Gay Catholics Celebrate Despite Bishops Opposition to Same-Sex Civil Marriage

Prayer and Protest Outside New York's St. Patrick’s Cathedral Gay Pride Morning

Photos courtesy of Gary Rissman

New York, June 24, 2007 - Outside the closed St Patrick’s cathedral doors members of Dignity/NY, a gay catholic group, held a prayer and protest witness. They stood against church teaching that renounces homosexuality as an "intrinsic disorder" and opposes same sex marriage and civil unions.

"Gay catholics are here to take a stand for love and justice," said Brendan Fay, organizer of the cathedral sidewalk witness. Irish born Fay, who lives in Astoria with his spouse Tom Moulton, said “We celebrate the love of same-sex couples and we seek equality for all including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons not just in civil society but within our catholic church. We invite our bishops to open their hearts and church doors to us” said Fay.

Ironically the witness at the cathedral was a result of a lawsuit brought by the Catholic War Veterans in 1983.The gay catholic group won the legal right to be present at the cathedral in 1986. That’s when police barricades first appeared.

Refusing to be dissuaded by the church's 1987 ban of the group from holding masses or meetings on church property, Dignity NY has gathered for a "prayer witness" outside the cathedral every morning of gay pride Sunday for over 20 years.

Co-organizer Barbara Mohr from Jamiaca Queens, a 74-year old former nun wearing her customary "straight but not narrow" button said, "We are one human family. When one suffers discrimination we all suffer." Mohr said, "I am here in memory of my dearest friend Peter Heslin who died from AIDS on Valentines day 1996. I told him I would never let his light go out."

Recently church leaders lobbied against New York’s marriage equality bill. Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn and Queens asked parishioners to "Voice Opposition to Same- Sex Unions" which he said was an attack on the institution of marriage. Italian Archbishop Angelo Bagnasco earlier this month compared moves to give gay couples some rights to incest and child abuse.

Brendan Fay and Tom Moulton met at a Dignity sunday Mass 11 years ago and traveled across the border to Canada to legally marry in July 2003. They were active in helping successfully secure passage in the NYS Assembly of the marriage equality bill (Bill A08590) introduced by Governor Elliot Spitzer. "The vote in the NY assembly is wind in our sails to the shore of marriage equality, “ said Fay. The co founder of the Civil Marriage Trail Project brings couples to Toronto for legal marriage said “we continue to passionately pray and work for equal immigration and marriage rights for our families”.

The permitted 23 included priests, teachers, theologians and were from Australia, Indonesia, Italy, Ireland and the US. They sang hymns, pray, lit candles, held flowers in memory of catholic gay friends, heroes and saints like Fr. Mychal Judge and unfurled a huge rainbow banner in celebration of Dignity’s 35th anniversary.

The flag was presented by Gilbert Baker who designed the Rainbow flag that has become an international symbol of pride and a celebration of the diversity of LGBT people.

Australian catholic leader Michael Kelly also joined the group celebrating his first gay pride in New York. He noted "we invite church leaders to come out from behind closed cathedral doors to join us in dialogue - to witness the joyful spirit of the committed couples in love, youth and seniors, and friends and family of LGBT catholics."

Rev. Victoria Rue who presided at the Dignity Liturgy in celebration of Gay Pride also led the group in prayer.

After 30 minutes the 23 joined other faith communities at the head of the pride parade on New York’s 5th Avenue. The parade commemorates the Stonewall Riots, the 1969 rebellion that is widely seen as having ushered the start of the modern gay civil rights movement.