Monthly Archives: October 2008

Barack Obama Has My Vote

I’ve been supporting Barack Obama pretty strongly in the 2008 Presidential Election for several months now. Leaving aside my previously discussed concerns about John McCain and Sarah Palin, the fact is that I agree with Senator Obama’s positions on foreign policy, economics, health care, ethics, education, immigration, and most other issues. Just as importantly, his intelligence and non-combative attitude are a major step above anything we’ve seen on the national stage in quite a while.

Photo by Ethan Miller, Awesome by Barack Obama.
Photo by Ethan Miller, Awesome by Barack Obama.

That’s not to say that I agree with Obama on everything. The biggest problem I’ve had is with his stance on LGBT rights. On the one hand, he supports the Matthew Shepard Act, the Employee Non-Discrimination Act, and adoption by gays and lesbians, he wants to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and he opposes a Constitutional Amendment saying that we can’t get married.

On the other hand, Obama wants civil unions, but not full marriage equality for gays. [insert record scratching to a halt here]. That’s a BIG other hand, you know what I mean? Separate But Equal (which is what civil unions amount to) is unconstitutional, but he wants to apply it to this one group.

I’d planned on voting for him anyway, hoping we could make better headway with an Obama administration than a McCain administration. But today, we got a glimmer of —dare I say it?— hope while talking to NBC’s Brian Williams about how he would choose a Supreme Court Justice.

And so my criteria, for example, would be— if a Justice tells me that they only believe the strict letter of the Constitution– that means that they possibly don’t mean— believe in— a right to privacy that may not be perfectly enumerated in the Constitution but, you know, that I think is there.

I mean, the— the right to marry who you please isn’t in the Constitution. But I think all of us assume that if a state— decided to pass a law saying, “Brian, you can’t marry the woman you love,” that you’d think that was unconstitutional. Well, where does that come from? I think it comes from a right to privacy— that may not be listed in the Constitution but is implied by the structure of the Constitution.

So yeah, Barack Obama has my vote. I hope he has yours too.

hope
hope

(H/t: GoodAsYou.org)

On Naming And Un-Naming

(Note: As I said in yesterday’s post, my look at Madeleine L’Engle’s book A Wind in the Door ended up going in two different directions, so I decided to split it into two posts.)

 

Early in A Wind in the Door, Proginoskes the cherubim tells Meg Murry about their role in three tests.

When I was memorizing the names of the stars, part of the purpose was to help them each to be more particularly the particular star each one was supposed to be. That’s basically a Namer’s job. Maybe you’re supposed to make earthlings feel more human.

Isn’t he right? Isn’t that our job? To help each other know ourselves better and become the persons God meant us to be. Not just in close circles, though, I have a responsibility to help Name each person I come into contact with. You have a responsibility to do the same. And if we do our part, the whole of God’s creation becomes more perfect.

The next question flows naturally from this idea. So how do I go about Naming someone, even someone I don’t like? If we’re supposed to Name each other, then we must have the tools we need for the task. Progo has the answer:

Love. That’s what makes persons know who they are. You’re full of love, Meg, but you don’t know how to stay within it when it’s not easy. Oh—you love your family. That’s easy. Sometimes when you feel awful about somebody, you get back into rightness by thinking about—well, you seem to be telling me that you got back into love once by thinking about Charles Wallace. But this time it can’t be easy. You have to go on to the next step.

That’s not just cloud-talkin’, it’s downright Biblical. Progo’s right, it isn’t easy, but Naming someone who hates you can be a freeing decision. An important step for me was to realize that as angry as I am at someone who treats me as a subhuman, to a certain extent that person is a victim as well. When they decided to hate rather than love, they didn’t do it in a vacuum, it’s something they were led to.

Understand, I am in no way excusing the hateful things that happen. There’s a long and growing list of my brothers and sisters who have been victimized because they were gay, and I make no excuses for the person or persons who did it. Clearly those people should be brought to justice. But in the words of Dr. Horrible, those people are a symptom and the disease rages on. In the battle for equality, we need to be mindful of both the foot soldiers in the enemy’s army and the Generals.

In A Wind in the Door, those Generals who lead people to hate are called the Echthroi.

War and hate are their business, and one of their chief weapons is un-Naming—making people not know who they are. If someone knows who he is, really knows, then he doesn’t need to hate.

