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Catholic bishops actively fought against legislation to create a three-digit number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline because it included support for LGBTQ people.
Passed last year, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline Designation Act established the number 988 as a quicker way to access lifeline counselors. The nationwide dialing code will be introduced in July 2022, with the current ten-digit number, 1-800-273-TALK (8255), continuing to operate in the meantime.
The legislation also required LGBTQ cultural competency training for counselors, a voice response option which would allow LGBTQ youth to access specialized care, and LGBTQ resources on the Lifeline website.
The passage of the National Suicide Prevention Hotline Designation Act also marked the first time that legislation containing pro-LGBTQ provisions has passed both houses of Congress by a unanimous vote.
But behind the scenes, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops lobbied against the legislation, specifically because it “contained special funding for LGBTQ support,” according to the National Catholic Reporter.
The conference also opposed the Violence Against Women Act, which provided dedicated funding and resources to prosecute violent crimes against women, because of its LGBTQ provisions.
“All persons must be protected from violence, but codifying the classifications ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity’ as contained in [the legislation] is problematic,” the bishops wrote in 2013.
In addition, the bishops opposed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would have prevented employment discrimination based on sexuality, because it didn’t “represent an authentic step forward in the pursuit of justice in the workplace.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the U.S. Conference also opposed the Equality Act, a landmark bill that would enshrine nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people into federal law.
The bishops have previously called the Equality Act a “violation of precious rights to life and conscience” and claimed it would “chip away at religious freedom.”
They even oppose an alternative to the Equality Act, the Fairness for All Act, which is based on similar legislation passed in Utah in 2015 that provided LGBTQ people with discrimination protections in employment and housing.
That legislation received the assent of both LGBTQ advocates and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the Fairness for All Act — which largely tracks with Utah’s law — has received similar support from the Mormon Church and other religious groups due to its faith-based exemptions.
But the U.S. Conference refuses to support it, according to NCR, because “the ends (securing the included religious freedom protections) do not justify the means (establishing gender ideology as a basis for a national policy, further undermining the anthropological basis of the family),” they wrote in a letter in 2019.
Earlier this month, the Vatican drew widespread condemnation after announcing that priests could not bless same-sex unions.
In a release approved by Pope Francis, the church called same-sex marriages “sinful” and said they “cannot be recognized as objectively ordered” to God’s plans. The Holy See also called homosexuality a “choice” that is condemned in Scripture.
Editor’s Note: This article was updated to correct an error regarding when the 988 number will be introduced. Americans needing support should continue to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
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