Spokane Spokesman-Review Guest opinion: We’re Catholic and we’re for Referendum 74

By Greg Jones and Anne Buckley Jones

Special to The Spokane Spokesman-Review: http://tinyurl.com/7uzfk6y

As a married couple, as parents and as people of faith, we are disappointed that Referendum 74, Washington’s marriage equality bill, has received enough signatures to be on November’s ballot.

As Catholic Christians, we’re even more distressed at the stance our state’s Catholic hierarchy is taking in efforts to deny equal rights to our gay and lesbian friends, colleagues and family members.

Between the two of us, we have 32 years of Catholic education. We both grew up in families influenced by generations of Catholic tradition, to the extent that we thought about becoming a priest and a nun. During our shared years at Gonzaga University, we were touched by many who lived their Catholic faith in a way that upheld the dignity of each human being and the unconditional love of an all-embracing Creator.

After we married, we became active in lay ministry. Our faith took on flesh and bone as we took part in activities associated with Catholic social teaching. For 20 years, we volunteered for the Spokane diocese marriage preparation program.

Both of us had friends in college and throughout our careers that we came to know and love – and learn were homosexuals. To us, this was another unique aspect of their personality, part of what made them who they were. It was like finding out that they were adopted, left-handed or going bald. Their identities as gay or lesbian did not affect our relationship with them or our belief that they also deserved the same things in life that mattered to us. Efforts to exclude them because of their difference from us, or single them out for mistreatment, have no place in our experience of what it means to be Catholic, Christian, or called to treat others as Jesus did.

We stand strongly for marriage equality, not in spite of our faith but because of it.

As a Catholic couple married for over 30 years, we recognize the impact of a supportive community and culture as we strive to live out a lifetime promise to love and care for each other. If responsible same-sex couples are willing to make a solemn vow of love and commitment to each other, we will not stand with those who wish to deny them this right. As partners who experience the same joys, conflicts and tough decisions that all committed couples do, it is difficult to understand how allowing gay and lesbian individuals to create healthy, monogamous and faithful marriages will do anything but strengthen our own marriage and our community.

Some in the Catholic community argue that this takes away religious freedom from churches. That is not honest. Washington’s law protects every church’s right to perform marriages according to its religious tradition. These protections ensure that every religion, every clergy member and every church will have the right to perform marriages according to its religious beliefs. We are distressed by the willingness of our Catholic hierarchy to join with those who would block the right of committed couples to ask for equal protection, including the freedom to marry in a civil ceremony in the eyes of the law. Their ongoing efforts to narrow the parameters that define what makes each of us good, moral, holy or loving people flies in the face of a God who, as Archbishop Desmond Tutu so eloquently stated at Gonzaga’s recent graduation, embraces “All. … All. … All.”

We are not alone in support of same-sex marriage. In fact, polls show consistently that the majority of American Catholics feel similarly about equal rights and freedom to marry. We support Catholics for Marriage Equality-WA, people from parishes around Washington who are raising a Catholic voice on this issue. Most importantly, join all of us in voting for Referendum 74 in November.

Greg Jones is a physician and Anne Buckley Jones is an adoption caseworker who have been members of St. Ann Parish for about 25 years.