May 09, 2009

When Will Obama Engage?

There is an interesting consequence of the recent advance of GLBT equality in several states; the pressure is mounting on President Obama to push something through at the federal level.

From the New York Times:

President Obama was noticeably silent last month when the Iowa Supreme Court overturned the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.

But now Mr. Obama — who has said he opposes same-sex marriage as a Christian but describes himself as a “fierce advocate of equality” for gay men and lesbians — is under pressure to engage on a variety of gay issues that are coming to the fore amid a dizzying pace of social, political, legal and legislative change.

Two of Mr. Obama’s potential Supreme Court nominees are openly gay; some advocates, irked that there are no gay men or lesbians in his cabinet, are mounting a campaign to influence his choice to replace Justice
David H. Souter, who is retiring. Same-sex marriage is advancing in states — the latest to allow it is Maine — and a new flare-up in the District of Columbia could ultimately put the controversy in the lap of the president.

Mr. Obama’s new global health initiative has infuriated activists who say he is not financing AIDS programs generously enough. And while the president has urged Congress to pass a hate crimes bill, a high priority for gay groups, he has delayed action on one of his key campaign promises, repealing the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” rule.

Social issues like same-sex marriage bring together deeply held principles and flashpoint politics, and many gay activists, aware that Mr. Obama is also dealing with enormous challenges at home and overseas, have counseled patience.

But some are unsettled by what they see as the president’s cautious approach. Many are still seething over his choice of the Rev.
Rick Warren, the evangelical pastor who opposes same-sex marriage, to deliver the invocation at his inaugural, and remain suspicious of Mr. Obama’s commitment to their cause.

In the words of David Mixner, a writer, gay activists are beginning to wonder, “How much longer do we give him the benefit of the doubt?” Last weekend, Richard Socarides, who advised President
Bill Clinton on gay issues, published an opinion piece in The Washington Post headlined, “Where’s our fierce advocate?”

Here is an interesting piece from CNN including a discussion on how Obama should approach gay rights issues (thanks to Pam's House Blend for the tip):

CNN political analyist Paul Begala makes a key point in that video, stating that the gay marriage issue is moving along quite well at this point without the White House pushing it forward.

I understand the eagerness of people who are still being discriminated against to have that situation corrected, but the enormous crush of issues affecting the security and economic health of the United States, issues with don't discriminate between straight and gay, do need to be Obama's priority. Let's see if the Senate will pass the Hate Crimes bill that the House has already approved (here is a NY Times editorial encouraging them to do so), and give the President time to move forward on Don't Ask, Don't Tell (he promised he would in this personal letter).

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi also preaches patience in this article from the Detroit News:

"Right now on our agenda we're talking about turning the economy around, dealing with an energy policy, health care for all Americans; education is the third pillar. We have an economic crisis of a magnitude that none of us has seen in our lifetime that we have to deal with."

"Members will make a priority of issues like gays in the military, and where we have prospects of success, we always want to expand to a place of more opportunity and more freedom for all Americans."

"But right now our agenda is jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, and as we move on that front, concurrently, we have to make some decisions about what is possible in our values based initiatives as well."

In the meantime, equality has built up a good head of steam at the state level, so lets focus on keeping that momentum moving forward.

May 08, 2009

Advocacy Group: Atticus Circle

Atticus Circle is a GLBT advocacy group founded by Anne S. Wynne, a straight woman who felt that "as a married woman of three children, I decided to take a stand."

From the Atticus Circle website:

Why We Need Atticus Circle

The Atticus Circle was created because discrimination exists. Same gender couples and their children are being systematically denied the protections and responsibilities afforded to other families.

Research shows that there are over three million gay or lesbian people living in the United States in committed relationships in the same residence.

Here are just a few of the ways discrimination affects the lives of these families:

Because they cannot legally marry, same gender couples are denied the automatic right to function as equal partners parents out in the world - in places such as their child's school or the hospital emergency room. Same gender couples are also denied the right to joint adoption and joint foster care.

The children of same gender couples are denied the guarantee of child support and an automatic legal relationship to both parents - possibly leading to no contact with the parent who is not on the birth certificate.

Health: Unlike spouses, unmarried partners are usually not considered next-of-kin for the purposes of hospital visitation and emergency medical decisions. In addition, they can't cover their families on their health plans without paying taxes on the coverage, nor are they eligible for Medicare and Medicaid coverage.

