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GLN protests Catholic bishops at Holy Name

Written by Gary Barlow
Sunday, February 13, 2011 - Windy City Times - LINK

GLN permalink 2-13-2011

CHICAGO - About 50 people picketed, carried signs and waved rainbow flags outside Sunday morning services Feb. 13 at Chicago's Holy Name Cathedral, protesting the efforts of Catholic Cardinal Francis George and other Catholic leaders to block any legislation that recognizes equal rights for LGBTs.

The protest was organized by the Gay Liberation Network.

Andy Thayer at Holy Name. Photo by Sukie de la Croix

Andy Thayer at Holy Name. Photo by Sukie de la Croix

"Cardinal George went into overdrive to try to defeat the civil unions bill in Springfield," said GLN's Andy Thayer. "Every single piece of pro-rights legislation that's ever been proposed for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered community, this cardinal and his predecessors have opposed."

Protesters said lobbying efforts mounted by the Catholic leaders against pro-LGBT legislation runs counter to the beliefs of a majority of American Catholics.

"Polls indicate that 60 percent of Catholics now support marriage equality," said GLN's Bob Schwartz. "The problem is in the Catholic hierarchy."

Numbers vary but several major polls in the past year, including the Field Poll in California and a national poll by the Pew Research Center, have shown more Catholics favor marriage equality for gays and lesbians than oppose it.

"We are out here in solidarity with those people, those Catholics who favor equality," Thayer said.

Thayer also touted the protest as a victory for free speech rights. GLN has mounted similar protests at Holy Name in the past but organizers said they were threatened with arrest last year if they protested there during worship services, with police citing an ordinance "prohibiting demonstrations in the public way within 150 feet and one half hour of a religious service in a place of worship."

In January an American Civil Liberties Union-Illinois attorney wrote the city on behalf of GLN, saying that the ordinance represents an unconstitutional infringement on free speech rights. In a letter, Chicago Corporation Counsel Mara Georges replied, "The City does not intend to enforce this aforementioned ordinance at this time."

Thayer said it was an important concession.

"We established a very valuable precedent today, not just for LGBT rights but for the right to assemble," Thayer said. "This victory for free speech here today is also a victory for LGBT equality."

A handful of Chicago police kept watch during the protest, occasionally reminding protesters to maintain an open path on the sidewalk at the base of the cathedral's steps. Unlike past GLN protests at Holy Name, this year's attracted counter-demonstrators. A half dozen or so people stood with anti-gay activist Peter LaBarbera about 15 feet away from the picketers, holding signs thanking Cardinal George for "defending traditional marriage."

And roughly in between the two groups stood members of a newer organization, GoFirst Ministries. The group states that its purpose is to "reach out to our brothers and sisters who experience same-sex attraction." The group's members declined to express their views on equal rights for LGBTs under the law, saying they were only there to discuss "spiritual issues." The group is Catholic-based and at least one member said that they support the official teachings of the Catholic Church on gays and lesbians. The Church says that while people may be born intrinsically gay, it is a sin for them to have intimate relationships.

One protester, Justin Snodgrass, directing his remarks to the GoFirst group, related that he went through reparative therapy intended to make him heterosexual. Such therapy is promoted by religious and anti-gay groups as a way to "cure" gays, even though it has been repeatedly repudiated and discredited by the American Psychological Association.

"I went though reparative therapy," Snodgrass said. "Four years ago, I was where you are. I hated myself. I would cry. Finally I came to the realization that it's impossible to change who you are."

The protest ended peacefully after about an hour.


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