Stan “JR” Zerkowski
When Jesus was asked, “Who is my neighbor?” he told the story of the Good Samaritan. Most of us know it well: the Good Samaritan cared for a man left for dead by the side of the road after a priest and Levite passed him by. Jesus’s message was clear: “You must love your neighbor,” even if they look, act, and believe differently than you. Then he said, “go and do likewise.”
My national ministry through Fortunate Families and local LGBT Ministry in the Diocese of Lexington, Kentucky, has sensitized me to Catholic LGBTQ+ siblings who are looking for someone to see them as a neighbor, stop, and tend to their spiritual wounds. Tragically, many have already died on the side of the road because we as individuals and the church have failed to be a neighbor to them.
As I have come to understand Jesus’ command and church teaching, I am firmly convinced that Catholics must support the Equality Act.
Catholic parishes and institutions have historically been unwelcoming to the LGBTQ+ community. Passing the Equality Act would make the church pause and consider their many exclusive practices. It will lead to more person-centered rather than policy-centered directives for church employees and it will expand the sense of inclusion that the LGBTQ+ community deserves and longs for from the church. The law itself will not do these things, but the passage of the law will provide the church and its leadership opportunity for reflection, evaluation, and growth in our mandate to love as Jesus loved.
In my ministry, nationally and locally, I have seen the devastating and toxic effects that exclusionary actions and policies have had on the lives of LGBTQ+ people. Catholic Social Teaching demands that Catholics work to support the Equality Act as it supports justice on a broad range of issues such as education, housing, public services, and healthcare. The Gospel of Life, especially, regarding the most vulnerable among us is the Catholic mandate to work for the Equality Act’s passage. The lives of our LGBTQ+ siblings are at stake; I have accompanied too many who were lost in despair and on the brink of suicide because the church did not see them as neighbors, stop, and tend to their wounds. The Equality Act will save lives and restore dignity. Even if you disagree with same-sex marriage, do you want LGBTQ+ people to be denied access to the same basic human rights that we all enjoy?
In my travels and interactions with grassroots Catholics, I have learned that most overwhelmingly support LGBTQ+ civil rights. Jesus’ own ministry to the marginalized gives clear evidence that support and being one with the marginalized is foundational to Catholic belief and tradition. We are not truly disciples, nor faithful Catholics, if we turn our backs like the priest and the Levite when we see others lying in the road – beaten, robbed of their dignity, and in need.
The Equality Act is a means for Catholics to apply Jesus’ teaching in a practical way. Our support for the Equality Act is proof that we take the Gospel message seriously, that we are faithful Catholics, and that we are people of life in word and deed.
Stan “JR” Zerkowski
Fortunate Families, Executive Director