August 24, 2007

Are "Ex-Gays" Also Anti-Gay?

Based on their recent rhetoric following the concurrent Ex-Gay Survivors conference and the annual Exodus International convention in California, Alan Chambers and representatives of the ex-gay proponent Exodus organization wanted people to think that.

According to this post from Box Turtle Bulletin, they are not backing that up with their actions.

A “pro-family” crowd is gathering in Florida next month at something called the Family Impact Summit to “inform and empower involved Christian citizenship”. They’ll be talking about religious freedom, racial reconciliation, global warming (is it global whining?), and life issues. Oh yes, and homosexuality.

And who will be there? The speakers list includes some of the most strident homophobes in the conservative movement. Let me be clear - these are not just people who oppose homosexuality or same-sex couples for religious reasons. No, these are people who actively seek to dehumize gay persons by using derogatory language, lies, and false accusations. These are people who regularly campaign to exclude gay persons from the civil liberties and freedoms that they demand for themselves.

The post provides a detail listing that reads like a rogues gallery of homophobia. Check out the link if you're curious.

Along with this virtual Who’s Who of Homophobia there are a number of other speakers who seem to have been selected due to the one thing they have in common – extremist credentials. Surely, no one who is seeking to reach out to same-sex attracted people would want to have anything to do with this hate-fest.

Yet into that mix are added Scott Davis, Mike Ensley, and Alan Chambers of Exodus International.

Wait!! Really??

But aren’t these the same guys who claim over and over and over that the church needs to welcome homosexuals and help them reclaim their heterosexuality? Don’t they say that anti-gay language and bigotry have to go?

Huh? How does that fit with joining in a conference of noted homophobes which seems obsessed with a political agenda against the rights of gay people?

Good question. None of those men have taken up the offer made on the post to respond.

A rational person can easily conclude that Chambers et al weren't exactly sincere with their claims of embracing gay people. Sounds like they just wanted to combat the negative PR they got during the ex-gay survivor conference.

Let's see how they spin this.

August 23, 2007

LA Times Editorial: Hate Crimes' Bill Threat to Preaching the Gospel "Ridiculous"

An op-ed piece in the LA Times, written by an expert on the subject of free speech, effectively skewers evangelicals' objection to the hate crimes legislation on deck for consideration by the U. S. Senate (it has already passed in the House).

A coalition of conservative African American pastors has aggressively lobbied against this legislation on the premise that it would make it unlawful for them to preach that homosexuality is a sin. Bishop Harry R. Jackson Jr., pastor of the Hope Christian Church in College Park, Md., for example, has asserted that the act would "keep the church from preaching the Gospel."

This objection to the legislation is fanciful.

the legislation expressly provides that "nothing in this act . . . shall be construed to prohibit any expressive conduct protected" by the 1st Amendment. In other words -- indeed, in the most explicit words possible -- the act could not be applied to the pastors unless their sermons are unprotected by the 1st Amendment, a concept that is impossible to imagine.

The 1st Amendment protects the right of Nazis to march in Skokie, the right of racists to assert that blacks are inferior, the right of atheists to denounce Christianity and the right of homophobes to condemn homosexuality. The argument of the pastors that the proposed legislation in any way threatens their right to preach their version of the Gospel is, to be frank, ridiculous.

Beyond leaders of the church using misinformation and outright lies to try and defeat this bill, I want to raise another point here.

Bishop Jackson has invested a lot of effort into gaining publicity for his opposition to this legislation. He has a right to do that. I wonder, though, how he could have used that time differently tending to his congregation and community. I am very familiar with the area Bishop Jackson's church is located in. There are a LOT of needs in the community and, I suspect, his congregation, that a church could help meet. They appear to have numerous initiatives already existing, but there are still many people whose needs, both spiritual and material, that are not being met.

Of course, that wouldn't be as effective to help sell the inventory of books listed on the church's website, nor would it book passengers on the 3-day Bahamas cruise the church is advertising.

Why the Democrats Should NOT Shut Up About Gays and Marriage

A few days ago I posted an essay from The New Republic which held the view that Democratic presidential candiates should shut up about same-sex marriage in order to improve the chance of one of them getting elected.

The New Republic has published a rebuttal by Evan Wolfson, the executive director of Freedom To Marry.

I have recommended that candidates be authentic and direct about their values and the policies of fairness that flow from them not just because it is the right thing to do, but because it is also in their interest to do so. If candidates want to spend less time talking about gays and marriage, and more time talking about other questions, the best way to do that is to simply stand on clear principle, and explain that they are for equality in marriage because marriage matters and equality is right for all Americans. Then they can move on, rather than open themselves to countless follow-up questions on policies and positions that are incoherent or inauthentic. They could focus their campaigns on the real problems facing the country, the problems, by the way, that will determine the votes of most Americans, rather than the difference between civil union and the freedom to marry. Evasive answers fall short not just as politics, but as policy, and raise broader concerns about candidates' values, character, and leadership.

