Why I support gay marriage


I didn’t hear the word lesbian until I went to university. In my childhood, homosexuality was not discussed: not at home, not at church, not at school.

I’m sure there were homosexual people in my classroom or community.

Possibly even in my extended family.

But they were not ‘out’.

Even the prevailing culture did not engage with homosexuality: growing up in middle America in the ’70s and ’80s was still far more Happy Days than Glee.

To say I grew up in a Catholic enclave wouldn’t be far wrong.

  • I went to Catholic primary school, where my mother also taught.
  • My dad was a Eucharistic minister in our parish.
  • After attending an all-girls Catholic high school, I earned a BA in political science at a Catholic university, then spent a gap year teaching at a Catholic primary school.
  • I met my husband at World Youth Day ’91.
  • Before we married, I headed back to university for a masters degree in theology and got my first proper job working as the NSW state youth coordinator for the Society of St Vincent de Paul.

As a legislator, I have voted for and promoted legislation that accords rights, such as adoption, to homosexual people.

I have publicly stated that I don’t agree with the Church’s teaching on homosexuality.

How did such a good Catholic girl arrive at what appears to be a non-Catholic position on this issue?

The first people I knew who acknowledged their homosexuality were fellow Catholics at university, living away from home for the first time, struggling with a very real question of who they were and how they should live.

My lack of knowledge about homosexuality meant I had very few presuppositions to confront.

I came to the questions of how to respond to homosexual people armed not with Vatican teachings and cultural assumptions, but simply with the Gospel message of ‘love one another as I have loved you’.

What I witnessed were people who suffered greatly because of the judgement of their family and community; friends who were more acquainted with loneliness than with romantic relationships; devout Catholics, some with a true call to vocation, grieving because their own church had no place for them.

I realised no one would choose an orientation that brought such misery.

In time I came to ask what the Church taught on homosexuality, and why. Richard P. McBrien’s seminal tome, Catholicism, explained the Vatican teachings acknowledging the validity of homosexual orientation while condemning homosexual activity.

McBrien also outlined other theological points of view, including the argument that homosexual acts are morally neutral, because the morality of a sexual act depends on the quality of the relationship of the people involved; or that homosexual acts are preferable to living a life where one can never give expression to one’s sexuality.

Another significant influence on my thinking also came from my studies of Catholic doctrine: the inviolability of conscience.

Conscience is a tricky area when one wants to claim it as a basis for disagreeing with the Church’s official teaching. It often leads to accusations of being a ‘cafeteria Catholic’, choosing only the parts of Church teaching you want to agree with. Continue reading

  • Kristina Keneally is a member of the NSW Labor Party. She was the 42nd Premier of New South Wales.
  • Image: West Australian
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