June 30, 2007

A Majority of Americans Say Homosexuality is Not Changeable

From the Christian Post:

Former leaders of the nation's largest evangelical referral ministry on homosexual issues made a public apology on Wednesday for the harm they say they caused in their gay conversion efforts.

"Some who heard our message were compelled to try to change an integral part of themselves, bringing harm to themselves and their families," said Michael Bussee, Jeremy Marks and Darlene Bogle, who formerly helped lead Fla.-based Exodus International, in a joint written statement. "Although we acted in good faith, we have since witnessed the isolation, shame, fear and loss of faith that this message creates."

Their statement at a news conference in Hollywood reflects the opinion of the
general American public on homosexuals and change as the latest CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll revealed that same day. For the first time in a CNN poll, the majority of Americans (56 percent) said they do not believe sexual orientation can be changed. That statistic jumped from the 45 percent that a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll found in 2001. In 1998, the number was 36 percent, according to a CNN/Time poll.

There is plenty here to comment on. First, kudos to the former Exodus leaders for stepping up and taking responsibility for their actions, which although well-intentioned unquestionably hurt people. You don't see people stand up and be accountable for their mistakes very often these days, so for these folks to do so was refreshing and lent more credibility to their message.

The poll numbers show that people are learning that the whole "ex-gay" concept is bogus. This will help people be more accepting of GLBT people and willing for them to have equal rights. It will hopefully diminish the ability of orgainzations like Exodus to lead people down a path to deny who they really are.

Further down in the Christian Post article, Exodus' president Alan Chambers was quoted as saying:

"There are thousands of people like me who have overcome this. I think there's room for more than one opinion on this subject, and giving people options isn't dangerous," said Chambers, according to The Los Angeles Times.

I very strongly disagree with that statement. After Chambers' recent comments about not being to lead people to a total "cure" from homosexuality, I believe his organization should be renamed "Exodus Lite." Regardless, giving people false hope IS VERY dangerous.

Let's face it, someone who is seeking or being pushed to change or deny their sexual orientation is in a bad place in their lives. This would make them particularly vulnerable to the "opinion" that they can change their lifestyle.

Just ask Wayne Besen, the expert on this issue, how many people actually sustain this type of change, and how many of those are not on the payroll of an ex-gay organization. In general terms, the answer is not very many. It clearly didn't take for the three people who apologized for their actions.

While I support Alan Chambers right to free speech, it is important to support people like Wayne Besen who refute his dangerous, misleading "opinions" with cold hard facts.

God didn't make anyone in a way that they would have to deny who they are. To say anything different would be saying God made a mistake. He receives us all as we are through the sacrifice of Jesus as long as we give our hearts and souls, be they heterosexual or homosexual, to Him.

As Pastor Brenda wondered earlier this week, what could people like Alan Chambers do with the energy they have to spend fighting off their homosexual desires? How much more could they use their gifts to serve the Lord if they weren't so busy denying who they really are?

Homophobes Take a Stand in San Diego

You've just got to shake your head when you read headlines like this from the AFA's "news" arm, One News Now:

A Christian activist says homosexuals in San Diego are hijacking a family event at a Major League Baseball game to introduce their immoral behavior to children. According to James Hartline, a group of Christians are planning a counter-protest in support of children and families.

The event that has their undies all twisted up is a GLBT Pride gathering for the Padres game that night and the Gay Men's Chorus of San Diego singing the national anthem. The leader of the protest, who is identified as a "former homosexual," points out that some of the concession stands are run by Christian groups as fund raisers.

They have all voted and decided that they could not, as Christians and in good conscience, participate in their jobs on the same day that all these children are going to be indoctrinated into homosexuality. And they are willing to take the loss and they are going to walk off the job in protest."

Indoctrinated into homosexuality? Is there going to be a "recruiting drive" like bigots often accuse GLBT groups of having? Of course not. You can disagree with a professional sports team having a pride event, but to go off the deep end like this is purely homophobia. In this case, I suspect since the leader identifies himself as a "former homosexual" that there is a large dose of self-loathing mixed in.

