September 30, 2007

What's Worse, ENDA without Transgender Protection, or no ENDA?

That's the question the Deomcrats in Congress believe they must answer, feeling that they will not get the pending Employment Non-Discrimination Act passed while it includes coverage for gender identity concerns.

Matt Foreman, the Executive Director of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, wrote an essay for The Billerico Project making it clear where he stood on that issue:

Gender identity language has twice passed through the House in the hate crimes bill, and earlier this year there were similar last-minute concerns among new members. We were able to overcome them then, and should be given the chance to do so now. It is incredibly ironic that today, the same day news is breaking about the House removing gender identity protections from ENDA, the Senate just voted 60–39 to allow a voice vote on a transgender-inclusive hate crimes bill. The bill then immediately passed.

States as diverse as Colorado, New Mexico, Oregon and Iowa have all made discriminating against transgender people in the workplace against the law. Thirty-seven percent of Americans now live in jurisdictions that have workplace protections based on gender identity — just 14 percent fewer than the overall number (51 percent) who are protected on the basis of sexual orientation. These victories are a direct result of statewide LGBT rights organizations and state legislative leaders holding firm against last-minute concerns and not giving up at the first sign of trouble.

Congressman Barney Frank also contributed a lenghy essay to The Billerico Project explaining why he felt obtaining passage of most of the original ENDA goals was worth dropping the gender identity portions:

The real reason that people are now arguing that we should withhold any action on the antidiscrimination bill unless it includes transgender as well as sexual orientation is that they are, as they have explicitly said, opposed in principle to such a bill becoming law. That is the crux of the argument. There are people who believe – in the transgender community and elsewhere – that it would be wrong to enact a law that banned discrimination based on sexual orientation unless it fully included people who are transgender. I think this argument is deeply flawed.

First, I would note that since I first became a legislator thirty-five years ago, I have spent a lot of time and energy helping enact legislation to protect a variety of groups from discrimination. In no case has any of those bills ever covered everybody or everything. Antidiscrimination legislation is always partial. It improves coverage either to some group or some subject matter, but never achieves everything at once. And insistence on achieving everything at once would be a prescription for achieving nothing ever.

To take the position that if we are now able to enact legislation that will protect millions of Americans now and in the future from discrimination based on sexual orientation we should decline to do so because we are not able to include transgender people as well is to fly in the face of every successful strategy ever used in expanding antidiscrimination laws. Even from the standpoint of ultimately including transgender people, it makes far more sense to go forward in a partial way if that is all we can do. Part of the objection to any antidiscrimination legislation is fear of consequences, which fears are always proven to be incorrect. There is a good deal of opposition now to passing even sexual orientation legislation. Enacting legislation to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and getting a year or two’s experience with it, will be very helpful in our ultimately adding to it protection for people who are transgender. That is, if you always insist on doing all the difficult things in one bite, you will probably never be successful. Dismantling the opposition piecemeal has always worked better.

Sadly, while I strongly agree with Mr. Foreman's principles, I also respect Rep. Frank's political savvy and yield to his arguement. I strongly agree with Rep. Frank's frustration toward people that want to withold ENDA until every portion of it could gain passage--why defer the benefits that can get pushed through immediately, holding those hostage until there is complete inclusion? That is clearly not the lesser of the evils, which is often the barometer for making political decisions.

The passage of ENDA would be a major victory for the GLBT community. Yes, I'm leaving the T in their because any movement toward full equality gets those still lacking closer to achiving it themselves.

When rights are gained by changing laws, they must happen incrementally and gradually because there will always be a strong opposition. They must also be safeguarded because laws can be changed or even completely reversed.

That's why the most effective way to change society is to change people's hearts. Establishing laws to enforce are important because they impact behavior, but they don't necessarily change attitudes. Sometimes they actually strengthen the resolve of those who opposed the change.

As members or allies of the GLBT Christian community, we have the best opportunity to effect a lasting change in society by teaching people that Jesus would not discriminate against GLBT people. He loves us all equally and wants us to treat each other in that manner. That's where we should spend our energy and resources.

Until then, part of a loaf is still better than not having any bread at all. I encourage GLBT activists and their allies to continue their support of ENDA, even a diminished version of it, while gearing up for the next steps toward equal rights and protections in the workplace for ALL people.

Elton John Pushed New British PM to Support AIDS Fund

Say what you will about Elton John (one of my favorite all-time entertainers), he has been a trooper in leading fund raising efforts to fight AIDS. He is using his platform to encourage new British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to make a serious financial commitment. From Pink News:

Elton John has publicly called for Prime Minister Gordon Brown's help to meet the G8's target for universal access to treatment for HIV/AIDS by 2010.

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, whose target was tripled at the last G8 in June, was set up in 2002 to finance operations to help combat the diseases around the world.

Speaking in his role as Chairman of the Elton John Aids Foundation, Elton explained that the fund was only half way to meeting its target and urgently needed the prime minister's assistance in leading the world by example.

"I believe Gordon Brown's leadership and vision on this issue is urgently needed, right now.

After all, he played a central role in bringing world leaders to commit to universal access, and he helped found the Global Fund, which has proven itself by saving an estimated 1.8 million lives.

If the UK were to provide £700m over three years, tripling its annual contribution by 2010, it would challenge the rest of the world to follow suit."

Let's hope PM Brown answers the call, and let's also hope that Elton John continues his push to fund AIDS treatment and research worldwide.

September 28, 2007

HRC Steps Up Their Political Presence

The Human Rights Campaign, an organization I am a proud member of, has taken some important steps to become a factor in the 2008 political campaigns. From The Advocate:

The Human Rights Campaign marked a first in its history this month when it opened a campaign office in Concord, N.H. -- a central hub for presidential candidates on the campaign trail.

Though the move attracted little attention nationally, the ceremony drew about 100 people, including HRC members, staffers from the Obama, Edwards, and Clinton campaigns among others, and key state politicians such as Ray Buckley, the New Hampshire Democratic Party chair. State senate president Sylvia Larsen presented an official proclamation welcoming HRC into the mix.

The organization has also hired a full-time organizer and political operative, Heather Gibson, to help coordinate the efforts of LGBT groups and HRC members on the ground in New Hampshire.

National field director Marty Rouse said the move is part of a protracted campaign by HRC to have a presence in key states where the group can have an impact both locally and nationwide.

“We can’t be in all 50 states,” said Rouse, “so our goal has been to look across the country and see where we can be helpful in moving forward a GLBT agenda that, while important to the community members in that one state, also might have national implications.” He estimated that HRC would pour upward of $50,000 into New Hampshire during the primaries alone.

HRC has also been actively working in Iowa with One Iowa, the state's LGBT civil rights organization. In June they launched a campaign there to highlight the military contributions of LGBT soldiers called the Legacy of Service Tour, which received press coverage by most of the state's local TV affiliates, the Des Moines Register, and the Associated Press.

HRC also corralled 50 volunteers on September 16 to the 30th annual Harkin Steak Fry -- Iowa’s compulsory event for Democratic presidential candidates.

“Every single presidential campaign saw us and we have pictures of them holding up our T-shirts,” said Rouse. “What we’re trying to do is increase the LGBT visibility in these campaigns so the candidates know that they need to address our issues.”

Kudos to the HRC for being proactive, even aggressive in putting their message, quite literally, in front of candidates and voters. The $50,000 committed to New Hampshire might seem like a lot, but it's not. It means the HRC efforts will strongly rely on volunteers contributing a lot of sweat equity to get the message of GLBT equality out.

I usually don't do this here, but I want to encourage my readers to consider supporting the HRC, either by volunteering, donating, or both. They are trying very hard to make a difference in this nation's political landscape and deserve your support.

Fallout From Ft. Lauderdale Mayor Causing Split in African-American Community

Sadly, here is a situation where I think almost everyone gets it wrong. From the Miami Herald:

Inside Fort Lauderdale City Hall, a contingent of gay white men squared off against black ministers this month, arguing over civil rights.

Outraged over the ministers' decision to announce their support of Mayor Jim Naugle's crusade against homosexuals on Sept. 4, about 20 gay activists wearing red shirts and AIDS pins condemned the clergymen the next day for not being sympathetic to their cause -- one they say mirrors the African-American struggle.

The ministers did not agree.

''You didn't have to drink from separate fountains. Our struggle is not the same . . . you can't equate race and sexuality,'' O'Neal Dozier, pastor of the Worldwide Christian Center, told one activist. ``Slavery was not a choice.''

''Yours is a message of hate, minister . . . You don't speak on behalf of freedom,'' answered Michael Rajner of the Campaign to End AIDS, a nonprofit group.

Now the debate over gay rights threatens to drive a wedge between members of South Florida's black community. Despite the support that many black ministers showed for Naugle, the local NAACP took a public stand against the mayor, calling his crusade a ``hate campaign.''

''I'm not here to condone or condemn gay sex,'' Marsha Ellison, head of the Broward NAACP, told The Miami Herald. ``This is a hate campaign against gays launched by the mayor.''

