(Religion Dispatches) The U.S. Catholic Bishops really want people to think that their opposition to the federal Employment Non Discrimination Act does not mean that they are pro-discrimination. But what they seem to be saying is that while discrimination against celibate people with â€œsame-sex attractionâ€ might not be just, discrimination against sexually active gays is not only fine, but to be celebrated and protected in law.
A trans-inclusive ENDA cleared a 60-vote procedural hurdle in the U.S. Senate on Monday night; the bishopsâ€™ attempt to head off ENDAâ€™s progress was announced in a press release, a letter to senators from three bishops who lead relevant committees, and an explanatory backgrounder. The bishops say that â€œunjust discrimination in the workplaceâ€ is wrong, but that discriminating against people who have gay sex is not â€œunjust.â€
Hereâ€™s how the backgrounder explains why gay people who have sex have â€œno claimâ€ to legal protections:
Why is the absence of a distinction between same-sex sexual conduct and same-sex attraction in ENDA problematic?
While the Church is opposed to unjust discrimination on any grounds, including those related to same-sex attraction, she teaches that all sexual acts outside of the marriage of one man and one woman are morally wrong and do not serve the good of the person or society. Same-sex sexual conduct, moreover, is categorically closed to the transmission of life and does not reflect or respect the sexual difference and complementarity of man and woman. Therefore, opposition to same-sex sexual conduct by the Church (and others) is not unjust discrimination and should not be treated as such by the law. In contrast to sexual conduct between a man and woman in marriage, sexual conduct outside of marriage, including same-sex sexual conduct, has no claim to any special protection by the state. Therefore, although ENDA may forbid some unjust discrimination, it would also forbid as discrimination what is legitimate, moral disapproval of same-sex conduct.
The bishops have other complaints: that ENDA threatens the definition of marriage, undermines religious liberty, and â€œrejects the biological basis of gender.â€
As they did in an earlier anti-ENDA letter in July, the bishops assert that â€œthe Conference stands ready to work with leaders and all people of good will to end all forms of unjust discrimination, including against those who experience same sex attraction.â€ But given their insistence that ENDA â€œdoes not represent an authentic step forward in the pursuit of justice in the workplaceâ€ and that discrimination against gay people who have sex with other gay people is just, what is there to work on?