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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Catholic conference creates anti-gay marriage initiative
by Kate Sosin, Windy City Times
2011-09-28

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Responding to the advent of civil unions in Illinois, the Catholic Conference of Illinois (CCI) announced the formation of a Defense of Marriage department Sept. 22.

According to a press release from the Catholic lobby organization, the department will battle anticipated attempts at legalizing same-sex marriage in Illinois.

"The teachings of the Church are not overwhelmingly popular everywhere, nor are they always easily explained," said Zach Wichmann, head of the department, in a statement. "But our message will be proclaimed for the sake of stronger families, secure children and an enriched spiritual life."

Wichmann said in the statement that the department will be "fighting an uphill battle against current societal trends."

The announcement comes just over a month after four catholic charities lost their lawsuit against the state for foster care contracts. Charities in Peoria, Belleville, Springfield and Joliet were denied contracts because they refused to place children with single or same-sex parents.

Among other dioceses, CCI represents all four of the charities that lost the lawsuit for contract renewals. The charities have said they would appeal the decision.

Wichmann said the loss of the contracts represents an "eroding" relationship between the church and the state and that the government is insisting that the Catholic organizations abandon their teachings.

Wichmann further claimed that there was a correlation between crime rates and truancy among youth and the "diminishing" nuclear family.

Rev. Cindi Love, the executive director of Soulforce, which advocates against religious oppression of LGBT people, warned that LGBT activists in Illinois should be on guard.

"There is no mechanism or strategy within the LGBT human rights movement… that has this kind of fundraising capacity," Love said. "It's part of their overarching strategy in the United States and then part of a global strategy."

Love said that a similar strategy was effective in California's passage of Proposition 8, banning same-sex marriage. She added that local Defense of Marriage departments in organizations form national and international alliances that make them both powerful and well-funded.

Consequently, Love believes the announcement from CCI is one that LGBT activists cannot ignore.

"If the Catholic Church opens an office on Main Street, we should open an office right next door to them," she said.

CCI is already active in lobbying nationally against same-sex marriage. The organization also submitted a letter to President Obama on Sept. 20, admonishing him for his lack of support for the Defense of Marriage Act.

Still Love thinks "the horse has left the barn," and that most of the country already supports marriage equality.


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