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Catholics in Pilsen Weigh in after Illinois House Passes Same-Sex Marriage Bill

Although murals of married couples are found outside of organizations such as this one on the side of The Resurrection Project's building, many Pilsen residents support same-sex unions as well. Photo by: Danielle Dwyer
Murals of married couples are found outside of organizations, like the one on The Resurrection Project’s building in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood. Photo by: Danielle Dwyer

A Mexican mother, who has been attending St. Pius V Church in Pilsen for three years, said she views gay couples the same way she sees her son with disabilities.

“Everybody see my son different, so I feel these couples will feel the same way,” said Jenny García, a 41-year-old mother of four. “I tell my kid that he has the right to get respect as an individual.”

On Tuesday, the Illinois House approved gay marriage, making it the 15thstate to offer such legal recognition. Gov. Pat Quinn (D) has said he will sign the bill.

García, who’s 11-year-old son has congenital muscular dystrophy, said she doesn’t have a problem with gays being able to marry in Illinois. She explained that her children are no different than those couples and tries to use her son’s disability as an example because she sees the way everybody discriminates him because of the way he looks.

But for many other Catholics, including one Catholic institution in Illinois, the issue of gay marriage can be a complexing one, morally and emotionally.

Pilsen is a largely Latino neighborhood in Chicago, an enclave for Catholics. In interviews Wednesday, residents and business owners reflected on the diversity of the area, which also has hipsters and a growing population of non-Hispanics.

“It is deeply disappointing that members of the General Assembly chose to redefine what is outside of its authority: a natural institution like marriage,” the Catholic Conference of Illinois said in a press release. “We remain concerned about the very real threats to religious liberty that are at stake with the passage of this bill.”

The Catholic Church does not recognize gay unions. According to a New York Times/CBS News poll, 62 percent of American Catholics are in favor of legalizing marriage for same-sex couples. That compares to 52 percent of the larger U.S. population who support gay marriage, according to a PewResearchCenter poll.

Moses Jaques, 30, a pastor of Amistad Cristiana in Pilsen, said he is against gay marriage.

It “stems from my Christian beliefs as an evangelical Christian, ” Jaques said. “I think same sex marriage is going to damage our society even more. Why isn’t polygamy legalized? Sin has entered the world and depraved the way we think. The Bible commands me to love the gay man. But, I do not have to approve of them.

Rockstar Hair Boutique & Body Art tattoo artist Skeemer Chorne, who has been tattooing professionally for seven years, said he supports gay marriage.

“I have tons of clients that are gay,” Chorne said. “They’re like every couple.”

Jorge Perez, social media and operations manager at No Manches Clothing Company on Wood and 18th street, said the company has reached out to Facebook fans to advise and vote on potential LGBT shirt designs.

“To us, equality is the biggest thing,” Perez, 26, said.

And equality is something the Pilsen Neighbors Community Council has worked to achieve since its existence almost 50 years ago.

Claudia Marchan, Fiesta del Sol coordinator at the Pilsen Neighbors Community Council, said she personally doesn’t see a strong presence of Catholics against gay marriage in the Chicago neighborhood.

“We have a lot of organizations working with us and working with the churches and parishioners sometimes, especially in the Catholic Church, that have issues with the way our Catholic Church works,” Marchan said. “So you’ll find the really strong gung-ho Catholics, but you’ll also find a lot of people that are not on the same page.”

Marchan acknowledged that there aren’t many advocates for gay rights in Pilsen either.

Contributing writers: Jasmine Browley, Corita Mitchell, Veronica Rios and Danielle Dwyer.

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