September 08, 2007

Will Iowa Marriage Ruling Actually Hurt the GLBT Cause?

That the question asked by this article from The Politico. The idea is that by placing the same-sex marriage in the forefront of political issues, that will galvanize the opposition and result in bad things happening regarding GLBT rights.

That appears to have been the case in most areas of the nation in 2004, when states that had initiatves to ban same-sex marriage showed a much stronger Republican turnout at the polls.

The 2006 midterm elections, by contrast, showed that when the gay marriage question is overshadowed by other issues — in that instance, the Iraq war and the rash of Republican scandals — Democrats can win big.

When that happens, gays tend to benefit. The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives passed a bill to expand federal hate crimes protections to homosexuals earlier this year. And unlike recent GOP-controlled Congresses, this one is not planning to take up an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to ban gay marriage.

Across the country, newly Democratic state legislatures have passed bolder gay rights laws, with New Hampshire legalizing gay civil unions and Oregon adopting domestic partnerships for gay couples.

Even in culturally conservative Iowa, where Democrats took the governor’s mansion and both houses of the legislature last year for the first time since 1964, gays earlier this year won their first civil rights protections.

With the 2008 Iowa presidential caucuses looming, last week’s dramatic gay marriage “victory” in Polk County threatens to halt such incremental gains for gay rights.

I understand that, but what is the alternative? Should GLBT activists simply not challenge the status quo and wait for politicians to push toward equality on their timetable?

No, they shouldn't. Understanding what happened in 2004, progressives in Iowa need to step up and not allow their elections to be overrun by social conservatives. Since it is reasonable to expect a strong pushback by the right, the left needs to match it.

The fight for equality is just that--a fight. It has become abundantly clear to me that the right will NOT back down, so it is incumbent upon those who believe in equal rights for everyone to match the right's resolve, tenacity, and energy. Don't be afraid to win a battle. Use a victory to energize the activists and strengthen the resolve.

September 07, 2007

Straight Allies Leading "Seven Straight Nights"

Straight allys across the nation are stepping up and leading groups in their home state to participate in the upcoming "Seven Straight Nights" event.

One of the just happens to be the First Lady of Wisconsin, Jessica Doyle:

Because of our LBGT community, Wisconsin is stronger and better. We are at our very best as a state when we are open, inclusive, and actively dedicated to equal rights for all.

She will be participating in a vigil at the Wisconsin state capitol in Madison.

John Bowen Brown is leading a candlelight vigil at the Arizona Superior Court building in Tuscon.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights reads, "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood (Article 1)." Members of the LGBT community were "born free and equal in dignity and rights." It is my goal to counteract misconceptions about same sex marriage, hold vigils in Arizona advocating for LGBT marriage rights, and make available academic research that provides accurate information about the LGBT community.

A husband and wife team, Mary Jude and Mark Hanks, have a unique perspective for straight allies. They will be leading a vigil at the Maine State House in Augusta.

We have two wonderful children whose biological mother is gay. She and her partner work closely with us to provide a loving and nurturing home to "our" children. Yes, the children have THREE Mommies and we want them to grow up understanding that love and respect is the basis of all relationships -- straight or gay -- and each individual must be valued and afforded the same rights under our laws.

Susan Craine has hunkered down to fight an uphill battle for GLBT equality in Greenville, South Carolina. She will be leading a candlelight vigil there next to City Hall.

Activism runs in my blood, starting with my grandmother fighting at a young age for a woman's right to vote, and my mother standing up and fighting for Civil Rights. Early on I have fought for the "under dog" so to speak. When I moved to Greenville, South Carolina, what can I say, I have run into one of the biggest challenges yet. The Buckle of the Bible Belt, need I say more?

Seven Straight Nights is co-sponsored by Atticus Circle and Soulforce. It will be held from October 7-13. Click here for more information.