The truth is that Democrats, progressives, fair-minded Republicans, and other friends and potential allies will never be anti-gay enough to quiet their opponents. Democrats who don't support the freedom to marry fail in both directions: embracing the separate, unequal, and ultimately unworkable patchwork of civil unions while running from their party's historic commitment to fairness and inclusion. The abandonment of any effort to persuade the center on big questions has, for more than a decade now, ceded ground and power to the right-wing. Silence and evasion have harmed couples and their kids, and also our country.

As public support for marriage equality continues to evolve, Democrats, thus already perceived as the party of "gay marriage," have a winning issue on their hands, one that evokes the best traditions of their party--fairness and inclusion. The conversation will not stop. Candidates who want to move on to other questions ought to get the freedom to marry question right--for their sake as well as the country's.

It is easy to be cynical and think that Wolfson appeals to politicians to act as a matter of principle because that principle matches the viewpoint Wolfson has worked so hard to promote, but that doesn't mean it isn't right.

I think Wolfson's points about being able to move beyond the marriage question by making a clear-cut definitive statement on the issue and the idea of, whether people agree or disagree with it at least there would be respect for someone taking a stand are both dead on.

Sadly, I would be shocked it his wishes became reality, at least in this election cycle.

August 22, 2007

Seven Straight Nights For Equality

Atticus Circle and Soulforce are pleased to introduce Seven Straight Nights for Equal Rights, a national event that will provide straight Americans with opportunities to do justice and motivate new allies to stand up and be counted for equal rights.

Seven Straight Nights is a coordinated campaign of overnight vigils led by straight allies. It will sweep across cities throughout the nation during the week of October 7-13, 2007, gaining momentum as more states participate in the event.

The vigils are led by families, individuals, or groups, and focus on their personal decision to speak out on behalf of LGBT equality. Depending on the state, the leaders will either offer thanks for the state's positive policy record or issue a call to action on pertinent issues such as hate crimes, employment discrimination, and marriage equality.

The organizers of this event approached me to participate, and if something gets organized in my state (Maryland) I will do so enthusiastically. I have shared my disagreement with Souforce's methods that involve civil disobedience and people getting arrested, but that is not a part of the plan for this activity. It is designed as a show of solidarity by straight allies supporting their GLBT brothers and sisters.

There are currently eleven states that will be represented in this event. You can find the list and more detailed information about 7SN at the official website. If your state is not represented and you know of anyone who would want to organize and be part of this event, it's not too late. You can contact the organizers at or call 512-450-5188.

I'll be profiling some of the state leaders, straight advocates for GLBT equality, between now and the event.

August 21, 2007

Washington DC Black Church Becomes Battleground for Same-Sex Unions

This from the Washington Post:

Never in a "million years" did Robert Renix think he would find a Baptist church that would accept someone like him: a black Baptist gay man. Never mind one that would allow what happened one Saturday last month, when a tuxedo-clad Renix stood in front of the pulpit at Covenant Baptist Church in Anacostia, exchanging vows with his partner, Antonio Long.

It didn't turn out to be that simple, though.

About 140 members jammed into the fellowship hall a few weeks later for a tense meeting about the recent decision of Covenant co-pastors Dennis and Christine Wiley to conduct same-sex union ceremonies. Some expressed their opposition through Bible verses, saying they were worried that Covenant was getting a reputation as a "gay church." Others wept as they defended the Wileys, said people who were there.

For years, disputes over homosexuality have convulsed predominantly white Protestant denominations -- Lutheran, Methodist, Episcopalian and Presbyterian -- but they have only recently hit black churches.

"It's going to be a real challenge," said the Rev. Carlton W. Veazey, minister at Fellowship Baptist Church in the District and founder of the annual National Black Religious Summit on Sexuality. "We're just beginning to really deal with it."

Most major historically black denominations have taken strong stances against homosexuality.

The National Baptist Convention USA Inc., the nation's largest predominantly black denomination, and the African Methodist Episcopal Church forbid clergy from officiating at ceremonies for same-sex couples, and Pentecostal denominations such as the Church of God in Christ consider homosexuality a sin. The Progressive National Baptist Convention, of which Covenant Baptist is a member, has not taken a stand on homosexuality or same-sex unions.

The Wileys say the backlash in their church caught them by surprise. For years, they have preached that homosexuality is not a sin. Despite the objections, they performed another same-sex union ceremony Aug. 10, for a lesbian couple.

Although the Wileys face opposition, they say they believe they are being called by God to preach acceptance of gays as part of the social justice agenda long embraced by black churches.

"We, as African Americans, should be the last people in the world, based on our history, to turn around and oppress others," said Dennis Wiley, who took over as Covenant's pastor from his father, the Rev. H. Wesley Wiley, 22 years ago.

