Gay, Catholic, and American
My Legal Battle for Marriage Equality and Inclusion
264 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in, 16 b&w illustrations
- Published: September 2021
- ISBN: 9780268201241
- Published: September 2021
- ISBN: 9780268201234
- Published: September 2021
- ISBN: 9780268201258
Catholic Greg Bourke's profoundly moving memoir about growing up gay and overcoming discrimination in the battle for same-sex marriage in the US.
In this compelling and deeply affecting memoir, Greg Bourke recounts growing up in Louisville, Kentucky, and living as a gay Catholic. The book describes Bourke’s early struggles for acceptance as an out gay man living in the South during the 1980s and ’90s, his unplanned transformation into an outspoken gay rights activist after being dismissed as a troop leader from the Boy Scouts of America in 2012, and his historic role as one of the named plaintiffs in the landmark United States Supreme Court decision Obergefell vs. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage nationwide in 2015. After being ousted by the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), former Scoutmaster Bourke became a leader in the movement to amend antigay BSA membership policies. The Archdiocese of Louisville, because of its vigorous opposition to marriage equality, blocked Bourke’s return to leadership despite his impeccable long-term record as a distinguished boy scout leader. But while making their home in Louisville, Bourke and his husband, Michael De Leon, have been active members at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church for more than three decades, and their family includes two adopted children who attended Lourdes school and were brought up in the faith. Over many years and challenges, this couple has managed to navigate the choppy waters of being openly gay while integrating into the fabric of their parish life community. Bourke is unapologetically Catholic, and his faith provides the framework for this inspiring story of how the Bourke De Leon family struggled to overcome antigay discrimination by both the BSA and the Catholic Church and fought to legalize same-sex marriage across the country.
Gay, Catholic, and American is an illuminating account that anyone, no matter their ideological orientation, can read for insight. It will appeal to those interested in civil rights, Catholic social justice, and LGBTQ inclusion.
