Activists from the Gay Liberation Network, a longtime Chicago-based direct action LGBT rights group, are calling on the local community to join them early next month in a protest against Cardinal Francis George, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Chicago, due to his vocal opposition against same-sex marriage. The rally will take place on Feb. 10 outside of Holy Name Cathedral, 730 N. State St., at 10:30 a.m. and will continue through the high-profile church’s Sunday Mass at 11 a.m., GLN Co-Founder Andy Thayer told Chicago Phoenix Thursday.
“As long as Cardinal George opposes our equal rights, we will be opposing him,” Thayer, the organizer of the protest, said. “His opposition to our legal equality is bigotry.”
George has long been an outspoken opponent of the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, pending legislation in the Illinois General Assembly that would legalize state recognition of gay and lesbian nuptials. In a letter to Catholic leaders across the state early this month, George said same-sex marriages defy nature.
“Civil laws that establish ‘same sex marriage’ create a legal fiction,” George wrote in the letter. “The State has no power to create something that nature itself tells us is impossible.”
Additionally, George reportedly made phone calls to urge state lawmakers to vote against the measure leading up to the legislative lame duck session. In the end, the bill stalled when sponsoring lawmakers and proponents simply ran out of time.
“He has decided to continue to vilify our community,” Thayer said. “What he does within the walls of his own church in terms of deciding not to marry people there is fine, but attempting to oppose his backwards beliefs on the rest of society is unacceptable and bigoted.”
Despite George’s and other calls from the top of the Catholic Church to oppose gay and lesbian marriage, a majority of Illinois Catholics support same-sex unions, according to a September 2012 poll conducted by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University.
About 82 percent of Catholics surveyed support either full marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples or the right to a civil union. Specifically, 39.9 percent said they support marriage rights and 40.1 percent said their position is for same-sex couples to have civil unions. Only 15.7 percent said there should be no legal recognition of same-sex relationships, according to the poll.
“Most lay Catholics are on the side of justice and we appreciate their support,” Thayer said.
The same poll found that 43.6 percent of Illinois voters support full marriage equality for gays and lesbians, putting the Illinois Catholic community’s support just below the amount of support from the state in general. The marriage equality legislation’s chief sponsors in the House and the Senate, Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago) and Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago), respectively, reintroduced the measure in both chambers last week following the swearing in of the 98th General Assembly.
The new legislative session begins Feb. 5, and proponents — including Gov. Pat Quinn — are anticipating progress with moving the bill forward in the first few weeks. The session adjourns May 31. The Archdiocese of Chicago did not return a phone call requesting comment on the planned demonstration Thursday morning.