Fortunately, most rational people see this for what it is, which is really a lot of noise over nothing. In fact, the attention this will receive in San Diego could lead more GLBT people to attend the game than might have otherwise. Often times homophobes do a better job promoting GLBT events than anyone else.

Ultimately, though, most people will just show up, enjoy the chorus, and root for the Padres. The crowd will probably just be a bit more fabulous than normal.

June 28, 2007

Are Republicans Becoming GLBT Friendly?

It's a bit too early to say that, but the rank and file of the party is, like the general population of the United States, moving toward acceptance of GLBT people and their rights.

A study conducted of 2,000 self-identified Republican voters showed some interesting nubmers:

77% believed an employer should not have the right to fire an employee based solely on their sexual orientation.

49% believed gays and lesbians should be able to serve openly in the military.

43% support either marriage equality or civil unions.

53% of respondents agree that “the Republican Party has spent too much time focusing on moral issues such as abortion and gay marriage and should instead be spending time focusing on economic issues such as taxes and government spending.”

When asked “What issue do you think best defines the Republican Party today?” only 5% said “traditional marriage/family values.”

It appears, at least relating to GLBT issues, that the leaders of the Republican Party are starting to lose touch with their base.

Perhaps they should spend less time spewing about discrimination and more time listening to the people.

Tony Perkins from the notorious right-wing (straight) Family Research Council, had a different take. This was from one of his e-mail blasts:

Results of a new poll on the priorities of Republican voters are causing quite a commotion in today's headlines--and considering the survey's findings, it's no wonder. Funded by four of the most liberal GOP organizations, the survey is a masterpiece of political manipulation. According to the results, U.S. Republicans now support gays in the military, universal health care, special rights for homosexuals, and 60% of them would vote for a presidential candidate who disagreed with their position on abortion. Is the new message of the GOP to write off social issues altogether? An in-depth look at the polling questions suggests not. Most of the survey was crafted to produce a conditioned response. Here's one example. Participants were asked to agree or disagree with leading questions like this one: "The Republican Party has spent too much time focusing on moral issues." Fifty-three percent concurred, despite the fact that moral issues have historically been the winning issues on Election Day and the moral issue of corruption in office saddled a number of GOP candidates with defeat last November. Groups like the Republican Main Street Partnership may have succeeded in engineering some phony support for their issues, but we'll see how reliable those findings are after the ultimate polls at the ballot box.

Isn't that just typical! They use facts and figures (some of them fabricated) that serve their purpose and find some way to refute ones that don't.

Now THIS Is a Committed Relationship

Well, so much for gay men always being in short-term relationships. That us, unless you consider 62 years to be a short term. That's how long Gus Archilla (now 92 years old) and Elmer Lokkins (89 years lod) have been together. They met after World War II and, since they got legally married in Canada in 2003, have been working with Marriage Equality New York, join them in the Pride March, and lobby for marriage equality at the state capital in Albany.

Click here to read the New York Blade story on this amazing couple.

June 27, 2007

Ex-Gay Warns of the "Gay Gospel"

The Christian Post had a somewhat balanced report on the dueling conferences going on in California this week, the Exodus International Freedom Conference and "The Ex-Gay Survivor Conference: Undoing the Damage and Affirming Our Lives Together."

The reason I post that here is that there were a couple of remarks made by Joe Dallas, a featured speaker at the Exodus conference, that I wanted to address.

"I believe that the pro-gay theology ... is a symptom of the problem of people wanting to believe something and then imposing that desire on the Bible. Rather than reading the Bible for what it says, they interpret it for what they want it to mean," Dallas explained.

Here's another thought. Anyone who has studied the Gospels knows that Satan used scripture when he tempted Jesus out in the desert. I strongly believe that Satan uses the "clobber passages" to shame people like Joe Dallas into not only denying part of the very essence of how God made them but to try and lead others to do the same.