In the documentary For The Bible Tells Me So, Rabbi Brian Zachary Mayer makes the point that the cheapest way to make people feel like they’re part of a group is to create an “other”, a group to be different from and better than. The leaders of the Anti-Gay movement work hard not just to lie about and suppress the rights of LGBTs, but also to actively keep people in a hating frame of mind and keep them from knowing who they are.

Make no mistake, that’s the goal of the opposition. They’ve shown that they’ll do anything to keep not just their LGBT victims, but also their followers as irrational, as un-Named, as possible. That’s one of the reasons they’re so dangerous. And it’s one of the reasons they have to be stopped.

Cherubim Speaks The Truth

(Note: This started as one long post but grew in two directions. Here’s part two.)

 

When I was a kid, I absolutely loved Madeleine L’Engle’s books. A Wrinkle In Time was way out there with other dimensions and deep subjects for a kid’s book, A Swiftly Tilting Planet had its big mystery with time travel and runes and unicorns drinking moonbeams, Many Waters had half-naked Sandy and Dennys on the cover…

The book I was never fond of was A Wind in the Door. There was something about it that made the book unpleasant to read. I read it two or three times but I never knew why I didn’t like the book, just that I needed to leave it alone. Years later, I’ve finally figured out the problem. I recently read A Wind in the Door again and realized that my distaste for the book had nothing to do with the book itself; it had to do with me and my secret.

In the book, Meg Murry must accomplish a series of tasks with a cherubim (singular) that looks not unlike a drive of dragons, all flame and eyes and wings. Proginoskes is a Namer. He supposes that since Meg has been paired with him, she must be a Namer as well.

When I was memorizing the names of the stars, part of the purpose was to help them each to be more particularly the particular star each one was supposed to be. That’s basically a Namer’s job. Maybe you’re supposed to make earthlings feel more human.

That was my problem with the book. When I was 10 (assuming that’s when I read it) the last thing I wanted was to be more particularly the particular person I was supposed to be. I was embarrassed, ashamed, and afraid of that person. He was weird. He was different. If someone found out about him, I just thought I’d die. Every moment of every day was spent worrying about somebody finding out about him.

So when this book came along and tried to tell me that it was okay, even good, to let people know the real me I didn’t know what to do with it. The concept didn’t match up with what I knew of the world. Deep down I knew that Progo was right, but I also knew that it didn’t matter. I required myself to become some other person and oddly enough, the more I did that, the less human I felt. Progo was right again.

Fast forward 25 years, and I find myself still having to purposefully not hide when I interact with people. Fighting against my years of training, I have to remind myself that the person I hid for so long isn’t so bad after all. I still have to make a conscious decision not to hide, and I’ll probably be making that conscious decision for the rest of my life.

That’s one reason I tell people that we can’t wait for people to get used to the idea of having one of The Gays around, especially in the church. Our job as Namers is to make each other feel more human. The church is the source of so much of the pain, so much of the un-Naming, that boys and girls internalize as they figure out that they’re gay.

In some cases, I don’t even think it’s something that the church sets out to do. Silence, both from the pulpit and from the programs in the church, goes a long way toward negatively reinforcing what the kids are already thinking. So we need to make a concerted effort to reinforce specifically to kids and gay teens that God wants them to be, as Proginoskes said, more particularly the particular person he made them each to be.

He wants them to be Named.

When Facts Get In The Way

Last month, friend of the blog Keltic posted over at his own blog about the phenomenon of anti-gay bloggers employing below board tactics when confronted with an opposing view. I’ve seen it before, and I’ve dealt with it before, but it’s happened to me again, and I’m a little ticked off.

On Monday, blogger Charlene Jamison (who goes by the screen name californialily) posted an outrageous entry about California’s Proposition 8 on this November’s ballot. You know, the anti-gay one that removes our right to marriage as guaranteed under the California state constitution.

Being the reasonable person who assumes the best in people (stop laughing), I replied with a fairly calm response offering to debunk all of the claims in the piece she’d cut/pasted in. I even provided a few links to get her started if she wanted to research it herself. I also attempted to explain why religion is irrelevant to Prop 8. Of course, she deleted my response and posted a reply to two small bits that she felt able to swat down. Both responses had been covered in the portion that she deleted. Funny, that.

