People know me as a devout, practicing Catholic. I inherited my faith from immigrant grandparents; my mother did her best to strengthen it by sending my three brothers, my sister and me to a Catholic elementary school.
We were too poor to afford the tuition but were blessed by the charity of the Dominican sisters who welcomed and supported us in our religious education.
I’ve tried to be a good steward of that education and my Catholic faith by being active in the Social Justice and Pastoral Care Commissions of my parish and by working hard at my nonprofit day job on issues of local homelessness and poverty.
I am Catholic – and I am also gay.
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Catholics have clear values about marriage: loving and responsible couples are asked to pledge a lifetime commitment to each other in front of their family and friends. My partner and I made exactly this commitment 33 years ago, and we have honored it through some very hard times and without the social supports that benefit heterosexual marriages.
Many people preferred not to talk about our partnership despite, or perhaps because, of the fact that we are a pretty ordinary family.
We raised a son and daughter, helped them get through college and on to lives of their own. Our daughter graduated from a Catholic university, and our son from The Evergreen State College.
Both of our children are happily married, working hard at their jobs, paying mortgages and have each given us a grandchild – with another one coming in August! We’re all pretty normal folks, doing our best to handle the struggles all families encounter.
We were married under civil law in Canada, where marriage equality became law in 2005. We registered as domestic partners in Washington as soon as we were able and were thrilled this year when the Washington Legislature passed marriage equality.
The bipartisan freedom-to-marry law makes sure that every couple will have the chance to make a meaningful commitment to each other and their community. It also protects every church’s right to perform marriages according to its tradition.
Catholic bishops, however, have chosen to align themselves with right-wing extremists who want to deny Washington citizens our freedom to marry. It hurts that my own bishops have taken a stand against me and my family. There is nothing in the Washington law that affects the bishops’ right to determine sacramental marriage according to their faith. This law is about finally granting equal rights to Washington citizens from all faiths and walks of life under civil law.
Catholic social teaching says that “the measure of every institution is whether it threatens or enhances the life and dignity of the human person.”
You can imagine how important it is to my family to be recognized, valued and offered the protections shared by other married couples. I am proud and grateful that a majority of Catholics support the freedom to marry for responsible, committed couples like us.
There is a strong, positive voice by Catholics for Marriage Equality in our State (catholicsformarriageequalitywa.org). St. Leo Church, my parish, is welcoming and pastoral to people like me and to all who come to church with their own stories and life experiences.
People in the pews can see through divisive tactics of the Catholic bishops of Washington and affirm in their own conscience the value of marriage equality for couples in our state. The Catholic vote in favor of Referendum 74 in November will affirm the mystery of God’s creation of the diversity among us and the duty we have to seek together the common good and well-being of all.
My promise is to be a worthy role model of marriage and family values that confirms the faith that’s been passed down to me for so many generations.
Barbara Gorzinski lives in Tacoma. She is active with Catholics for Marriage Equality WA.