"We are all in this life wrestling with a struggle between the flesh and the spirit," said Dallas. "I think that what God requires of all of us is to live a disciple's life where we recognize that our primary goal in life is not our own satisfaction but rather what we can do to please our Master. And the great irony is in doing that, we find the greatest satisfaction."

There is truth in that, but from the contact of Dallas' statement, he implies that wanting to live as a homosexual is some kind of selfish, fleshly desire. Of course, one can adopt a lifestyle where they give in to the temptations of the flesh and both heterosexuals and homosexuals are pretty good at doing just that. Living life in a committed same-sex relationship is not any more selfish than using a beautiful voice to sing or using an analytical mind to design the next technological wonder.

All of those situations are examples of people using gifts that God blessed us with, not denying them like Joe Dallas and the folks at Exodus International want you to do.

Few things please God more than using the gifts He gave us to serve him, and I'm proud to stand beside GLBT people who have devoted their lives to do that.

What a Family is Really About

The folks at Family Pride were kind enough to invite me to contribute to their blog, and I was delighted to accept. I'll be posting over there roughly once a month.

Here is my first contribution:

If I hear one more right-wing zealot prattle on about “preserving the traditional family” I’m going to puke. Back in October, 2004, I learned once and for all what the word family meant, and it didn’t resemble the “traditional” model that some people believe is the anchor of our society.

My wife Bette passed away suddenly on October 11, 2004. It was at that time, the lowest point of my life, that two gay men showed me what being family was truly about.

Click here to read the rest of the post.

Thanks to Page One Q for linking to this story!

June 26, 2007

CNN Feature on Gay Adoption

CNN has been paying some attention to GLBT issues recently, and fortunately my friend Sharone has been paying attention to CNN and let me know about it.

I'm linking here to a feature they posted on gay adoption. One of the interesting things they point out in the article is the fact that only three states have laws on the books that prohibit same-sex couples from adopting a child. On the other side, there are only 13 states that explicitly allow it, so there is a lot of gray area most gay couples have to navigate as they work through what is already a challenging process without that complication.

According to a March 2006 Pew Research Center poll, 46 percent of Americans support gay and lesbian adoption, up from 38 percent in 1999.

Some opponents argue that gay or lesbian households suffer from not having both a mom and a dad.

"Love alone is not enough to guarantee healthy growth and development," James Dobson -- the head of Focus on the Family, a socially conservative organization -- wrote in a commentary for Time magazine in December 2006.

"The two most loving women in the world cannot provide a daddy for a little boy, any more than the two most loving men can be complete role models for a little girl."

But there are millions of single heterosexual mothers and fathers and foster parents, legally raising children across the country. Some find it hard to see how children of same-sex couples or single gay parents are somehow worse off.

"There is no credible social science evidence to support that gay parenting -- and by extension, gay adoptive parenting -- negatively affects the well-being of children," said Adam Pertman, executive director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute.

"It's quite clear that children do fine in homes led by gays and lesbians. That's a pretty basic bottom line."

Pertman says his organization is not particularly involved in gay and lesbian issues - they support gay and lesbian parenting because it "serves children's interests."

Several organizations -- the National Adoption Center, the American Medical Association, American Psychological Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics -- also say that having gay and lesbian parents does not negatively affect children.

Other proponents, like Rob Woronoff of the Child Welfare League of America, argue shutting off adoption and foster care to gays and lesbians adversely affects children because it narrows the pool of potential parents.

"There's no rational reason to exclude someone [who clears the vetting process]," he said.
"Anyone who clears all of those hurdles ... should be able to have a child."

As usual, Dr. Dobson takes a complicated issue and draws it down to its most simplistic form. If he is so worried about a child not having both a male and female influence, he should, dare I say, focus more on solidifying the "traditional marriage" he's so hepped up on preserving and not worry about diminishing the benefits of two men or two women raising a child in a loving home.

The critical point here is the one made by Rob Woronoff of the Child Welfare League. There are not enough people making themselves available to adopt all the children that need a home. How can it possibly be in the best interests of the kids to reduce that pool even further?

