Sr. Simone Campbell, a Catholic nun, says she disagrees with three high-ranking Catholic leaders who recently sent a letter to Congress in opposition to the Equality Act. The bill would add gender identity and sexual orientation to existing federal nondiscrimination laws. It passed the House of Representatives in a 236 – 173 vote last week but faces an uphill battle in the Senate.
“They [letter signers] are misguided, in my opinion,” Sr. Simone told PGN. “They’re spending too much time in their offices. As a result, they’re out of touch with ordinary human beings who are discriminated against on a regular basis. They’re focused on an institutional teaching, not the lived experience in our nation.”
The letter was signed by Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky; Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln, Nebraska; and Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida. They are all high-ranking members of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which opposes the Equality Act. In the letter, they claim passage of the Equality Act would intrude on religious liberties, hinder quality healthcare by making it easier for people to obtain gender-affirmation surgery and violate privacy rights by allowing transgender people to use restrooms that align with their gender identity.
“They have a right to send the letter,” Sr. Simone said. “But I disagree with their stance. It’s wrong. Everyone has inherent dignity because we are creatures of God. That’s our faith. To deny someone’s dignity is to deny the love of God in them. So we can’t do it.”
Sr. Simone, 73, is a member of the religious order Sisters of Social Service. She also serves as executive director of NETWORK, an advocacy group for social justice. She’s addressed numerous issues of public concern over the past 50 years, including affordable healthcare, clergy child-sex abuse, immigration reform, and economic justice. She advocates for open dialogue on those issues and others, including LGBTQ rights.
Sr. Simone emphasized that religious beliefs can’t justify discrimination. “The U.S. is not about promoting Catholic doctrine,” she added. “The U.S. is about caring for all of its residents. If we’re the land of the free and home of the brave, we need to make sure all of our people can live that freedom.”
On May 14, Sr. Simone participated in an Interfaith Vigil for LGBTQ Rights across the street from the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. “It really was a very moving experience,” she said, adding that about 50 people participated.
The rally was organized by the Faith in Equality Coalition, which is composed of Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, and Buddhists. After the vigil, the group presented a petition to members of Congress signed by 5,000 people of faith in support of the Equality Act.
Sr. Simone said momentum is growing for passage of the measure and she’s willing to wait for as long as it takes. “Perseverance is a virtue for a reason,” she concluded. “We will continue to persevere. Even if we don’t get it in the Senate this year, we’ll keep pushing. We’re not going away.” n