1. Early Years – Ready for the 80s
2. Time in New England
3. My Old Kentucky Home Again
4. Family Matters
5. Introducing the Infant to Our Church
6. The Freedom to Marry
7. Married with Children
9. Back in The Closet
10. Crossing Over to Boy Scouts
11. Suffocating in the Scout Closet
13. Live United
14. Scouts in Protest
15. Inclusive Scouting Summit
16. Windsor and Prop 8
17. Bourke vs. Beshear
18. Judge Heyburn’s Decision
19. Preparing for Round Two
20. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals
22. Road Trip To DC
23. Michael’s Birthday, and Oral Arguments Too
24. Going Home
25. Marriage Equality Day
26. Meet the Press
27. New York Pride
28. Back to Work Scouting for Equality
29. An Audience with The Archbishop
30. Life After Scouting
31. Notre Dame Our Mother
33. Catholic Persons of the Year
34. Catholics For Fairness
35. The Freedom to Bury
36. Summer Break
37. Adoption Day – The Sequel
38. Pilgrimage of Mercy
40. The Ancient Order of Hibernians
41. Scouting on the Fringe
42. Bourke DeLeon LGBT Catholic Endowed Scholarship
43. Notre Dame Law Forum
44. Time to Reflect
45. What Would That Even Look Like?
“Recounting confrontations with the Catholic Church to the Boy Scouts and then fighting the state of Kentucky all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States, Gay, Catholic, and American is the powerful story of a man and his family fighting tirelessly for positive change rooted in their belief in the fullness of charity.” —Jim Obergefell, co-author of Love Wins
“Gay, Catholic, and American is a delightfully written journey of a fellow Notre Dame gay alum. I am proud to have played a small part in his journey calling for equal rights for the LGBTQ Catholic community.” —Jack Bergen, ND ’77, past chair of the Gay and Lesbian Alumni of Notre Dame and St. Mary’s College
“Greg Bourke’s story is one of perseverance and tenacity, of refusing to settle for less and daring to dream big. LGBTQ Catholics and those who desire more welcoming institutions will be encouraged and inspired by reading this book.” —Michael J. O’Loughlin, national correspondent for America: The Jesuit Review
"Gay, Catholic, and American reads as a modern 'passion' story—it is a familial and compelling story of two faith-filled men and their two children who tasted life’s bittersweet moments in their unrelenting pursuit of justice, trusting in the power of faith to guide their journey and seeking to make fullness and completion in God’s charity palpable in our country. This story witnesses the triumph of love and perseverance." —Miguel Humberto Díaz , former United States ambassador to the Holy See
“Gay, Catholic, and American is a moving story about profound life, deep love, and authentic faith. Greg Bourke models for readers what it means to recognize God’s call for justice and respond with a commitment to divine love that refuses to be co-opted by others who seek to dismiss or demean difference. Through the compelling personal journey of one man, this book helps bring needed attention to the millions of other LGBTQ+ Catholics who faithfully practice their faith and love their families as much as their straight neighbors and deserve inclusion.” —Daniel P. Horan, OFM, author of A White Catholic’s Guide to Racism and Privilege
"Gay, Catholic, and American is a richly detailed memoir of Gregory Bourke’s life. Throughout, the reader is struck by Bourke’s conciliatory attitude toward his opponents, his unassuming tone, and his humility—despite an impressive list of accomplishments and accolades." —Joseph Mello, author of The Courts, the Ballot Box, and Gay Rights
"Greg Bourke’s memoir combines his and his family’s journey with the paths taken by the federal judiciary toward marriage equality, his local Catholic Church toward a warm embrace of gay and lesbian couples, and the Boy Scouts toward acceptance of openly gay scoutmasters. All heartwarming stories told with charity toward all, malice toward none." —William N. Eskridge, Jr., author of Equality Practice
"The events described in this book could be seen as ordinary and unremarkable: a man finds a partner, forms a family, gets married, forges a career, and becomes a leader in his community, all while devotedly practicing his religious faith. But it becomes an extraordinary and exceptional story when you read what it took to pursue happiness, acceptance, and equality in all those arenas of his life while still remaining steadfast in that faith. In this way, Greg Bourke’s Gay, Catholic, and American is also both universal and personal, providing a compelling read for any audience." —Christine Becker, author of It’s the Pictures That Got Small
"Greg Bourke’s remarkable memoir Gay, Catholic, and American is about how he and his husband became plaintiffs in one of the most pivotal Supreme Court cases in LGBTQ+ history. . . . Bourke’s story is directed by perseverance, grit, and faith. Throughout, he refuses to accept that his sexual orientation and his religion cannot coexist. His text is inspirational, humble, and engaging." —Foreword Reviews
"In the Beatitudes, Jesus says that those who hunger and thirst for justice will be satisfied. Gay, Catholic and American is the story of one family’s journey in that quest. Greg Bourke weaves in the struggle, fear and hope of the journey to be recognized as a family and a full participant in our society. He engagingly recounts the struggles, fears and hopes of that journey that results in a compassion we can all learn from." —Simone Campbell, SSS, author of Hunger for Hope
“Bourke, one of the plaintiffs in the Supreme Court case that legalized gay marriage, shares his story of activism and devout Catholicism in this detailed . . . debut. . . . . [His] smooth, tidy narrative of activism pulls back the curtain on one of the most influential Supreme Court cases of modern American history.” —Publishers Weekly
