When the U.S. Congress passed the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act last fall to establish a toll-free number with assistance for those with mental health crises, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops quietly lobbied behind the scenes against the legislation.
The bishops' justification? The legislation contained special funding for LGBTQ support.
A similar path has been taken by the U.S. bishops since March 2013 toward the Violence Against Women Act, bipartisan legislation that established a separate office and additional funding for the prosecution of violent crimes against women.
"All persons must be protected from violence, but codifying the classifications 'sexual orientation' and 'gender identity' as contained in S. 47 is problematic," the bishops wrote in a statement signed by the heads of four committees and one subcommittee.
Relatedly, the bishops have long opposed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), legislation that dates back to 1974 and has been proposed by each Congress since 1994. The bill prohibits discrimination in hiring and employment due to sexual orientation, and the bishops argue that it fails to distinguish "between sexual inclination and sexual conduct" and does "not represent an authentic step forward in the pursuit of justice in the workplace."
"We need to be able to affirm in law and public policy that everyone is made in God's image and likeness and therefore unjust discrimination is wrong, but our bodily reality as male or female isn't discriminatory," Ryan Anderson, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, warned in a recent panel discussion sponsored by several Catholic dioceses. "If you get the anthropology wrong in law, it's then going to have serious harms."
Such reasoning is, in part, why the U.S. bishops have opposed the recently passed House legislation known as the Equality Act, which would expand federal civil rights protection against LGBTQ persons, while eliminating religious freedom protections.