Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Shocks but no surprises in Illinois

The Illinois legislature took several steps closer to creating civil unions for gay couples. A Senate committee voted favorably on the measure and that afternoon the House passed the same measure by a 61-52 vote. Governor Pat Quinn sat in the House during the debate and has said he would sign the bill if passed. The president of the State Senate, John Cullerton, says the measure will come up in the Senate later today and that he expected it to easily pass.

First, the "no surprises" I promised in the headline. The Roman Catholic Church, that bastion of traditional marriage between men and women (and priests and altar boys) is using their tax-free privileges to lobby against the legislation. Cardinal Francis George said the measure has to be voted down because God wants it that way. Remember how often we've heard that these opponents ONLY want to defend marriage, and that if it is called something else, then it's fine. No, it's not. Their intent is to deny all such rights to gay couples as a means of punishing them for being sinners.

Many of the representatives who supported the legislation spoke of the first openly gay member of the legislature, Larry McKeon. McKeon's partner, Ray Korzinski, was in hospital dying. McKeon tried to be at his side but the hospital refused to admit him. informing him that he had to go home to get legal documents which proved he had the "legal right" to be with his dying partner. Without it he was legally defined as non-family and thus refused admission. McKeon rushed home to get the documents but it was too late. Korzinski died before he could get back with the papers, a requirement that married couples do NOT have to fulfill.

I had not heard this story before, for me it was shocking. There is no surprise that the Catholic Church, (and no doubt Mormons and fundamentalist Christians) are in opposition. In American religion those are the three main centers of indecency, inhumanity and bigotry. While many religious groups have more humane views on such things, these three groups are not among them.

The good news is that all three of them are in demographic trouble. Evangelicals are losing members right and left. Their congregations are aging and young people are fleeing. Christianity Today, a right-wing evangelical publication, has recently written about young people leaving the church. I have written several times on the shift toward a post-Christian America, here, here and here. These posts specifically covered the loss to fundamentalist sects.

The Mormons are also in trouble. Even though Mormons breed like rabbits their church has had zero growth in recent years. Heavy recruitment campaigns have kept them from losing numbers in total but the recruits they covert tend to be older, less educated and poorer. These converts merely replace young church members who have quit. Replacing young members with older coverts, and stagnating in membership, means they have a demographic time bomb ticking away. The death rate of the older members is bound to increase and then the true state of Mormonism will be exposed when membership goes into rapid decline.

Similarly Catholicism has seen membership stagnate. The number of Catholics in America has not been increasing. Yet most of the "illegal" immigrants coming to the United States come from Catholic nations and were, prior to coming to America, Catholics themselves. If massive immigration leaves Catholic numbers stagnant that means that native-born Catholics are leaving the church in numbers about equal to the numbers of immigrants who resume their faith here.

This means all three of the major religious centers of opposition for equality of marriage rights are losing members. In a nutshell this means the dynamics will continue to shift in favor of marriage equality. It also means that Republicans, who are intentionally catering to the god-minded bigot, have nailed their colors to a dwindling movement. About the only thing the Republicans can hope for is that the Democrats will disgust voters enough that they flock to the GOP out of anger. But that is not a long-term strategy: Obama won't be in office forever.