New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan tried to strike a moderate tone during Monday’s marriage forum in Poughkeepsie, New York, insisting that the Catholic Church’s opposition to same-sex marriage does not translate into animus for gay and lesbian people. When an audience member asked the full panel of religious leaders if they would support extending legal protections and recognition to gay couples, Dolan burst out in mock laughter as the question was referred to him, saying, “Oh thanks, he’s so generous!” He then suggested that the Catholic community would help gay couples who “have legitimate rights that are being hurt” and that they could receive some of the benefits of marriage without “redefining marriage.” “I remember hearing on the radio, in fact, that his partner — or whatever you call it — was being deported because they couldn’t be married and I tried to get in touch with him to say, we Bishops too have been on the vanguard of a just immigration policy, perhaps we could help,” Dolan offered. “I’m hoping that kind of outreach…might be helpful and at least give them the impression that we’re not out to get them.”
But when another questioner pressed Dolan on his commitment, asking if the Catholic bishops would support ending discrimination against binational gay couples, Dolan demurred. “The major thing is not to listen to one another, but to listen to God and he’s told us what marriage is about, so I don’t know,” he said. Watch both exchanges:
Gay and lesbian couples, however, face discrimination in the immigration process because the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) prevents the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages and prohibits couples who are legally married in one of the six states (and DC) from petitioning the federal government for the same immigration benefits that are afforded to separate-sex relationships. And that’s precisely the with Dolan’s “benefits without marriage” approach. The federal government “has no definition and no frame of reference within its codes” for providing legal protections to civil unions or any other kind of relationship outside of marriage, so Dolan is left trying to convince gay people “we’re not out to get them” while denying them all of the benefits that are extended to similarly situation straight couples.