December 30, 2008

Research Shows the Harm Done By Rejecting LGBT Kids

This sounds like a story from the annals of DUH, but there are far too many people who need to see cold, hard evidence of the harm they can do to kids to dismiss this research. From Bilerico:

For the first time, researchers have established a clear link between rejecting behaviors of families towards lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) adolescents and negative health outcomes in early adulthood. The findings will be published in the January issue of Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, in a peer-reviewed article titled "Family Rejection as a Predictor of Negative Health Outcomes in White and Latino Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Young Adults." The paper, authored by Dr. Caitlin Ryan and her team at the César E. Chávez Institute at San Francisco State University, which shows that parents' rejecting behaviors towards their LGB children dramatically compromises their health, has far reaching implications for changing how families relate to their LGB children and how LGB youth are served by a wide range of providers across systems of care. The study and development of resource materials was funded by The California Endowment, a health foundation dedicated to expanding access to affordable, quality health care for underserved individuals and communities.

"For the first time, research has established a predictive link between specific, negative family reactions to their child's sexual orientation and serious health problems for these adolescents in young adulthood--such as depression, illegal drug use, risk for HIV infection, and suicide attempts," said Caitlin Ryan, PhD, Director of the Family Acceptance Project at the César E. Chávez Institute at SF State and lead author of the paper. "The new body of research we are generating will help develop resources, tools and interventions to strengthen families, prevent homelessness, reduce the proportion of youth in foster care and significantly improve the lives of LGBT young people and their families."

"This study clearly shows the tremendous harm of family rejection, even if parents think they are well-intentioned, following deeply held beliefs or even protecting their children," said Dr. Sten Vermund, a pediatrician and Amos Christie Chair of Global Health at Vanderbilt University.

If anyone you know is in a family situation where there is a struggle to accept a GLBT youngster, please make sure they read this story so they can understand the consequences of not finding a resolution.

Click here to read the rest of the detail of this study at Bilerico.

December 29, 2008

"Is Gay the New Black?"

That's the title of an essay African-American GLBT activist and journalist Keith Boykin wrote a few days ago. Among the issues he discussed were the level of homophobia in the black community and how best to get more of them to support same-sex marriage. Here are a couple of excerpts: (hat tip to Freedom to Marry)


The issue is not whether blacks are homophobic or not. Of course we are. We all live in the same racist, sexist, classist, misogynist, homophobic, heterosexist, culturally imperialistic society. Everyone is affected by those prejudices at some level. The question, though, is whether blacks are more homophobic than others, and that depends, of course, on how you measure homophobia.

On the personal level for many black gays and lesbians, the black community certainly feels more homophobic for those who face the slings and arrows of insult from their friends, family, church members and co-workers. But on a political level, it's hard to prove that blacks are any more homophobic than whites.

Even back in the 1990s, when I wrote my first book, polls showed blacks were more supportive than whites of outlawing employment discrimination against gays, but blacks were still far less supportive of same-sex marriage than whites. How do you explain that?

Same Sex Marriage Support: Many critics of black homophobia fail to grasp the difference between the politically progressive and the socially conservative streaks in the African American community. To communicate effectively to blacks, you need to know how to frame these issues.

If you can figure out how to frame the gay question as a political issue for basic rights instead of a social issue about acceptance, then blacks are much more likely to support it. That's a hard sell for same-sex marriage because many blacks see marriage as a religious structure, not a civil institution. But it creates opportunities to learn effective messaging.

It's important to remember the messenger is just as important as the message. Straight black people are not likely to sympathize with white people preaching to them about the evils of gay discrimination. That's a message that can most effectively be delivered by other blacks, straight and gay. Until the white LGBT movement learns this obvious point and implements strategies to include many more LGBT people of color in positions of visibility and responsibility, they are doomed to repeat the same tragic mistakes of their past failures.

It's also not helpful for gays to equate one movement with another. The civil rights movement is not the same as the gay rights movement, racism is not the same as homophobia and blacks are not the same as gays.

Although there are similarities between the two movements, there are also major differences. But why do gay activists feel the need to prove the struggles are the same in the first place?

I think Boykin's point about the need to raise up black LGBT leaders to mobilize the black community is dead on. Let's face it, any minority will respond more to someone that looks like them and has a similar cultural heritage. Where are those black leaders, either gay or straight, with enough courage to go against the tide and help push their people into becoming stronger allies in the fight for equality?

Click here to read the rest of Keith Boykin's essay.

December 28, 2008

Another Convert in the Fight for Same-Sex Marriage

Caifornia Attorney General Jerry Brown has changed his mind. The former governor (once known as "Governor Moonbeam") and presidential candidate originally supported the legality of Proposition 8 which added discrimination against GLBT people to the state's constitution. He has recently changed his mind. From Time magazine:

With an 111-page legal brief that has surprised legal scholars, Brown reversed course and repudiated his previous statements indicating he'd likely support the legality of Prop 8. Instead, on Friday, he urged the state's Supreme Court to overturn the vote, a move that would infuriate conservatives who are still white-hot mad over the court's historic 4-3 decision that earlier this year prohibited all forms of discrimination against gays, and mandated the state issue marriage licenses to gay couples. In a wide-ranging interview, Brown told TIME that his view of the legal merits of the case had evolved over the past several weeks, and explained why he now thinks the right to gay marriage in California is as fundamental as such bedrock principles as the right to property and to liberty itself.

"Right from the beginning, it looked like the only question was whether the vote was an amendment to the state constitution or something more, a revision," Brown told TIME, explaining his original stance in favor of Prop 8's legality. "But the precedents for saying that the vote was a revision were very few. Based on that, I didn't think we could call it a revision, and therefore Prop 8 looked valid."

But as his staff of more than 30 lawyers began researching the case, Brown said a few urged him to look at the question from a much broader perspective. "Some of the staff said 'wait a minute, there is another way of looking at this.' The idea was that gay marriage involves a basic liberty interest, rights that formed a foundation for our Constitution, that we enjoyed even before California became a state. That was a new way to look at this." Rights like that, he came to believe, can't be taken away, at least not by something as simple as constitutional amendment by popular vote. Instead, those rights he said, are "inalienable" in the same sense that the Declaration of Independence speaks of inalienable rights.

"The issues raised here go far beyond the issue of same-sex marriage," Brown wrote in his brief. "The question is whether rights secured under the state Constitution's safeguard of liberty as an 'inalienable' right may intentionally be withdrawn from a class of persons by an initiative... This litigation, perhaps for the first time, poses a more fundamental question: Is the initiative-amendment power wholly unfettered by the California's Constitution's protection of the People's fundamental right to life, liberty and privacy?" In other words, aren't some rights so sacred that they can't be taken away?

Yes there are, and the right to legally marry the person with whom you have entered into covenant and want to share the rest of your life with is clearly one of them.

Click here to read the rest of the Time article.

December 27, 2008

What Does The Other Guy Think

At many formal occasions, there are both an invocation at the beginning and the benediction at the end. In regards to Barack Obama's Inauguration, all the attention has been focused on Rick Warren, who is giving the invocation. Perhaps we should be paying more attention to who is giving the benediction, Rev. Joseph Lowery, a civil rights icon who supports most civil rights for GLBT people. From the Washington Blade:

Lowery, 87, a founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, was the first to mention Coretta Scott King’s support for gay civil rights at her funeral in February 2006 at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, reminding the audience that she "frowned on homophobia."

Lowery supports rights for gay couples, but stops short of calling for same-sex marriage.

"I support civil rights for all citizens and this includes gay and lesbians citizens. I support civil unions and full benefits (visitation, insurance, etc) for partners in same sex relationships," he said in a written statement to Southern Voice. "Because of the deep seeded roots concerning marriage — in our hearts and minds — for a man and woman, many people, including me, have concerns about the concept/term 'marriage' and experience a degree of cultural shock when faced with same-sex partners. Nevertheless, I am strongly opposed to propositions or amendments that put into law any discrimination against citizens because of sexual orientation."

This is the same kind of forthright response that would have saved Rick Warren some trouble. Instead of trying to nuance his way through, Rev. Lowery was clear that he still had a problem with same-sex couples using the term "marriage." Unfortunate but understandable. More importantly, he is strongly opposed to placing any additional barriers in front of same-sex couples and wants all GLBT people to have a wide, if not entirely complete, range of civil rights.

Perhaps it is worth focusing on the positive presence and participation of someone like Rev. Lowery and releasing some of the frustration regarding Rick Warren's.

Click here to read the rest of the Washington Blade article.