Same-gender couples are denied the right to inherit from each other like a husband and wife. They are denied the right to receive Social Security survivor benefits. A surviving partner could never file a wrongful death claim, and is not entitled to bereavement leave from work.

It is also worth remembering that there are no "accidental" children in gay and lesbian families. Their families are created with conscious intention. We must honor these relationships by giving them the rights they deserve.

Click here to read more about Atticus Circle, including their new initiative "Sundays of Solidarity."

May 07, 2009

ANOTHER Big Win: Same-Sex Marriage Now Legal in Maine

From CNN:

Same-sex marriage became legal in Maine on Wednesday as Gov. John Baldacci signed a bill less than an hour after the state legislature approved it.

"I have come to believe that this is a question of fairness and of equal protection under the law and that a civil union is not equal to civil marriage," said Baldacci, a Democrat.

The Human Rights Campaign, a gay and lesbian rights organization, praised Maine's new law.

"This law is simply about making sure that loving, committed couples, and their families, receive equal rights and responsibilities. This is a step that will strengthen Maine families," Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese said in a statement.

More from Gay City News:

Betsy Smith, executive director of EqualityMaine, noted the significance of a massive public hearing held several weeks ago, at which thousands of citizens turned out, the clear majority of them in favor of marriage equality.

"Since we began our campaign, tens of thousands of Mainers have raised their voices in support of fairness for gay and lesbian families," Smith said, in a written statement. "Today the Legislature and the Governor listened to the people of Maine and made marriage equality the law of this state. Two weeks ago thousands of Mainers traveled from every corner of the state to testify to their hopes for their families, and the harm that they suffer from not being able to marry.

"Baldacci becomes the first governor in the nation to sign a marriage equality law not mandated by a court. Earlier this year, Connecticut's Republican governor, Jodi Rell, signed a measure passed by the Legislature there to conform the state's laws to its high court marriage equality ruling last year. Republican Governors Arnold Schwarzenegger of California and Jim Douglas of Vermont vetoed similar measures, though Douglas' action was overridden.

Noting he would soon celebrate his 53rd wedding anniversary, Representative James J. Campbell Jr., a Newfield Republican, said, "They have been the best 53 years of my life. I don't want to stand here and say that two men and two women cannot have what I've had for the past 53 years with my wife."

It's nice to see a Republican committed to acting on an issue of fairness. Hopefully more of his colleagues will follow suit.

May 06, 2009

DC Counvil Votes to Recognize Other States' Same-Sex Marriages

The Nation's Capital has become a symbol of hope for many Americans since the inauguration of President Obama, and that hope has started to become a more tangible reality for the GLBT community with today's passage by the city council of a bill that will recognize same-sex marriages legally performed in other states. Mayor Fenty is expected to sign the bill into law.

Ironically, the lone dissenting vote was former mayor (and felon) Marion Barry, long a supporter of the District's GLBT community but who has undergone a recent public transformation into a champion of traditional marriage (despite issues with that in his own life).

Here's an excerpt from the Washington Post report:

Council member David A. Catania (I-At Large), one of two openly gay members of the council, appeared to take a swipe at Barry over his stance.

"This issue is whether or not our colleagues on a personal level view me and [council member] Jim Graham as your equals," Catania said, referring to the other openly gay member of the council. "If we are permitted the same rights and responsibilities and obligations as our colleagues. So this is personal. This is acknowledging our families as much as we acknowledge yours."

If Congress does not try to block the bill to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states, Catania has said he will introduce a separate bill later this year to allow same-sex marriages to be conducted in the District.

Barry predicted today there could be a "civil war" in the District if the Council decides to take up a broader gay marriage bill later this year.

"All hell is going to break lose," Barry said while speaking to reporters. "We may have a civil war. The black community is just adamant against this."

Stay tuned. Click here to read the rest of the Post's report.

May 05, 2009

Using the "B" Word More Sparingly


I've used that word plenty on this blog as have many other LGBT activists.

Is it accurate, and is it helpful?

First, not always, and second, seldom.

Here's an excerpt from a thoughtful essay on by John Corvino:

Marriage-equality opponents are increasingly complaining that we’re calling them bigots. This leads to a kind of double-counting of our arguments: For any argument X that we offer, opponents complain both that we’re saying X and that we’re saying that anyone who disagrees with X is a bigot.

Then, instead of responding to X—that is, debating the issue on the merits—they focus on the alleged bigotry charge and grumble about being called names.

