San Fran Resolution Against Vatican’s Anti-Gay Instructions OK’d

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Friday June 5, 2009

A San Francisco resolution decrying instructions from the Vatican to an American Catholic organization to defy local law was upheld in federal court.

The March 21, 2006 resolution was a response by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to orders issued by the Vatican instructing Catholic Charities to break the law and treat prospective adoptive parents on a discriminatory basis according to whether or not the couples were heterosexual or homosexual.

The resolution formally called on Cardinal William Levada "in his capacity as head of the Congregation for the doctrine of Faith at the Vatican, to withdraw his discriminatory and defamatory directive that Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of San Francisco stop placing children in need of adoption with homosexual households."

The resolution called it "an insult to all San Franciscans when a foreign country, like the Vatican, meddles with and attempts to negatively influence this great City's existing and established customs and traditions such as the right of same-sex couples to adopt and care for children in need."

The resolution viewed a claim from the Vatican that, "Allowing children to be adopted by persons living in [homosexual] unions would actually mean doing violence to these children" as defamatory in nature and "absolutely unacceptable to the citizenry of San Francisco."

Further, the resolution viewed such defamatory language as being "insulting and callous, and shows a level of insensitivity and ignorance which has seldom been encountered by this Board of Supervisors," and defended the ability of same-sex parents to care for their children as equal to that of heterosexual couples.

Cardinal Levada was described in the resolution as being "a decidedly unqualified representative... of the people of San Francisco and the values they hold dear," and called on Archbishop George Niederauer and Catholic Charities "to defy all discriminatory directives of Cardinal Levada."

A June 4 article in the San Francisco Chronicle reported that the resolution was met with a lawsuit by The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, on the basis that, contrary to the state's constitution, the city's Board had adopted position of hostility toward the group's religion.

The California constitution "forbids an official purpose to disapprove of a particular religion, religious beliefs, or of religion in general."

However, the article noted, the suit was dismissed in the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on June 3 in a unanimous finding by the court's three judges.

The opinion, written by judge Richard Paez, noted that, "The board's focus was on same-sex couples, not Catholics."

The opinion went on to note that, "regardless of whether the Catholic Church may be opposed to it as a religious tenet," the city's government has a right to uphold the rights of its gay and lesbian citizens.

Although she voted with the other two judges, Marsha Berzon, in her own opinion, wrote that the resolution came to the line, but did not cross it; the non-binding resolution would have the constitution had it set out binding legal requirements or if a larger and "pervasive public campaign" had been launched by the Board, reported the Chronicle.

Rather than comply with local non-discrimination regulations in defiance of Vatican wishes, Catholic Charities simply withdrew its efforts to place any children with adoptive parents, the article reported.

The decision drew criticism from anti-gay religious groups.

The religious site LifeSiteNews, which offers a steady stream of anti-gay content, played down the Vatican's instructions in violation of local laws, calling the directive an example of the church's "moral teachings on homosexuality."

The site also called the resolution "anti-Catholic."

The article quoted the president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, which represented the The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights.

Asserted Richard Thompson, "The policy of San Francisco is one of totalitarian intolerance of Christians of all denominations who oppose homosexual conduct."

Added Thompson, "My concern is that if this ruling is allowed to stand, it will further embolden anti-Christian attacks."

Lawyer Robert Muise lost in court, but pressed his argument in the media, saying, "Our constitution plainly forbids hostility toward any religion, including the Catholic faith.

"In total disregard for the Constitution, homosexual activists in positions of authority in San Francisco have abused their authority as government officials and misused the instruments of the government to attack the Catholic Church."

Muise then lashed out at the federal judges, saying, "This decision must be reversed.

"Unfortunately, all too often we see a double standard being applied in Establishment Clause cases," added Muise.

Despite studies that show children parented by same-sex couples thrive just as children do who have parents of mixed genders, the church has adopted the position that children in same-sex households are denied the chance to mature as they should.

Anti-gay groups frequently make similar argument against same-sex couples, basing their claims on studies that examine child development in single-parent homes and then applying the conclusions of those studies--rather than the positive conclusions of studies that actually looked at children in same-sex households--to their arguments against gay parents.

However, anti-gay groups do not widely use the data from single-parent studies to argue against single mothers and fathers.

The Catholic church also holds that gays and lesbians suffer from "disordered" sexualities, in contradiction to the findings of mental health professionals; the American Psychological Association struck homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses in 1973.

Moreover Catholic teaching holds that gays and lesbians--even non-Catholics--are "called" to live celibate lives and not to have families of their own.

The arguments that same-sex parents are inadequate (in contradiction to evidence otherwise) dovetail with an array of similar claims to the effect that gay and lesbian families are inferior to heterosexual families and should be denied equal legal standing.

Despite the dehumanizing messages inherent in such claims, the Law Center took for its plaintiffs the mantle of the persecuted, saying that the Board's "anti-Catholic resolution sends a clear message to Plaintiffs and others who are faithful adherents to the Catholic faith that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community, and an accompanying message that those who oppose Catholic religious beliefs, particularly with regard to homosexual unions and adoptions by homosexual partners, are insiders, favored members of the political community."

The Law Center indicated that it would appeal the ruling.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.