is impossible.” Marriage equality, the letter says, would be in opposition to “the common good of society” and “the common sense of the human race.” The bishops even announced they’ll repeat this year’s failed “Fornight for Freedom” campaign in 2013.
But as last year’s elections made clear, the Pope, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and their allies in the Knights of Columbus and National Organization for Marriage can rageabout threats to the family and religious liberty, and they can even go after the Girl Scouts, but they cannot, for all their rhetoric and deep pockets, hide the fact that they have lost the hearts and minds of most American Catholics on this issue.
They have also, notably, lost the ability to keep all their priests on message. Some parishes in Washington state declined the bishops’ invitation to turn themselves into centers of organizing for an anti-marriage initiative there. In Minnesota, where the Church poured money into the campaign to put a marriage ban into the state constitution, and where Archbishop John Nienstedt imposed a gag order on priests who disagreed with the effort, dissenting voices emerged: A group of resigned and retired priests came out publicly in favor of equality; one priest, Rev. Peter Lambert, gave $1,000 to the successful campaign against the constitutional marriage ban, and another, Rev. Mike Tegeder, called on his bishop to resign after the campaign’s defeat.