I don’t deny that some of us do call them names (sometimes deserved, sometimes not). Yet even those who call them “bigots”—such as Frank Rich in his New York Times op-ed “The Bigots’ Last Hurrah”—often engage the substance as well. Increasingly, our opponents ignore the substance in favor of touting their alleged persecution.

Personally, I think the term “bigot” should be used sparingly. Many of those who oppose marriage equality are otherwise decent people who can and sometimes do respond to reasoned dialogue.

To call such persons bigots is not merely inaccurate; it’s a conversation-stopper. It says, “your views are beyond the pale, and I won’t dignify them with discussion.”

I've wondered more than once if some of the folks who I work with and with whom I share good discussions about the Lord read some of my pieces where I use the "B" word how they would feel. I know, as I'm sure most of us do, many good-hearted people who love God that truly believe that the Bible teaches homosexuality is a sin. How would they feel if they saw me indirectly label them bigots for that belief? Angry and hurt, I suspect, and less open to hearing what I have to say about much of anything I suspect.

There is a moveable middle of opinion about GLBT rights that is starting to move in the right direction. I believe the best way to keep that momentum is to engage in constructive discussion, which is hard to do when either side slaps a label on the other.

I'll pledge to be more sensitive toward that, and I encourage you to do the same.

Click here to read the rest of John Corvino's essay.

May 04, 2009

Do You Tweet in Church?

If you do, this article from Time magazine encourages you not to feel guilty about it:

There's a time and a place for technology, and most houses of worship still say it's not at morning Mass. But instead of reminding worshippers to silence their cell phones, a small but growing number of churches around the country are following Voelz' lead and encouraging people to integrate text-messaging into their relationship with God.

In Seattle, Mars Hill churchgoers regularly tweet throughout the service. In New York City, Trinity Church marked Good Friday by tweeting the Passion play, detailing the stages of Jesus' crucifixion in short bursts. At Next Level Church, outside Charlotte, it's not only okay to fuse social networking technology with prayer; it's desirable.

On Easter Sunday, pastor Todd Hahn prefaced his sermon by saying, "I hope many of you are tweeting this morning about your experience with God."

"It's a huge responsibility of a church to leverage whatever's going on in the broader culture, to connect people to God and to each other," says Hahn.

If worship is about creating community, Twitter is an undeniably useful tool. The trick is to not let the chatter overshadow the need for quiet reflection that spirituality requires. At Westwinds, people can ask questions about the sermon that the pastors will answer later, or they can tweet in real time and hope another congregant offers insight. Some use Twitter as a note-taking tool. Often, it's pastor-directed, with McDonald preaching while Voelz taps out, "In what way do you feel the spirit of God moving within you?" Discuss.

Well, there you are folks, tweet away in the name of the Lord. Just make sure your house of worship is a twitter-friendly zone.

May 03, 2009

Sunday Worship 5/3/09

If you don't have a welcoming church near you, or you just can't make yourself step into one, we're bringing worship to you. Here are links to some worship music and services from open and affirming ministries (all times eastern). I hope you are blessed and take time out of your busy schedule to enter into the Lord's day.

Don't forget to click on the tab on the upper right of this blog and leave your prayer requests in the comment section so we can petition the Lord for your needs.

We appreicate all of the positive feedback we've received for our Sunday Worship series. If you know of a service we should add to our list, please send an e-mail and share it with me.

Worship Music--sing along and make a joyful noise unto the Lord!

Live Sunday Services (all times Eastern)
AL-Covenant Community Church, Birmingham, 11:45 AM
FL-Potters House International Fellowship, Tampa, 11:00 AM
VA-Believers Covenant Fellowship, Vienna, 11:00 AM
OK-Diversity Christian Fellowship International, Tulsa, 1:00 PM
CA-Glory Tabernacle Christian Center, Long Beach, 1:00 PM
WA-Living Water Fellowship, Kenmore, 1:30 PM

Video Archive
AL-Covenant Community Church, Birmingham
CA-Glory Tabernacle Christian Center, Long Beach
FL-Church of the Holy SpiritSong, Ft. Lauderdale
FL-Potters House International Fellowship, Tampa
GA-Gentle Spirit Christian Church, Atlanta
MI-Christ Community Church, Spring Lake, MI
OK-Expressions Community Fellowship, Oklahoma City
OK-Diversity Christian Fellowship International, Tulsa
WA-Living Water Fellowship, Kenmore