Here is more on Rev. Lowery in the Washington Post "On Faith" section article "Rev. Joseph Lowery, the Anti-Warren."

December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Brenda and I want to take a moment and wish you and your loved ones a very Merry Christmas!

While I don't get upset when people say "Happy Hollidays!" instead, I still encourage everyone to remember what Christmas Day commemorates--the birth of our Lord and Savior, who came into this world an an innocent little baby to provide a path to salvation for you and me.

If you don't have someone to be with over the holidays, know that Brenda and I are thinking about you and praying that you connect with the love that Christ wants so much to offer you.

December 22, 2008

The Decline of the Southern Baptists

For years leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention, to which I belonged for much of my life, crowed about that the decline in membership of mainstream denominations like the Lutheran and Presbyterian churches, blaming it on what they considered liberal theology.

Well, sometimes what goes around comes around. From the Washington Post:

Times are tough, even in the salvation market. After decades of growth, the nation's largest group of Protestants, the Southern Baptist Convention, is reporting losses (in church membership and recorded baptisms) for the third year in a row. Baptisms are at a 20-year low, a figure liable to put an eternity-conscious church into a severe depression.

The writer offers several reasons for this, but here's the one that I think really hits the mark:

The brand is less appealing. After 30 years of theo-political warfare within the denomination and the culture, which has included the merciless purging of evangelical moderates and even conservatives from all Southern Baptist school and agencies, not to mention strong public support for the Republican Party and Administration, the words "Southern Baptist" carry more negatives than positives. The largest and most prominent Southern Baptist congregation in America -- Rick Warren's Saddleback Church -- doesn't even use the word Baptist in its name.

There are some wonderfully devout Southern Baptist Christians who love the Lord and love people but are simply lacking the revelation about God's acceptance of GLBT people. The leadership of the SBC, however, seems to go of its way to put forth a public image of judgement and condemnation of anyone who deviates even slightly from the denomination's doctrine.

People are not inherently stuipd. Many of them will figure out what a load of crap their "hate the sin, love the sinner" approach is when the emphasis invariably falls on the hate part. Those who are truly seeking God are usually well acquainted with hate and don't need to get up early on a Sunday morning and drop some money in the collection plate to get more of it.

People are seeking love, therefore they are seeking the Lord who is love (1 John 4:8). When they find hate and judgement of man instead, they are likely to take their checkbooks and look elsewhere.

I did and have not regretted it. I learned doctrine and scripture in the Southern Baptist churches I belonged to, but I then met the Holy Spirit in an independent gay-affirming church.

When they change churches back from republican campaign headquarters to houses of worship, they might turn this trend around, and in the process maybe gain a better understanding of God's love and acceptence.

December 20, 2008

More Thoughts on the Warren Controversy

This is part of an e-mail response I sent to one of my Facebook friends who commented on my last post:

I do have some understanding of the pain that you and many GLBT people are feeling in the wake of Prop 8. This is where I believe the leadership of the major advocacy organizations have let the community down by fanning the flames of this issue into a major controversy rather than keeping it in what I believe is a more appropriate perspective.

I think there is one other important thing to remember here. Obama has, to my knowledge, never hinted that he favors marriage equality. By supporting civil unions, he is merely in favor of less discrimination toward GLBT people. This is still a major improvement over Bush and what McCain would have done, but it still approaches same-sex couples as less than equal members of our society. Perhaps in the euphoria of Obama’s victory some people have lost sight of that and developed what I believe could be unrealistic expectations of what an Obama administration could mean to the GLBT community. Perhaps the backlash toward Warren giving the Inaugural invocation is at least partially caused by the first hint of that realization.

Just to be clear, Warren is definitely anti-gay. Check out this video of his recent NBC Dateline interview. That doesn't mean that Obama is giving him a forum to spew that at the Inauguration. Warren will likely offer a prayer asking for God's blessing on Obama's presidency and our nation.

That's something I believe most of us can agree on.

Added: Just found this post by Bill Browning, the editor of th.e widely respected GLBT blog "The Bilerico Project" which shares my perspective and has much more discussion from readers.

December 18, 2008

Some Perspective on Obama and Warren

There has been much hue and cry in the LGBT community since the announcement that Rev. Rick Warren (of "The Purpose-Driven Life" fame) will deliver the invocation at Barack Obama's inauguration.

Warren is very much a Southern Baptist preacher who campaigned for the passage of California's Proposition 8. It is understandable there is anger directed toward Warren by the people whose rights he advocated taking away. I get that, and was disappointed at his activism in that campaign myself.

That being said, though, let's keep it in perspective.

It's a freakin' prayer people! It's not like Obama nominated Warren to a cabinet position or some form of policy making or advisory spot. It's a prayer. Anybody selected for that role is bound to piss some group off, and it happened to be the LGBT community.

It apparently has not been a one way street, however. According to Obama, he was recently invited to Warren's Saddleback Church:

"I think that it is no secret that I am a fierce advocate for equality for gay and lesbian Americas. It is something that I have been consistent on and something that I intend to be consistent on during my presidency. What I have also said is that it is a time for America to come together, even though we may have disagreements on certain social issues. I would note that a couple of years ago I was invited to Rick Warren's church to speak despite his awareness though he was aware that I held views that were entirely contrary to his when it came to gay and lesbian rights when it came to issues like abortion. Nevertheless I had an opportunity to speak. And that dialogue, I think, is what my campaign has been all about.

"We're not going to agree on every single issue. But what we have to is create an atmosphere where we can disagree without being disagreeable and then focus on those things we hold in common as Americans."

The level of outcry over this decision I believe reflects much more poorly on LGBT people than it does on Obama, taking a relatively minor issue and drawing the dividing line of us vs. them in a situation where I don't find it to be very productive. In fact, I think that gives some easy ammunition for anti-gay rights advocates to point to a lack of tolerance from LGBT people.

As a passoinate ally, I would strongly urge leaders of LGBT advocacy groups to pick their battles more wisely.

December 17, 2008

"Some of My Best Friends are Christian"

A serious point can sometimes be made by using satire, and this essay from Bilerico is a good example. Tired of right-wing homophobes denying they are anti-gay by claiming to have gay friends, writer Alex Blaze says he can not possibly be a "Christophobe" because he has Christian friends:

Some of my best friends are Christian.

I know, I know, it may be hard to believe. Some of you may ask, "Alex, why are you friends with members of that radical cult? Don't you know that they want to subjugate women, erase queer people's existence, institute slavery, and convert the entire world to their bizarre lifestyle?"

To which I'd respond, "Yes! But being friends with someone doesn't mean that you have to accept their beliefs or lifestyle!"

It would be ridiculous to accuse me of being a Christophobe, because I have Christian friends. While Radical, Militant Christians like to paint anyone who supports the venerated institution of throwing Christians to lions as a bigot, that's just their way of silencing free speech. If they had their way, believe me, anyone who tried to throw a Christian to the lions or even preached about the importance of the institution would be put in prison.

Not all Christians are like that, though. And I'd suggest all of you go out and find a Christian friend. Let them know that you care and that you're trying to help them move away from that lifestyle.

This isn't about hating the believer, just the belief.

Sounds pretty ridiculous, doesn't it? That's the idea.

Click here to read the entire tounge-in-cheek essay at Bilerico.

December 15, 2008

"Gender Identity and our Faith Communities"

The HRC caught a lot of grief for supporting the exclusion of transgender people from the ENDA legislation in Congress, but they do appear to be making a effort to rectify that and make the T in GLBT not merely an afterthought.

One step they have taken is preparing this excellent resource, "Gender Identity and our Faith Communities: A Congregational Guide for Transgender Advocacy."

Here is part of the description from the HRC website:

Because of the commitment to justice and the tenets of loving hospitality at the core of our faith traditions, we know that faith communities are the ideal site for empowering new allies and advocates for transgender rights. Sadly, though, we also know that some of the harshest discrimination against transgender people has come from people of faith cloaking prejudice in religious discourse. By exploring a wide range of religious experiences and offering thoughtful biblical analysis and commentary, our hope is that this curriculum will embolden participants to see in their faith a plea for understanding and a revitalized call for equality.

The guide is divided into three parts:

"The Stories" explores the varied experiences of transgender people, probes the complexity of gender identity, and helps participants develop a vocabulary around transgender concepts;

"Gender Identity and Faith" gives participants a choice of three different exercises that will encourage them to have deeper conversation about religion and transgender people; and

"A Call for Justice" provides a step-by-step training to move people of faith from acceptance to public advocacy.