She said the branch's position -- adopted after a unanimous vote of its 22-member executive committee as well as branch members -- echoes the national NAACP's position. ''Anytime any group is discriminated against it becomes a civil rights issue,'' she said.

NAACP Chairman Julian Bond made national headlines with his recent endorsement of gay marriage -- a step several prominent black ministers publicly criticized.

While Bond has noted that ''no parallel between movements for rights is exact,'' his position differs with ministers and others who suggest that sexual orientation is a matter of choice. He wrote last year: ``Like race, our sexuality isn't a preference -- it is inborn, and the Constitution protects us all against discrimination based on immutable differences.''

Clearly, Mayor Naugle is a bigot who has used the rest-room sex issue to get on his anti-gay soapbox. Enough said about that.

Minister O'Neal Dozier, supporting anti-gay views, is missing the boat and falling into judgement toward the GLBT community.

Those who try to closely tie the GLBT civil rights struggle with the African-American one also miss the boat, big time. There is truth to what Minister Dozier said. Although there are acts of discrimination and violence perpetrated against GLBT people in today's society, they barely scratch the surface of what African-Americans had to go through in the 1950's and 1960's (and many, many years before) to get where they are today, which is still not an environment bereft of prejudice.

I think GLBT activists, especially African-American ones, need to blaze their own trail and not act like they are walking the one of generations past. When gay men and lesbians are required to drink from different fountains, sleep in different hotels, use different restrooms, and sit in restricted sections at sporting events, then they've got a fair comparison. Until then, just focus on claiming equality going forward--fight this new battle, don't try to reenact previous ones.

September 27, 2007

Battle Lines Being Drawn In Maryland, in the Legislature and Churches

Groups on both sides are mobilizing in Maryland after last week's court decision that upheld the state's law banning same-sex marriage. It's not just in the political arena, it's also from pulpits around the state. From the Baltimore Sun (thanks to Equality Maryland for the tip).

Religious leaders in Maryland are sharply divided on the question of same-sex marriage, a fact that is likely to weigh heavily in an anticipated debate on the issue this winter in the General Assembly.

Religious leaders bring podiums, votes and organizations to a hot-button issue that is both religious and political.

When the Maryland Court of Appeals rejected same-sex marriage in a 4-3 ruling last week, "friend of the court" legal briefs from religious groups were among the stacks of material urging support for each side.

The decision prompted advocates from both sides to say they would seek legislation or a state constitutional amendment further clarifying the issue.

"Churches become very involved when they perceive it is a moral issue," said John C. Green, senior fellow at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. Marriage, closely tied to Scripture and religious teachings, falls into that category.

Overall, he said, a 2004 Pew Forum study indicated this: Evangelical Christians tend to oppose same-sex marriage, with mainline Protestants somewhat more supportive and people with no religious affiliation tending to be more in favor. The more traditional the beliefs and practices -- such as with Hispanic Catholics -- the more likely the opposition to same-sex marriage. But younger people, even within conservative churches, are more open to same-sex marriage.

Douglas Stiegler, executive director of the Association of Maryland Families, said the Christian organization would continue pushing in the Legislature for a constitutional amendment defining marriage as one-man, one-woman through its Family Protection Lobby regardless of what the opposing lobby seeks.

"We are not going to wait for the ACLU or Equality Maryland," he said. "We do it on our own."

Bishop Harry Jackson, pastor of Hope Christian Church in Bowie and chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition, has been a vocal critic of same-sex marriage and of framing it in a civil rights context, in opposition to the political action leadership of the Maryland State Conference of NAACP Branches.

"I know people who used to be gay. I don't know any people who used to be black. This is not about civil rights," he said. "I take personal offense with someone equating their gayness with my blackness."

The Maryland Catholic Conference, opposed to same-sex marriage, "will oppose anything that appears that way -- if it is marriage by a different name, we will oppose it," Richard J. Dowling, executive director, said.

Nationally, the faith community on the pro-same-sex marriage side has mobilized more slowly, Green noted.

Equality Maryland has organized a coalition of religious leaders favoring same-sex marriage.
"I think some day, people are going to be embarrassed about the opinions they wrote and votes that they took," said the Rev. Phyllis L. Hubbell, who serves with her husband as a minister of the First Unitarian Church of Baltimore.

"We are going to continue the struggle as long as it takes," she said.

"We are in turmoil about this, like many other churches," Bishop H. Gerard Knoche of the Delaware-Maryland Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church said last week. "It is presently the most divisive issue in our church."

I was particularly stuck by Bishop Jackson's use of the phrase "personally offended" to describe comparisions of the GLBT civil rights movement to the one African-Americans have struggled so hard for. I found this on Joyce Meyer's site about "The Spirit of Offense."

The spirit of offense poisons lives and attitudes. According to Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, the word offense is derived from a Greek word skandalon, which "originally was 'the name of the part of a trap to which the bait is attached, hence, the trap or snare itself....'" It was the part of the trap that lured or snared an animal.

We easily see that offense is what Satan uses to lure people into full-blown cases of bitterness, resentment, and unforgiveness. Satan uses offense to cause us to stumble and fail to go forward with God.

The temptation to get offended is a trap that should be avoided like the plague. If we would not take poison, we should not take offense. If we would be champions for God we must not be easily offended.

Many people never become what God desires them to be because they get offended. They get bitter. Offense becomes a stumbling block to them, and they never progress beyond that point. They are the loser and the devil is the winner.

No person can do permanent damage to you if you are willing to be mature enough to refuse offense and trust God. This kind of attitude will make you a winner in life.

Although Joyce Meyer does not share the full revelation of the GLBT community's place in God's kingdom, she is an internationally reknowned evangelist and best-selling author. There are many things she gets, and this is one of them.

Is it any surprise that someone filled with the spirit of offense is trying to lead the charge to deny a group of people their legal rights?

Episcopals Straddle the Fence, Satisfying No One

That's what I get after reading this report from

The openly gay bishop at the center of the feud between conservative and liberal Anglicans says that the agreement worked out Tuesday by Episcopal bishops to halt the ordination of any more gay bishops is "fair".

Robinson said the talks between Episcopal bishops from across the country, and the worldwide leader of the Anglican Church, Rowan Williams were "the two hardest days since my consecration."

But he said he thought the document was fair.

"I think people came here thinking this was going to be Katrina II," he said. "And what in fact happened was a coming together of the bishops of the church."

Many gays within the US branch of Anglicanism are less than pleased with some calling the agreement "a sellout."

Conservatives also are angry accusing the Episcopal leaders of not going far enough.

The document produced by the bishops affirmed that they will "exercise restraint" in approving another gay bishop and will not approve prayers to bless same-sex couples. The statement mostly reiterated previous pledges made by church leaders. (story)

Conservative Bishop John Howe of the Diocese of Central Florida said the statement wouldn't satisfy all the Anglican leaders. But Howe said "most will find it acceptable."

When both sides walk away from the table of a labor negotiation grumbling, conventional wisdom says it was probably a fair deal. When both sides reach a compromise short of what their side wanted in the political arena, they are usually applauded for being able to put aside partisanism to make a deal. That used to happen a LOT more than it does now, but that's a whole other story.

When a major religious denomination straddles the fence like it appears the Episcopal Church did here, I find it unsettling. After all, isn't the premise of a religion to pave a clear path to God, to take a stand on what is right and wrong? There does not seem to be a clear stand taken here. Instead, the focus seemed to be on keeping the church together, in name if not in spirit.

Is the ordiniation of gay bishops and prayers to bless same-sex couples right or wrong? The failure of the Episcopal church to clearly answer that question is not leadership, it's appeasement, and invariably little good comes from that approach.

If a church is not brave enough to take a stand on right and wrong, who is?

September 26, 2007

Businesses Becoming More Gay Affirming, And GLBT Community Rewards Them

Big businesses are continuing to realize that supporting quality GLBT employees is, well, good business. This from the Human Rights Campaign's latest Corporate Equality Index:

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation today released the sixth annual Corporate Equality Index showing an unprecedented 195 major U.S. businesses earned the top rating of 100 percent, up from 138 last year – a 41 percent increase. The Index rates employers on a scale from 0 to 100 percent on their treatment of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees, consumers and investors. The 195 businesses that met all of the criteria employ more than 8.3 million workers. When the Index was first released in 2002 only 13 companies, employing 690,000 workers, received the top rating.

"More businesses than ever before have recognized the value of a diverse and dedicated workforce," said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. "More importantly, these employers understand that discrimination against GLBT workers will ultimately hurt their ability to compete in the global marketplace."

This is a very encouraging trend, but still far short of being able to leave companies to their own devices, which is why the Enployee Non-Discrimination Act needs to be passed by Congress.

In a somewhat related story, gay men and lesbians are responding to companies with anti-gay policies in the most effective way they can--by taking their business elsewhere. From

Seven in ten gay men and lesbians have switched products or service providers because they learned the company engaged in negative actions toward the LGBT community a poll released Monday shows.

