Gay Activists: We’ll Protest Pope’s Visit If We Want

The church said last week that gay people can attend the World Meeting of Families, but not attack it.

One day before the U.S. Supreme Court issued its landmark ruling on same-sex marriage, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput said that gay people can attend Pope Francis’ visit to the city this fall — but only if they don’t use it to protest the Catholic church.

The response from gay activists in Philadelphia? Try to stop us.

Take it from “someone who’s been protesting since 1969,” said Mark Segal, publisher of the Philadelphia Gay News. “If someone wants to protest, they will find a way.”

In fact, Segal said that Chaput’s comments might incite demonstrations from LGBTQ members.

“They wouldn’t come to protest the pope,” said Segal. “But if [Chaput] decides to keep insulting the gay community, I would not be surprised if they decide to protest him.”

At a news conference last Thursday, Chaput told reporters, “We hope that everyone feels welcome and certainly people who have experienced same-sex attraction are welcome like everyone else.” However, he said, “We don’t want to provide a platform at the meeting for people to lobby for positions contrary to the life of our church.”

Other local gay activists slammed Chaput’s comments.

“The church cannot deny us our right of protest and our right to demand that the church be fully inclusive of the LGBT community,” said Sherrie Cohen, a former City Council candidate who is openly gay. “I would hope that the Catholic church recognizes that it is holding its World Meeting of Families in the most LGBT-friendly city in the nation.”

Elicia Gonzales, executive director of the Philadelphia-based queer Latino group GALAEI, said that she applauds Pope Francis’ understanding “of the need to respect all LGBT communities, and we know that it is at least one step in the right direction.”

“But as a marginalized community, we not only have the right, but we have the moral and ethical obligation to demand justice wherever we see injustices. … We will not stop fighting until there is true justice for all of our communities, and we do not seek, nor require, permission to do so.”

We also asked the magazine’s own Bryan Buttler, the editor of GPhilly, what he thought of Chaput’s remarks.

He suggested that LGBT members skip the event altogether.

“I think the marriage equality ruling last week really is going to change the tone of the entire visit as it relates to how the public views the Catholic church’s opinions on gay marriage. Already, there’s been calls by some organizations to have ‘competing’ conferences on more inclusive families at the same time as the Philly conference. Salt Lake City is one example,” he said. “I also find it deeply ironic that we’re going to see protests across the country on the marriage equality ruling from the religious right, yet they’ve made it clear they don’t want protests while the Pope is here. It’s hypocritical and yet another good reason to get out of town during this whole thing!”