In addition to the curriculum, we have included a series of dramatic readings, a participant’s handbook, and twelve outstanding essays from our contributors. Audio files are available for each dramatic reading and for the exercises titled "the Gifts of Transgender People." An explanation of how best to use these files is provided in the curriculum.

I have skimmed this guide and believe I will find it to be a valuable resource in understanding how to encourage others of faith to be open and accepting to transgender people. I encourage you to review it yourself and leave a comment here with your feedback.

HRC guide "Gender Identity and our Faith Communities."

December 14, 2008

LGBT People Are Just That.....People

Every now and them it's good to be reminded of the basics. For this blog, one of those is the fact that LGBT people are not deserving of being cast off into a lesser class of citizens. They are full fledged members of the human race and should receive all rights that go along with it.

Here's an excerpt from a passionate essay from The Huffington Post by Sara Whitman that serves as a reminder of that fact:

I don't want pity. I am stronger than most people. I can haul wood or groceries or laundry endless distances. I can stay up all night and rub a sick child's back until they can fall back asleep again. I can cook dinner for my family every night or for 50 people on Superbowl Sunday.

I can hold unbearable past experiences and still breathe in the joy of my life today.

I am a good friend. I care deeply about my neighbors, my community, my country. I donate my time, my money to help better the world.

I am not on the other side. I am not a tiny piece of a small fragment in this country.

Don't ever feel sorry for me.

Let me have the full responsibility of being an American. Because we deserve an American workforce free of discrimination, we deserve the strongest military in the world and every child in this country deserves a family.

I am an asset to this society. Let us all erase the lines of Us and Them. Think of what we can do if we do it together.

I want excellence. I want a stronger America.

It's something, I believe, we can all agree on.

You've got complete agreement here, Sara.

Click here to read the rest of the essay on The Huffington Post.

December 12, 2008

Jon Stewart--Comedian and Same-Sex Marriage Champion

I have not seen such an effective, direct, and concise refuting of the stale arguements against legalizing same-sex marriage than the one delivered by Jon Stewart, host of The Daily Show on Comedy Central. Stewart basically sliced and diced former (and probably future) Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee during an interview where Huckabee was promoting his new book, ironically titled "Do the Right Thing."

In the same week that out lesbian TV host Rachel Maddow was severely criticized by GLBT activists like Michelangelo Signorile for not taking Huckabee to task for his support of "traditional marriage", Stewart, a comedian who hosts, by his own description "a fake news show" had no problem doing so.

In an amicable yet firm manner, Stewart demonstrated a great understanding about the truth of true equal rights. If you know anyone who needs to move beyond "preserving traditional marriage," I strongly suggest you show this video to them.
My favorite point was when Stewart said "Religion is a lot more of a choice than being gay.'

December 10, 2008

Share Your Stories

A SNN reader named Adrienne asked me if I would share information about a new project she is working on with my readers--a new blog titled "Our Friends and Allies.' Here is her description of it:

A couple of friends of mine and I started this blog because in spite of the passage of prop 8 we have been shown so much love from our friends and allies, we thought it would be great if everyone had a plce to go to share their stories of support.

It's a way to perpetuate the positive aspects of this movement and the inspirational support from vociferous straight folks who also support our rights. For anyone who has been active in the gay movement for long enough, you know on a deeply personal level how meaningful it is that there are now loudmouthed straight folks out there fighting with us.

So please perpetuate this kindness! Drop us an email and we'll post your stories, pictures and videos in this blog so that everyone can read these stories of courage, kindness, and support.

Being one of those "loudmouthed straight folks" myself, I encourage you to visit the site and contribute your story, especially if it includes an illustration of your faith in God.

Click here to visit Our Friends and Allies.

An Interesting Ad For Same-Sex Marriage

SNN reader Michael Morgenstern has created a video supporting the right for same-sex couples to legally marry and asked me if I would like to share it with my readers. I'm happy to do just that. Here's the link. Mike would appreciate your feedback once you view it.

It's about the argument on "changing the definition of marriage" and tries to speak directly to the haters and change a mind or two.I believe that as PR for the fight, we must be on the offensive in defining the terms used - "remove discrimination from marriage" is what we are really doing, not "changing the definition." I'm trying to put the ad on TV through a contest, and I'm working with a friend Julie Flynn to make a series of ads comparing the campaigns against interracial marriage to the campaign against gay marriage, both of which use a lot of the same language, and then get that on TV.

Same-sex marriage ad

December 09, 2008

A Day Without Gays?!

Following is part of an article by David Craig on CNN's website. What touched me about his commentary was the story of how he and his partner were legal domestic partners in California, but when his partner was visiting his parents in Nevada, he had to be admitted to the hospital and the hospital wouldn't allow David to even see him! I can't imagine that pain. I live in a suburban area of the country that doesn't act that way, in general. When Erica was admitted to the hospital in Northern Virginia a few years back, I was treated as her "wife". I was so glad to be able to be there for her. Marriage isn't just about a piece of paper or religious ceremony. It's about having the same rights and responsibilities as any other committed couple.

What David advocates is gay folks taking the day off tomorrow and not working or spending money to show the rest of the country that we are a big part of the living, working, spending, etc. in the U. S. I agree with him. Fortunately, my employer treats me as an equal. He even refers to Erica as my "wife"! I didn't always work for someone who was so cool. Most of us don't.

Let's support David's efforts in whatever way we can. I can't "call in gay" to work tomorrow, but I'm going to not spend money on anything besides what I absolutely have to spend. I'll wait until Thursday.

"By David Craig
Special to CNN

Editor's note: David Craig is a film, television and Web producer, an adjunct professor at the Annenberg School of Communications at the University of Southern California, and a gay rights activist.

David Craig says there's growing support for recognition of gay unions and gay marriage.

LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- My battle for marriage equality began in 1990, after my partner, Brian Binder, and I had a commitment ceremony. The ceremony was held at the end of a conference for Parents and Friends of Lesbian and Gays and was attended by more than 300 friends and members of both our families.

We were featured in a couple of books on gay marriage because the concept was so new at the time. We also registered as domestic partners and entered into every possible form of legal recognition available at the time.

A few years later, Brian was visiting his parents in Nevada to inform them that he was giving up his battle with AIDS. Something went horribly wrong, and he was rushed to the hospital. I flew there immediately.

As his caretaker, I knew his medical condition and had been involved in every medical decision. We had shared the joy of making a commitment to one another and the pain and suffering of a horrible disease.

But when I arrived, I was told I could not see him because I was not "family" and because my legal documents were valid only in California. Even as I heard him calling out my name, they refused to let me see him because we were not married. Brian died in 1992.

In 1995, I helped organize the first Freedom to Marry March in Los Angeles. Ten years later, the idea for A Day Without Gays was conceived.

For more of the story, go to:

"Rejected By Men"

This was an outstanding post from the blog "Straight-Friendly" which I recently ran across and added to my blogroll. He puts forth an attitude that LGBT people who have suffered rejection and hurt by others claiming to be Christians would do well to consider for themselves:

If Christ wouldn’t spare Himself the sorrows of rejection, it’s foolish to imagine we will. But before plunging into a deep funk, we should ask why He elected to suffer as He did. Certainly it was His to avoid humiliation and disrespect heaped on Him. Why didn’t He? He gave us an example to live by when we’re rejected. Our families, friends, and communities may resent us, taking offense at our not conforming to their beliefs, standards, and ways of life. They may turn on us because we’re not “normal” like them. They may pretend they don’t see us to escape recognizing who we are. They may stop hearing what we say because they can’t perceive where we acquired the wisdom and confidence in our words. This will hurt and frustrate us. In the final analysis, however, those who turn us away suffer greater losses. Lack of faith in us deprives them of many gifts we can offer—miracles of kindness, generosity, and understanding. They will never learn what we know. Our Creator accepts us as He made us to be. And we accept ourselves, knowing He created us as He did to fulfill His purpose.

AMEN! Click here to read the rest of the post from Straight-Friendly.

December 08, 2008

Newsweek Features Same-Sex Marriage.....Favorably!

Folks, this is huge. A major news magazine, Newsweek, has featured the issue on it's cover. This is somewhat newsworthy, but the context is much more so. The caption over a picture of a bible with a rainbow-colored page marker is "The Religious Case for Gay Marriage."

Sometimes it seems to people like me that we are voices ow crying in the wilderness when we say how the Bible is misused as the primary tool to condeemn same-sex marriages. Now, a major news source has put that view out in the mainstream for millions of readers to find in their mailboxes or see prominently displayed on the newsstand.

