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How San Francisco's New Archbishop Threatens Equal Rights

Some of you may think that equality is a done deal. The Civil Rights era is passed and we amended the Constitution to include the 14th Amendment, so we should be good, right? Well, that’s actually not quite true. The struggle for equality and full civil rights is an ongoing battle—and one of the skirmishes is about to go down in San Francisco.


In what many see as an aggressive strike against LGBT equality, the Catholic Church has just appointed Salvatore Cordileone as the Archbishop of San Francisco. Mind you, Cordileone is considered one of the “architects of Proposition 8,” the initiative that banned gay marriage in California. The Catholic Church's hierarchy is sending him to the city that has long been considered the heartland of the LGBT community.

Cordileone’s appointment is a strong indication that the Catholic Church is digging in its heels on the issue of LGBT equality. It’s a surprising decision, because American Catholics are strongly pro-equality. In recent polling data, the Public Religion Research Institute found that U.S. Catholics are more open to same-sex relationships than members of any other Christian tradition. In fact, beyond the issue of same-sex marriage, Catholic support for the rights of LGBT Americans is higher than the general public.

Despite widespread Catholic recognition and support for LGBT rights, Catholic leaders like Cordileone continue to demonize LGBT Americans for political gain, playing the role of politician rather than pastor. When Proposition 8 was proposed in California, Cordileone himself reached out to evangelical Christian organizations and encouraged them to join the fight against marriage equality in the state. His coalition eventually raised millions—much of it donated by church-going Californians who had no idea what their money was being used for.

This week GetEQUAL and a coalition of other civil rights activists protested Cordileone’s installation. We don't take protests lightly, but this one was crucial because Archbishop Cordileone has aggressively used his position to limit LGBT rights. He has said on public radio that "the ultimate attack of the Evil One is the attack on marriage." In a separate interview, he stated that his diocese will address "issues of family life and…the purpose of our human sexuality, what God calls us to do and how he calls us to live and how he calls us to love." It’s an ironic comment, because Jesus didn’t actually say anything about who we love, and certainly didn’t say anything against lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender folks. He was focused on hunger, homelessness, and amassed wealth—something that the Catholic Church could certainly address.

So what should we do about this?

“Come out” in support for LGBT equality. Much of the anti-LGBT vitriol that spews from Catholic leaders like Cordileone goes unchecked by Americans—both LGBT and straight. As we approach National Coming Out Day on October 11, we at GetEQUAL believe that we must “come out” for equality over and over and over again, until anti-equality foes like Cordileone become marginal voices and the power of their authority is displaced by a larger public show of support for equality, tolerance, and acceptance. As with the historic Civil Rights movement, you don’t need to be of a particular class, race, gender, or sexuality to fight for equality. We’re all in this together.

We all need to come out in support for LGBT equality by “coming out” on Election Day— because we need to protect LGBT rights at the ballot box as well as on the street.

Image via Wikimedia

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