Fortunately for me (and you, gentle reader), when I replied I checked the option to send responses to my email. So the whole thing still exists, and while Charlene Jamison has every right to censor whatever she wants on her blog, it’s a bit dirty pool, and I have a right to re-post it here. I worried a little last night about the possibility that I’m being petty, but I’ve decided that petty as it may be, I’m also refuting the outrageous claims that Ms. Jamison made on (and still hasn’t deleted from) her blog and that some people still believe are facts.

So here, in the form of screen captures, are the posts in question. They’re all pretty large, so I’m not posting them inline, choosing instead to link to the images.

First, there’s Charlene Jamison’s original blog posting. I posted a link to the live version at the top of the post, but it wouldn’t surprise me if she deleted it. I noticed while writing this that she’s now deleted her reply that can be seen on this screencap.

Next up is my reply, captured by my email. Also included is Charlene’s reply to the two snippets that she didn’t delete. Since they contain valuable information, the links in my response are as follows: “The Box Turtle Bulletin”; “For example”; “comes from Paul Cameron”.

Finally, here’s a second response I made, which I never expected to see the light of day. And I was right! Hooray for expecting people to hide from truth!

And that’s my real problem with this. Charlene posted something that was incorrect and when that was pointed out, she chose willful ignorance over accepting truth. That’s what’s behind a lot of the anti-gay bias in both the church and society. Willful ignorance permits people (Charlene’s far from alone in this) to go on believing that Group X is beneath them, and that Group X doesn’t deserve the same rights and privileges as they have.

What’s so bizarre to me is that this kind of thinking is antithetical to real Christianity.

Real Life Monsters

Every now and then I wonder if the struggle for equality, understanding, and respect is worth the time and energy that I and so many others put into it. 1 I’m basically a cynic in other matters, so why do I so need to see change in the acceptance of homophobia?

Last night, I was reminded of why we fight when I ran across this news article from rural upstate Illinois.

Bourbonnais bus driver arrested after alleged taunting
10/10/2008, 10:35 am

A Bourbonnais Elementary School District No. 53 bus driver was arrested Thursday for mob action after he allegedly taunted a 10-year-old student and encouraged others on the bus to chase after the boy.

Russell A. Schmalz, 46, was arrested by the Kankakee [Illinois] Sheriff’s Police Department, Chief Deputy Ken McCabe said. Schmalz is also charged with endangering the life of a child and battery.

“The incident occurred last Friday,” McCabe said, alleging that Schmalz was taunting the boy by calling him “gay.”

“When the boy got off the bus the driver encouraged several other students to go after him and tackle him. Our investigation shows that occurred,” McCabe said this morning.

Investigators are also looking into allegations that Schmalz got off the bus and grabbed the boy he had allegedly been taunting.

Bourbonnais School District officials would only say the driver has been terminated.

This short week-old story has gotten little attention nationally. In fact it wasn’t even reported locally until nearly a week later. The school district has (thankfully) fired the bus driver. The local authorities have (thankfully) taken the correct action.

And a ten-year-old boy’s life has been changed forever.

I don’t know if the kid is gay or not. It’s entirely possible that he isn’t. Either way, the damage has been done and homophobia has been stamped on his soul. Forever.

Maybe he’ll turn it inward and learn to hate himself. After all, it’s his fault, he’ll tell himself. He said something or did something that let people know that he’s different. Maybe he doesn’t like football, or he has an unusual name, or he’s good at math. Maybe his best friend is a girl. That’s enough sometimes.

Or maybe he’ll turn it outward and learn to hate others. Maybe he’ll be the one to beat the hell out of the next kid who’s different. Maybe he’ll grow up to be the next Jim Dobson or Donald Wildmon. Maybe even Fred Phelps. I hope not. I pray not. But it’s a path that this bus driver has opened up for him.

Worse yet, maybe he’ll kill himself. It’s a frightful thought, but a full third of LGBT youth make an attempt every year, and they don’t do it for nothing.

I’m tempted to say that this boy will never forget last Friday when the bus driver shouted “Get him!”, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he blocked it out altogether. There are some things a ten-year-old shouldn’t know, and I’m pretty sure that an authority figure calling you names and telling other kids to beat you up is on the list.

This is the reason for the fight. Until the monsters like Russell A. Schmalz of Bourbonnais, Illinois 2 are defeated, people like this little boy are at risk. I can’t stop everybody like Mr. Schmalz, but I can add my voice to the growing chorus of people not willing to put up with hate and violence anymore.