The cover story is written by Newsweek's religious writer, Lisa Miller. Here's an excerpt:

Let's try for a minute to take the religious conservatives at their word and define marriage as the Bible does. Shall we look to Abraham, the great patriarch, who slept with his servant when he discovered his beloved wife Sarah was infertile? Or to Jacob, who fathered children with four different women (two sisters and their servants)? Abraham, Jacob, David, Solomon and the kings of Judah and Israel—all these fathers and heroes were polygamists. The New Testament model of marriage is hardly better. Jesus himself was single and preached an indifference to earthly attachments—especially family. The apostle Paul (also single) regarded marriage as an act of last resort for those unable to contain their animal lust. "It is better to marry than to burn with passion," says the apostle, in one of the most lukewarm endorsements of a treasured institution ever uttered. Would any contemporary heterosexual married couple—who likely woke up on their wedding day harboring some optimistic and newfangled ideas about gender equality and romantic love—turn to the Bible as a how-to script?

Of course not, yet the religious opponents of gay marriage would have it be so.

The argument goes something like this statement, which the Rev. Richard A. Hunter, a United Methodist minister, gave to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in June: "The Bible and Jesus define marriage as between one man and one woman. The church cannot condone or bless same-sex marriages because this stands in opposition to Scripture and our tradition."

To which there are two obvious responses: First, while the Bible and Jesus say many important things about love and family, neither explicitly defines marriage as between one man and one woman. And second, as the examples above illustrate, no sensible modern person wants marriage—theirs or anyone else's —to look in its particulars anything like what the Bible describes. "Marriage" in America refers to two separate things, a religious institution and a civil one, though it is most often enacted as a messy conflation of the two. As a civil institution, marriage offers practical benefits to both partners: contractual rights having to do with taxes; insurance; the care and custody of children; visitation rights; and inheritance. As a religious institution, marriage offers something else: a commitment of both partners before God to love, honor and cherish each other—in sickness and in health, for richer and poorer—in accordance with God's will. In a religious marriage, two people promise to take care of each other, profoundly, the way they believe God cares for them. Biblical literalists will disagree, but the Bible is a living document, powerful for more than 2,000 years because its truths speak to us even as we change through history. In that light, Scripture gives us no good reason why gays and lesbians should not be (civilly and religiously) married—and a number of excellent reasons why they should.

Lisa Miller includes many thoughts that have appeared here and in other gay-affirming resources, but I just can't overstate how significant I believe these words appearing on the cover story of a major news magazine is. Anyone who reads this article and still is anti-gay and anti same-sex marriage, in my opinion, just doesn't want to get it and is more interested in pursuing their own agenda than doing what is right and accurately following the example of Jesus and what the Bible teaches us about life.

You can click here to read the rest of the article, which I strongly suggest you do. This could be used an a good opportunity to engage people in a discussion about this issue that ordinarly might not be concerned about it.

December 07, 2008

Is the State Really a Better Parent Than a Same-Sex Couple?

That seems to me like an absurdly easy question to answer--of course not. A majority of voters in Arkansas, however, disagreed and made it illegal for any couple "cohatitating outside of a valid marriage" to adopt a child. What exactly DOES constitute a valid marriage in Arkansas, anyway? Insert joke here.

Anyway, I'm not the only one who is troubled by that. From the Chicago Tribune (via PageOneQ):

We don't have enough quality homes as it is, and now we're going to place more restrictions?" asked Susan Hoffpauir, president of the Arkansas chapter of the National Association of Social Workers. "A lot of us are still shell-shocked by this."

While the Nov. 4 vote to ban gay marriage in California grabbed the headlines, it is same-sex parenting that is heating up as the next skirmish in the nation's culture wars. Last week, a Florida judge struck down that state's decades-old law preventing gays and lesbians from adopting.

In Arkansas, some 3,700 children are in state custody, taken from their homes because of abuse and neglect. Of those, 960 kids (average age: 8.5 years) are available for adoption, said Julie Munsell of the state Department of Human Services. Of the 1,100 foster homes, one-third are headed by single people.

But finding potential homes for foster children is a continual challenge across the country—especially for children who are older and have special needs. Some 129,000 U.S. children are in foster care, and the only criteria should be who can best provide a loving, permanent home, according to Adam Pertman, executive director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute.

In a recent report, the non-partisan group concluded that a national ban on gay adoptions could add $87 million to $130 million to foster care expenditures annually because these children would then be living in other types of institutional care, such as group homes.

"On its face, this [Arkansas] law is just crazy," Pertman said. "I fear what will happen if other states see this as a model.

It is sad to see people put their personal bigotry ahead of what is in the best interest of an innocent child. Is being the ward of a state really better than having two mommies or two daddies?

it's hard for me to see how Jesus would really want kids kept away from homes where two parents are ready and willing to love them.

Click here to read the rest of the Chicago Tribune article.

December 06, 2008

Moving Toward LGBT Equality in the African-American Community

H. Alexander Robinson, the CEO of the National Black Justice Coalition, wrote an essay for The Advocate where he shared his concerns about how the African-American community's role in the passing of California's Proposition 8 was perceived and how to bring more of them toward the acceptance of equality for LGBT people. Here is an excerpt:

As we go forward, we need to be mindful that our foes will continue to attempt to use President-elect Obama, the black church, and campaigns of deception and fear to foster their own agenda in manipulative and devious ways. President-elect Obama’s opposition to same-sex marriage is grounded in his view of marriage as a religious institution. We must be steadfast in not allowing public officials to use religion to determine their positions on matters of justice. We know as a community all too well that this reasoning can be harmful to blacks as well as LGBT people.

It is incumbent on every one of us to dedicate resources to educate our brothers and sisters on same-gender loving marriages and LGBT issues. As a community, blacks have always looked to the church as our beacon of hope and a source of political leadership. Black churches must recognize that they are going against their own teachings of tolerance and acceptance by preaching from the pulpit against same-sex marriage. These are cultural impediments that will only be overcome by real conversations about the status of LGBT people. We also recognize that we have affirming ministers and religious institutions, and we need to empower them and have their words highlighted and recognized in the mainstream and LGBT media.

I think Mr. Robinson makes a critically important point here. I strongly believe, both within and beyond the African-American community, the goal must not be to defeat or circumvent religious organizaitons. Instead, there needs to be a grass roots effort to reach out and educate the members, humanizing these issues by putting people in front of them to share their stories, showing the pain of exclusion and discrimination and that they are not abominations or deviants, they are people's neighbors, co-workers, brothers, sisters, and parents.

People might hear fire and brimstone condemnation from the pulpit but those who are willing to see and think for themselves, if they have a different reality to consider, will often draw a different conclusion. It is those people, I believe, that can pull churches, and eventually entirely denominations, out of the 1950's and into the equality of the 21st century.

Click here to read the rest of The Advocate article.

December 05, 2008

"The Church" Is Not Anti-Gay, Just Some of the Churches

One of the major points I emphasize here, something that can not be stated too often in my opinion, is that "The Church" is not anti-gay. Even among those who claim Christ as their personal savior, there are too many different groups of interpretation of His Word to really claim that "The Church" speaks with one voice on much of anything.

Believing that, it really angers me when someone claims to expouse the "Christian Worlview." There are worldviews (yes, multiple) that Christians believe, to be sure, but there is not one size that fits all.

On no issue is that more evident that homosexuality. One of the leading proponents of affirmation and equality is the United Church of Christ, and Rev. Dr. Donna Schaper recently contributed an essay about that to The Huffington Post. Here is an excerpt:

On Monday, July 04, 2005, in Atlanta, Georgia, the governing body of the United Church of Christ, direct descendant of the Mayflower Pilgrims, voted overwhelmingly to "affirm equal marriage rights for couples regardless of gender," thereby becoming the first mainline denomination, and the largest Christian denomination in the world, to support same-sex marriage.

Endorsing gay marriage has surely lost some members and some churches; just as surely, it has attracted more members and churches, most notably the 5000 member Victory Church in Stone Mountain George, a largely African-American church which could no longer be at home among discriminating heterosexists. We are drinking, as Bishop Robinson, Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire says, the last dregs of a bad cup of wine: heterosexism is over. Religious people will look back in ten years -- the way we now look back at slavery and the before civil rights era -- and say, "What took us so long?"

Gay marriage will come nationwide; it will be ordinary to our children. It will be more than just gay marriage: it will also free scriptural interpretation from meanness and the cementing of revelation.

I strongly agree with Rev. Dr. Schaper's view here. We are a path to see where there won't be "traditional marriage" and "gay marriage," there will just be marriage, and people will see how God can bless them all.

Click here to read the rest of the article from The Huffington Post.