In addition, the survey by Harris Interactive in conjunction with Witeck-Combs Communications found that over the past 12 months about one in four members of the LGBT community switched products or service providers because they found a competing company that supports causes that benefit the LGBT community.

Gay men were more likely to switch. The survey found that a third of those polled online said they had switched because they found a competing company that supports LGBT causes.

The survey also found that a high proportion of gay men and lesbians (70%) had switched products or service providers because they learned the company engaged in actions that are perceived as harmful to the LGBT community.

The most effective way to get someone's attention in the business world is to hit them in the pocketbook, rewarding positive corporate practices and punishing negative ones. Right-wing organizations hold press conferences and send endless e-mail blasts to boycot companies that are not bigoted enough for them, but a grass roots change in purchasing behavior, although not trumpeted by sympathetic media, is still heard loud and clear and I believe is more effective in bringing about change.

This proves again that you don't need to bring attention to yourself, like the AFA relishes doing, to draw attention to your cause.

Gains For Transgender People in South Florida

From the South Florida Sun-Sentinel:

Transgender is quietly becoming a protected class in South Florida as cities vote to prohibit discrimination against a group that faces tremendous challenges fitting in.

Palm Beach and Broward counties may extend the protection next, which could leave the broadest imprint by affording civil rights to people for their gender identity or expression. The movement accelerated with the March firing of Largo City Manager Susan Stanton, who transitioned from male to female this year.

"It shined a light on what this discrimination is," said Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights and Stanton's attorney. "It really underscored how important it is to have these ordinances."

Lake Worth, West Palm Beach, Palm Beach Gardens, Tequesta and Oakland Park have approved nondiscrimination clauses this year either covering city employees or all residents. Oakland Park was the latest last week and Wilton Manors may consider adding transgender as well.

County ordinances would go further by outlawing discrimination in the workplace and housing in all cities and unincorporated areas. Thirteen states and more than 90 cities and counties already have such laws, with the first passed more than 30 years ago. Advocates hope local ordinances will lead to a statewide law, health insurance coverage for sexual reassignment surgery and greater acceptance.

Advocates, though, say it's not about cross-dressing. Employers would not be asked to modify dress codes. But such suggestions speak toattitudes about gender.

Advocates like to speak of transgender more broadly as gender expression and identity to cover more people than only transsexuals.

"The transgender community is sadly one that is almost like an underground movement because of the fear of the unknown out there," said Michael Emmanuel Rajner, co-founder of the Transgender Equality Rights Initiative. "They're living, breathing human beings. They should have the same rights as everyone else."

Treating trandgender people as human beings--pretty radical but it just might catch on.

September 25, 2007

Fighting For the Right to Discriminate

That's the approach taken by numerious (straight) "family-oriented" organizations like the American (Straight) Family Association and the (Straight) Family Research Council. They combined to send out another e-mail trying to influence people to push their legislators to vote against ENDA (Employee Non-Discrimination Act) when it comes up on the floor of the House of Representatives very soon. Here's an excerpt followed by my comments:

o ENDA affords special protection to a group that is not disadvantaged.
That is so ignorant and offensive that it deserves no further attention.
o The issue is not job discrimination: It is whether private businesses will be forced by law to accommodate homosexual activists' attempts to legitimize homosexual behavior.
"Legitimize homosexual behavior?" If by that they mean people having gay sex on the job, I'm not if favor of that myself. If they mean, as I suspect they do, that being a homosexual is not a "legitimate" way to live, then they have claimed a moral high ground that they do not own--only God does. Since he made folks GLBT, they will be just as legitimate in God's eyes as the folks from AFA if they accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
o The first "religious exemption" clause is very narrow and offers no clear protection to church-related businesses: Religious schools or charitable organizations, religious bookstores, or any business affiliated with a church or denomination fall outside this narrow definition, and could presumably be required to hire homosexual applicants.
No one is making religious organizations run businesses above and beyond being a church. If they are participating in the business world, they should have to follow the same rules as everyone else.
o The second "religious exemption" clause fails to offer protection for all hiring by church-related organizations or businesses. The position of a teacher of religion at a church-related school would be exempt, but, e.g., that of a biology teacher would not. Thus, most of the teachers and staff at a religious school would be covered by ENDA, which means that the church would be forced to hire homosexual applicants for such positions-despite the fact that their lifestyle would be in direct opposition to the religious beliefs of the organization or company.
Again, if an organization has a business aspect beyond the realm of having church, they should be held to the same standard as a secular business.
o It is unlikely that the "religious exemption" included in the bill would survive court challenge: Institutions that could be targeted include religious summer camps, the Boy Scouts, Christian bookstores, religious publishing houses, religious television and radio stations, and any business with fifteen or more employees.
Let's face it, there aren't many people who will try to go work somewhere they are so clearly not wanted, so this is not really that much of an issue. I don't think drag queens will be lining up to fill out job applications for the Boy Scouts or the local Christian bookstore. If they do and they meet the qualifications, they should be hired. That's the way a free market economy, something which the right-wingers love to support, is supposed to work.
o ENDA violates employers' and employees' Constitutional freedoms of religion, speech and association. The proposed legislation would prohibit employers from taking their most deeply held beliefs into account when making hiring, management, and promotion decisions. This would pose an unprecedented intrusion by the federal government into people's lives.
Folks with this viewpoint think it is perfectly alright to limit the Constitutional freedoms of GLBT people. The only freedom the FRC and AFA support is the freedom to agree with them. Anything else is fair game.
o ENDA would approvingly bring private behavior considered immoral by many into the public square. By declaring that all sexual preferences are equally valid, ENDA would change national policy supporting marriage and family.
I hate to bring this up, but this "private behavior" is already in the public square, restrooms at airports, etc. National policy toward marriage NEEDS to be changed and become inclusive, and if ENDA helps move that ball further downfield, that is merely another benefit to be derived by its passage.

All men (and women) are created equal, and all employment applicants should be treated equally based on the merits of their qualifications. Big business is already waking up to that, actively recruiting and tayloring benefits to attract and keep GLBT employees with valuable skills.

It's a shame to see big business claiming the moral high ground over a block of narrow-minded Christians on this issue.

September 24, 2007

Strong Editorial Against Same-Sex Marriage Ban Amendment

The folks at Fairness For All Families, a Florida GLBT advocacy organization, sent out an e-mail with a link to an editorial from the Florida Today newspaper in Daytona Beach. Titled "Our View: Say No to Bigotry" voiced the paper's opposition to the proposed Florida state constitutional amendment that would add a ban of same-sex marriage.

When misguided religious and political groups attempt to deny gays legal rights under the guise of protecting marriage, you better watch out for your own rights.

It would write discrimination into the Florida Constitution, stripping gays of protections solely because of whom they choose to love or live with.

That's wrong, and makes it unconscionable that U.S. Rep. Dave Weldon, R-Indialantic, and state Rep. Ralph Poppell, R-Vero Beach, have endorsed the amendment, according to the Web site of Orlando-based which is pushing the issue.

The amendment is also supported by Gov. Charlie Crist, the Florida Republican Party, Florida Baptist Convention, Florida Catholic Conference and fundamentalist Christian groups.

The amendment further jeopardizes basic legal protections like inheritance rights, hospital visitation and medical decision-making rights for anyone outside its narrow limits.

It is, in short, a vengeful, bigoted proposal flown under the false banner of a religious cause.

Vengeful and bigoted are two descriptions I would not want attached with my religion, yet they are sadly very appropriate here.

September 23, 2007

Seven Straight Nights For Equality Update

I'm very happy to see that things have really taken off with the Seven Straight Nights For Equality event. As of 9/22, 26 cities were listed that are having vigils.

Amy Buttery is leading the event in Lansing Michigan.

As GLBT allies, my husband and I hope to model for our boys the values of tolerance, of equality and justice, and of standing up for one's beliefs. We hope and expect that someday (perhaps soon?) they will model these attitudes through their behavior among their peers, even when it might be uncomfortable to do so, and we'll inch (or sprint) forward to a more equitable society, where families are defined by the bonds of love.

We are just learning about the ways we can actively participate in this movement, by identifying other straight allies and encouraging them to take a stand, by gently but insistently bringing up the issue at church and at other public settings, and by simply asking the community how we can help.

Plymouth Congregational Church is hosting a showing of the film "For The Bible Tells Me So," which reconciles homosexuality and scripture, and a candlelight vigil will follow outside the church.

Jack McKinney, the pastor or Pullen Memorial Baptist Church, is leading a vigil at the North Carolina state capitol in Raleigh.

His co-pastor, Nancy, and her partner Vickie have an adopted daughter. Only one of them is considered the legal parent of the child; the other partner is not allowed to adopt her. So if something tragic happens and the "legal" mother dies, there is no law protecting her wishes that her partner raise their daughter. Why? Because they have been in a committed relationship for 10 years? Because one is a minister and the other a teacher? No! Because they happen to love someone who is of the same gender.

