A powerful US church group reportedly lobbied against the creation of a suicide hotline because some of its funding would be spent on services specific to LGBTQ people.
The hotline, which would offer instant, toll-free access to counsellors - much like New Zealand's 1737 or Lifeline services - was created last year with the passing of the National Suicide Prevention Hotline Designation Act. Introduced by a Republican, the Bill had rare unanimous support across the political divide.
Services already exist, but the Act will introduce a single three-digit number - 988 - for use nationwide from mid-2022.
The legislation also put in place mandatory "cultural competency" for counsellors, Washington DC LGBTQ-focused newspaper Metro Weekly reported, as well as specialised care and more LGBTQ resources on the US Lifeline website.
It's now emerged the US Conference of Catholic Bishops - the official assembly of the country's church leaders - quietly lobbied against the Bill.
The revelation comes as the Catholic Church in the US aims to bring down other legislation mentioning sexual orientation and gender, the National Catholic Reporter said, including the new Equality Act - which would amend the 1960s-era Civil Rights Act to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation and gender identity.
The US Conference of Catholic Bishops has reportedly been more outspoken about this particular Bill, calling it a "violation of precious rights to life and conscience".
The Bill has passed in the House, but is yet to be considered by the Senate. A previous attempt at bringing it in passed the House but was ignored by the Senate, and then-President Donald Trump said he'd veto it anyway.
Current President Joe Biden - a Catholic - has expressed support for it in the past.
"The Equality Act purports to protect people experiencing same-sex attraction or gender discordance from unjust discrimination," the US Conference of Catholic Bishops said in a statement.
"Although this is a worthy purpose, the Equality Act does not serve it. And instead of respecting differences in beliefs about marriage and sexuality, the Equality Act discriminates against people of faith precisely because of those beliefs.
"In the process, the Equality Act codifies the new ideology of 'gender' in federal law, dismissing sexual difference and falsely presenting 'gender' as only a social construct."
Where to find help and support:
- Shine (domestic violence) - 0508 744 633
- Women's Refuge - 0800 733 843 (0800 REFUGE)
- Need to Talk? - Call or text 1737
- What's Up - 0800 WHATS UP (0800 942 8787)
- Lifeline - 0800 543 354 or (09) 5222 999 within Auckland
- Youthline - 0800 376 633, text 234, email firstname.lastname@example.org or online chat
- Samaritans - 0800 726 666
- Depression Helpline - 0800 111 757
- Suicide Crisis Helpline - 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
- Shakti Community Council - 0800 742 584