"The Church"

December 02, 2008

Let's Party Like It's 1899 at the Vatican

That's how this story comes across to me:

From the New York Times:

Gay rights groups and newspaper editorials on Tuesday condemned the Vatican for its decision to oppose a proposed U.N. resolution calling on governments worldwide to de-criminalize homosexuality.

The row erupted after the Vatican's permanent observer to the United Nations told a French Catholic news agency the Holy See would oppose the resolution, which France is due to propose later this month on behalf of the 27-member European Union.

Archbishop Celestino Migliore said the Vatican opposed the resolution because it would "add new categories of those protected from discrimination" and could lead to reverse discrimination against traditional heterosexual marriage.

"If adopted, they would create new and implacable discriminations," Migliore said. "For example, states which do not recognize same-sex unions as 'matrimony' will be pilloried and made an object of pressure," Migliore said.

A strongly worded editorial in Italy's mainstream La Stampa newspaper said the Vatican's reasoning was "grotesque."

Pointing out that homosexuality was still punishable by death in some Islamic countries, the editorial said what the Vatican really feared was a "chain reaction in favor of legally recognized homosexual unions in countries, like Italy, where there is currently no legislation."

The Religious Right commonly uses fear tactics like speculating about future (and often extreme) consequences of granting legal rights to GLBT people. It's a long, long way from not throwing someone in jail for being homosexual to allowing same-sex marriages, but the Catholic Church wants people to take that, dare I say, leap of faith.

Once one gets past the irony of a religion that has ordained so many closeted gay priests taking such an aggressive step of discrimination, it becomes clear that this will only result in the Catholic Church moving further toward irrelivancy.

This would be a shame because they do a lot of things to help people--as long as they are straight.

Click here to read the rest of the New York Times story.

December 01, 2008

Much Accomplished, Much To Do

This article from CNN, written by the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, gives us an official view of where we stand today in the fight against AIDS. Here is an excerpt:

When we commemorated the first World AIDS Day on December 1, 1988, we had little to celebrate.

The number of reported AIDS cases in the United States was nearing 80,000 and rising rapidly. Untold thousands more in this country were living with the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV. Globally, AIDS cases already had been reported from more than 135 countries. An AIDS tsunami clearly was looming, but we had few defenses at our disposal.

For those of us caring for people with AIDS, it was a dark time. We had just one anti-HIV medicine in our pharmacies, AZT, a drug that the virus rapidly defeated by mutating and developing resistance. Lacking other medicines to slow the relentless replication of HIV and its destruction of a person's immune system, we did our best to help our patients by managing to the extent possible their AIDS-related infections and complications. But the life span of most of the patients was measured in months.

Two decades later, much has changed. An unprecedented research effort has led to more than two dozen anti-HIV drugs, more than for all other viral diseases combined. Taken in proper combinations, these medications have dramatically improved the prognosis for people living with HIV by increasing their life span by at least a decade and providing the possibility of a normal life span with continued therapy.

Much has been accomplished in the fight against HIV/AIDS from scientific, medical and public health standpoints. However, now is no time to rest on our accomplishments or our laurels. The statistics of the HIV/AIDS pandemic tell us that much more needs to be done.

Click here to read the rest of the article.

World AIDS Day 2008

"Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise."

That's the slogan for this year's World AIDS Day, which is today, December 1, 2008.

This is the 20th anniversary of World AIDS Day, which originated on December 1, 1988. It took several years for the global community to understand that AIDS was not just a "gay disease" and actually was a serious threat to the general population. Sadly, AIDS continues to be an epidemic across the globe, especially in the African continent.

Here is the official website for the world AIDS campaign. It lists activites in every part of the world designed to promote awareness and spur people to action. We need to act as individuals but also hold our governments accountable for their committments to reaching out and fighting this terrible disease.

God takes no pleasure in people being sick. As Jesus reached out to the infirm during his ministry on Earth, it is up to those who are healthy and strong to help those who are sick and weak.

If you have a red ribbon, I suggest you wear it to work, the coffee shop, and anywhere you might run into someone who will notice it and ask why you are wearing it. Helping one person engage in this battle today is a positive step toward winning it once and for all.

November 30, 2008

A Boost for Repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

One of the primary justifications used to promote the continuance of the U. S. military's innane policy of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (allowing homosexuals to serve in the military under the condition they do not reveal their sexual orientation) is the disruption that would cause among the troops.

Recently a large group of people who should know strongly refuted that rationalization.

From San Diego's "Gay & Lesbian Times":

More than 100 retired generals and admirals recommended Nov. 17 the military repeal its “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy so gays and lesbians can serve openly, according to a statement obtained by The Associated Press.

The move by the high-ranking veterans confronts the coming administration of President-elect Barack Obama with a difficult political and cultural problem that dogged former President Bill Clinton early in his Democratic administration.

“As is the case with Great Britain, Israel, and other nations that allow gays and lesbians to serve openly, our service members are professionals who are able to work together effectively despite differences in race, gender, religion and sexuality,” the officers wrote.

Never having been at least slightly tempted to enlist in the military myself, I have never quite understood the passion of some in the GLBT community to obtain the right to put themselves in harm way, but at the same time I have a strong respect and appreciation for their desire to fight for their nation despite not having the same rights as most of the population.

In my opinion, that is a level of patriotism and service far beyond most if not all of those who cling to the current discriminatory policies.

I don't know that there is a higher calling than doing something simply because you believe it is the right thing to do.

November 29, 2008

A Good Outreach Story

Pastor Debbie George in Kenmore, WA posted this note on her Facebook page and game me permission to post it here. This is a story of her stepping out beyond her comfort zone to give the Lord an opportunity to use her among some people who desperately needed His light to shine through her.

God wants us to be at peace, but he wants us to move beyond the comfort of the familiar to share His love with the unfamiliar, sometimes in less than comfortable situations. Bless you Deb for answering that call and setting an example for the rest of us.

If you think your lacking.. Think again.. My Shelter Night
Posted by Pastor Debbie George

Several weeks ago I had answered a Craig’s list add to sing during a weekly Friday dinner that a youth shelter offers in Seattle, right by the U of W. The shelter is for the 18-25 range and is run out of the United Methodist Church for many years now.

The add said they welcomed on types of music including gospel, so I went ahead and answered the add, told them I was a worship pastor etc. They wrote me right back, excited for me to come and set my date at Friday November 28th.

The above information was about all I knew about the event. I figured that I would go and sing songs of encouragement and just let the Love of God flow out and over the youth. To be honest, I was nervous because this was so far outside my experience not in terms of seeing homeless people, I work in Seattle after all and our church has done many outreaches where we go to the streets. But this was my first time singing and somewhat performing rather then “leading” worship. I knew it would be different, but was still not quite prepared for what I saw and felt while there.

The night started with meeting a twenty something street girl named Lakita.
Lakita approached me the moment I got out of the car with my guitar and asked if I was singing etc. She proceeded to tell me how much she hated men, how she did not feel comfortable at the shelter because of the men and went out in very colorful language to tell me how she beats the crap out of anyone who crosses her... whew.. My first thought was along the lines of.. “Debbie your not in your comfortable little neighborhood suburb”
Translate too.. “Dorothy, you’re not in Kansas Anymore!”

But yet... Are these not the people that we as Christians want to touch with the love of God? I found that after my initial culture shock, I was thinking. Lord... How do I touch the Lakita’s of the world?
How do I get out of my comfort zone enough to earn their trust and bring some light to their hard life? I did not come up with the answers in the five minutes that it took to walk with her, but at least the question was asked and I know God Always answers.

Of course I knew Lakita would be hustling for cash, so after she walked us to the Alley, Yes I said Alley... She asked for coin, which I happened to have and gladly gave and wished her well.

The Alley... Well, picture a dark alley with lots of drug addicts and you have the picture. What we were not prepared to see was the needle exchange and the brillo exchange set up in the alleyway. So many young people lost to drugs.
I felt safe walking in, but then I was not alone going in either.

As soon as we got there and started setting up the person in charge asked me if I was a Christian, to which I replied yes. He said “cool” but… oh here comes the B word.
He was gently trying to tell me that not everyone might appreciate Christian music and if anyone gave me a bad time to come find him... Great!!!! Just when I thought I had all my nerves under control... I explained to him that I did not have or play any other type of music and that the songs I brought were ones of hope and that I was not going to preach to them or sing actual church worship songs so we should be ok hopefully.