Where is the fairness in this? Even at a young age our children expressed their disgust at this injustice. So what do we do? Tell our children, "Life is not fair?" No! We make choices to support our friends. We take a job in a church which supports LGBT people. We march and demonstrate for equal rights. We hold vigil. Come and join us as we not only tell our children "Life is not fair" but demonstrate how to be the change we want to see.

Kari Danskin will lead a vigil at Courthouse Square in Santa Rosa, California.

I don't see the justification in making LGBT rights a "straight issue," or just a "gay issue" for that matter; it's an issue of fairness and equality. Our constitution guarantees every individual's right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Marriage, respect and justice are all a part of that guarantee, regardless of color, sex, religious status or sexual orientation. How straight people can believe that allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry, adopt children or make medical decisions for their partners would affect their own marriages is beyond my comprehension.

I am too young to have been a part of the civil rights movement of the sixties, or the women's movement that followed. This is my chance to stand up for what is right. Today, only five states are without a statute or constitutional provision prohibiting same-sex marriage. It is imperative that the straight community stand up and be heard for their support of equal rights for all Americans.

I encourage you to visit the Seven Straight Nights home page to learn more about the leaders of this event and to see if there is one close enough for you to participate in.

UK Schools Receive Official Guidance in Dealing With Bullying

Instead of acting like the problem doesn't exist or that it is the victims' fault, as so often happens in the United States, schools in the United Kingdom received some official guidance in how to prevent GLBT kids from getting bullied and how to react when it does happen.

From PinkNews:

The Department for Children, Families and Schools has issued guidance to schools in England and Wales on how to tackle homophobic bullying.

The new guidance from the government gives teachers, head teachers, school governors and support staff practical advice on how to recognise, prevent and respond to homophobic language and physical abuse.

It follows on from Stonewall's wide-ranging study into homophobic bullying published in June this year, entitled The School Report.

Nearly two thirds of LGB students reported instances of homopbobic harassment.

That figure jumps to 75% of young gay people attending faith schools.

The survey of more than 1,100 young people found that only 23% of all UK schools explicitly condemn homophobic bullying.

92% of gay, lesbian and bisexual pupils have experienced verbal abuse, 41% physical bullying and 17% have been subject to death threats.

30% of pupils reported that adults have been responsible for incidents of homophobic bullying in their schools.

That's a bad mix; 41% of GLBT kids victimized by physical bullying but only 23% of UK schools condemning it. It is also sickening that the worst percentage is in "faith schools." Not surprising, but still very disturbing. Just how does faith tie in with bullying a gay kid? I don't quite get the connection.

Kudos to the British government for stepping up and taking steps to get this situation under control.

Anybody in Washington paying attention?

September 22, 2007

Sponsor Me, Support AIDS

Pastor Brenda and I are participating in the annual AIDS Walk Washington in downtown DC on Saturday, October 6. It's nice to see that something constructive can actually happen in our nation's capital, isn't it?

I'm asking my readers to consider supporting either one of us as we make the 5k walk to benefit the nationally known Whitman-Walker clinic, one of the best AIDS treatment providers in the United States.

You can click on the link above, then click on the "Sponsor Participant" link on the front page. Either enter the names Jim Johnson or Brenda Johnson and click through to put your tax-deductible contribution on your favorite debit or credit card.

Thanks in advance for supporting a very worthy cause.

September 21, 2007

San Diego Mayor Changes View, Now Supports Same-Sex Marriage

Politicians change their public positions so often it's hardly newsworthy anymore. What is worth noting is when one not only admits it but takes the time to explain why. That's what Jerry Sanders, the Mayor of San Diego, CA did regarding his position on same-sex marriage.

Sanders, a Republican, had said he would veto the resolution passed Tuesday to add California's second-largest city to the growing list urging justices to let same-sex couples marry. He said he supported civil unions when running for mayor in 2005.

Instead, Sanders signed the resolution, and said his lesbian daughter, Lisa, and her partner were a big reason why.

"As I reflected on the choices that I had before me last night, I just could not bring myself to tell an entire group of people in our community that they were less important, less worthy and less deserving of the rights and responsibilities of marriage . . . simply because of their sexual orientation," he said Wednesday in a prepared statement interrupted several times as he fought back tears.

Sanders becomes the first GOP big-city mayor to sign on to the cause. He sends a powerful message not only to the Supreme Court but to fellow Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has separately been sent by the Legislature a bill for marriage equality.

Here is a video of Mayor Sanders' statement.

Congratulations to the mayor for having the courage to look inside himself and reevaluate his values. Kudos for relating to his daughter and others as real human beings, not just some faceless category of people.

September 20, 2007


This is the latest of a series of articles written byKathy Baldock for RENO OUT. Thanks to Kathy for allowing me to post it here.

There are some things I am sound on. So solid that self-doubt, opposition, criticism and enticement will not move my firmly planted feet. There are other issues that still cause me to search for the footing I would like. My heart knows what I want my head to believe.

I struggle, and who does not? I have been a resident in this society for 51 years and a professing Christian for 25 of those years. Both these citizenships have colored my views. In the most extreme of cases, I have heard the barb, “all gays go to hell”, and I try to place this in my larger contextual solid shell of “Jesus is merciful and compassionate” and chose to hang out with the outcasts and the marginalized.

So, can you see the dichotomy, the struggle? What’s a Jesus-follower to do and, what’s a person who has been wounded and pushed away by society and church to do? Is there a middle we can meet in love and discuss this and make sense of it all? It is part of my personality to be curious , so I investigate into, meditate on, listen to, discuss and read in hope to come to that solid place where I am firmly rooted. When I look down, I am sure my feet are firmly planted on some very major issues, on others, I am still in process.

Sexual issues of morality are not unique to the gay and non-Christian community. Yes, even I struggle with what I want and what I know is right. You may find this amusing, but this is how it sometimes works in my head till I get solid. After lingering five years too long in a difficult twenty year marriage, I found a man who greatly pleased me. My gentle pastor of almost twenty years was brave enough to challenge me on the obvious. I said, “I hope God has some kind of a balance sheet where He knows what I’ve missed out on and has credited me for withdrawal now.” Creative, but very lame. Some things are definitive to me; other thinking may and often does stretch the elastic to the point just before it snaps.

Friends call me a creative thinker; God made me that way and then, I believe, placed me in a spot sure to draw controversy and misunderstanding. In keeping with that, last month in my article, I mentioned the five “clobber verses” in the Bible. These five verses are used by many people in and out of churches to label the LGTBQ community as unworthy of God’s love and society’s respect. I could do an article on each of those verses by going through the Hebrew, the culture, the context…..this is not the forum. In each case, however, the phrases that invite the rejection have been translated as “homosexual”. People with vested interests have helped me look at each of these verses in a different way than the interpretations I have heard. I have a dear friend in the East Bay named Ed who I met at a conference in Seattle. He has come to trust me enough to open up his life, his vast and intelligent approach to Biblical study and his church community to me. I spent a weekend with him and his fellow Freedom in Christ church members this summer. He continues to direct me to books, websites and activists to help me to find information so that I could get the other side of the translations I had read so often.

And, so I struggle, struggle to find REAL meaning, intent, context and historical setting of these five verses that have so offended my gay friends, that so empower some people to judge and condemn. I can get in all kinds of trouble with people when I say that I believe some Bible translations did a horrible job in substituting “homosexual” for what I believe is being spoken of in those verses is a male temple cultic prostitute and in other cases males that dress up as women for temple cultic practices. I just cannot mesh all I know about Jesus, about the loving same sex relationships I know together with these badly translated verses and then conclude that my gay friends are immoral just because they are gay. Sexuality is amoral; it is people who are moral and immoral. I am on my third reading of a “Sex God” by Rob Bell. In it, he explores the connection between sexuality and spirituality. The heterosexual community has certainly done its part to distort sex from its original intent. And do I know plenty of sexually immoral heterosexuals—absolutely! So, why all the emphasis on sexual orientation? Jesus never mentioned it in the Bible, but in fairness, He never mentioned lots of things.

I confuse some people in the lesbian community in particular when I show up to Gay Pride and their softball games and go to Bully’s with them afterwards. I am genuinely trying to hear hearts and understand and reflect Jesus. A woman recently told me she has “no history” with someone like me, so I can be rather suspect. Bono from U2 says, “if Jesus were on earth you’d find Him in gay bars in San Francisco. He’d be working with people suffering from AIDS. These people are the new lepers. If you want to find out where Jesus would be hanging out it’ll always be with the lepers.” I am NOT saying my gay friends are lepers; it is just where Jesus would be. My radical role model.

So how about if we each put down our judgments and inch towards the center? I am trying to run at it; I will stumble, I will offend. If you want to do your own inching, a safe place for the LGBTQ is Light of the Soul Christian Ministries. They meet every Sunday at 7 pm at the First Congregational Church on Sunnyside. They played a great set Sunday morning at Gay Pride if you were there. They love Jesus; they would love to help you find a way back to a place of acceptance.