Incidentally, this is a perfect example of why we need hate crime laws. Without a hate crime charge, I’m betting that the maximum punishment allowed is pretty small. Illinois has a law that punishes monsters like Russell A. Schmalz of Bourbonnais, Illinois (we don’t know if he’ll be charged under it yet), but national standards like the almost-passed Matthew Shepard Act are still needed to protect people like this ten-year-old boy whose life was changed last Friday.

 

 

(h/t to Box Turtle Bulletin)

1 To be clear, there are many many other people across the country who put so much more time and energy into the struggle than I do. I’m a lightweight at best. ⇧
2 I’m hoping to get listed for when a potential employer of Russell A. Schmalz of Bourbonnais, Illinois does a search for his name. ⇧

Fence Sitting on the Menu at McDonald’s

I haven’t mentioned it before here at The Tuning Fork, but in early July, the liars at the lying American Family Association called for a boycott of McDonald’s because Vice President of Communication Richard Ellis was on the board of the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) and McDonald’s gave the organization something like $20,000.

Of course, the boycott was a spectacular failure, judging by both sales figures and stock reports. Nonetheless, on October 9th the liars at the AFA proclaimed victory, releasing a press release about how they had destroyed the evil opposition to humanity because Mr. Ellis resigned from the NGLCC when he took a job in the McDonald’s Canada office.

The question on many of our minds, of course, was whether we could trust a press release from the AFA. (I read somewhere that they lie a lot.) Today (courtesy of Good As You), the waters were muddied as McDonald’s seems to be trying to distance themselves from us.

I decided to head over to the McDonald’s Corporate Responsibility Blog, Open For Discussion, and see if I could find an answer there. I didn’t find that, but I was able to ask the question in response to this post from last week. It hasn’t been approved yet, and I’m thinking it probably won’t. So what the heck, I’ll post it in my own space.

Interesting post, and an interesting quote from Mr. Wooden. Often it’s difficult to tell the difference between what you can do and what you can’t.

For example, when the American Family Association (an organization that endorses the psychological torture of homosexual folks through so-called reparative therapy) called for a boycott against McDonald’s in early July because VP Richard Ellis joined the board of the NGLCC, many in the gay community rushed to the defense of McDonald’s, even encouraging people to eat at your restaurants more often in order to offset any effect that the boycott might have. This is a great example of your point in this blog post, don’t you think? I see a way to affect what I can, and do everything in my power to do so.

Fast forward to today, nearly a week after the AFA claimed victory and ended their boycott. Knowing the AFA’s rare association with the truth, many of us asked people to wait and see what the folks at McDonald’s had to say. After all, your business continued to increase over the last several months, showing that the boycott apparently had no perceptible effect.

Now, though, we’re getting mixed signals from McDonald’s, and I’m getting a little nervous. The company seems to be distancing itself from the gay community, releasing statements that work very hard to keep from invoking the ‘g’ word, and even saying, going so far as to say ‘McDonald’s will neither confirm nor deny the authenticity of the ‘e-mail to McDonald’s franchised owners’ referred to in the release.”

Now comes the part where you, Mr. Langert, have an opportunity to find out what you can do, both personally and corporately. Will your company, by refusing to comment on the alleged press release quoted by the AFA, permit their statements to stand? Through your inaction, will you align yourself with people who seek to do me harm?

I eagerly await your reply.


10/21/2008 UPDATE: Well, it’s been six days and the comment hasn’t been approved. On top of that, Mr. Langert responded to a previous comment on the post AFTER I sent my reply in. I’m left to conclude that he’s seen the issues I raised and decided that it isn’t “Open For Discussion”. I must further conclude that McDonald’s is actually supportive, or at the very least isn’t UN-supportive, of those who wish to do people like me harm.

Ah well. I need to lose weight anyway.

Connecticut Joins the Civil Rights Club

A hearty congratulations to the citizens of Connecticut, who can celebrate a Supreme Court that recognizes a Civil Right when it sees one. Last Friday, the state’s high court recognized the inherent right of gay and lesbian people to marry. In part, the majority opinion says:

Although we acknowledge that many legislators and many of their constituents hold strong personal convictions with respect to preserving the traditional concept of marriage as a heterosexual institution, such beliefs, no matter how deeply held, do not constitute the exceedingly persuasive justification required to sustain a statute that discriminates on the basis of a quasisuspect classification. ‘‘That civil marriage has traditionally excluded same-sex couples—i.e., that the ‘historic and cultural understanding of marriage’ has been between a man and a woman—cannot in itself provide a [sufficient] basis for the challenged exclusion. To say that the discrimination is ‘traditional’ is to say only that the discrimination has existed for a long time. A classification, however, cannot be maintained merely ‘for its own sake’ [Romer v. Evans, supra, 517 U.S. 635]. Instead, the classification ([that is], the exclusion of gay [persons] from civil marriage) must advance a state interest that is separate from the classification itself [see id., 633, 635]. Because the ‘tradition’ of excluding gay [persons] from civil marriage is no different from the classification itself, the exclusion cannot be justified on the basis of ‘history.’ Indeed, the justification of ‘tradition’ does not explain the classification; it merely repeats it. Simply put, a history or tradition of discrimination—no matter how entrenched—does not make the discrimination constitutional . . . .’’

[…]

Like these once prevalent views, our conventional understanding of marriage must yield to a more contemporary appreciation of the rights entitled to constitutional protection. Interpreting our state constitutional provisions in accordance with firmly established equal protection principles leads inevitably to the conclusion that gay persons are entitled to marry the otherwise qualified same sex partner of their choice. To decide otherwise would require us to apply one set of constitutional principles to gay persons and another to all others. The guarantee of equal protection under the law, and our obligation to uphold that command, forbids us from doing so. In accordance with these state constitutional requirements, same sex couples cannot be denied the freedom to marry.

It’s a pretty darn awesome ruling (full 85-page pdf here), one that presents the issue as plain as it truly is. The usual suspects are playing Chicken Little over this, of course. Mostly they’re people from the religious right, but I would renew my objection to the issue of civil marriage being discussed using religious arguments. It’s not that religion is unimportant; it’s just irrelevant to the issue at hand. So I disregard the Dobsons of the world on this one.

Then there’s a tactic that’s kind of laughable. Patricia and Wesley Galloway (and others, of course) have argued before the Connecticut legislature that lesbians and gay men shouldn’t be allowed to marry because their union can’t produce children.

The argument falls apart when you find out that the Galloways (who by crazy random happenstance are Christians who lean to the right) have been and continue to be unable to produce children. Going by their logic, the Galloways shouldn’t have been able to marry either. Come to think of it, by their logic any couple shouldn’t be allowed to marry until they’ve produced a child. What a weird idea.

But enough talk of nutjobs and hand-wringers. The ruling takes effect on October 28, 2008, permitting residents and non-residents to be legally married for the purposes of the state of Connecticut. Even if they have The Gay!!!

Three down, 47 to go! Next up, Iowa!

Remembering Matthew Shepard

One of many killed for being gay.
One of many killed for being gay.

Last Monday marked ten years since Matthew Shepard was kidnapped, beaten, and left tied to a fence for the crime of being gay. Sunday will mark ten years since his death from the injuries suffered in the attack.

The always on target Box Turtle Bulletin is running a series on the horrifying event. Jim Burroway has also included helpful links to news articles from 1998. Please read all of them to understand the fear that many in the LGTB community live with every day. Here’s an excerpt from part two in the series.

Ten years ago today at around 6:30 PM, Aaron Kreifels was riding his bicycle on Snowy Mountain View Road, just outside of Laramie, Wyoming, when he wiped out near the end of a rough buck-and-rail fence. In the fall, he severely damaged his front tire. Aaron got up to try to figure out how to get back into town when he was startled by what he thought was a scarecrow. He took a closer look and discovered that it wasn’t a scarecrow, but a 5-foot-2, 150 pound University of Wyoming student by the name of Matthew Shepard.

Aaron was further surprised to see that the bloody figure was still alive, though barely. Matthew was comatose, breathing “as if his lungs are full of blood,” Aaron would later testify. It had been a very cold day that day with a 30-degree freezing wind the night before, and it was now evening again. Matthew had been there for more than 18 hours, laying on his back, head propped against the fence, his legs outstretched. His hands were tied behind him, and the rope was tied to a fence post just four inches off the ground. His shoes were missing.

Aaron, in a state of panic, ran to the nearby home of Charles Dolan. From there, they called 911, and then the both of them returned to Matthew to wait for the sheriff’s deputy to arrive. Deputy Reggie Fluty later testified that the only spots not covered in blood on Matt’s brutally disfigured face were tracks cleansed by his tears. She told the barely breathing victim, “Baby, I’m so sorry this happened.”