Because it was an open feed, there were all types of people there and ages. The young ones seemed to be more the drug addicts and there were plenty of alcoholics there as well. Plenty of non-sober people and I saw a good portion of people that just did not have all their mental faculties. They were pleasant and wanted to talk. We sat on the stage for a good half hour before the music and just listened to one gal, show us her stuffed animal, talk to us about her job etc.. I really do not think she had a job, the mental faculties were not there but she went on and on and I just kept thinking. Oh God.. Their minds are gone, Help!!

The music started and the people were lined up out the door. My job was to really just provide background music. After the first song, I introduced myself and heeding what the person in charge had said, I just told them that I mess up a lot in life and I was going to sing songs for them about messing up and always being able to get back up no matter what.. They clapped and seemed to be ok with that vain of thinking.

It was just so different for me to not be in a “flow” musically. It was the LONGEST HOUR OF MY MUSICAL LIFE.. Honestly.. I kept looking to my left to ask Susan what time was it.. All that said.. I did see several people completely zoned into the music and hanging on the words. At one point as I was singing a song called “Hold Me” I looked to my left and saw a young lady waiting in line for her food and she had her head back, eyes closed and was absolutely soaking in the words. I could feel her soaking. I looked in front and there was an older man that was just staring at me, I kept wanting to avert my eyes until the Lord spoke and said HE is Listening, sing to him!. So I looked right at him on the final song and sang about how the Lord loves you no matter what you have done.

There were some funny moments as well. Someone said out loud “ Baby, I got a song for you” umm yet I bet you do. But I just shrugged him off and kept going..haha

I was invited back. Will I go back? Yes I will because I know that seeds were planted and I want to see them grow. In my flesh, I would like to just walk away and go back to my neighborhood Starbucks and hang out with friends, because that is where it is comfortable. But were not called to be comfortable are we? We may think we have things that we lack, but just the fact that you’re on a computer reading this report, says you have so much more than these people have. In this Thanksgiving week, think about all you really have, because I tell you there are hurting people all around us who truly have nothing.

November 28, 2008

A Few Who Give Back

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, Bay Windows, New England's largest GLBT newspaper, ran a feature titled "Giving Thanks by Giving Back." They profiled four individuals who give of themselves to make the GLBT community better. They are:

Zac Brokenrope donates his time at the LGBT Aging Project’s Thursday luncheon called Café Emmanuel. Every Thursday, Brokenrope heads to Emmanuel Church on Newbury St. to set out food and chat with LGBT seniors. Brokenrope, a freshman at Boston University, just moved here from Nebraska, where there was not a strong gay community, so he wanted to connect with the community in Boston.

Rick Larkin volunteers at the AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts (AAC) outreach program and was recently elected to the organization’s board. Having been diagnosed with HIV in 1986 Larkin said he volunteers because he has been lucky enough to access services that have helped him become a long-term survivor.

Jess Nieuwenhuizen has volunteered at Boston GLASS (Gay and Lesbian Adolescent Social Services), a drop-in center for LGBT people between the ages of 13 and twenty-five. A grad student at the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology, Nieuwenhuizen volunteered as an intern, helping develop the agency’s literary magazine, co-facilitating a weekly woman’s group, helping out with Shades of Color, a peer education and leadership development program and most importantly was a peer mentor for members of Boston Glass.

Steve Swanberg, known lovingly around the MassEquality office as "Info Steve," volunteers by answering all of the e-mails sent to the address "info@massequality."; In March 2004 -- the height of the marriage equality debate on Beacon Hill, when MassEquality as we now know it was just taking off -- Swanberg decided it was time to get involved. He realized that organizations even needed people just to answer their e-mails. At that point, MassEquality was being bombarded with people seeking information about the issue.

Although the article doesn't mention anything about the faith of these individuals, their actions do represent what Jesus spoke in Matthew 25:40b (NIV):

'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

Jesus came to earth as a servant, and we reach out to help others, we are moving toward a heart of Christ.

Click here to read the rest of the Bay Windows article.

November 25, 2008

Announcing A New Idea For Christmas Shopping!

Hi, all. I know I haven't blogged in a while, but this is one of the reasons... Erica and I have started a new business. I just finished the website at and we're really excited about this new adventure.

Basically, an acrostic takes a person's name or a business name, etc. and makes new words out of each letter. Like this:

Jesus Loves You

I will sing for joy to the Lord

My heart is towards you

So, that's how it works. We make these individualized to the person or organization or title, like pastor. They are embellished and framed for presentation and we have had wonderful feedback on them. Erica made some for visiting pastors at our renewal weekend and we've had nothing but glowing things said about how wonderful it was to receive such a personal, uplifting gift.

Okay, now that you know what we do, check out the website! If you are looking for the perfect Christmas gift this year, you've found it. (In my humble opinion. Smile.)

God bless you all this holiday season.


November 23, 2008

Setting Priorities

As leaders of the LGBT community reevaluate their goals and activism processes in the wake of recent election defeats, an important part of that needs to be understanding where those goals stand in the general scheme of things, particularly with the new Congress and President coming in January.

I am happy to see that there is some understanding among this group that, while the issue of same-sex marriage is very important, there are other issue that impact LGBT people which also need attention, and additionally issues like the current financial crisis that trump all of them in the short term.

A recent article in USA Today quotes some of these leaders:

There will be some hard questions asked about where marriage ranks on the list of possibilities and priorities" gays should focus on, says Steve Ralls of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG).

Amy Balliett, whose website,, mobilized thousands Saturday to protest the reversal of gay marriage in California, plans more demonstrations, but she says the economy must come first. "Barack Obama can't put his initial focus" on gay marriage, says Balliett, who wed her partner in California last month. "That is just not fair to our nation."

I believe that last quote is very reasonable and demonstrates a very healthy, balanced perspective which is likely to be tested in the early months of the new Obama administration, as evidenced by this article in the Washington Times regarding the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell":

President-elect Barack Obama will not move for months, and perhaps not until 2010, to ask Congress to end the military's decades-old ban on open homosexuals in the ranks, two people who have advised the Obama transition team on this issue say.

Repealing the ban was an Obama campaign promise. However, Mr. Obama first wants to confer with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and his new political appointees at the Pentagon to reach a consensus and then present legislation to Congress, the advisers said.

"I think 2009 is about foundation building and reaching consensus," said Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. The group supports military personnel targeted under the ban.

Mr. Sarvis told The Washington Times that he has held "informal discussions" with the Obama transition team on how the new president should proceed on the potentially explosive issue.
Lawrence Korb, an analyst at the Center for American Progress and an adviser to the Obama campaign, said the new administration should set up a Pentagon committee to make recommendations to Congress on a host of manpower issues, including the gay ban.

"If it's part of a larger package, it has a better chance of getting passed," he said.

I know it's easy for me, a straight man, to preach patience and perspective to the LGBT community since my rights are not impacted by these delays, but that doesn't mean I'm wrong. It's not about instant gratification now, it's about getting things right and, unlike Proposition 8, making them last.

November 22, 2008

Survivor Corps

I was contacted by a representative from an organization called "Survivor Corps" asking me if I could let me readers know about them. It is my pleasure to do so, especially since many of you are currently in survival mode after experiencing various types of trauma in your life.

Survivor Corps works with military personnel that has returned from combat duty. Here is an excerpt from their website:

Ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan are creating a generation of veterans in the United States from all branches of the armed services and all 50 states who are struggling to overcome physical and psychosocial injuries. Most combat veterans convalescing in military hospitals across the country will survive physically, but getting on with their lives after returning home to their families and communities is proving a significant challenge for hundreds of thousands. Among the 1.6 million who have served since 2001, suicide is on the rise, as is unemployment and incidents of substance abuse and domestic violence.

The successful reintegration of returning service members is an issue that will have a long-lasting impact on American society, and may become the single defining struggle facing this new generation of veterans. Survivor Corps and its partners are determined to avoid the mistakes made when veterans returned from Vietnam, which resulted in tens of thousands of post-war suicides and over 200,000 men and women living on the streets.

To head off this tragic outcome, Survivor Corps will build peer support programs at the community level that will bring service members and veterans together for mutual support and encourage both individual responsibility and collective action to help others in need.

Survivor Corps is offering an alternative “treatment” that can be made readily available in all communities, regardless of proximity to traditional military or govern¬ment centers of support. Our approach is nimble enough to address the needs of individual survivors, while still broad enough to build a coalition of survivors and service providers working to effect long-term positive change.This new program will help the recovery and reintegration of hundreds of thousands of returning U.S. service members at a critical time for them and their country.

Regardless of how one feels about American policies regarding the deployment and engagement of our Armed Forces, the courage of those who volunteer to serve in the military deserve the right to return from combat and resume normal lives.