Of course, those kids don't offer financial support to organizations like Focus on the Family, do they?

June 25, 2007

Supreme Court Upholds Federally Supported Discrimination

In one of several rulings by the U. S. Supreme Court today, the Court refused to strike down the Bush administration's bone tossed to their religious right supporters, officially known as the Faith-Based Initiatives.

The Court, voting 5-4 against a suit brought by the Freedom From Religion Foundation (it's a bad situation when a Christian is rooting for a group of athiests and agnostics), did not rule on the merits of the suit. Instead, they invoked a technicality, claiming private citizens could not challenge this particular type of funding action because it was taken by the Executive Branch. I'm not a lawyer nor do I play one on TV, but it seems that this will serve to validate and encourage the Bush administration's efforts to consolidate power in the White House, one of the few things they've proven to be quite good at.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation objected to government conferences in which administration officials encourage religious charities to apply for federal grants.

With the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, President Bush says he wants to level the playing field. Religious charities and secular charities should compete for government money on an equal footing.

Of course, Bush and his religious right cohorts want nothing of the kind. They want a playing field tilted toward their side, and the Faith-Based Initiatives are just that. In fiscal 2005, $2.1 billion was awarded through this plan, allowing (primarily right-wing fundamentalist) religious organizations to use funds without having to comply with federal regulations about discrimination toward their employees or those people who are supposed to benefit from the funds.

If a Catholic church is running a soup kitchen and wants to only hire practicing Catholics, or they don't want to serve homosexuals, or whatever rules they want to set up, I may disagree with their practice but I support their right, as a private organization, to hire or help whoever they see fit.

Where I take major exception is when my tax dollars support discriminatory policies, and I don't have a say on whether these organizations get any federal funding or not. I don't want any of my money to swell the coffers of groups that will preach ideas I don't believe in and exclude people I love.

The religious right, however, knows better than us all. They believe they know who is "deserving" of help and that it is perfectly allright to offer service with a string attached, like giving people an opportunity to convert them to their particular version of faith. They also believe that, with this enlightenment, they have earned a right to this financial support and should not be held accountable for how they use it or the quality of services they provide.

In his excellent book "Piety and Politics," the Reverend Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, quotes studies that show not only do these faith-based groups not provide superior services, there are numerous examples of sub-standard performance.

So who benefits the most?

The religious right groups that receive the majority of the money.

Who is watching to make sure they don't use any of these funds for, let's say, anti-gay campaigns?

Not the federal government, that's for sure. They just write the checks.

June 24, 2007

Featured Organization: Human Rights Campaign

One thing I dragged my feet on was joining the Human Rights Campaign, something I rectified at Capital Pride a couple of weeks ago.

This organization, led by Joe Solmonese, is fighting for GLBT rights on several fronts. They are very active in the campaign for marriage equality, working toward ending the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy in the U. S. military, campaigning against the "ex-gay" advocate who has been nominated for Surgeon General. In his spare time, Solmonese hosts a weekly two-hour radio program on XM Radio titled, "The Agenda."

That's a brief overview of what they do, but what does the HRC believe? This from their website:

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against GLBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

HRC seeks to improve the lives of GLBT Americans by advocating for equal rights and benefits in the workplace, ensuring families are treated equally under the law and increasing public support among all Americans through innovative advocacy, education and outreach programs. HRC works to secure equal rights for GLBT individuals and families at the federal and state levels by lobbying elected officials, mobilizing grassroots supporters, educating Americans, investing strategically to elect fair-minded officials and partnering with other GLBT organizations.

This is an organization with over 700,000 members, and this page on their website goes into detail about the different areas the HRC is active in. Of particular interest to me is their faith initiative, where they are working with clergy across different religions to bring GLBT people into full and equal standing in the church along with obtaining rights in society.

You can certainly make a difference working with an organization that focuses on one specific issue pertaining to GLBT rights, and I'll be featuring some of them in the near future. However, if you're like me and are working toward overall equality, joining the HRC is definately worth your consideration.