As this election season reaches a climax, it’s worth noting that separate versions the federal Matthew Shepard Act passed both houses of Congress in 2007, but were ultimately dropped due to a veto threat from the current president. John McCain was the only Senator [conveniently] absent from the Senate vote.

If elected, Barack Obama has pledged to pass the Matthew Shepherd Act.

Father Geoffrey Farrow: A Voice in the Wilderness

An amazing thing happened last Sunday. A Priest stood against the Catholic Church and proclaimed what is right.

Along with all Priests in the Fresno Diocese, Father Geoffrey Farrow’s bishop had given a him a directive to tell parishioners from the pulpit to vote Yes on California Proposition 8. (Prop 8 seeks to remove the fundamental Constitutional Right of gay and lesbian people to marry in the California.)

After several months of wrestling with what to do about this directive, Fr. Farrow made a decision, one that will probably end his career in the Roman Catholic Church. By doing so, he has been added to the growing list of people fighting against this proposition of injustice.

Like many gay bloggers, I am printing the full text of Fr. Farrow’s final homily below (with thanks to The Bilerico Project for making it available). It is an impressive sermon, one I wish I could have heard Sunday. I’ve bolded a few passages that are especially important to me, and in my opinion, to the Church at large. (I’ll see you at the bottom of the post.)
 


As most of you know, I was appointed pastor here at the Newman Center on April 15th of this year. When I arrived, I set out to address a series of various projects to repair our facilities. To date, most of these deferred maintenance items have been addressed. In the middle of dealing with contractors, the parish finance committee, the building department of the diocese, neighbors, etc., I received a FAX from the bishop’s office on the 30th of June. It was the bishop’s pastoral letter for the month of July.

This single FAX threw my whole summer, and in fact, my whole life into a turmoil. Recently, I was speaking with some of our parishioners who advocate for the ordination of women. In the course of our conversation, a question arose which has haunted me: “At what point do you cease to be an agent for healing and growth and become an accomplice of injustice?” By asking all of the pastors of the Diocese of Fresno to promote Catholics to vote “Yes” on Proposition 8, the bishop has placed me in a moral predicament.

In his “Pastoral,” the bishop states: “Marriage is much more than simply two persons loving each other. Marriage is naturally, socially, and biologically, directed to bringing forth life.”

Actually, there are TWO ends to marriage: 1) Unitive and 2) Procreative. The unitive end of marriage is simply a union of love and life. The Procreative end is, of course, to create new life. It is important to understand that the unitive end of marriage is sufficient for a valid marriage. The Church sanctions, and considers a sacrament, the marriage of elderly heterosexual couples who are biologically incapable of reproduction. So, if two people of different genders who are incapable of reproduction can enter into a valid marriage, then why is that two people of the same gender, who are incapable of reproduction, cannot enter into a valid marriage.

The objections which are raised at this point are taken from Sacred Scripture. Scripture scholars reveal the problematic nature of attempting to use passages from the Hebrew Scriptures as an argument against same gender relationships. Essentially, these scriptures are addressing the cultic practices in which sex with temple prostitutes was part of an act of worshiping Pagan gods. With regard to the Pauline epistles, John J. McNeill, in his book: “The Church and the Homosexual,” makes the following point: “The persons referred to in Romans 1:26 are probably not homosexuals that is, those who are psychologically inclined toward their own sex–since they are portrayed as ‘abandoning their natural customs.'” The Pauline epistles do not explicitly treat the question of homosexual activity between two persons who share a homosexual orientation, and as such cannot be read as explicitly condemning such behavior. Therefore, same gender sex by two individuals with same sex orientation is not “abandoning their natural custom.”

In 1973, as a result of a greater understanding of human psychology, the American Psychological Association declassified homosexuality as a mental illness. In 1975, the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (the Church’s watchdog for orthodoxy) produced a document entitled: “Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics.” In this document, they made the most remarkable statement. They stated that there are “homosexuals who are such because of some kind of innate instinct.” While these statements are hardly glowing affirmations of gay and lesbian persons, they represent a watershed in human perception and understanding of gay and lesbian people.

These new insights have occurred as a result of the birth and development of the science of psychology and understanding of brain development in the 19th and 20th centuries. The California Supreme Court cited and quoted an amicus brief filed by the APA in the Court’s opinion issued on May 15, 2008 that struck down California’s ban on same sex marriage. Specifically, the court relied on the APA’s brief in concluding that the very nature of sexual orientation is related to the gender of partners to whom one is attracted, so that prohibiting same sex marriage discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation, rather than just imposing disparate burdens on gay people.