Click here to read more about Survivor Corps.

November 19, 2008

Stonewall 2.0?

That's a phrase that has been only very recently birthed, refering to the passing of Prop 8 in California as a catalyst for a new phase in LGBT activism, similar to how the Stonewall riot in 1969 birthed the initial phase. A post by Rex Wockner on his blog Wockner advances that thought and offers a substantial body of support for it. Here are some excerpts.

Was it really just six days ago that I wrote here: "I sense the power could be shifting, from the suit-and-tie professional activists with their offices, their access, their press releases and their catered receptions, to the grassroots."?

Was it really just six days ago that I was apparently the first person to utter the phrase "Stonewall 2.0"?

It was. But I am not alone now. Let's have a look at what influential people are saying six days later.

From Daily Kos:
What we're seeing now ... is brilliant. ... These nationwide protests are a watershed moment of sorts -- the moment when the gay community realized that it had the power to fight for change on its own, and didn't require any of its so-called, self-appointed 'leaders' to give them permission to engage.

From Wayne Besen:
The leaders of what is being billed as Stonewall 2.0 are not coming from large, established organizations. ... That this huge outpouring of organic outrage is not being channeled through official organizational channels has enormous implications. ... We are not the same movement we were prior to Nov. 4. ... Organizations that do not adjust to this new reality will wither and die. ... Anti-gay forces unleashed a ferocious storm with powerful winds of change that will only end with the sound of wedding bells."

We have now indeed entered Activism 4.0 or whatever the hell you want to call it. Our "leaders" let us down and you -- you, the average gay or lesbian citizen who just wants to have equal rights and maybe even get married -- you have seized power by using Facebook and your blogs, e-mail and Twitter, MySpace and text-messages to launch a new gay movement -- one that can get 25,000 gays and lesbians into the streets of sleepy San Diego on a Saturday morning, one that got 12,000 people into the streets of New York to protest something that happened in California.

From recently out comedian Wandy Sykes:
"When California passed Prop 8 ... I felt like I was being attacked, personally attacked, our community was attacked. I got married Oct. 25. You know, I don't really talk about my sexual orientation, I didn't feel like I had to, I was just living my life and, not necessarily in the closet, but I was just living my life. Everybody that knows me personally, they know I'm gay. And that's the way people should be able to live their lives. We shouldn't have to be standing out here demanding something that we automatically should have as citizens of this country. And I got pissed off. They pissed me off. I said, You know what, now I gotta get in your face. And that's what we all have to do now. They pissed off the wrong group of people. They have galvanized a community. We are so together now and we all want the same thing and we are not going to settle for less."

LGBT people should not have to settle for less of anything in this or any other society on this planet. This kind of outrage followed by sustained and passionate activism will be the single most important factor in making that a reality.

Click here to read the rest of the post on Wockner.

November 17, 2008

Psalms Of the Soul

A new feature we're bringing to Straight, Not Narrow is to share what LGBT churches and ministries are doing to reach out and make a positive impact in their communities.

One way to do that is with music, like Pastor Debbie George of Living Water Fellowship in Kenmore, WA (the Seattle area) has done.

Pastor Debbie, who just blessed our church by leading worship at our annual Fall Renewal, has a new website titled "Psalms Of the Soul" featuring her music. There are MP3's to sample and purchase.

Here is an excerpt of what Debbie says about her music:

I often will “sing my prayers” and some of my most profound moments happen when I just hang out with Jesus and my guitar in my den, and pour out whatever is on my heart and mind. I do not worry about how I sound, or if I phrased something right. I am just real and raw with Jesus. As I release my heart, my concerns, or whatever else is on my mind, I can hear Him singing back to me words of love.

I am always amazed at how strengthened I am after one of these times of worship and prayer. It is in this realm of worship and intimacy that my songs are birthed and flow out during corporate or small group worship.

This is the testimonial I contributed to her website:

We've had the pleasure of having Debbie play at our church and in our living room.In both settings, the Holy Spirit just flowed out of her. She is a passionate, anointed woman of God, and that is clearly the foundation of her music. The joy of the Lord is present when she pulls out her guitar and starts praising Him in song.

Debbie's songs are very passionate and folksy. I encourage you to check out the site and sample her music.

Psalms Of the Soul

November 15, 2008

"Shake It Off and Move Forward"

That's the advice offered in a post on Bilerico that reflects on the aftermath of Amendment 2's passage in Florida.

This isn't the time to sit quietly by and shrug our shoulders at another loss for the LGBT community in our state. We need our statewide leaders and organizations to step up and galvanize our community and our allies.

And these protests need to extend to the groups (like the Florida Republican Party, the Catholic League, the Baptist League, and many other groups) that gave money and support to Amendment 2. We need to hold politicians accountable- like Governor Crist and others- and make sure there are consequences for their support of hate and bigotry.

We also need to be having conversations like this- figuring out where we went wrong and how we overcome it. Not in closed door meetings with the same leaders that ran these campaigns, but with the entire community.

I also think we need to be proactive. We cannot wait for the religious right to take this to court and try to take away more of our rights. We need to be shaping the argument now.

One thing is clear- we cannot keep sitting idly by while more of our rights are taken away. We had our time to mourn this loss, but now it's time to shake it off and move forward.

We need to regroup, get tough, and keep fighting.

It angers me that, in this day and age, there is still a group of people in this country that have to fight for basic rights that the rest of the population can take for granted, but that is the current reality.

I strongly agree with the points that oppoents of equality need to be held accountable and feel political and PR pain of their choice. It is also critically important that LGBT people don't let themselves slip into a victim mentality. That certainly would not be unjustified, but it also would not be constructive.

Utlimately the victory will not be won until people's hearts and minds are changed to where they truly accept LGBT people as equal members of society. We've seen laws changed and then changed back--that's how you can control behavior to some extent. It's when attitudes change that there can be a lasting victory and end the constant struggle and threat of having something taken away.

We need to follow Jesus' example here. He didn't come to Earth to pass legislation, he came to change hearts and lives of people so individuals could build His kingdom. He didn't leave His work to lawmakers and we shouldn't either.

Click here to read the entire Bilerico post.

November 12, 2008

A Time To Reflect On Renewal

Our church is having what we term "renewal" this weekend. Basically, we’re looking for God to renew our passion for Him and to show us what He wants us to do going forward.

As I was thinking about renewal, I likened what we’re doing at our church to what the United States is doing right now. The U. S. has collectively felt for a long time that the country was going in the wrong direction. Now that President-Elect Obama has been voted into office, I think the mood of the country is changing. Whether you voted for him or not, you have to admit that we’re all breathing a sigh of relief that the country might actually be able to get a "renewal" in the months and years to come. Sure, there are those on the religious right that are crying foul and preparing for Armageddon, but for those of us who aren’t right-wingers, we hope for a better day.

My personal hope is that the economy will take a turn for the better. I hope that President Obama will steer our country into a place where we will start to treat each other with respect as people and not worry so much about whether we agree with each other all the time. I hope that all of us will be able to come together as Americans to save our country that is in crisis.

Whether President Obama will be able to facilitate all of the change that he has said he wants to see happen, I really believe that he will help us move in the right direction again and I’m excited about that prospect.

So, let’s look forward with anticipation to the Obama years and pray for him and his family and all of the leadership of our country that God will grant them wisdom and keep them safe and bring all of our troops home soon.

God Bless America!

November 11, 2008

A Quick Look Back at What Was Once Heresy

Here are some definitions of the word "heresy" from Merriam-Webster's online dictionary:

1 a: adherence to a religious opinion contrary to church dogma b: denial of a revealed truth by a baptized member of the Roman Catholic Church c: an opinion or doctrine contrary to church dogma2 a: dissent or deviation from a dominant theory, opinion, or practice b: an opinion, doctrine, or practice contrary to the truth or to generally accepted beliefs or standards

Okay, I think you get the picture. Unfortunately, many, members of the LGBT community have had this word hurled or spewed at them when asked to be considered a member in good standing of "the church." People like me think "the church" is wrong by doing that. It wouldn't be the first time "the church" got something very, very important very, very wrong.

That is pointed out with a brief history lesson by Anthony Venn-Brown, one of the leading LGBT advocates in Australia. Here is a summary of the point from his website "The Great Heresy."

1. Once Heresy Now Truth--The world revolves around the sun

2. Once Heresy Now Truth--White and black are equal

3. Once Heresy Now Truth--Two people who love each other should marry no matter the color of their skin

4. Once Heresy Now Truth--Men and women are of equal value and worth

5. Once Heresy Now Truth--Same sex orientation, for a percentage of the population, is a normal expression of sexuality and occurs in all of creation.