September 06, 2007

Right-Wing Hypocrisy at the Highest Level

Glenn Greenwald has an excellent article up on discussing one of the more obvious public displays we've seen of Republican right-wing hypocrisy: (Thanks to PageOneQ for the tip)

When Hugh Hewitt admitted that he wants Larry Craig to resign but does not want the adulterous, serial-prostitute-hiring David Vitter to do so, he was subjected to ridicule and scorn from many different corners -- on the ground that this inconsistency is obviously attributable both to anti-gay animus and rank political self-interest (Vitter's replacement would be chosen by a Democratic Governor, whereas Craig's would be chosen by a right-wing GOP Governor). Even some right-wing blogs noted the absurdity of that position: Hugh Hewitt wants Craig to resign immediately but David Vitter to stay on. Huh?"

Yet that contradictory and nakedly unprincipled posture has now become the official position of the GOP leadership, led by its pious "moral values" wing. A whole slew of very upstanding Family Values Senators are parading around making a flamboyant showing of pressuring Larry Craig to resign (knowing that it will entail no political cost), all while remaining completely silent about David Vitter's at least equally "undignified" and confessed adultery and lawbreaking (acts which, just like Craig, he concealed from his family and colleagues in the Senate until he had no choice).

Whatever else one wants to say about the "family values" wing of the right-wing movement, the absolute last thing that it is is a principled, apolitical movement. And -- as the starkly different treatment for Craig and Vitter conclusively demonstrates -- these vaunted "moral principles," for which we are all supposed to show such profound respect, are invoked only when there is no political cost to invoking them, and worse, typically only when there is political benefit in doing so.

I don't post this here simply to bash the Republicans. This example, and there are many, many others, shows that there truly is no moral high ground in American politics today. None. On neither side of the isle. The Democrats are trying to make their own morality play in this election cycle, but it's all about politics, not morality. The important part of the "values voter" in politicians eyes is the "voter" part, and if appealing to values is the way to get their vote, that's what they'll do.

I know this is a very cynical approach to take on a blog that strives to be positive and affirming, but this is part of the whole message here--ultimately politics is not the answer, God is. There is important work to be done through legislatures, both locally and in Congress, to improve the quality of life for the GLBT community and secure equal rights in our society. That's politics.

The foundation for morality and values, however, is the Church. No, not the church that has scorned and persecuted GLBT people, that has pushed them and others away from God with the hatred and discrimination they preach. There are other churches that do have an understanding about who Jesus really was and why He came to earth. Churches like mine, Believers Covenant Fellowship, apply the lesson taught in John 12:47

As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it.

Politicians are not going to save the world. We will be fortunate if they don't destroy it. Our society, and ultimately the world, will only be safe if we reach people and show them who God really is and allow His love and spirit to manifest in their lives. Instead of turning this country into a theocracy, with is the dream of the religious right, we need to turn people into spirit-filled Christians.

That's how you and I can make a difference.

September 05, 2007

Mike Rogers Gaining Fame for Outing Politicians

I've written about Mike Rogers before, but there were two recent pieces about him that I think are worth bringing to your attention. First, The Washington Post wrote an article about his work outing politicians on the front page of its Metro section:

Rogers reasons that there's justice behind his tactics -- "odious," "outrageous" and "over-the-line" as they might seem to his detractors.

In Rogers's mind, if you're against gay rights in your public life and you live a secret homosexual life, all bets are off.

In 2005, Rogers blogged about Mark Foley, months before his inappropriate instant-messages to male congressional pages became public and he was forced to resign. The former Florida congressman had a varied record, sometimes voting in favor of gay rights, but at one point voting against adoption by same-sex couples.

And last October, he says, he targeted Craig -- months before an undercover sex sting in a Minneapolis airport men's room, and before the Idaho Statesman started its months-long investigation. Two years earlier, Rogers notes, the three-term senator had voted for the failed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

"Hypocrisy," Rogers sneers, "plain, hate-filled hypocrisy."

"I write about closeted people whose records are anti-gay," he says. "If you're a closeted Democrat or Republican and you don't bash gays or vote against gay rights to gain political points, I won't out you."

Wayne Besen then followed with more in his weekly column:

In an era of softer advocacy, Rogers is decidedly in your face. Yet, he has integrated new media with old school activism to create a stunningly effective hybrid that has brought Capitol Hill to its knees. Well, the hypocritical, anti-gay Congressmen were already on their knees - but until Rogers came along with his "outing" website BlogActive, they were getting away with it. Rogers does not tiptoe (or is it tap foot) around the contentions issue of outing and has a string of successes, including the downfall of closeted former Virginia GOP Congressman Ed Schrock.

