The Arcus Foundation believes that part of advancing support for LGBT people within communities of faith involves cultivating diverse pro-LGBT voices within these communities and challenging anti-gay opponents who stand behind religion and “religious freedoms” to spread misinformation and hate speech about LGBT people. At least, that’s how the foundation plans to counter the anti-gay rhetoric of the Catholic Church’s domestic hierarchy—namely the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops—and end the church’s ban on LGBT faith leaders.
For the second time in four years, Arcus is funding DignityUSA, a national advocacy coalition of LGBT Catholic faith leaders and laymen that includes Equally Blessed, to “influence and counter the narrative of the Catholic Church and its ultraconservative affiliates” within the media and the church.
Over the next two years, DignityUSA will train and amplify the voices of LGBT and affirming Catholic leaders and parishioners to grow support for same-sex marriage within the Catholic Church. DignityUSA will also continue laying groundwork in preparation of Synod of the Family, the international convening of Catholic bishops and the Vatican, during which Pope Francis will address the church’s direction on same-sex marriage and other social issues, such as contraception and divorce.
In addition to helping gay and lesbian Catholics secure marriage equality, Arcus is also focused on fostering acceptance for LGBT youth by supporting Catholic-based initiatives that increase family acceptance of LGBT youth. The Arcus grant also provides resources for the coalition to continue sponsoring youth groups to attend World Youth Day, the biannual gathering of hundreds of thousands of youth ages 16-35 sponsored by the Vatican. Last year, DignityUSA sent six LGBT Roman Catholic youth to Rio de Janeiro to participate in the gathering.
Support for marriage equality has steadily grown over the past decade, with American Catholics leading the way. According a study by the Public Religious Research Institute, in 2003, 35 percent of American Catholics supported legalized same-sex marriage versus 31 percent of all Americans. And by 2013, that support among American Catholics had grown 22 points to 57 percent, while overall support continued to trail at 50 percent.