Kyrsten Sinema exits the Democratic Party. What difference will it make? 

Kyrtsen Sinema U.S. Sen. Kyrtsen Sinema, D-Arizona, speaks at a news conference after the Senate passed the Respect for Marriage Act at the Capitol Building on Nov.29, 2022 in Washington, D.C. | Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Catholic organizations are sharing their reactions to the news that Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona is leaving the Democratic Party to register as an independent. 

“Kyrsten Sinema’s decision to leave the Democratic Party will have the effect of stunting some of the most aggressive partisan ambitions of [Senate Majority Leader] Chuck Schumer and the Democrats in the Senate — and for that Catholics can breathe a little easier,” Joshua Mercer, editor of the Loop at CatholicVote, told CNA. “That said, Kyrsten Sinema votes consistently for abortion and other radical attacks on the family.”

Speaking for the Catholic advocacy organization, he added: “So while we’re happy that she might stymie plans for the Democrats, Catholics should not expect her to vote our way on the most critical pieces of legislation.”

Sinema, who has served in the U.S. Senate since 2019, is the only member of Congress who identifies as religiously unaffiliated. Her exit, announced on Friday, comes just days after Democrats celebrated expanding their narrow majority in the Senate to 51-49.

“The modern Democratic Party has been incredibly aggressive in their attacks on unborn life and religious freedom,” Mercer said. “Anything that disrupts the Democratic majority in the Senate will provide a sigh of relief to Catholic voters concerned about issues related to faith and family.” 

Sinema explained her decision in a column published by the Arizona Republic.

“I have joined the growing numbers of Arizonans who reject party politics by declaring my independence from the broken partisan system in Washington,” she wrote Friday.

“Nothing’s going to change for me,” she added in a video posted that same day. “And I don’t think anything’s going to change for Arizona.”

In her column, she highlighted the issues she wants to prioritize and listed her wins as a Democrat including, most recently, “protecting marriage access for LGBTQ Americans” by backing the Respect for Marriage Act. The same-sex marriage bill that passed Thursday has drawn criticism from Catholic leaders for not providing strong enough protections for those who believe marriage is between one man and one woman — a belief in line with Church teaching.

Sinema promised her continued support for same-sex marriage and abortion.

“Arizonans who share my unwavering view that a woman’s health care decision should be between her, her doctor, and her family should know that will always remain my position, as will my belief that LGBTQ Americans should not be denied any opportunity because of who they are or who they love,” she said.

On abortion, Sinema opposed the overturning of Roe v. Wade and co-sponsored the Women’s Health Protection Act, which national pro-life groups call the most radical abortion bill in U.S. history.

In her column, Sinema also pledged to focus on the economy, health care, and immigration. With the economy, she said she would work to expand jobs and economic opportunity as well as oppose tax hikes. With health care, she said she would support making it more affordable and accessible.

With immigration, Sinema said that she would work to secure the southern border, ensure fair and humane treatment for migrants, and permanently protect “Dreamers.”

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