Gay rights activists to Picket Nat’l Gathering of Catholic Leaders Tonight

Gay rights activists angry at Catholic leaders’ opposition to marriage rights and other equal rights for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) people will picket a national gathering of Catholic bishops, cardinals and other leaders at 6 p.m. tonight at the Drake Hotel, corner of Michigan Avenue and Walton Street, in Chicago, which is being organized to honor Chicago’s Cardinal Frances George upon his retirement.

Under the slogan, “no honor in anti-gay bigotry,” the protesters will note that while Illinois finally won formal legal equality for LGBTs with the passage of equal marriage rights in November, it was only over the vitriolic opposition of Cardinal George and his colleagues, who crowed when the bill failed last May, and who continue to oppose equal rights in the 34 states that still lack legal equality for LGBTs.

The protesters will also note that while LGBTs have finally won formal legal equality in Illinois, winning legal equality is only part of the battle for social equality and acceptance.  Programs for LGBT youth, seniors, Transgender people and others who face particularly high discrimination are still needed.

“We need LGBT-affirming education in all of our state’s public schools, for example, not unlike other programs which highlight the achievements of African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans and thus partially redress the injustices perpetrated against them,” said Andy Thayer of the Gay Liberation Network, one of the protest organizers. “LGBT youth are particularly at risk for homelessness, suicide and substance abuse due to their isolation in frequently not having an immediate blood relative who is also LGBT.  The public schools are uniquely positioned to address that need.”

Cardinal George not only opposes equal employment, housing and access to public accommodations for LGBTs, in 2011 he was among a handful of religious leaders who got Mayor Richard M. Daley and his schools chief, Arne Duncan, to nix a proposal for an LGBT-affirming high school in the Chicago Public School system, despite overwhelming support for the proposed school shown at a series of public hearings.

Protest organizers also note the irony of the alleged “servants of the poor” feasting at the sumptuous Drake Hotel while the Chicago archdiocese’s budget is over $40 million in the red, and dioceses around the country struggle with school closings and bankruptcies due to many of the bishops’ and cardinals’ covering up of the Church’s endemic pedophilia scandals.

Tonight’s protest is organized by the Gay Liberation Network and the Rainbow Sash Movement, a pro-LGBT Catholic organization.  Both organizations applaud the fact that lay Catholics overwhelming disagree with their leadership on civil rights issues, supporting equal rights for LGBTs and women at greater rates than the U.S. population at large.