By John Morefield
I’m a lifelong Catholic, married 46 years with four children and (so far) three grandchildren. I have been a member of my current parish for 44 years. It is my Catholic conscience that calls me to support Referendum 74: the new law which allows same-sex couples the freedom to stand in front of family and friends and make a lifetime promise to each other.
I disagree with the opposition of our Catholic bishops’ to Referendum 74. They are choosing to discriminate against one particular group of God’s children, dividing families, parishes and communities. I’ve spent my career in education, as a teacher, counselor, principal and administrator and I know that the statements about marriage equality and schools made by the bishops are simply not true.
Through the Washington State Catholic Conference, the bishops argue that all schools will have to promote same-sex marriage as equal to heterosexual marriage. This is false. The bishops apparently are following the kind of memos put out by national right-wing extremist groups whose research shows that their strongest campaign weapon is fear. These groups target mothers of school-age children, whose legitimate concern is for their kids. They try to manipulate them by claiming that their children will be exposed to some kind of unhealthy sexual curriculum if marriage equality passes.
The fact is there is NO curriculum in Washington State public schools promoting one kind of family over any other. In all schools, there are children of biological parents and adopted children. There are children of same-sex couples and children of single mothers and fathers. There are children raised by grandparents and children raised by foster parents. There are all manner of blended families. It is discriminatory in public schools NOW to promote one kind of family over another. All children deserve to be treated equally and with dignity.
Private schools, including Catholic schools, can teach whatever they want about marriage and families. With the passage of Referendum 74, nothing will change. The bishops will continue to allow and encourage Catholic schools to teach Church doctrine about families and marriage. I believe that treating and loving our neighbor as ourselves is a good place to start.
As a member of Catholics for Marriage Equality in Washington, I know that our strongest message is love. We support all loving and committed couples that want to be responsible for themselves and their children. We know that all parents want their kids in a healthy and safe school environment where they can be protected from discrimination.
The bishops cast themselves as victims of religious intolerance, but they are the intolerant ones as they try to block some couples’ freedom to marry. R-74 explicitly and securely protects every religion, every clergy member and every church, and upholds their right to perform marriages according to their own religious beliefs. R-74 simply allows loving same sex couples to make a public lifetime commitment under Washington State Law. R-74 allows us all to have both religious freedom and the freedom to marry.
Like so many Catholics, I am sad that the bishops have chosen to take such an aggressive stance against a certain group of people. I know they can do better as pastoral leaders.
The good news is that all of us Catholics were raised by these same bishops to follow our consciences and to commit to the common good for all God’s people. That’s why polls consistently show that Catholics support marriage equality by a large majority all across America. We will vote to APPROVE Ref. 74 on Nov. 6.