A key reason why Illinois has never passed an anti-gay referendum, let alone seen one put on the ballot, is that LGBT activists here have bucked a national trend of avoiding criticism of anti-gay religious figures, and instead made highlighting the bigotry of these figures a central plank of their campaign for equality.
In much more socially-progressive California, for example, it was only after the passage of Proposition 8 that many activists woke up to the fact that they should have made an issue of the Mormon Church and the Catholic bishops. In contrast, one of the hallmarks of GLN over the years has been its forthrightness in confronting Cardinal George and other bigoted religious leaders when most other pro-gay organizations shied away from controversy.
GLN's repeated demonstrations against the Illinois Family Institute's Peter LaBarbera, highlighting LaBarbera's bigotry in pushing for a failed antigay marriage referendum and his championing of anti-immigrant and anti-gay — and losing — candidate Jim Oberweis, poisoned his reputation. Despite his ties to many leaders of the Illinois Republican Party, several archdioceses around the state declined to actively participate in his attempts to get an anti-gay referendum on the Illinois ballot. These failures undoubtedly played a role in LaBarbera's 2006 ouster from the IFI.
In a recent column in the newspaper of the Chicago Archdiocese, George himself noted the difficulties that the "bigot" label has produced for him in his campaign against legal equality: "The Church will be portrayed as 'anti-gay,' which is a difficult position to be in," and "those who know the difference between marriage and same-sex arrangements will be regarded as bigots."
All that is left for him to do is play the victim card, whining about how winning legal equality for LGBT people somehow limits his "religious liberty." After the passage of the civil unions bill in Illinois, George pompously predicted, "I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square."
But it is he who, as head of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, spent tens of thousands backing the anti-gay referendums Proposition 8 in California and Question 1 in Maine. It is he who is on record comparing lesbians and gays to the KKK, and repeatedly defending that comparison before finally issuing what many considered an inadequate apology.
However much we, and the majority of lay Catholics, disagree with the church hierarchy's discrimination against women and LGBTs in the Church, it is the Church's right to be a discriminatory institution. We can vociferously disagree with that, but it is up to Catholics themselves to correct that situation. However, it is when church leaders attempt to shore up that discrimination in civil law, imposing their backward beliefs and strictures on Catholics and non-Catholics alike, that they especially become a target of protest and ridicule.
For more information about the February 10th protest, please call GLN at 773.209.1187 or email LGBTliberation@aol.com