I want to effect change in a world that breeds too much fear and hatred. I want to struggle less and know more. I challenge you to take the tough road of opening up to be a creative thinker too. As I strive to find an honest way to bring understanding in all this confusion and interpretation, I want to find a place where my feet are so solid on this issue that the certain-to-come opposition will not knock me down. I want to adhere to what one of the Old Testament Prophets answered of the question “What does the Lord require of you?” The answer; ‘ To act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God.” I want justice, I do love mercy and I try to walk humbly with my God and His creation, and that is each of you. And finally, I want my head to believe what my heart thinks, don’t you?

September 19, 2007

A Call For a National AIDS Strategy


More than 100 organizations from across the country are calling for the next President to commit to ending the AIDS epidemic in America.

The groups, which include AIDS Action Washington, Gay Men's Health Crisis in New York City and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, have issued a “Call to Action” that has been presented to all Presidential candidates.

It asks that every Presidential candidate commit to developing a results-oriented national AIDS strategy designed to significantly reduce HIV infection rates, ensure access to care and treatment for those who are infected and eliminate racial disparities.

“More than 1.7 million HIV infections and over half a million deaths into the domestic AIDS epidemic, our government still does not have a comprehensive plan to respond effectively,” said Rebecca Haag , Executive Director of AIDS Action.

“The wealthiest nation in the world is failing its own people in responding to the AIDS epidemic at home. Our country must develop what it asks of other nations it supports in combating AIDS: a comprehensive national strategy to achieve improved and more equitable results.”

The groups, in a joint statement on Monday said that the call to action is the result of "the lack of an outcome-based response to HIV domestically.

This, the groups said, has lead to unacceptable results - half of people with HIV are not in care, there is a new infection every 13 minutes, infection rates have not fallen in more than 15 years, and dramatic racial disparities are becoming even more pronounced.

"America’s response to AIDS is not serving those most in need,” said Phill Wilson, Executive Director of the Black AIDS Institute.

It's hard to get anyone's attention on Capitol Hill anymore (if one ever could) without representing a large voting block or waving a large check. This is yet another example of a so-called "Christian Nation" ignoring Jesus' commands to take care of the poor and sick.

Those of us who are not poor and sick need to work toward making this issue harder to ignore.

September 18, 2007

GLBT People in Maryland Lose a Round

From the Baltimore Sun:

In a split decision today, the Maryland Court of Appeals upheld a state law declaring that marriage must be between a man and a woman.

The 4-3 ruling essentially sends the issue of same-sex marriage back to the state legislature and ruled that a ban on gay marriage does not discriminate on the basis of gender and does not deny any fundamental rights.

This press relase from Equality Maryland contains reaction from the losing side:

The American Civil Liberties Union and Equality Maryland today denounced the divided Maryland Court of Appeals decision upholding a state law that bars same-sex couples from marrying and accessing the hundreds of family protections provided to married couples and their children under state law. The organizations vowed to take their struggle for marriage for same-sex couples to the General Assembly, where Sen. Gwendolyn Britt (D-Prince George's County) and Delegate Victor Ramirez (D-Prince George's) have vowed to sponsor bills to extend marriage to same-sex couples.

"We're deeply disappointed in the court's ruling," said Lisa Kebreau, who is raising three children with her partner of four years, Mikki Mozelle. "The court decided that we are undeserving of the family protections given to married couples simply because we're partners of the same sex. That's simply not right." Added Kebreau, "We aren't giving up. We'll continue to fight for marriage in the legislature."

The vote in the case was 4 to 3. One of the dissenting judges said the legislature should either be required to adopt civil unions or marriage. The other two said that the case should be sent back to the lower court for a trial to see if government has a good enough reason to bar same-sex couples from marriage.

The majority opinion rejects the ACLU's arguments that barring same-sex couples from marriage is sex discrimination. While the court agrees that marriage is a fundamental right, it says there is no fundamental right to marry someone of the same sex. The court says gay people aren't entitled to special protection from the court because, although there has been a history of unfair discrimination against gay people, as a group gay people are not politically powerless. The court then uses the least demanding form of constitutional analysis to determine if the ban violates the state's equal protection guarantees, and says that excluding same-sex couples from marriage might rationally be related to fostering procreation, so the state can continue to deny same-sex couples the ability to marry and its family protections.

"The court refused to recognize that lesbian and gay couples form committed relationships and loving families just like heterosexual couples," said Ken Choe, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Project who argued the case before the court. "We're hopeful that, unlike the court, the legislature will see that lesbian and gay Marylanders shouldn't be barred from the hundreds of important protections that come with marriage simply because the person whom they love is a person of the same sex."

"Today's court decision will not deter us," said Dan Furmansky, Executive Director of Equality Maryland. "All lesbian and gay Marylanders, including the brave couples who petitioned the court in this case, need and deserve the protections and stability of marriage for our relationships and our families. It is now time for the General Assembly to honor Maryland's tradition of tolerance and justice, and to strike down the ban on marriage for same-sex couples."

Here is more from State Senator Britt in another release from Equality Maryland:

"I am very disappointed that the court has decided to prolong discrimination against same-sex couples in Maryland," said Sen. Britt. "Same-sex couples in Maryland form committed relationships and loving families, and they need access to the many family protections that the state provides to married couples. It is now up to the General Assembly to do the right thing, and I am proud to lead the effort to pass a bill ending discrimination in marriage in Maryland."

There are more than 400 provisions in state law and 1,100 provisions in federal law that protect married couples. Civil marriage assures that same-sex couples will not be shut out of hospital rooms during the illness of a partner, lose a home after the death of a partner, or be denied health insurance because they cannot get coverage through a partner."

I operate under the premise that we are all created equal, not under certain circumstances, but in all circumstances," added Sen. Britt. "Discriminatory practices should be challenged wherever they exist, and this state must again mature and recognize injustice in its denial or of rights that should be available to all Maryland families."

More political reaction is recorded by The Advocate:

Legislators on both sides of the debate predicted action on the issue in the next session.

State senator Richard Madaleno, who is gay, said he plans to introduce a bill to allow same-sex marriage. He also expects a proposal to create civil unions.

''I think we'll have a lengthy discussion next session about what the options are for legal recognition for gay people,'' Madaleno said.

Don Dwyer, one of the general assembly's most conservative members, said he would introduce a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage as ''insurance.''

Senator Dwyer seems to have taken on discrimination toward GLBT people as his mission in life. He has at least twice introduced this type of amendment in the Maryland legislature only to see it soundly defeated each time.

I would expect Dwyer's efforts to fall short again in the 2008 legislative session, but I'm also not optimistic on seeing the legalization of same-sex marriage either, particularly in an election year. Maryland has some very liberal pockets in the DC and Baltimore suburbs, but there are some equally conservative areas in the state also. It would take a few of the moderate legislators to stick their neck out and turn the tide in favor of that type of legislation, something politicians are notoriously poor at doing these days.

The excerpt from The Advocate also mentioned Senator Madaleno, who happens to represent my district. Senator Madaleno is the first openly gay state senator in Maryland and, in my opinion, is an exceptional legislator who I would love to see become governor someday. He is well spoken and has both a brilliant political mind and also an empathetic spirit. He hasn't gotten so bogged down in policy that he has lost track of the people it affects. That is clear in this e-mail he sent to his constituents about today's court decision:

As I am sure you have heard by now, today the Maryland Court of Appeals denied equal rights for gay and lesbian couples in our state. While I am disheartened by this decision, I am more incensed by the poor quality of the majority opinion, which relies on several flawed arguments.

The Court held that the current law does not unlawfully discriminate on the basis of sex because it “prohibits equally both men and women from the same conduct.” If that argument sounds familiar, it should: it is the same discredited argument that southern racists used to claim that anti-miscegenation laws did not discriminate on the basis of race, because everyone was subject to the same restriction. In fact, Judge Lynne Battaglia noted in her dissent that “In reaching this result, the majority breathes life into the corpse of separate but equal…” The US Supreme Court saw through that twisted logic four decades ago. It is sad that the Maryland Court grasped onto such a discredited argument today.

After reciting a long history of the often-brutal discrimination that gays and lesbians have faced in our society, the Court went out of its way to hold that laws discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation are nevertheless not subject to the same elevated level of scrutiny as those based on race or sex, in part because the gay and lesbian community is not so politically powerless that they constitute a suspect class. Under that reasoning, race and sex should no longer be suspect classes. As General Counsel to the General Assembly, Robert Zarnoch, pointed out in his argument against upholding Judge Murdock’s decision, “In Maryland, we have openly gay legislators who, in fact, are legislative powerhouses in leadership.” While I and my openly gay colleagues are flattered at the idea of being legislative powerhouses, to say that we as a class are more politically powerful than our African-American or women colleagues is a bit of a stretch.

