Joe Sonka, Catholic newspaper gives person of the year honor to Louisvillians Greg Bourke and Michael DeLeon, Insider Louisville

Michael DeLeon and Greg Bourke, pictured here at a 2014 marriage equality rally, were named persons of the year by the National Catholic Reporter | Photo by Joe Sonka

The National Catholic Reporter named Louisvillians Greg Bourke and Michael DeLeon as its persons of the year for 2015, citing their historic roles as plaintiffs in this year’s Supreme Court case that legalized same-sex marriage and their “faithful public witness as gay Catholics.”

Bourke and DeLeon have been in a relationship for 33 years, marrying in Canada in 2004. They have been members of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in St. Matthews for 28 years and are raising two children. In the face of Kentucky not recognizing their marriage due to the state’s 2004 constitutional amendment, they became two of the plaintiffs challenging that law, which resulted in the Obergefell v. Hodges decision this summer legalizing same-sex marriage in all 50 states.

The National Catholic Reporter — a 50-year-old publication that is independent from the Catholic Church — also referenced Bourke’s ordeal of being stripped of his position as a Boy Scout leader by the Archdiocese of Louisville because he is gay. The Archdiocese opted this year to keep that ban in place, implying that LGBT people lack the “character” to hold such a position. The NCR challenged the church’s lack of compassion for those such as Bourke and DeLeon, and referenced the fact that local Archbishop Joseph Kurtz — president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops — called the Obergefell decision “a tragic error.”

“Changing the law was a one-time event,” read NCR’s editorial. “Change comes to peoples and communities slowly. As ordi­nary people — and one hopes Catholic bishops — come to know more people in same-sex marriages, hearts and minds will change. Acceptance will replace fear.”

“Bourke and DeLeon are emblematic of this major challenge facing the church today, because they force us to ask not how will we live out a hypothetical situ­ation, but how will we live with Greg and Michael. They give flesh to an abstraction. The answers the church is giving now are confused, uneven and often cruel. Greg and Michael — and countless gay, lesbian and transgender Catholics — deserve better.”

Past winners of the NCR’s person of the year award include Pope Francis, Chief Justice John Roberts, the CEO of the Catholic Health Association Sr. Carol Keehan, and Jennifer Haselberger, a Minnesota canon lawyer and whistleblower on clergy sexual abuse.

The spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Louisville did not immediately respond to Insider Louisville’s request for comment on Bourke and DeLeon receiving the honor from the National Catholic Reporter.