June 10, 2006

Demonstrating Against "Love Won Out" Conference

As I was driving toward today’s vigil to protest the “Love Won Out” anti-gay conference being held in Silver Spring, Maryland, I wondered what kind of turnout I would find. After all, it was not quite 8:00 AM on a Saturday morning, a great time to sleep in and recover from the week just ended.

I was thrilled to see dozens of colorful signs lining both sides of the road in front of Immanuel’s Church as I pulled up. Some of them said:

“Another Marylander Against Demonizing Gay Americans”
“Love Welcomes All”
“Reparative Therapy is Neither”
“Homosexuality Is Not a Disorder”
“Focus on Fairness”
“Straight, But Not Narrow” (obviously a personal favorite)

By the time the press conference began around 9:30 AM, well over 100 people had gathered to support fairness and equality and condemn the practice of trying to “change” homosexuals promoted by the conference ready to begin only a few yards away.

Dan Furmansky, the director of Equality Maryland, opened with a few comments and introduced each speaker. At one point, he said “James Dobson, (the conference was sponsored by his Focus on the Family organization) you are not welcome in Maryland! Go back to Colorado!” I would agree with that except I don’t have anything against the GLBT population of Colorado.

One of the speakers was Harry Knox, the Director of the Human Rights Campaign’s Religion and Faith Program. Knox is a former pastor of a United Methodist Church in Georgia. He was also the Executive Director of Equality Georgia and program director of Freedom to Marry. Knox told the crowd and cameras (two local television stations shot footage), “God made me gay and called me good.”

A representative of National Black Justice Coalition (I did not catch her name) added that the group across the street was representative of a “cult of the annihilation of the authentic self.”

Maryland State Delegate Gareth Murray, who represents the district where the conference was being held, pointed out “Today it’s the gay community. What community are we going after next?” Murray sharply condemned the purpose of the conference, speaking from his background as a minister and a mental health professional.

Dr. Stephen Eckstrand, a member of the local PFLAG chapter, spoke about his two children; a lesbian daughter and a left-handed son. He pointed out that, “until the latter half of the twentieth century, people considered left handed individuals to be unlucky, clumsy, and even abnormal.” Fortunately society has moved beyond that, and Dr. Eckstrand expressed his hope that society would also grow past its failure to love and accept gays and lesbians.

I also had the pleasure of meeting writer and activist Wayne Besen, author of the book “Anything But Straight.” Besen just this past week announced the formation of the organization “Truth Wins Out and was there to support the vigil. Like his book, Truth Wins Out is dedicated to refuting the lies groups like Focus on the Family propagate to wrongly influence people. Besen wrote a piece earlier this week about the conference where he said, “Unfortunately, it will be a bastion of misinformation that flies in the face of modern psychology and presents a distorted picture of gay life filled with stereotypes in the guise of science.”

The final word is this post goes to Dr. Lise Van Susteren, whom I also ran into at Equality Maryland’s Lobby Day back in February at the state capitol in Annapolis. Dr. Van Susteren, a forensic psychiatrist, offered this profound thought, “Religion must not be used as the fig leaf to hide prejudice.”

How about it, Dr. Dobson?

June 08, 2006

"Christians Must Do More to Combat AIDS, Comfort Victims

That's the title of an essay written by Kay Warren for CNN. She is the wife of Rick Warren, author of the wildly popular "The Purpose Driven Life." Kay Warren is executive director of their home church's HIV/AIDS initiative where she has learned quite a bit about dealing with the disease and the attitudes of her fellow Christians.

She writes, "Twenty-five years into the AIDS pandemic, being HIV-positive still carries stigma and shame. But God cares for the sick and so must we. It's not a sin to be sick. The Bible tells us Jesus was repeatedly "filled with compassion" as he encountered broken bodies and broken minds. While polite society vigorously avoided contact with those they considered diseased outcasts, Jesus responded in a radical way: He cared, he touched, he healed."

Here we go again with Jesus and all that compassion stuff.

I just hope it catches on more in His church.

June 07, 2006

FMA Defeated.....For Now

Today the U. S. Senate voted 49-48 on a motion to end debate on the proposed constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage, 11 votes short of the 60 needed to bring it to a vote on the floor of the senate.

This was an important victory for those who are fighting to avoid making discrimination a part of the U. S. Constitution, but it's merely a battle won. The war will continue and perhaps intensify.

Think I'm exaggerating? Check out these quotes:

"We're going to continue to press this issue," Colorado Republican Sen. Wayne Allard said. "If it's up to me, we'll have a vote on this issue every year."

"We're making progress, and we're not going to stop until marriage between a man and a woman is protected," said Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kansas.

Richard Land, head of the Southern Baptist Convention Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said failure to pass a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage would be "a catastrophe of unimaginable proportions for children" in a Monday radio broadcast.

President Bush, in a 10-minute speech on Monday, said "An amendment to the Constitution is necessary because activist courts have left our nation with no other choice."

Of course, the right-wing defines "activist courts" or "activist judges" as ones who don't support their views.

Regarding the Senate vote: "It is true what this vote will do will be to help the voters identify who is and is not supportive of the family," said Dr. James C. Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family. "And I think those that are not are going to have to answer for it."

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), "Marriage ranks as one of our most important social institutions," he writes. "Americans have made it clear that they want to protect it against activist judges like those who sit on the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts."

Folks, these people are not going away just because they lost a vote. Some of them truly believe they have the moral high ground and that they are charged with protecting their version of God's will from being violated. Others are seizing this issue as their ticket to power and wealth. Either way, they're not going to quit.

It is critical that those 47 senators who voted against bringing the amendment to a vote know that their constituents have their backs, and their vote.

It is also cricital that people understand that the attidute of treating homosexuals as second-class (if that high) citizens is NOT reflective of all Christians. There are people who love God with all their hearts and feel the leading of the Holy Spirit to strive for equality for ALL his people. We need to continue to raise up our voices and speak to God's love, not this spirit of exclusion the religious right wants people to think he is all about.

June 06, 2006

"Ex-Gay" Leaders Invited to White House

When President Bush announced his support for the constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage yesterday, he did it with in the company of Alan Chambers and Randy Thomas from Exodus International. Exodus is an organization at the forefront of claiming to "lead people out of homosexuality."

In this outstanding column by Michelle Goldbert of The Huffington Post, the writer offers this thought:

"If, as virtually all mainstream experts believe, Exodus is wrong, then Bush's attempt to rally support against gay families is simply gratuitously cruel. But mainstream experts carry little weight with this administration. Once again, Bush is using his position to symbolically subvert science in favor of a faith-based parallel reality. Gay people will suffer the most from what he is doing, but truth itself is also a casualty. "

June 05, 2006

Wide-Ranging Takes on Same-Sex Marriage Ban

If you're even an occassional visitor to this blog, you know where I stand on the issue of same-sex marriage and the proposed Constitutional amendment currently under consideration in the U. S. Senate that would ban it across the nation.

Courtesy of the political blog "The Moderate Voice," I found one of the best aggregations of opinions that I've come across regarding this issue, so I'm linking it here for your perusal.

Will Bush's Push for Gay Marriage Ban Backfire?

There are even some conservatives that are seeing through this as nothing more but a shallow political ploy, and there is some thought that even this won't galvanize the Religious Right to support the President or the Republicans?

Where else can they go? How far away could we be from a new political party with them as the base?