In directing the faithful to vote “Yes” on Proposition 8, the California Bishops are not merely entering the political arena, they are ignoring the advances and insights of neurology, psychology and the very statements made by the Church itself that homosexuality is innate (i.e. orientation). In doing this, they are making a statement which has a direct, and damaging, effect on some of the people who may be sitting in the pews next to you today. The statement made by the bishop reaffirms the feelings of exclusion and alienation that are suffered by individuals and their loved ones who have left the Church over this very issue. Imagine what hearing such damaging words at Mass does to an adolescent who has just discovered that he/she is gay/lesbian? What is the hierarchy saying to him/her? What are they demanding from that individual? What would it have meant to you personally to hear from the pulpit at church that you could never date? Never fall in love, never kiss or hold hands with another person? Never be able to marry? How would you view yourself? How would others hearing those same words be directed to view you? How would you view your life and your future? How would you feel when you saw a car with a “Yes on 8” bumper sticker? When you overheard someone in a public place use the word “faggot?”

I remember the first time I heard that word, faggot, I was hanging out with my cousins. They all played on the football team of the Catholic high school in our town. One of them spat out the word in the form of a curse. I was just a kid in the 5th grade, I’d never heard the word before, and so I asked: “What’s a faggot?” A faggot is a guy who likes other guys, was the curt reply. Now pause. Think. What would those words mean to someone in junior high school who discovers that he/she is attracted to people of their same gender? The greatest fear that he/she would have is that they would be rejected by the people they love the most–their family. So, their solution is to try to pass as straight, deceive, and in effect–lie. Of course, this leads ultimately to self loathing. It should come as little surprise that gay teenagers have elevated suicide rates. According to the Center for Disease Control’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey (1999), 33% of gay youth will attempt suicide.

At what point do you cease to be an agent for healing and growth and become an accomplice of injustice?
At what point do you cease to be an agent for healing and growth and become an accomplice of injustice?
The bishop states: “The Church has spoken out constantly that those with a homosexual orientation must be respected with the dignity of every child of God. Every individual is created in the image and likeness of God and should never be subjected to prejudice or hatred.” A pious thought uttered by a cleric, robbed of any substantive meaning, as the executioner begins his work. Only a few select people actually read those documents. What most Catholics hear about being gay or lesbian at their parish church is–silence. A numbing silence, which slowly and insidiously tells them, “You don’t belong here, this is not for you, and you are not welcome.” It is not the crude overt vulgarity of some churches. But rather, it is the coldness of a maitre d’ who simply won’t seat you, or the club which has put you on a waiting list with no intention of allowing you to join. And simply asks you to wait in polite almost, apologetic tones.

In effect, the bishops are asking gay and lesbian people to live their lives alone. Why? Who does this benefit? How exactly is society helped by singling out a minority and excluding them from the union of love and life, which is marriage? How is marriage protected by intimidating gay and lesbian people into loveless and lonely lives? What is accomplished by this? Worse still, is to intimidate a gay or lesbian person into a heterosexual marriage, which is doomed from its inception, and makes two victims instead of one by this hurtful “theology.” This “theology,” which is parroted by clerics in polished tones from pulpits, produces the very prejudice and hatred in our society which they claim to abhor.

When the hierarchy prohibited artificial birth control, most of the faithful in the United States, Canada and Europe scratched their heads in wonderment and proceeded to ignore them. There is an expression in theology: “the voice of the people is the voice of God.” If your son or daughter is gay/lesbian let them know that you love them unconditionally. Let them know that you are not ashamed or embarrassed by them. Guide them as you would your other children to finding true and abiding love. Let them know that marriage is a union of love and life and is possible for them too.

I do not presume to tell you how to vote but I do ask that you pray to the Creator of us all. Think and consider the effects of your vote on others, especially minorities in our society who are sitting next to you in church, and at work. The act of casting a vote takes you a few minutes but it can cause other human beings untold happiness or sorrow for a lifetime. It can grant them hope and acceptance, or it can cause them to lose civil rights. It can be a rebuff to bigotry and hatred, or it can encourage bigotry and hatred. Personally, I am morally compelled to vote “NO” on Proposition 8. It is my hope that the people of California will join with those others around the world such as Canada, Europe and South Africa who welcome their gay and lesbian family members fully into society by granting them the civil right to marry.

