Simply put, powerful faith leaders and religious institutions have used their vast financial resources to successfully re-write state constitutions to allow for discrimination against gay people.
This too has caused tremendous harm to gay people.
In August of 2010, a Federal Court in California ruled that Proposition 8, the Constitutional Amendment passed by California voters in 2008 to take away marriage rights for same-sex couples, was unconstitutional.
In addition to ruling that Prop 8 violated equal-protection and due-process, Judge Vaughn Walker’s decision acknowledged the devastating impact of religious bias and hostility toward gay people.
For the first time, a federal court has specifically found that ”religious beliefs that gay and lesbian relationships are sinful or inferior to heterosexual relationships harm gays and lesbians.“ This court decision is historic for many reasons, not the least of which is the court’s unprecedented acknowledgement that religion has been misused to justify harmful discrimination against same-sex couples and their families.
During the Prop 8 trial, the court heard extensive testimony about the central role played by religious organizations in propagating anti-LGBT stereotypes and myths, such as the false claim that lesbians and gay men pose a threat to children. Judge Walker also noted that Professor Paul Nathanson, who was identified as an expert on religious attitudes by the proponents of Prop 8, testified in his deposition, that, “religion lies at the heart of the hostility and violence directed at gays and lesbians.”
A Few Specific Examples of Church Activism
- Evangelical leader Rick Warren, one of the most powerful and influential religious leaders, used religious teachings while campaigning against marriage rights for same-sex couples:
“Let me just say this really clearly. We support Proposition 8. And if you believe what the Bible says about marriage, you need to support Proposition 8.”
- Mormon Church spends $22 million to fight California marriage battle:
While Mormons make up 2% of the population of California, the Mormon Church made up 71% of all contributions to take away marriage rights for same-sex couples in California. The Mormon Church poured in a record $22 million to defeat Prop 8.
- The Catholic Church dominated the Maine marriage fight:
The Catholic dioceses in Portland, Maine bundled more than $550,000 to successfully take away marriage rights from same-sex couples in the 2009 election. In an unprecedented way, individual bishops were amongst the largest individual donors. The Catholic Bishop from Fall River, MA gave $5,000; another $2,000 came from the bishop in Mobile, AL. Many more individual donations came from Catholic Bishops all over the U.S.