Another reason that the Court said discrimination against gays and lesbians is constitutionally permissible is that sexual orientation - unlike race or sex - may not be immutable. That’s certainly an interesting viewpoint, totally at odds with reality. Do the judges who are in the majority routinely change their sexual orientation? I doubt it. Regardless, we prohibit discrimination - and rightfully so - on other bases that are not at all immutable - religion being chief among them.

Perhaps the worst argument the court used to deny marriage equality was the one that right-wing activists have espoused all along: that marriage is explicitly about procreation. Judge Irma Raker recognized the failed logic in her dissenting opinion, stating that “This disparate treatment of committed same-sex couples, exhibited in a multitude of Maryland laws discussed supra, directly disadvantages the children of same-sex couples, and there is no rational basis to allow such disadvantages when the State’s proffered interest is to promote a stable environment for procreation and child rearing. Each child raised in a household headed by a same-sex couple in Maryland needs and is entitled to the same legal protections as a child of married parents.” For those of us who are lucky enough to be proud gay and lesbian parents, the idea that the state has less desire to protect our children than those of our heterosexual neighbors is particularly disturbing.

Today, gay and lesbian Marylanders feel a devastating kick in the gut, as the Court blithely writes us out of our own constitution with little or no thought to the impact on real people. Regardless of what the Court says, those of us who are prohibited from civil marriage by the state can attest that we are being denied a fundamental right. And the glee with which this decision will be greeted by anti-gay forces intent on dehumanizing us by denying us the fundamental human right to marry indicates that the reason behind retaining the discriminatory law is animus, and nothing more.

Yet, our struggle does not end with this decision. As the Court makes clear, there are no constitutional barriers to the General Assembly and the Governor taking action on expanding the legal recognition of same-gender couples. I fully expect bills to legalize marriage equality will be introduced next session as well as bills to authorize civil unions and the like. Rest assured, I will be advocating for full marriage equality. However, as a community, we will face a major decision over the next few months as to what we might accept out of the legislative process. I hope you will stay engaged with me and Equality Maryland as the debate unfolds.

I would like to leave you with a comment I read today on the blog "SCREW DESPAIR! It's time for a strong pot of coffee and some political work ethic." Let’s get to work and redouble our efforts in Maryland . Make no mistake, we will prevail. Not as soon as you and I had hoped, but it will happen. Please stay involved and let your elected officials know that you want action now that our courts have let us down.

With hope for the future,
Rich Madaleno

Of course, the senator is absolutely right. Marylanders who believe in equal rights for all the state's residents need to contact their elected officials and tell them so. Those who value their poltiical future or religious right doctrine over equality need to be held accountable, and they need to know it's coming.

There's a Surge In New AIDS Cases Among Gay New Yorkers

From PinkNews:

New York City health officials have released a report saying HIV infection rates have risen substantially among young gay men over the last six years.

According to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene report, new HIV diagnoses among gay men under 30 have increased by 33 percent in that time, with the majority of new cases showing up in black and Latino gay men.

Unfortunately, the report didn't offer any explanations for why rates of HIV infection have risen among gay youth.

One reason for the increase, according to Dr. Donna Futterman, director of the adolescent AIDS programme at the Children's Hospital at Montefiore, could be that minority teens may feel they have to hide their sexual orientation.

"The pressure of covering up means you put yourself in riskier situations than if you could go on a date and ask out who you like," Futterman told the Associated Press.

New York City Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden was more critical in his response to the report. "

A generation of men is growing up having not seen their friends die of AIDS, and maybe having the impression that HIV is not such a terrible infection," Frieden said in a statement.

Unless they practice safer sex, he added, "we will face another wave of suffering and death from HIV and AIDS."

Minorities already have enough going against them, they don't need to expose themselves to additional risk. Perhaps it's time to take some education efforts into areas that are heavily black or Latino and make sure young men understand that, while AIDS is no longer a death sentence, it is a disease still not to be trifled with.

September 17, 2007

Book Review: "Gay Christian 101"

Rick Brentlinger’s Gay Christian 101; by Rick Brentlinger, 390 pp., Salient Press, $22.95

The title of this book sets the tone for what one finds inside. It sounds like a textbook for a class and, like all 101 classes are in college, it teaches fundamental knowledge about a subject that is the foundation for further learning. Rick Brentlilnger’s book fills that role for the issue of, taking this from the cover of the book, “What The Bible Really Says About Homosexuality.”

The subtitle of the book is “Spiritual Self-Defense For Gay Christians,” but I think that actually sells it short. Rather than defending the whole idea of gay Christians, it makes a compelling case for biblical interpretations that not only don’t condemn homosexuals but actually demonstrate God’s blessings and approval.

I know simply by writing that sentence I am considered a heretic by right-wing fundamentalists, but at least I have good company with people like my church family and teachers like Rick Brentlinger.

Rev. Brentlinger is a Baptist (clearly not Southern Baptist) minister, a church planter, and a bible teacher. In Gay Christian 101, he also shows exceptional skills at research, exhaustively plowing through historical writings that are many centuries old. By doing this, Brentlinger shows not only the historic context of key scriptures but also that current anti-gay interpretations are often relatively recent, finding ancient writings that support a much more gay-friendly perspective.

On the back cover, Brentlinger tells readers what they can expect from his work:

The Bible never mentions homosexuals in Sodom
A key anti-gay writer admits that Sodom does not support anti-homosexual teaching
Proof the Levitical Holiness Code refers to pagan worship, not homosexuality
Presents five strong new analogies from Scripture which validate loving gay relationships
Proof that Jonathan and David had an intimate partnership
Shows where Jesus blessed two men in a gay relationship
Proof that Jesus Exempted gay people from the Adam and Eve marriage paradigm
Proof that the first chapter of Romans does not condemn gay partnerships
Proof that malakos & arsenokoites (two words in the original writings of the Bible) do not mean homosexual

These are very ambitious goals, but by and large I found that Brentlinger accomplished them. Where he may have come up short of absolutely proving a point, he at least made arguing against it seem silly, far-fetched, and uninformed.

Not only was his research exceptionally detailed and thorough, I was impressed that he did not limit the perspectives he presented to the ones he viewed (and supported) as correct. Far to the contrary, he at times almost overwhelms the reader with alternate viewpoints, considering all angles of the critical issues regarding homosexuality and the Bible. For example, Brentlinger presented 18 different interpretations of Leviticus 18:22 & 20:13, explaining what type of people believe them, then sorting out and presenting what he believes the evidence shows.

I would caution readers that this book is not an easy read. After all, when is the last time you picked up a textbook and casually blew through it? Brentlinger obviously invested many, many hours into putting this work together, and it requires some effort and dedication to make it through a 390-page book of this density. I would suggest taking it a chapter at a time and allow some time for that information to sink in before tanking on the next chapter—the volume of information could start to run together otherwise.

You may even reach different conclusions—there is enough alternative information provided to make that possible—but he does such a good job of methodically making his points that disagreeing with his final conclusions would be very difficult.

The bottom line is that this book is worth the effort to read and study. I strongly recommend it for anyone who (1) is gay or lesbian, (2) has a gay or lesbian loved one, (3) is involved in GLBT ministry or advocacy, (4) wants a comprehensive study of views about what the Bible says about homosexuality that goes beyond the simple condemnation of right-wing fundamentalists.

I have what I call my “ministry book bag” that I carry around with me just in case I have some time to sit down and do some studying and/or writing. Along with my Bible, I carry some compact reference books. After finishing Gay Christian 101, that book now has a permanent resting place in my book bag.

I have never read a more comprehensive study of how homosexuality is and is not treated in the Bible than this book, and I suspect you haven’t either.

You can read more about this book and order it at You will also find more commentary and numerous additional resources for the gay Christian at this website, and I encourage you to check it out.

September 16, 2007

Is There A Scientific Basis to Gaydar?

There just might be according to a recent study in this MSNBC story, but only for men.

Is he gay or straight? At a glance, the key to telling might be in the way he walks.

Observers were only able to accurately guess the sexual orientation of men; with women, their guesses didn’t exceed chance. But what’s most interesting to researchers is understanding how that snap judgment can unleash a series of stereotypes — even from the most liberal-minded.

“This is important for the understanding of perception and feelings of assumptions and bias,” says lead author Kerri Johnson, an assistant professor of communications at the University of California, Los Angeles. “Once you know an individual’s sexual orientation, every else that happens is seen through that lens.”

As the gay men walked, they slightly swayed their hips. The observers were accurate in assessing the men's sexual orientation a little more than 60 percent of the time.

“There’s reason to think that gay people can’t conceal their homosexuality,” says Michael Bailey, a professor of psychology at Northwestern University. “I don’t think it’s a performance that gay people enact. I think it’s something that either is inborn, or it’s acquired very early, perhaps by watching members of the other sex.”

Research such as Johnson's may give scientific credence to "gaydar," suggesting that people really can tell whether someone is gay or straight from visual clues.

As the lesbians walked, they slightly moved their shoulders back and forth — Johnson calls it a less exaggerated version of an Arnold Schwarzenegger-type swagger.