Still, some opponents - often in the GLBT community - have tried to smear Rogers as radical or loony. Sometimes, these slights are in the media, but more often than not, they are defamatory whispers at cocktail parties by those who feel threatened by his work. Far from radical, however, Rogers is refreshingly contemplative and levelheaded when it comes to the ethics of outing. He has a clear idea of where he stands and has been consistent in his rules of engagement.

While I come up short from anointing Rogers a hero like Besen does, I strongly respect his work. He clearly has an agenda, who on Capitol Hill doesn't, but ultimately he's doing one thing--forcing politicians to be honest about who they are and why they act like they do.

No wonder they are terrified of him.

September 04, 2007

Is Gay Marriage Issue Taking Focus Away From HIV/AIDS?

There are those who subscribe to that school of thought.

From the Washington Blade:

Campaigns for marriage equality have stolen too much attention from the nation’s AIDS epidemic, according to some gay activists.

H. Alexander Robinson, executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition, said in a column posted last week on the Bilerico Project web site that presidential candidates have spent more time discussing same-sex marriage than AIDS.

“While marriage is clearly a major civil rights priority for our community and I dare say the nation,” he said, “it is hardly the only issue and should not in my view define our movement.”

Brad Luna, the organization’s media relations director, said HRC has long worked with other groups to garner more funding and attention to fight the epidemic.

He said those Capitol Hill pleas are not always heard, though, and that “we feel the frustration” when lawmakers fail to adequately address “a disease that needs much more of our attention and resources dedicated to its end.”

Luna said HRC nonetheless pushes politicians on the issue, notably through congressional scorecards and presidential candidates questionnaires.

Is HIV/AIDS moving beyond a "gay" issue? I certainly think the stigma attached to it is well past the stage of being a "gay disease," and I believe it's up to everyone, not just the GLBT community, to advocate for those who suffer from the disease and to work dilligently toward prevention.

September 03, 2007

Correcting Some Right-Wing Propaganda

I've signed up for a lot of e-mail lists from right and far-right wing organizations because I think it is important for me to see what kind of hate-filled bile some of them are spewing regarding the GLBT community and its allies.

I received one over the weekend from The Liberty Counsel, the group founded by the late Jerry Falwell to force his interpretation of God's will for the United States through the court system. This organization was featured in the series "God's Warriors" that recently ran on CNN. One of the things they showed is the mock Supreme Court studio where law students at Falwell's Liberty University are taught to argue for the right-wing agenda in front of the highest court in the land. Matt Starver, the Chairman of The Liberty Counsel, has already had that opportunity.

Anyway, their latest e-mail provided another disturbing insight into the distortions and fear-mongering they use to raise money and recruit people into their fold. Here is the excerpt:

For the past several years, Liberty Counsel has been engaged in an intense legal struggle to preserve the institution of marriage. We are fighting hard because we fully understand the consequences of losing! Even if homosexual activists gain the right to same-sex "marriage," they will not be satisfied.

The goal of radical pro-homosexuals and their activist groups is to destroy marriage and to silence all Christian messages. Christians are already being systematically forced out of business and silenced by the radical pro-homosexual elements in our society.

To paint the entire GLBT community with these broad strokes is either delusional or dishonest. Can he find someone who wants to include three people into a marriage or who wants to marry a dog? Sure--there are people way, way, way out on the fringe regarding any issue. There are also people on the fringe of the right-wing who would like to execute homosexuals, but I wouldn't reasonably accuse The Liberty Counsel to have that as part of their agenda nor would I stoop to their level to intentionally misrepresent that as being so.

Obviously, the vast majority of the GLBT community either want full-marriage rights that would not change anything about existing rights for heterosexual couples, merely include same-sex couples, or they just aren't concerned about making it legal and are content to leave those laws just like they are. There is no groundswell of support for taking the concept of legal marriage beyond two people, and I'm confident that Mr. Starver knows that.

