It's not uncommon to hear members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) community argue that their rights -- for example their right to marry a member of the same sex -- are being undermined by conservatives. But in a trend that is becoming more and more common, Newt Gingrich used similar language Sunday to complain that the LGBT community is infringing on his rights as a Catholic.
Gingrich, former Speaker of the House and recent Republican presidential candidate, made the controversial comments during a panel discussion Sunday on NBC’s "Meet the Press." Host David Gregory asked Gingrich if he thought a Republican nominee for president could support gay marriage. “I doubt it,” Gingrich replied, adding that society is changing, so the issue remains "up in the air."
“But what I’m struck with is the one-sidedness of the desire for rights,” Gingrich said. “There are no rights for Catholics to have adoption services in Massachusetts; they’re outlawed. There are no rights in D.C. for Catholics to have adoption services; they’re outlawed."
"Does [supporting LGBT rights] mean that you actually have to affirmatively eliminate any institution which does not automatically accept [homosexuality]?" Gingrich continued.
Gingrich appeared to be referring to the decision by Catholic Charities to discontinue all adoption services in Massachusetts in 2006 and in Washington, D.C., in 2010. In accordance with the Vatican, Catholic Charities is founded in part on the principal that marriage can only be between a man and a woman; the organization is opposed to adoptions for same-sex couples.
Panelist Joy Reid, managing editor for The Grio, countered Gingrich's argument, saying that Catholic Charities decided on its own to discontinue adoption services, rather than comply with the state's nondiscrimination laws and provide adoptions for both heterosexual and same-sex couples.
A former Southern Baptist, Gingrich converted to Catholicism in 2009 and has become a champion of conservative Catholic doctrine ever since. After losing the Republican presidential primary in 2012, he has become a champion of "religious freedoms," which he believes are being eroded by the secular state.
In early April, Gingrich told a group of reporters at a breakfast meeting at National Review magazine that people "concerned about religious liberty have to figure out how we fight to ensure that you don't get this kind of tyranny of secularism, which I think is a very grave danger." Yahoo! News reports Gingrich was referring to the possibility of churches that are against gay marriage being forced to perform them anyway. (This is widely acknowledged to be legally impossible.)
Gingrich's point -- that Christians are being persecuted for their beliefs -- is also gaining traction in the evangelical community.
In April, Rick Scarborough, a former Southwestern Baptist pastor who now leads advocacy group Vision America, told a group of Tea Party supporters that Christians could be persecuted, fined and even imprisoned if the Supreme Court legalizes gay marriage.
Similarly, conservative radio host Jane Mefferd predicted on her show on April 10 that anti-gay, Christian activists will one day be treated similar to how the Jews were treated during the Holocaust.
Speaking recently with CNN, Peter Sprigg, a spokesman for powerful Christian lobbying group Family Research Council (FRC), maintained that this fear is real. “In the current culture, it takes more courage for someone like Chris Broussard to speak out than for someone like Jason Collins to come out,” said Sprigg, referencing the recent media backlash against ESPN reporter Broussard's religiously motivated criticism of basketball player Collin's homosexuality. “The media will hail someone who comes out of the closet as gay, but someone who simply expresses their personal religious views about homosexual conduct is attacked.”
Mark Potok, a spokesman for the Southern Poverty Law Center, which has labeled the FRC a hate group, disagrees. Potok told CNN that many Christian groups have problems with homosexuality, as is their right. He also said groups become problematic only when they malign and spread lies about groups of people -- in this case, LGBT people.
“That’s whining on the part of people who spend their days and nights attacking gay people and then some people criticize them and they don’t like it,” Potok said. “That’s pathetic. It reminds me of slave owners complaining that people are saying ugly things about them.”
(Hat tip, Raw Story)
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