Will Catholic Voters Support LGBT Rights in Washington State?

This fall, voters in the state of Washington may be among the first in the nation to support marriage equality for LGBT people by popular referendum. Polls suggest that Referendum 74 has an edge among Washington voters. Then again, four years ago in California, polls predicted Proposition 8 was headed for defeat. I spoke today with Kathy Morefield, one of the founders of Washington Catholics for Marriage Equality, to get a sense for the role of faith in the campaign.

What’s the feeling on the ground like in Washington right now?

I think we are feeling pretty hopeful, but it’s so hard to tell what will happen. I just heard from one of our members in a parish in Kirkland, Washington—a very conservative parish—bishops have produced bulletin inserts after every service on Sunday for October, and the last one was the consequences of approving Referendum 74.

The list of consequences was taken from the National Organization for Marriage. And I am sad to say that they were all untruths. We produced a flyer and factsheet and sent them to everyone on our email list. And I heard from people who stood outside mass to pass out our flyers and were asked to leave by the priest. But as they stood on the curb, they said 200 people rolled down their car windows and took their flyers and gave them thumbs up. They were very encouraged. It’s a strong campaign by the bishops. I wish they would put this money and energy into programs that would help the poor and homeless. 

Tell me the role pro-equality Catholics are playing in the Referendum 74 campaign?

We have a steering committee of ten volunteers putting in 30–40 hours a week. Then, we have people around the state working in their parishes—most of it on the west side of the state, where the decision will be made. We are participating in a Catholic-to-Catholic phone bank that Washington United for Marriage has set up on Wednesday nights and we assist with the larger phone bank at the Jewish synagogue downtown. A great deal of our work is communicating with Catholics on our email list and Facebook.

As a Catholic, how does your faith shape your views on marriage for LGBT people?

My faith blossomed in the 1960s after Vatican II. I had always been a very pious child, and my faith became about service to others and seeing everyone as a child of God. The civil rights movement also made an impact on my faith. When our bishops sent out a letter in February 2012 to the churches asking us to work to get the referendum on the ballot, I thought, this isn’t Catholic, this isn’t Christian. I called my legislators and said, “I’m a Catholic, and I’m really in support of this bill.” My friends and I got together and started to organize Washington Catholics for Marriage Equality. We’ve been the ones to respond to bishop’s statements, and we have tried to be present with our banners at rallies. It’s grown much bigger than any of us thought, but so many people have told us they were grateful to find out we existed—that they felt so alone.

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