The only "Christian" message that the GLBT community is interested in silencing is that of hatred toward GLBT people. Again, there is a large portion of the community that has just completely tuned that message out. Nice work by the right-wing, pushing people not like themselves away from God, hardly what Jesus had in mind with The Great Commission:

Matthew 28: 19-20 (NIV) Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.

I know the so-called fundamentalists take the end of that scripture to mean teach GLBT people not to be GLBT because of how they have conveniently cherry-picked and misunderstood scripture, but even with that they have often approached it in a way that precludes the first part (far and away the most important) of making disciples.

Approaching people with hatred, bigotry, and judgement (of man, not God) usually results in pushing people away or creating pushback, where people respond in kind with their own hatred, bogotry, and judgement.

Neither one fits the passage from Matthew, an odd approach for any organization supposedly promoting Christian values.

Is Our Society at the Point Where "Marriage Just Doesn't Work?"

I read this op-ed piece in the Washington Blade about the perceived failure of marriage as an institution and cringed.

I CAN’T HELP but think that part of the problem is not divorce itself, but the narrowness with which we construct marriage. The notion that two people live together their entire lives in a primary relationship that is to fulfill their sexual, emotional and spiritual needs is limiting, at best, and bunk, at worst. In short, I’m coming to the conclusion that marriage doesn’t work.

While the sociological evidence may be overwhelming — 50 percent of all marriages in the U.S. end in divorce and the number of people marrying in Europe is in steady decline — it has taken personal experience for me to understand that marriage does not work and to begin to articulate an alternative.

The bottom line is that people should be able to live their best lives in relationships that are warm and caring and supportive and loving. For some people those may be lifetime relationships; for others, they may be serial relationships. For all, those relationships will be with many people. Regardless of what church and state recognize, we all craft multiple relationships over a lifetime to fulfill multiple needs.

Have straight people screwed marriage up so badly that this is where we are as a society?

In my opinion, not quite.

Personally, I had a wonderful marriage to my late wife Bette (over 11 years until her passing) and have an amazing marriage with Pastor Brenda. I have never felt that I needed anyone or anything else to suppliment the love, affirmation, satisfaction, and parnership I have enjoyed in both marriages. I have been truly blessed.

I know of other people who have experienced the same. My best friend is coming up on his 20th wedding anniversary and his marriage is still going strong. Apostle Dale and his partner Garrey, now legally married in Canada, have been together for 20 years and Brenda tells me their relationship has never been stronger.

It is overreaching to say that marriage, as it is currently defined, is a failure because so many fail. In baseball, the best hitters fail to reach base seven out of every ten times. Does that mean that the rules should be made easier? No, it merely means that it is a challenging endeavor that takes a lot of committment and hard work, just like a marriage.

I don't think anything that is truly important or valuable comes easily. If it did, how much would it really be worth? I had to work hard at my marriage to Bette, and it was worth every bit of effort and then some. What I learned from that relationship has made mine with Pastor Brenda even easier, but we still work at it, putting the other person's needs first and giving ourselves completely to each other, opening our hearts and souls up, taking a chance on being hurt but trusting each other enough that we don't live in fear of that happening.

It would be easy and somewhat trite to say that God is the answer here, but there have even been a flurry of recent breakups, some of them quite nasty, between high-profile ministry couples that seem to refute that concept.

That doesn't mean it's not true, however. When we are living in God's will, He will bless us. God is all about love, and love needs to be the foundation of a good marriage--love for each other and love for Him.

Of course, there are many, many books written about this and I won't presume to be able to speak comprehensively about marriage in a blog post. I do hope, however, that if you approach the idea cynically, perhaps through valid personal experience like the writer of the Blade editorial, what I am sharing here might help you consider an alternative view. In the Blbie, 1 Corinthians 13 is known as "the love chapter." I'll close here with a short excerpt for you to consider, which I believe is just as applicable to same-sex couples as it is to myself and Pastor Brenda:

1 Corinthians 13, verses 4-7: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

The Political Closet

That's a term used in this essay in the Gay City News, referring to a politician who touts their support for GLBT equality yet stops short on the issue of same-sex marriage.

As the writer, Yoav Sivan, points out, that is one crowded closet here in the United States. Should the GLBT community still support presidential candidates who support issues like hate crimes legislation, ending "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" but settle for civil unions instead of full marriage rights?