Kudos to the Wileys for literally practicing what they preach. They took a stand on what they believed was the right thing to do and are sticking with it, something that is all too rare in our society.

There is much more detail in the Washington Post article I linked to, using Covenant Baptist Church as a case study in how black churches, even ones that profess to be gay affirming, deal with the reality of same-sex unions; not very well, it appears.

August 19, 2007

Could Democratic Presidential Candidates be Right in Not Pushing for Gay Marriage?

James Kirchick believes they are in this column published in The New Republic, and he supports his point very well:

During last week's gay issues forum, broadcast on the cable television station LOGO and sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), all of the Democratic presidential candidates expressed their support for legal equality for gays via civil unions. But, with the exceptions of former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel and Congressman Dennis Kucinich, they opposed calling those relationships marriage.

This seeming hypocrisy doesn't sit well with gay rights advocates. Evan Wolfson, head of the Freedom to Marry coalition and one of the intellectual fathers of gay marriage, says that, just as previous American presidents made the civil rights struggle into a national issue through the power of "moral suasion," presidential candidates ought to voice support for gay marriage today because it "creates a political, cultural and moral space for America to rise to fairness." HRC's vice president of programs, David M. Smith, says that "The most important role the presidency plays in public policy debates is the bully pulpit, to sway public opinion." And as HRC President Joe Solmonese put it after the debate, "The next president must be committed to not only doing what's achievable, but also what's right."

It would certainly be refreshing to hear a leading presidential candidate come out in favor of "what's right" and support gay marriage. But gay marriage advocates are actually doing their cause a disservice by pushing the Democratic candidates on the issue.

Kirchick reviews the national polls that still show a majority of people are against full marriage rights for same-sex couples and points out that the granting of marriage licenses is still under the jurisdiction of the individual states, not the federal government. He suggests a different approach than what many GLBT advocates are calling for:

But in the present climate, asking that presidential candidates support same-sex marriage--while serving an important moral purpose--demands a significant political sacrifice. At most, gays should expect a president to act as a bulwark against congressional attempts to limit their rights and to support congressional attempts to defend those rights. This means pledging to repeal anti-gay laws like the Defense of Marriage Act and Don't Ask, Don't Tell and to sign pro-gay ones like the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which all of the Democratic candidates have explicitly promised to do. Seeing the Democrats squirm on the issue of gay marriage may make for good political theater, but it does not make good politics.

Those actions would certainly be important steps toward equality, at least removing some of the largest barriers. However, I'm not sure I trust a politician who does not believe in his heart that GLBT people should completely have the same rights as heterosexuals to take these steps. If they don't believe in equality, then how far will they really go?

That is one of the difficult questions the GLBT community and their advocates must answer when choosing which presidential candidate to support in 2008. I don't have a clear choice at this point, and I suspect many of you don't either.

"How Open Is Your Office?"

Perhaps one of the more difficult decisions a GLBT person has to make is whether or not to come out at their place of employment and, if so, how many people do they want to be in the loop?

Here is an article from Forbes magazine that covers this topic in some detail:

Many workplaces now have nondiscrimination policies and same-sex partner benefits. But people interviewed for this article say that deciding to come out at the office and then figuring out how to do it comfortably is an issue they deal with every time they switch jobs. Obviously there is not a one-size-fits-all method. But several people who came out at the office say
certain things have worked for them.

Click here to find out what they are.

Thanks to the Triangle Foundation in Michigan for the tip.

Embracing the Label of "Bigot"

That's not something I would relish, but Roman Catholic activist Patricia McKeever is apparently quite happy about being nominated for the U.K.'s Stonewall "Bigot of the Year."

Ms McKeever's Stonewall nomination reads:

"The secretive editor of the Catholic Truth website and newsletter, she co-ordinates a relentless campaign to 'name and shame' gay Catholic priests, and has been widely condemned for conducting a 'witch-hunt.'"

McKeever responded:

"I have been informed that I am shortlisted for your "award" of "Bigot of the Year" - quite an honour! However, you really mustn't believe all you read in the papers.

"I am not conducting a witch-hunt; our newsletter team reacts to the various concerns (church issues) put to us by our readers and reporting on sexually active priests or priests who contravene Church law by supporting the homosexual lifestyle has been a tiny fraction of our work to date.

"Anyway, I just wanted to set the record straight but I repeat, I am honoured to be considered "Bigot of the Year" by your organisation which seeks to repress all who dare to criticise your lifestyle.

Here is the definition of bigot from the Merriam-Webster website:

: a person obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially : one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance

Yep, it certainly appears that Ms. McKeever is worthy of consideration for this "award," although if I'm representing a church I'd wonder if I should be recognized as demonstrating hatred instead of love.