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.

November 04, 2008

What Are You Afraid Of?

For those of you who will vote tomororow in states that are considering constitutional amendments that would prohibit same-sex marriage (especially Proposition 8 in California and Proposition 2 in Florida), I ask you onto consider one important question as you cast your ballot:

What are you afraid of?

How does the prospect of same-sex couples receiving the full legal rights of marriage change anyone else's life?

How does the right for same-sex couples to transfer property and visit each other in the hospital just like traditional married couples hurt you?

How does the fact that Bill and Tom can marry hurt Joe and Jane's marriage?

How does Sue and Sally's legal right to marry threaten to increase the divorce rate which usually hovers around 50%.

I believe that if the right of same-sex couples is a threat to your marriage, that is more of a reflection on the health of your relationship than it is an indictment of anyone else.

I believe that the notion of homosexuality being sinful, even in committed relationships, says more about your lack of understanding of the power of God's love than it does any sinful behavior on their part.

Are you afraid of being wrong, that what you've been taught all your life was a mistake, perhaps even an intentional life?

It's never too late to correct that.

Casting a vote for equality in marriage would be a good step in that direction.

November 03, 2008

An Open Letter To Pastor Rick Warren

I have to start out this post by saying that I have a lot of respect for Rick Warren. I feel he has brought some fresh ideas to ministry that are bringing more people to the Lord. That being said, I felt compelled to write him after receiving the following email from his church...

"For 5,000 years, EVERY culture and EVERY religion - not just Christianity - has defined marriage as a contract between men and women. There is no reason to change the universal, historical definition of marriage to appease 2% of our population. This is one issue that both Democrats and Republicans can agree on. Both Barack Obama and John McCain have publicly opposed the redefinition of marriage to include so-called "gay marriage." Even some gay leaders, like Al Rantel of KABC oppose watering down the definition of marriage. Of course, my long-time opposition is well known. This is not a political issue, it is a moral issue that God has spoken clearly about. There is no doubt where we should stand on this issue. This will be a close contest, maybe even decided by a few thousand votes. I urge you to VOTE YES on Proposition 8 - to preserve the biblical definition of marriage. Don't forget to vote!
Rick WarrenSaddleback ChurchPurpose Driven Network"

Now, since you've read what he had to say, I am sharing what I wrote back to him. I have yet to recieve a response and I'm not holding my breath. Smile.

"Pastor Warren,

I am writing to you today to ask you to rethink and pray about your decision to support Prop 8 in California. While I understand that many Christians can differ in their views of what the Bible says about homosexuality, I think you and I can both agree that Jesus would not discriminate against anyone.

You are right when you say that marriage is the ideal that has been held up for thousands of years for men and women. You are right to say that marriage is a biblical concept that should be protected. What I feel you are wrong about is saying that the state should mandate who is allowed to legally marry and who is not able to legally marry.

As a Christian, who is also a lesbian in a 15-year relationship with my partner, I feel very strongly about this issue. Without legal protection for my relationship, I cannot visit my partner in the hospital, make any medical decisions if she is incapacitated, decide where she will be buried if she dies before me, put her on my health insurance, and so on.

From what I've seen of you and your ministry, you seem like a person who is compassionate and wants to act like Jesus did, regardless of what others may think of you. I'm asking you now to do what Jesus would do. I'm asking you to prayerfully consider why you are telling people to support Prop 8. Is it because you truly believe that "traditional marriage" is under attack? I still fail to understand how having my relationship protected, as yours already is, would hurt your relationship. Traditional marriage will always be the ideal and will always be what the majority seek, so why is it that marriage for people like me is so threatening?

The last thing I want to address is the fact that many Christians seem to think that marriage is a religious institution that shouldn't be messed with in the legal arena. What I would like to submit is that marriage is a legal institution that has a religious component. It's a contract between two people. Whether your church chooses to recognize same sex marriage is your business. I would ever ask the government to force your church to perform my wedding ceremony! However, I don't understand why churches such as yours feel that you need to impose your beliefs about marriage on the rest of us in the secular realm.

Please, Pastor Warren, ask yourself if this is really what God would want you to do. Social issues are sticky, to be sure, but the Lord never said life was easy, did He? God bless you."


November 02, 2008

Sheltering Kids From Reality

Dana Rudolph, the editor of Mombian, wrote an essay for addressing an issue related to to the campaign against Proposition 8 in California that addresses a critical reality that opponents of gay rights, particularly same-sex marriage, don't want to face:

The right-wing groups trying to revoke marriage equality in California have been making the fictitious claim that unless Proposition 8 passes, schools will be required to teach young children that marriage of same- and opposite-sex couples is equivalent–and that this is a bad thing.

They cite the state education codes that require teachers to instruct children about “respect for marriage and committed relationships” and “the legal and financial aspects and responsibilities of marriage and parenthood (Sections 51933 and 51890).”

As the No On 8 campaign points out, however, Prop 8 does not mention anything about education. Furthermore, California law gives parents the right to prohibit their children from being taught anything about health and family issues at school.

What needs to be emphasized in the back-and-forth on this issue, however, is that regardless of the curriculum, children will learn in schools about the marriage of same-sex couples, because the children of such couples are in schools.

Even during the tender years of preschool and kindergarten, our children, like all others, will talk about their families in class and drag their parents to school plays and soccer games.

See, even if same-sex couples do not have the legal right to marry, they will still exist. Tommy with two dads and Cindy with two moms will still be interacting with their classmates from more traditional families, and they won't think anything is strange about it at all.

That scares the crap out of those who approach LGBT people as second-class citizens and who want to make the case that God will condemn them to Hell. It's happening, though, and neither legislation, constitutional amendments, nor fire and brimstone bigotry from the pulpit seems likely to stop it.

Click here to read the rest of Dana Rudolph's essay.