But when it came to identifying the sexual orientation of the women, it was all up to chance.
“Women in our society are permitted a greater latitude of behaviors,” Johnson says. “They’re able to act in masculine ways , and adopt traditional masculine roles. That’s been happening since the ’60s.

“We’re a society that permits women to do this, in fact, celebrates women who do this,” she continues. “But we punish men for [adopting feminine traits]."

We so often group gay men and lesbian women together in discussions, but this was a reminder to me that this is not one group of people, rather two seperate and distinct groups that have not only some important common issues, but some totally unique ones too.

September 14, 2007

Is There New Evidence that Homosexuals Can Change?

This press release was issued by the Liberty Counsel today:

Nashville, TN - A groundbreaking study that will seriously challenge the modern premises of professional counseling associations, regarding whether change in homosexual attraction is possible, was released late yesterday afternoon at the American Association of Christian Counselors conference. AACC has over 50,000 active members.

In a 414-page book published by Intervarsity Press under the title, Ex Gays? A Longitudinal Study of Religiously Mediated Change in Sexual Orientation, researchers Stanton Jones, Ph.D. and Mark Yarhouse, Pys.D., conclude that (1) change in homosexual attraction is possible, and (2) attempts to change are not harmful. Both conclusions will have profound implications in the counseling world.

Despite dissenting voices by counselors and ex-gays, the American Psychological Association (APA) categorically states that homosexual attraction cannot be changed and that attempts to change such attraction are harmful. This first longitudinal study of its kind by Drs. Jones and Yarhouse refutes the APA's position. Even Nicolas Cummings, Ph.D, Sc.D., former President of the APA, whose motion caused the APA in the mid-1970s to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder, stated that this "study has broken new ground in its adherence to objectivity and scientific precision" and calls the book "must reading."

Among others in attendance at the release of the study were Mathew Staver, Founder of Liberty Counsel and Dean of Liberty University School of Law, and Anita Staver, President of Liberty Counsel. Today at the AACC conference, where about 7,000 people are in attendance, Mat Staver will speak about "Impending Threats to Christian Counselors" and address the threats counselors face to their licenses when they counsel, or refer for counseling, clients seeking to change their same-sex attractions. The APA and other similar counseling associations hold categorically that homosexual attractions cannot be changed and attempts to do so are harmful. This new scientifically valid study dismantles the APA's categorical position on homosexuality.

Commenting on the study, Mat Staver said: "This groundbreaking study showing that homosexual attraction can be changed and that change is not harmful will have profound reverberations for counselors. The debate about homosexuality has too often been driven by political rather than scientific considerations. The American Psychological Association and other similar associations may no longer silence dissent. The APA's political postulate that homosexual attractions cannot be changed has been shattered by new research."

Exodus International, as you would expect, chimed in (no link available).

Nashville, TN- Leaders of the world's largest outreach to those dealing with unwanted homosexuality commended recent research showing change in sexual orientation to be possible at a press conference today in Nashville. The study, released by InterVarsity Press yesterday, is the first longitudinal, peer-reviewed, scientific research of its kind on this topic to date.

Researchers Stanton L. Jones and Mark A. Yarhouse released the results of a three-year study during an address at the American Association of Christian Counselors World Conference. Their findings indicate that religiously mediated sexual orientation change is possible for some individuals and does not cause psychological harm to the patient, on average. These conclusions directly contradict the claims of both the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association that state that change in sexual orientation is impossible and attempting to pursue this alternative is likely to cause depression, anxiety or self-destructive behavior. The major findings of this study are reported in full in the book Ex-Gays? A Longitudinal Study of Religiously Mediated Change in Sexual Orientation (InterVarsity Press).

Former American Psychological Association President, Nicholas A. Cummings, Ph.D., Sc.D., praised the research methods of Jones and Yarhouse, "This study has broken new ground in its adherence to objectivity and a scientific precision that can be replicated and expanded, and it opens new horizons for investigation." In the absence of any scientific, peer-reviewed research on this topic, Exodus International funded the research conducted by Jones and Yarhouse.

Alan Chambers, a former homosexual and President of Exodus International, responded to the study findings at today's press conference, "Finally, there is now scientific evidence to prove what we as former homosexuals have known all along - that those who struggle with unwanted same-sex attraction can experience freedom from it. For years, opponents of choice have said otherwise and this body of research is critical in advancing the national dialogue on this issue."

Chambers, who was joined by researcher Dr. Stanton Jones at the press conference today, added, "Anyone who has undergone the life-changing process of leaving homosexuality behind will tell you that it is not an easy one. However, for thousands of us, the journey has been well worth it and we are grateful that these study findings give credence to our existence as men and women whose lives have been transformed by Jesus Christ."

Wayne Besen's organization, Truth Wins Out, countered with this release:

NEW YORK - Truth Wins Out warned news organizations today to be highly skeptical of a biased "ex-gay" sham study that will be released by right wing therapists in Nashville this afternoon. The "research," which was conducted by Stanton L. Jones of Wheaton College and Mark A. Yarhouse of Pat Robertson University, reportedly will show that a significant percentage of gay people can become straight through religious-based counseling.

"It comes as no shock that anti-gay 'researchers' at Wheaton College and Pat Robertson University would release a study that claims you can pray away the gay," said Truth Wins Out's Executive Director Wayne Besen. "I suppose their next study will provide support for Pat Robertson's theory that homosexuality causes meteors and hurricanes."

Caution should be taken in prematurely critiquing the study until the full methodology is available. However, based on unconfirmed reports there is great concern that these notorious anti-gay researchers did little more than telephone professional ex-gay lobbyists and ministers from Exodus International and ask them if they had "changed." If this is the case, it is likely that the study results are not only suspect, but wholly invalid, says Truth Wins Out.

"It appears as if this study is the equivalent of the Phillip Morris 'research' team interviewing members of the company's public relations team on the safety of cigarettes," said Besen. "This study may be a deceptive sham with the goal of making it appear as if science backs fundamentalist beliefs on homosexuality."

There is also the concern that the study sample is unusually small. Additionally, there is no indication that key physical measures or tests were included, such as a "No Lie MRI," which is a scientific truth-detecting brain scan.

"Any 'ex-gay' study that does not include physical components that measure truth are essentially meaningless," said Besen. "After several key ex-gay leaders have been caught in sex scandals, their tales of transformation lack credibility," said Besen. "It is folly to suggest that telephone interviews can be considered genuine research. News organizations should be extremely skeptical of such a mockery of the scientific method.

"Jones and Yarhouse have made a cottage industry of attempting to mold scientific conclusions so they will conform to their devoutly held religious beliefs. Commenting on a 1991 debate over the ordination of gay Episcopal priests, Jones told the Associated Press that those who support ordaining homosexuals are trying "to normalize a pattern which is destructive and abnormal.

"In a Sept. 14, 2004 interview with The Virginian-Pilot, Yarhouse explained that he tells clients that their homosexual feelings do not mean they have to identify as gay. "Christ, or God, has a pre-existing claim on their sexuality" that trumps same-sex attractions, Yarhouse said.

In an April 2006 interview for the anti-gay website, Jones and Yarhouse explain the motivation for their work. "As evangelical Christians, it seemed to us that homosexuality is the area where more pressure is being put on the church to depart from the explicit moral teachings of scripture than any other area.

"The release of their study results in Nashville coincides with a regional conference of the ex-gay organization Exodus International and the American Association of Christian Counselors World Conference. The full study results will be distributed on Oct. 10, in the form of a book by Christian publisher InterVarsity Press.

I have not seen the study, but I am sceptical for several reasons:

o The study was funded by Exodus International according to the orgainzation's own press release. How do you THINK it would come out? That's like tobacco companies funding a study about the harmfulness of cigarette smoking; how much credibility would either one really have?

o The book is published by InterVarsityPress, a fundamentalist Christian publisher which has printed another title written by Jones and Yarhouse. That book, "Homosexuality, The Use of Scientific Research in the Church's Moral Debate, was published in 2000. From the description in the InterVarsity website, it sounds a whole lot like their new work. Jones also wrote a booklet published by the company titled "The Gay Debate." The official description of that is:

Stanton L. Jones presents an overview of the Christian understanding of sexuality in general and then skillfully tackles the revisionists of Scripture who are challenging the traditional Christian position of homosexuality. He then calls for Christians to act with compassion and yet continue to speak the truth without fear. This booklet will no doubt spark further inquiry into this timely topic for all who read it.

Objectivity is critical if one is compiling and, more importantly, interpreting scientific data. It is not clear, as Wayne Besen wonders, if this work even meets acceptable research standards, but even if it does how reliable, how credible, can it be when it is clear both doctors have an anti-gay sentiment, if not agenda.

Religious right fundamentalists have already shown a tendancy to overrun science with theology and try to repackage it as science. I don't have enough information to know if that is the case here, but to have essentially have a "house band" put this study together gives the apperaance of fitting right into that trend.