"Living as an out gay man in the 1980s and ’90s, Bourke struggled to find acceptance, but he did not become an activist until his ouster as a Boy Scout troop leader in 2012. His memoir chronicles a personal journey that became public with Bourke at the forefront of the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court case, Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage nationwide." —Notre Dame Magazine
"Gay, Catholic and American is a book about both past and ongoing struggles for LGBTQ+ equality, and reminds readers that these battles are important, even, and perhaps especially, when they are being waged at the most local level." —New York Journal of Books
“I want to get to LGBTQ Catholics, those who have been hurt, who feel like they’ve been marginalized, who have given up, and I want to encourage them not to do that,” Bourke says. “I want to give hope to people, that they don’t have to choose between their identity as a queer person and their identity as a Catholic—they don’t have to be mutually exclusive. I hope I presented an example of what it might look like to be able to have both.” —Greg Bourke, We Are ND
"Readers curious about how one devout Catholic lives with the tension among official church teaching, his personal spiritual experience and his sexual orientation will find Bourke’s detailed account thought-provoking. Gay, Catholic, and American can inspire both L.G.B.T. and straight Catholics who seek reconciliation." —America
"Bourke’s memoir tells one story of how LGBTQ+ Catholics in the U.S. have navigated complexity and contradiction along the way: with faith, perseverance, and the belief that their families are equal and blessed." —New Ways Ministry
"Gay, Catholic, and American is recommended for colleges, seminaries, and parish libraries where the subject is discussed, positively or negatively." —The Catholic Library World
“A story that has the potential to disrupt some stereotypes.” —Society for the Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity
We were never sit-up-front churchgoers, but when Mom and Dad started going to church with us, we’d sit in the front pew so they wouldn’t have to walk down the aisle to the altar to receive Holy Communion. Over those years, my parents became de facto parishioners at Lourdes because everyone grew accustomed to seeing us there with them in the first pew. On Saturday morning each week I’d check in with Mom and Dad and ask if they wanted to go to Mass and dinner that evening. As their health further declined and the weeks and months passed, often they decided to skip church, so I would just take them dinner and Michael and I would go to Mass without them.
It's difficult to watch those you love decline and face their inevitable future, but that caused me to reflect on where I was in life and what unfinished business I might have left if suddenly taken from this existence. My thoughts turned to the resentment I harbored toward those who had ousted me from scouting and kept me from returning. Specifically I was still upset toward those people at the Archdiocese of Louisville who had mobilized to marginalize my family from full inclusive participation in our Church. As a Christian I knew that resentment was not healthy or sustainable. Jesus called each of us to live without passing judgement on others and to strive to both give and receive forgiveness and reconciliation. My prayer and reflection allowed me to resolve the bitterness I’d been experiencing with the Archdiocese and occasionally with Archbishop Kurtz. Over the following months I sent a few cards and letters to our Archbishop. I took the most conciliatory tone I could, considering our history of friction. To my pleasant surprise, Archbishop Kurtz responded in like tenor.
Later that year, a longtime member of our parish, Joanne Golden, the wife of Deacon Tim Golden, passed away and the funeral was scheduled at Lourdes. Michael and I knew the Goldens and wanted to pay our respects by attending the funeral. By this point Michael was singing regularly in the Resurrection Choir that performed at Lourdes funerals. On that day, November 3, 2016, Michael had already entered the church, so we arrived separately for the funeral. Below is a Facebook post I made later. My social media followers were a bit astonished.
This morning I attended the funeral Mass of a fellow parishioner at Lourdes. As I entered the gathering space, I noticed there was a large group of deacons and priests congregating that included Archbishop Kurtz. We saw each other across the space, and Archbishop walked over and extended his hand and said ‘Greg, thank you for your card.’ I replied ’Thank you for your leadership Archbishop.’ As we shook hands and went on about our respective business.
Last week I sent Archbishop a card letting him know that I was praying for him often, and that I appreciated his service to our Church.
As we prayed the Lord’s Prayer during Mass, it struck me that Archbishop and I have so much more in common than our sometimes-public differences. Archbishop Kurtz has an incredibly difficult job, and I would encourage anyone so inclined to join me in praying for and supporting him.
This was a real turning point not only for my relationship with the Archbishop and the Archdiocese but a great personal growth moment for me as well. What good does it do to hold on to resentment? Jesus taught us to forgive. He died so we could be free from sin and live our lives in his love and free from such baggage. From that day on I have been at peace. My sometimes-contentious relationship with the Archbishop and the Archdiocese is behind me. What good had squabbling done us? None. I decided to call a truce at least from my side of the aisle and instead try prayer and reconciliation. Realizing we have so much more in common in our faith and the great traditions of our Church, we had no choice but to move forward together. The Church was not going anywhere. Neither were Michael and I.