by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
The LGBTQ community's love/hate relationship with the Human Rights Commission (HRC) is something that I suspect will never change. HRC's approach is too slick and professionalized for some, and just right for others. Either way, they are here to stay and, regardless of which side of the activist coin you fall on, you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who would say they are sitting the current battle for marriage equality in four states (Main, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington) out.
Next week, Seattle Gay News will run an exclusive interview with HRC President Chad Griffin.
This week, we wanted to keep our readers up to date on the work HRC is doing to help Washingtonians win the right to the freedom to marry.
JUST THE FACTS, PLEASE
The leadership at HRC understands that the voters who face marriage equality ballot measures do not want a bunch of spin. Most of the press coming out of HRC these days revolves around polling information and facts.
On October 18, HRC officials told the media that the Catholic Church is funneling unprecedented dollar amounts into the four states where marriage equality is on the ballot this fall - Minnesota, Maryland, Maine, and Washington - and in many cases, parishioners may not even be aware that their dollars are being used to fund discrimination.
The new report from HRC finds that the church has spent at least $1.1 million as part of its broader effort to deny loving, committed couples the right to marry. In addition, a close ally of the church and past co-conspirator, the National Organization for Marriage, has spent nearly $1.4 million on the four ballot measures. In the aggregate, the church and NOM are the single largest funders of discrimination, responsible for funding nearly 60 percent of all anti-equality efforts in Minnesota, Maryland, Maine, and Washington.
According to the press release, a significant portion of the Catholic-affiliated funding - more than $640,000 - comes from the Knights of Columbus, a fraternal organization within the church. The Knights of Columbus have an established history of using their money to fight marriage equality dating back to 2005. Equally Blessed, a coalition of pro-LGBT Catholic groups, will be releasing an extensive report in partnership with HRC today detailing the Knights' longstanding financial support for anti-equality measures (see story, page 15).
In Minnesota alone, the opposition to marriage equality has received more than $180,000 from dioceses across the nation. Much of this funding likely came without the knowledge of parishioners - and as diocesan schools and important programs like soup kitchens struggle for resources, the Catholic Church has instead chosen to fund hateful, misleading political campaigns targeting loving, committed couples.
'The Catholic Church hierarchy has positioned itself as the leading religious organization funding discrimination against LGBT people,' said Griffin. 'Perhaps most disturbing is the number of local parishes redirecting the hard-earned dollars of its members in the name of discrimination. The majority of Catholics support equality for LGBT people - they want their dollars funding things like soup kitchens, homeless shelters, and domestic violence programs, not discrimination against people several states away. The church hierarchy owes the laity an explanation as to why they are spending this much money on discrimination, and at what cost to other crucial church programs.'
CATHOLICS SUPPORT EQUALITY
The anti-LGBT activity of the hierarchy stands in direct opposition to the values of the majority of Catholics. A 2012 Public Religion Research Institute poll found that nearly 60% of Catholics support marriage equality. In fact, polling indicates marriage equality is one of the least important issues Catholics are currently concerned with. That same poll, from Belden Russonello Strategists, found that 83% of Catholics feel their bishops should not influence their vote.
'Our Catholic social teaching calls for us to work for a more loving, compassionate, and justice-oriented world for all. It does not call on us to discriminate against anyone,' said Marianne Duddy-Burke, a Catholic leader with Equally Blessed and executive director of DignityUSA. 'Unfortunately, the anti-LGBT activities of the church hierarchy stand in direct opposition to the values of the majority of Catholics.'
The report (available at www.hrc.org/catholicreport) breaks down publicly reported in-kind and cash expenditures from the church hierarchy and the Knights of Columbus to the four ballot states. In Minnesota, the church has funded over 50 percent of the effort to write discrimination into the state constitution, spending over $608,000. That figure includes significant investments from the Knights of Columbus, as well as thousands of dollars from small parishes all across the country.
The Knights of Columbus also have made sizable contributions in Maryland and Washington State, dropping $250,000 in each state on efforts to prevent loving, committed same-sex couples from starting families.
The hefty financial investments from the Catholic Church come as bishops in some of the largest faith communities in the country speak out with increasing frequency against LGBT people. In San Francisco, the newly appointed Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone was one of the chief architects of Proposition 8. Under his guidance, Catholic organizations in California led the charge in financing the Prop 8 campaign. In Newark, New Jersey, Archbishop John J. Myers has called on supporters of marriage equality to abstain from receiving Communion. And in Minneapolis-St. Paul, parishioners have walked out of services as pastors read letters against marriage equality from Archbishop John C. Nienstedt.
On October 12, HRC furthered its commitment to marriage equality, announcing an additional $1 million in the four states facing marriage-related ballot measures in November.
The announced investments bring HRC's contributions to the four ballot measures to $4.4 million, and $7.3 million overall during this election cycle.
'There's no doubt that 2012 is the year of marriage equality. When you have momentum on your side, you don't slow down, you double down - and that's exactly what we've done,' said Griffin. 'Our movement is about loving and committed families who deserve nothing less than full equality under the law. HRC is proud of our many volunteers and donors who have raised and donated additional resources to fuel this fight.'
Throughout the campaigns HRC has provided financial contributions as well as in-kind contributions of staff and research to support the state efforts.
'Our adversaries have bragged that marriage equality has never won at the ballot box. This November, we will take that talking point away once and for all,' added Griffin. 'In 2012, fair-minded Americans - and particularly residents of Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington - will support their LGBT friends, family members, and co-workers.'
The Human Rights Campaign is America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve LGBT equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all. For more information on the group, visit www.hrc.org.
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