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.