Knights of Columbus spending millions to battle marriage equality

Many U.S. Catholics would be dismayed at how much money the Knights of Columbus are pouring into efforts to battle marriage equality. According to a new report released by Equally Blessed, a coalition of Catholic groups support equal treatment for the LGBT community in the church and beyond, the fraternal organization has”used its extensive financial resources to become one of the most aggressive opponents of marriage equality in the United States.”

While local branches of the Knights continue the charitable activities for which the organization has long been known, the organization’s national leadership under Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, a former Reagan administration staff member, has become increasingly politicized, the report says.

“Carl Anderson is using the good name that the Knights have developed over generations as cover while pursuing policies and making alliances that many Catholics find deeply troubling when they learn about them,” said Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, a member of the Equally Blessed coalition.

According to the report, which is based primarily on the Knights’ filings with the Internal Revenue Service, the organization donated $6.25 million to anti-marriage equality efforts between 2005-2012, with most of the money directed toward ballot measures aimed at banning marriage equality in 12 states.

The sum includes:

— $1.9 million in donations to the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), $1.4 million of which was devoted to a successful and highly controversial campaign to overturn marriage equality legislation in Maine.

— a $1.1 million dollar donation to which supported the passage of Proposition 8, the constitutional amendment that banned marriage equality in California.

— more than $630,000 in donations to groups working against marriage equality through ballot initiatives that will be voted on next month in Maryland, Minnesota and Washington.

According to NOM’s internal memos, unsealed during legal proceedings in Maine, the organization adopted a strategy of turning the Black and Hispanic communities against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people during the campaign to overturn marriage equality legislation in that state. The same memos advocated finding children who had been raised by same-sex couples and persuading them to speak out against their parents.

“The Knights portray themselves as representatives of a broad Catholic tradition, but they have become culture warriors,” said David Saavedra, co-president of the board of Call To Action, an Equally Blessed coalition member. “Most U. S. Catholics support marriage equality, and even those who have doubts are put off by these hardline tactics.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, the Knights of Columbus and other Catholic groups have provided nearly 60 percent of the $4.1 million raised to battle marriage equality in the key battleground states of Minnesota, Maryland, Washington State and Maine. Think of how many hot meals, wheelchairs and clothes for the needy that money could buy if it were used for truly charitable purposes.

See the full Equally Blessed report here.

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