The task before gay politicians is how to emerge from two closets - their personal closet in which they can choose to hide their sexuality and their political closet in which they can choose to hide their pro-gay stands.

No one watching the recent Human Rights Campaign/Logo forum of Democratic presidential candidates could doubt that all three of the leading contenders, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards, remain in the political closet. None of them was convincing in claiming to be against marriage equality.

In the race for the Democratic nomination, the Democratic presidential hopefuls are attempting to court gay voters without coming out as too pro-gay. Even LGBT organizations tend to play along by providing them auspices, helping them fundraise while not asking for the political token in return.

They convince themselves that it is worthwhile to keep low profile now in order to install a friendlier face in the White House. But isn't about time that gay rights be allowed in the White House through the main entrance and not merely through the back door?

Yes, closeted liberal politicians - we know whom they are - can keep their private life out of view of the cameras. But due to the continuous efforts of gay rights activists, a politician cannot ignore the gay agenda any longer.

If those politicians want to keep to their personal closet, it cannot be at the expense of our rights. If they are not willing to advocate what's in their hearts - marriage equality and nothing less - we gay activists must drag them out of the political closet by whatever tools at our disposal and never let them back in.

I strongly agree with the principles Sivan expresses here, but the problem right now is the execution. If the GLBT community does not support the Democratic nominee, warts and all, they give the Republican candidate a greater chance of winning, which almost certainly would be a setback in the struggle for greater rights.

What would be needed is a Democratic candidate with the courage and strength of conviction who could also obtain the resources needed for a successful campaign. Sadly, that individual has not forward, if he or she even exists at all. That leaves voters interested in GLBT equality with a lesser of the evils decision.

Hopefully, a Democratic president who at least moved the equality ball upfield, even if they fall short of the goal line (full marriage rights) would encourage more support for equality and eventually make supporting same-sex marriage politically expedient.

That is the ONLY way I ever see it becoming reality.

September 02, 2007

Debate on the Merits of Outing

There is a debate that is posted on the Newsweek website that I think readers here will be interested in.

The participants are Michelangelgo Signorile, author and host of a talk program on Sirius OutQ radio and Chris Crain, author and former editor of a block of gay newspapers like the Washington Blade. The topic is the ethics of "outing" public officials, especially anti-gay ones. Here are some excerpts, but I suggest you check out the whole debate:

Signorile: I think reporters, editors and news producers are gradually seeing the importance and the relevance of looking into this issue with regard to public figures. If people are going to make other people’s lives into campaign issues by promoting "family values," then it is right to look into issues relevant to their own lives.

Crain: (Idaho Statesman reporter Dan) Popkey spent months interviewing anyone familiar with gay life in Washington, D.C., including me, asking questions about where closeted men cruise for sex. This is a witch hunt, not legitimate journalism.

Crain: They will go after anyone whose private sex life is, according to them, inconsistent with their public views. In some cases, "outing" activists including you, Mike, have gone after nonpoliticians and even openly gay and pro-gay public figures if their private sex lives are deemed inconsistent with their public views. Anonymous ads on online sex sites have been exposed, and the claims of alleged past sex partners have been sought and published. These activists have no boundaries when it comes to the private sex lives of public figures, and they would drag the media into the bedrooms, toilets and phone-sex chat lines with them. It's not legitimate journalism, it invades the privacy of public figures, and (whether they realize it or not) it smears gay people generally by reinforcing the idea that we're all out there furtively looking for anonymous sex.

Signorile: Some people adhere only to the hypocrisy test; others, like me, are about normalizing sexual orientation in journalism and not keeping homosexuality as the dirty little secret while heterosexuality is glamorized. For me, a public figure's homosexuality should be reported on when relevant to a larger story, just as when heterosexuality is reported on or asked about whenever relevant.

Personally, I agree with Signorile. Public figures put themselves out there and often trade on publicity they seek. I believe the flip side to that is puting relevant parts of their lives under scrutiny, particularly but not exclusively when their public positions are inconsistent with how they live their lives.

If you want to hide something about your life, you should stay out of the spotlight. If you chose to put yourself out there for public consumption, in today's society you need to be prepared to deal with the consequences.