Colorado Catholic Conference urges faithful to battle civil unions legislation
By Nissa LaPoint
Colorado Catholic Conference
The state-level, public policy organization for the Catholic Church
The active gay lifestyle that once pervaded David DeJiacomo’s life nearly destroyed him. He was saved from the lifestyle he describes as fraught with suicide attempts, loneliness, sex addiction and crippling drug usage—all a reality of gay communities, he said.
“The Catholic Church pulled me out of the hell I was in,” said DeJiacomo, 60, who attended Courage, a same-sex attraction apostolate, and goes to Mass at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Denver. “I’m lucky I’m alive.”
Out of empathy and compassion, DeJiacomo vehemently fights the deception of same-sex relationships and state sanctioning of civil unions, he said.
The Colorado Catholic Conference, the public policy organization that serves the dioceses of Denver, Pueblo and Colorado Springs, will once again join the battle against same-sex civil unions anticipated to make a comeback next year. The conference has opposed civil unions legislation before.
Legislators in the Colorado General Assembly are expected to propose a civil union bill—similar to Senate Bill 172 opposed by the conference and voted down in April—in the 2012 legislative session.
“A civil unions bill will be introduced in 2012, but it doesn’t have to come from me,” state Rep. Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver, said in a statement to the Denver Catholic Register. “We’re hoping to have a Republican sponsor in the House, and I’m happy to take a background role if that will help advance this legislation.”
In the last legislative session, Ferrandino, appointed House minority leader, and Sen. Pat Steadman of Denver and Adams counties, both gay legislators, sponsored Senate Bill 172.
Same-sex partnership laws are spreading across the nation, and it’s as important as ever that Catholics be informed, said Jenny Kraska, executive director of the conference.
“I think one of the main reasons that Catholics need to be aware of this is that it is an attack on traditional marriage,” Kraska said. “As Catholics, we believe marriage is between one man and one woman.”
Civil unions, a legally recognized partnership similar to marriage, would grant the same state-level spousal rights, protections and responsibilities to same-sex couples. Civil unions are like marriage under a different name, Kraska said.
The path to legalized gay marriage begins with legislation like civil unions, said Bishop James Conley, apostolic administrator for the Denver Archdiocese.
“That’s the foot into the door—the civil unions, and the next step is to redefine what marriage is,” Bishop Conley said, adding that former Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput has noted that “Civil unions and gay marriage is a distinction without a difference.”
Civil unions and subsequent same-sex marriage laws were passed in Connecticut, Vermont and New Hampshire. These states, including Massachusetts, Iowa, New York and the District of Columbia, issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
“Catholics need to be aware that in any state where the gay-rights community has gotten civil unions, they have not stopped there. They wanted marriage,” Kraska said.
Domestic partnerships granting state-level spousal rights to unmarried couples has become legal in California as well as Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Oregon, Nevada, Washington, Hawaii, Maine, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia.
“That’s where the momentum is going and we can’t say for certain whether it will pass or not pass,” Kraska said about a bill in Colorado. “That’s why Catholics have to be vigilant and be clear on this issue.”
Civil unions sanction homosexual acts and give license to sexual activity outside of marriage, explained Bishop Conley, adding that laws that govern social institutions have an educational impact on society.
“We are a society of laws and when we condone something by law it has a wide range of moral and spiritual effects in the community,” he said.
On the topic of chastity and homosexuality, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “Basing itself on sacred Scripture, which present homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that ‘homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.’ They are contrary to the natural law. ...They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.”
Likewise, the catechism calls heterosexuals to chastity and adds that those with homosexual tendencies must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity.
“Our Catholic teaching is so beautiful in that sense,” Kraska said. “We love the person. It’s the action that we don’t love.”
Over the years, the debate over same-sex partnerships has waged in Colorado.
Colorado voters approved Amendment 43 in 2006 that defines marriage between a man and a woman. That same year Referendum I, which would have established domestic partnerships, was defeated by a 53 percent vote. In April 2009, former Gov. Bill Ritter signed into law “designated beneficiary” legislation that gave rights like hospital visitation, medical decision making and inheritance to same-sex couples.
While hearings for Senate Bill 172 were conducted in March, Catholic faithful and Bishop Conley gathered for a prayer vigil outside the state Capitol. The Senate initially passed the bill that later failed in the State House Judiciary Committee by a 6-5 party-line vote.
During this next session that begins Jan. 11, DeJiacomo will do everything he can to spread the truth about homosexual lifestyles and prevent civil unions from becoming legalized.
“I will testify again,” DeJiacomo said. “I would walk across hot coals to get even one man or one woman out of that lifestyle because it destroys you.”