The Catholic Church’s influence on same-sex marriage debates

In the United States, there are 38 states which have banned same-sex marriage and 6 states that allow civil unions, but not marriage. This means that there are merely 12 states that recognize same-sex marriage in the United States. It is evident that a great majority of citizens of the United States are invested in creating a homophobic atmosphere within the United States. 

While the issue of same-sex marriage remains extremely controversial in modern politics, there are many factors that can influence an individual’s public opinion of certain proposed laws and policies. Such factors include the religion and the culture of the individual, as these aspects help to construct one’s identity in his or her own community. From the very beginning of the same-sex marriage proposals, religious groups, such as the Catholic Church, have persistently opposed these same-sex marriage bills on the basis of their religious beliefs.

The Catholic Church is one such example of a kind of religious institution which maintains a great sphere of influence. The Catholic Church has gained immense political power to influence its members in their political issues, as well as their personal beliefs. The Catholic Church has been notorious for its political stance against homosexuality, using quotes from the Bible as the source of reason behind this opposition. According to Leviticus 20:13, “If a man also shall lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them”. This clearly homophobic quote is used by modern Catholics to condemn homosexuals and to refuse the legalization of same-sex marriage.

Furthermore, surveys offer a source of statistics that can help to define the cause for this unwillingness to support same-sex marriage in the United States. A survey conducted in 2003 by the Pew Research Center indicates that while approximately “59% of Americans oppose and 32% favor same-sex marriage…that ratio jumps to more than six-to-one (80% to 12%)” for individuals with “high levels of religious commitment” (Schuman, 2108). This study suggests that individuals with a more religious background tend to oppose same-sex marriage proposals. This statistic indicates that the Catholic Church does in fact possess a political influence on its members.

In 2001, it was estimated that approximately 76.5% of Americans identified as “Christian, including over 50 million Catholics and over 33 million Baptists”. With their sphere of influence reaching more than 50 million Americans, the Catholic Church retains a large portion of the voting population.

Similarly to the dehumanization of the natives by the Europeans, the Catholic Church has condemned homosexuals as extremely sinful individuals who blatantly rebel against the word of God. In Leviticus 20:13, the Bible illustrates homosexuality as sinful and claims that “[homosexuals] shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them”. This blatantly violent image suggests the right of Christians to put a man “to death” if the individual engages in homosexual acts.

Ultimately the Catholic Church, along with other religious groups, retains the power that allows them to impose a sphere of influence on the political beliefs of their congregation members. Although the United States has twelve states that have legalized same-sex marriage, there are thirty-eight more states that do not recognize the legality of same-sex marriage.  With a transnational perspective, it’s obvious that despite the strong religious presence and the Catholic Church’s stance on same-sex marriage, Argentina has been able to adapt to modern issues and allow the passage of same-sex marriage. While the United States could learn from Argentina’s example, it encompasses an entirely different religious and cultural setting which makes simply copying Argentina unlikely.


3 thoughts on “The Catholic Church’s influence on same-sex marriage debates

  1. I’m interested to know why you chose the Catholic Church as the main entity working against same-sex marriage. It is a good example, but I think in General its Christianity. Christianity in any denomination, including Pentecoastal, Baptist, Lutheran, etc. is going to always quote the bible as a way to legitimize violence against homosexual identities. I grew up Catholic, sometimes I still attend church with my parents, I characterize it as a common Mexican dilemma. I recognize a lot of gay individuals in church with their parents and family members, knowingly making ourselves visible to the society that most shun us. There have been a lot of instances that I have attended and the priest happens to be giving an anti-gay sermon. Its like receiving a rock to the head. But I just smile, I smile at the fact that I know otherwise. My parents smile at me too, for they accept me and I accept them. I can’t change them and they can’t change me. So what I’m hoping for is that we start creating more resistance within the church community. In my experience most outspoken anti-gay comments I’ve received have come from other Christian denominations. On the other hand, I think that the bible cannot be interpreted singularly as a literal. There are so many translations of the bible and versions, that almost always there can be a different interpretation of the same line. I will argue that although the Catholic church does advocate for a rejection of homosexuality (this is one of the main reasons for the establishment of zona rosas, away from public view), it does not encourage physical violence. I’m not sure if this is true for other organizations. Because Catholicism is so pervasive in Mexican social life, I will also argue that this is the reason why the Nation hasn’t allowed for same-sex marriage there. An intriguing question is why the Catholic Church, requires celibacy and relationship free fraternities and sororities? (Priests/Nuns) Why is the organization’s structure so unfairly gendered based? For example, why will a nun never be able to present an interpretation of the bible or in other words a “Sermon”?

  2. Catholicism has greatly affected both South America’s and the United States’ outlook on same-sex marriage. South America was colonized by the Spaniards who were staunchly catholic and took it upon themselves to convert the natives. This history means that most South American countries are very religious and follow catholic homophobic beliefs. The United States is home to many Catholics but our Puritan history also plays a large part in why we (the US) are still so opposed to same-sex marriage. The Puritan/Catholic Christian value system that has grown in the United States is very conservative in many ways. This belief system has also departed from religion and become interwoven with the culture. A large percentage of the country, mainly the South, is devoutly Southern Baptist. Their values are also extremely conservative.

  3. When you mentioned priests and nuns in relation to fraternities and sororities, I could not help but think of ingroup and outgroup bias and how this relates to the Catholic Church. My father was raised Catholic, with his mother and most of his nuclear family remaining devout today. Though I was raised Unitarian Universalist, whenever my grandma would visit, she would need to know which Catholic church she can attend on Sunday, the location, and the exact time of mass. To appease her, my family would go along and I would sit on the knee-bench thing and be in complete awe of the grandness of it all. The stained glass windows, the dark wooden pews, it was a far cry from my small Unitarian congregation, housed in what resembled a cafeteria, with the LGBT rainbow flag flying in our main area of worship. I felt as though I had entered the equivalent of a invite-only, Harvard final club. I was told that you had to dress a certain way in order to enter (your Sunday “bests”), you had to kneel on one knee and motion your right hand in a cross shape quickly before sitting in the pew, and you had to memorize the long saying that begins with, “Our Lord who art in Heaven…” And then to a young girl, the strangest ritual of all was receiving communion, eating a circular cookie and drinking what looked like red juice. Because I was not baptized Catholic, my grandmother told me I “was not allowed” to go up.
    There were so many rules that I did not know how to follow. I instantly felt like an excluded outsider, not allowed to become a member of this, seemingly privileged, group.
    While I am in no way proposing that Catholicism is a purposefully exclusive religion (like any religion, it has standards to follow and uphold), I use this anecdote to imagine what it might feel like to be a homosexual in a Catholic congregation, excluded for one’s natural attraction towards others. While religious groups are supposed to institutions of support, including people of all kinds if they choose to believe in the same subscribed religious beliefs, with their inclusion of specific people, they also create exclusion of others.
    My simple childhood story of feeling excluded cannot hold a candle to what it must feel like to be surrounded by family and friends who are told that it is an abomination to love who you love. In the Catholic faith, you are expected to love the Lord, abide by the words of the Bible, and repent for your sins. If one is committing a “sin” by every thought, attraction or feeling they are engaging in towards others, what are they expected to do? They are subsequently pulled like a tug-of-war game, and forced to choose between being an all-abiding person of faith, or being a human, a natural being of desire.

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