Sadly, we can all be sure that much smoke will be blown over this study, and groups like Exodus will use it to fortify their work, and by that their income. If they want to delude themselves, that's their issue. If Alan Chambers wants to call himself a "former homosexual" instead of a gay man living a straight lifestyle, that is his right.

What makes me sad and angry at the same time is the people that will be drawn into this false paradigm and have their lives twisted completely out of shape, perhaps with tragic consequences. Those of us who are either part of the GLBT community or allies need to work to minimize the damage that this latest event could cause innocent, confused gays and lesbians.

After I posted, I found this report on Box Turtle Bulletin. If anyone reads these details (how many will, though, and just hear the high level summary touted in the press releases), they won't be very impressed with the "changability" of homosexuality, or the fact that only 73 people completed it, all of whom were referred by Exodus. I can a study to say just about anything if I limit my sample size to something that small. The results were:

33 people reported change in the desired manner (from gay at time 1 in the heterosexual direction at time 3)
29 reported no change
8 reported change in the undesired direction
3 were unsure how to describe their experience of change

"Armed Forces to Hold Gay Conference"

No, don't get excited in you're an American--that conference will be in the United Kingdom. From Pink News:

The Royal Air Force is to host the third Joint Service conference on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Matters in November.

All three services have approved the two day event, at which service personnel will be updated on developments in diversity training, participate in presentations and workshops, and take advantage of a social networking opportunity for personnel and their partners.

In 2000, the government removed the ban on gay, lesbian and bisexual people serving openly in the Armed Forces.

The last Services LGBT conference in January attracted heavy weight support in the form of Rear Admiral Richard Ibbotson RN.

The Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force are both members of the Stonewall Diversity Champions programme.

The scheme promotes best practice and gives organisations guidance and advice on how to create equality in the workplace.

The Ministry of Defence is keen to promote all the armed services as good employers for minority groups. Last year there was discussion at the conference about whether the British Army will also join the Stonewall programme.

In June the Royal Air Force announced that personnel who wore uniform to march in the Pride parade in London would face disciplinary action. Previously the Chief of the General Staff issued orders banning LGB Army staff from marching in uniform at the event, held on June 30th.

General Sir Richard Dannatt was said to be concerned with a possible breach of the Queen's Regulations, which bar military personnel from taking part in political activities. The Royal Navy allowed sailors to march in uniform at Pride and used it as a recruitment opportunity.

So why can't that happen in the United States? Sorry, can't help you there--I don't know of a good reason.

September 13, 2007

Stepping Forward to Change "Culture of Shame"

That's the task that Leona Lo has taken on in her native Singapore. Known as Leonard before her sex change, Leona is determined to buck the trend of transsexuals in her country and live openly and proud, hopefully encouraging others to do the same. From Google News: (Thanks to PageOneQ for the tip)

She loves children and her lifelong dream is to be a wife and a mother, but the raspy voice and masculine frame betray the fact that Leona Lo was born a man.

Unlike many other transsexuals in Asia who prefer to live privately because of the social stigma of sex change, the British-educated, Singaporean transsexual woman has chosen to live a normal life, but in public.

Smart, confident and articulate, the communications specialist who heads her own public relations company has embarked on a mission to help turn around the "culture of shame" surrounding transsexuals in Singapore and the region.

"Somewhere out there, not just in Singapore but throughout Asia, there are lots of young people who are suffering the way I suffered years ago," Leona, 32, tells AFP in an interview.

In her former life as a man, she was called Leonard.

These days, she draws on her experiences of gender identity crisis, rejection and discrimination to challenge social mores on behalf of the so-called silent community.

"It's this entire culture of shame that gets under your skin. It's not something that you can isolate and demolish because it is so much a part of our culture," she says.

One person can't change an entire culture, but they can at least start the process. I admire Leona Lo for her courage to try and wish her success with her efforts.

September 12, 2007

Majoring in Gay

That's not the official title of any college degree programs, of course, but students can actually major in gay studies at an increasing number of colleges in the U. S. according to this story from the Associated Press:

Years after creating a smattering of gay-related classes, more than two dozen American universities are now offering full-fledged minors in gay studies and expanding the field to include disciplines across the college curriculum.

Issues such as same-sex marriage and gays in the military have fueled interest in the programs, which have been established, among other places, at Ivy League institutions Yale and Cornell and DePaul University in Chicago, one of the nation's largest Catholic schools.

At least 30 public and private colleges now offer multidiscipline minors in gay studies, the majority of them started in the last three years. Another 16 schools let undergraduates earn certificates or pursue concentrated studies in gay topics.

San Francisco State was one of the first U.S. schools to explore the scholarly potential of gay subject matter, starting with a single English course in 1972. Now students can choose from classes such as Homophobia and Coming Out, Gay Love in Literature, and Queer Art History.

At colleges around the nation, expanded course offerings have also given a discipline once limited to history, English or women's studies departments a place across the academic curriculum, encompassing subjects such as religion and the law.

Education is the most effective weapon against homophobia. It's good to see that there is an increasing amount of ammunition for today's students to arm themselves with.

Newsweek International Features GLBT Stories

Newsweek has given GLBT issues a lot of attention this year, and this week that is the featured topic in their international edition. Featuring a cover titled "Winning the War," this week's issue includes the following stories of interest:

"Gay Rights Gain Around the Globe"

The growing maturity of the gay-rights movement in the West is having a marked effect on the developing world. In the United States, the Republican Party is in trouble in part because it has made a fetish of its opposition to gay marriage. At least some gays in big cities like New York question why they are still holding "pride" parades, as if they were still a closeted minority and not part of the Manhattan mainstream. Since 2001, Western European countries like Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain have gone even farther than the United States, placing gay and lesbian partners on the same legal footing as their heterosexual counterparts. And now, the major developing powers of Asia, Latin America and Africa are following the liberal road—sometimes imitating Western models, sometimes not—but in all cases setting precedents that could spread to the remaining outposts of official homophobia.

In Mexico, the declining clout and prestige of the Roman Catholic Church have emboldened gay-rights activists and their allies in state legislatures and city councils to pass new laws legalizing same-sex civil unions, starting with Mexico City in November. The rising influence of tolerant Western pop culture has encouraged gay men and lesbians to proclaim their sexuality in gay-pride marches like the one in the Brazilian city of São Paulo in June, which drew 3 million participants, according the event's organizers. It was the largest ever in Brazil.

Western models also helped inspire South Africa to legalize civil unions in November 2006, thus becoming the first country in the developing world to do so. In China, the trend goes back to the climate of economic reform that took hold in the 1980s, ending the persecution of the era of Mao Zedong, who considered homosexuals products of the "moldering lifestyle of capitalism."

"Jamaica: Still Bigoted Towards Gays"

While governments in a number of Latin American countries and elsewhere begin to recognize the legal rights of same-sex partners, Jamaica is bolstering its image as one of the most virulently anti-gay societies in the Western Hemisphere. Between February and July of this year, 98 gay men and lesbians were targeted in 43 different mob attacks, according to the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays. Four lesbians were raped, four gay men were murdered, and the houses of two gay men were burned down. On Valentine’s Day the police took two hours to reach a Kingston pharmacy where a crowd shouting anti-gay epithets had cornered three men; then the constables allegedly attacked an activist who had tried to help the men, striking him in the abdomen with a rifle butt and slapping him repeatedly in the face.

"Growing Up Gay in Jamaica"

Gay rights may be spreading in many countries, but not in Jamaica. Violence against gay men is high, and police often look the other way, say activists. When Brian Williamson, Jamaica’s leading gay rights activist, was murdered in June 2004, a crowd gathered outside the crime scene to celebrate. NEWSWEEK’s Patrick Falby spoke with Devon, a 30-year-old homosexual who was granted asylum in the United States three years ago, about growing up gay in Jamaica. Devon, who lives in New York and attends a Seventh-day Adventist church, didn’t want his last name used for fear of being thrown out of the congregation.

"Q&A: Sir Ian McKellen on Fighting Bigotry"

Sir Ian McKellen has been a vocal gay-rights advocate since making his own homosexuality public in 1988. The following year he cofounded the gay-rights lobbying group Stonewall UK.

Q: Some argue that some societies, like Singapore's, are too conservative for such changes.

A: There is nothing special about their situation. We heard it all before: "Gays should respect the views of those who condemn them." "Government is powerless to move until society is ready for change." "The law here that outlaws love between two grown men was left behind by the British." I would have thought any self-respecting ex-colony would want to get rid of the colonizer's laws. When I went to lobby Nelson Mandela while the postapartheid constitution was being drafted, I asked him to endorse making it illegal to discriminate on grounds of sexuality. I'd been warned that he might giggle if I mentioned homosexuality. But he got the point immediately and just said, "Yes, of course." Perhaps a winning slogan might be: "What's good enough for Mandela is good enough for us all."

These articles show that views about homosexuality continue to vary wildly around the world, with the gap actually increasing between the left and the right as the left becomes more accepting and promotes GLBT equality. The momentum, at least in the more developed parts of the world, is clearly moving in favor of the GLBT community.