I know these words of truth will cost me dearly. But to withhold them, would be far more costly and I would become an accomplice to a moral evil that strips gay and lesbian people not only of their civil rights but of their human dignity as well. Jesus said, “The truth will set you free.” He didn’t promise that it would be easy or without personal cost to speak that truth.


 
Following Sunday’s service, Father Farrow revealed in an interview that yes, he is gay. It’s sad to me that a straight priest hasn’t made the same sacrifice for the cause of justice. As of this writing, Fr. Farrow has cleaned out his office and moved out of his parish home while he awaits the axe that is sure to fall.

Far too often, the Church (be it Catholic or Protestant) has been far behind the curve on issues of social justice. In my own Methodist denomination, women were unable to serve as full-fledged ministers until 1956. The Methodist Church wasn’t desegregated until 1968, well after it should have begun to repair the damage of 1939’s segregation. It’s time to end the cycle and stand against religious bigotry in all of its forms.

Father Farrow, thank you for standing up for me. Thank you for standing up for all of us. Most of all, thank you for standing up for God.

Fathers, preachers, reverends, ministers, priests, pastors, or whatever you’re called in whatever denomination, please speak out against hatred. Speak out against bigotry. Don’t be silent and hope the issue goes away. (It won’t.) Don’t assume that it doesn’t matter because none of them are in your church. (I’ll bet you a dollar you’re wrong.) Don’t allow one more LGBT teenager to commit suicide because your church didn’t love him.

Everybody else, you have a job too. If you live in California, I’m asking you to vote No on Prop 8. In Arizona, vote No on the similar Prop 102 (again). In Florida, please vote No on Amendment 2.

This is not a gay rights issue, folks. It is a human rights issue. Complacency is not an option.

Sarah Palin Opens Her Mouth And Removes All Doubt

Remember back six weeks ago when I said that John McCain was looking for an anti-gay running mate? Well, he found one in Alaska Governor Sarah Palin a few days later. I’ve kept schtum here on the blog, but I decided that it was time to speak up after her interview with Katie Couric.

In the Couric interview, Governor Palin had this to say:

But you are talking about, I think, a value here, what my position is on homosexuality and can you pray it away ’cause I think that was the title that was listed in that bulletin. And, you know, I don’t know what prayers are worthy of being prayed. And I don’t know what prayers are gonna be answered or not answered. But as for homosexuality, I am not going to judge Americans and the decisions that they make in their adult personal relationships.

I have, one of my absolute best friends for the last 30 years who happens to be gay. And I love her dearly. And she is not my “gay friend.” She is one of my best friends who happens to have made a choice that isn’t a choice that I have made. But I am not gonna judge people. And I love America where we are more tolerant than other countries are. And are more accepting of some of these choices that sometimes people want to believe reflects solely on an individual’s values or not. Homosexuality, I am not gonna judge people.

Here, Palin is using the same coded language that many anti-gay people use. Her use of the word “choice” three times is indicative of an attitude that is based not on truth and reason, but on ignorance. She considers homosexuality to be a “choice” that one can decide to make rather than what it’s been proven to be: a natural state of being that a person doesn’t decide on.

And her claim that she “[doesn’t] know what prayers are worthy of being prayed” sounds good on the surface, but when you dig just a little bit into what that means, you discover that she’s saying that maybe you can pray the gay away. Again, this is based on ignorance.

What Palin doesn’t say is as important as what she does say. She doesn’t say that the conversion therapy her church (whether she’s a member or not is pretty irrelevant) endorses and Mr. Dobson’s group provides is harmful. She doesn’t mention the physical, psychological, and spiritual violence that such therapies encourage. She doesn’t acknowledge the readily available statements of respected medical and mental health organizations against conversion therapies.

The “I even have a gay friend” thing is silly, so I won’t even go into it here except to mention that Dan Savage of Savage Love has started an application drive for the position of Sarah Palin’s Gay Friend. I haven’t put my application in yet, but I’m working on it.

Of course my opinions about what Sarah Palin really thinks about The Gays are all just supposition. After all, I hadn’t even heard of her until six weeks ago. So in the interest of fairness, I’ll close with what the Human Rights Campaign found LGBT folks from Alaska think about their Governor.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. A vote for John McCain and Sarah Palin is a vote for the restriction and reduction of basic civil rights. America can’t afford that anymore.