Of course, #5 is a work in progress (heck, there are some folks that still don't get 2 through 4), but the point is that it took a while for the other positions of "the church" to change, but they eventually did.

So will the postiion on #5. It is happening even as a write this. Truth always wins out, but not without a fight.

There is much more to check out at "The Great Heresy." Thanks to Anthony for the heads up about his work.

November 10, 2008

"Vows Than Can't Be Voted Down'

An article in the Washington Post does an excellent job of putting last week's votes in California, Florida, and Arizona that made discrimination parts of those state's constitution in perspective.

While voters were (mistakenly, in my opinion) given the right to take away rights of same-sex couples to receive the legal benefit of marriage, they could not take the act of marriage itself away from them.

From Jennifer Donnelly in the Washington Post:

For months, it made me indignant to think that my neighbors, and the entire state of California, were going to vote on my marriage -- something so deeply personal and spiritual and uniquely mine and my wife's. I wondered: How could they? Why would they?

Then I realized that they wouldn't.

Because on Tuesday, California, you did not vote on whether or not I exist; I am here, and I live in your neighborhood. You did not vote on whether your children will learn about same-sex couples; they will, when they go to school with my child. You did not vote to prevent your children from growing up gay; they already are who they are. You voted on whether to give my family the same status that other families have. You voted on civil marriage rights, not rights having to do with religious marriage or spiritual marriage. No vote can pass judgment on my actual marriage.

I was deeply saddened when Californians approved a state constitutional amendment this week banning same-sex marriage. But I remain married to the love of my life. I jumped the broom with her six years ago.

This article speaks to the truth that marriage is more than a legal agreement--at it's very heart is a covenant relationship between two people in love.

And that, folks, is not up for anyone to vote on.

Click here to read the rest of Jennifer Donnely's article.

November 09, 2008

It's About Education

To me, one of the most interesting and troubling issues during this recent election cycle was the issue of education. How can one be against education, you ask? Beats me, but there was a substantial faction of the electorate that held Barack Obama's education against him as proof of his "eletism" while celebrating the fact that Sarah Palin was a "hockey mom' without a great amount of depth on major issues.

It is also interesting to me that the mainstream media is often criticized for leaning to the left, but what does that say when people closest to the news and issues who should therefore be the most educated on the facts and implications of them largely skew progressive instead of conservative?

Knowledge is good. There, I said it.

Here are two excerpts from the Bible that point to the value of knowledge.

Isiah 53:11 (prophesy about the coming of Jesus): After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.

One of the powers that Jesus received from God was knowledge. If he did not have understanding, how would he lead, how would he teach?

In Isiah 56:10, we see the other side: Israel's watchmen are blind, they all lack knowledge; they are all mute dogs, they cannot bark; they lie around and dream, they love to sleep. They are dogs with mighty appetites; they never have enough. They are shepherds who lack understanding; they all turn to their own way, each seeks his own gain.

Isn't that interesting, a lack of knowledge and undestanding are responsible for people turning to their own way, seeking their own gain.

I believe this was the single most important factor in the adoption of more discrimination in Californina, Florida, and Arizona on election day. So does Wayne Besen in a column titled "Prop
8 and Race."

Uneducated people - black, white and Hispanic - often derive their power from physical strength. They perceive being gay as weak and antithetical to real manhood. By voicing support for gay rights, they lose status and often fear rivals may perceive them as gay. The easiest way to gain status is dissing faggots. I see this attitude all the time in Brooklyn - in the gym and on the basketball court, where I often play. (Not the best sample, I realize this)

Meanwhile, educated people of all races gain power by outsmarting opponents - not beating them up. This creates a safe space to support gay rights and not lose social status. (Unfortunately, the fact that the conservative black church is a central organizing point for politics makes even educated blacks less likely to vote for gay rights. But, this is secondary to education levels.)

It is understandable that black support for anti-gay efforts drives white gay people nuts. It is difficult to understand how people affected by bigotry can promote bigotry - as if they are selfish people who learned all the wrong lessons from the civil rights movement. But, remember, uneducated people - of all races - are not students of history. They react to the environment around them, which often rewards homophobia.

(Compounding this perception problem is that the vast majority of overt homophobia experienced by urban gays comes from black people. In places like New York City, you almost never hear a white person say “faggot”. But, we hear this from uneducated blacks too often. This makes the problem seem worse than it is. We often forget that we moved to places like New York to escape uneducated whites in rural areas that were just as openly homophobic. In other words - it is about education - not race.)

We can't allow ignorance to rule the day. Wayne has suggestions to help this along in his column. Click here to read the rest of it.

November 06, 2008

The Religious Right Declares War on LGBT Rights

From Pam's House Blend:

Thus far, 30 states have outlawed homosexual "marriages" by an average close to 70% approval by voters through amendments to the state constitutions. In addition, the voters in Arkansas yesterday approved a measure banning unmarried couples from serving as adoptive or foster parents. It will be the goal of Christian Coalition to ensure that the other 20 states adopt similar amendments banning homosexual "marriages" including the states of Massachusetts and Connecticut which also had two judicial decisions, by one vote margins, legalizing these abominations.

The energy being expended on finger-pointing needs to be turned into an effort to strategically plan a path forward. With their party out of power at the federal level, the religious right has thrown down the gauntlet, and has an issue to use to empty the wallets of the uninformed and bigoted.

All the Dems, including the President-elect (and in my case, Kay Hagan), who knowingly chose to conflate religious and civil marriage at our peril, have to be held accountable going forward to lend a high-profile voice against this pressure from the right. Hiding behind personal faith is not
going to fly. Questions in the light of this --

* How can we best mobilize to rise to this challenge?
* Are our advocacy organizations ready to deal with this in an effective manner?
* What is the plan at the state level to educate legislators who will be cornered on this issue?

As usual, Pam makes some excellent points, and I would like to add a couple.

*Don't let the Religous Right co-opt discrimination as the "Christian worldview" without being challenged by LGBT Christians and their allies.
*Pray to the Lord for justice to be done in our society. His sense of justice does not include discrimination and blesses love and comitted, covenant relationships.

November 05, 2008

Moving Beyond the Mixed Message of Election Day

History was made last night with the election of Barrack Obama, who will become the first African-American president of the United States.

As I scanned the various networks subsequent to Obama surpassing the magic number of 270 electoral votes, I saw several instances of African-American journalists, often with great emotion, proclaiming how this was validation of the idea that anything was possible in this country. Lest that be confined to the alleged media bias to the left, even conservative pundit William Bennett chimed in with that sentiment during CNN’s coverage. This monumental event has filled many Americans with a desperately needed injection of hope.

The optimism of unlimited possibilities was denied to members of the LGBT community, however, as discrimination against them was voted into the constitutions of Florida and Arizona and probably California. Residents of these states join those in 27 others that have adopted similar bans against same-sex marriage in recent years.

For most LGBT Americans, possibilities are indeed limited. They are still lesser citizens, required to share equal tax burdens with their straight countrymen but not equal rights. Depending on where one lives, LGBT people still have no rights to legally marry, share property, visit sick partners in hospitals, adopt children, or protection from being fired from their jobs because of their sexual orientation.

Despite this current reality, however, there is still hope.

Back in April of 1968, I was a young boy living with my parents just across the border of the District of Columbia in a Maryland suburb. We were close enough to ground zero of the riots that broke out following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that a vacant house directly behind us was burned to the ground, nearly taking ours with it. Neighbors pitched in to help water down our garage and save our home, then took turns patrolling the streets holding loaded shotguns to protect their loved ones from more violence.

If someone had told me then that we would have an African-American president elected in my lifetime, well, even to a nine-year old that would have seemed pretty far-fetched.

It just so happens, though, that I am still alive and, God willing, will see Barrack Obama inaugurated as our 44th president in January.

Things often don’t change as quickly as we think they should, but they do eventually change for the better. God is good, and good always wins out over evil in the long run. Jesus was quoted in John 16:33 (NIV):
"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

Freedom will prevail over discrimination because the Lord wants us to be free, and he has already prevailed. There will be a time when LGBT people will claim victory and obtain their rightful, equal, place in American society. Sadly, it may be too late for some of those currently fighting the good fight, but their efforts will not be in vain, just like Dr. King’s life and actions helped pave the way for President Obama.

I therefore encourage my LGBT brothers and sisters to claim the promise of victory from our Lord and the hope that goes along with it as the struggle for equality continues.