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Gay People Against Same-Sex Marriage July 31, 2006

Posted by newsfittopost in lgbt Issues, marriage equality.
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The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender movement has been vigilant in its efforts to achieve marriage equality ever since the Massachusetts Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in 2004. The state government’s recognition of the value in same-sex relationships was a watershed moment that led to an unprecedented amount of lawsuits aimed at overturning marriage equality bans state-by-state.

Over two years and several devastating setbacks later, same-sex marriage is still only legal in Massachusetts. Millions of dollars, hundreds of court battles and the overwhelming attention of LGBT groups have yet to make a significant impact in the fight for marriage equality, and some gays and lesbians are questioning the direction of the entire LGBT movement.

The New York Times talked with gay advocates who have never supported the fight for marriage and are disappointed with the movement for setting aside other issues in favor of a more one-track plan:

To these activists, the fight for gay marriage is the mirror image of the right-wing conservative Christian lobby for family values and feeds into the same drive for a homogeneous, orthodox American culture. The Stonewall confrontation and early gay rights movement, after all, was about the right to live an unconventional life, and to Mr. [Bill] Dobbs and others like him, marriage is the epitome of convention…

They say the gay marriage movement, backed by major well-funded organizations like Lambda Legal, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, has drained resources and psychic energy from other causes like AIDS research, universal health insurance and poverty among gay people.

Gay and lesbian advocates who do not support same-sex marriage usually fall into one of two camps, saying they do not support marriage because:

  • the institution is archaic and oppressive by nature, unfairly rewarding people who fit into traditional social molds; or
  • the LGBT movement’s scarce resources are spent on gay and lesbian people in a particular social institution instead of using those resources for all LGBT people, whether they have a partner or not

In numerous postings (including here and here), I have argued that the LGBT movement has concentrated too heavily on marriage while ignoring vital protections like non-discrimination laws. However, I do believe

The belief that marriage is an oppressive institution that homogenizes society ignores some basic facts. Although many who enter into marriage have relationships that could be considered oppressive, the institution itself does not create this phenomena. It is the players in the relationship who often times create this unbalanced authority, not the government document itself. Those who wish to prevent marriage equality are themselves attempting to homogenize the gay and lesbian community… believing that gay and lesbian people should be single or should not enter into the institution of marriage. Marriage is a choice, and the “live and let live” attitude of gays and lesbians who do not support marriage equality seems somewhat contradictory if they do not support same-sex couples who hope to get married.

The argument that much needed resources are taken away from important LGBT issues by focusing on marriage is a valid one. The LGBT movement has over-prioritized marriage while placing other important issues on the back-burner. But the fight for marriage equality is about all LGBT people, not just those who choose to get married.

Equal marriage rights should not be the only focus of the LGBT movement, but a lack of support for same-sex marriage implies gay and lesbian people are not able to live like other families. Whether you prefer the bar scene or your children’s soccer game, marriage equality should be an important step for all LGBT people who believe in fairness and tolerance.

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Role of the Church: Moving Away From Divisive Politics July 30, 2006

Posted by newsfittopost in politics, religion, religion distorted.
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One of the biggest struggles for many gay and lesbian people is their faith in a higher being. The Christ they believed in most of their lives – a compassionate, accepting son of God – is often times hard to find in today’s houses of worship.

Many preachers claim gays and lesbians are immoral beings intent on the destruction of family, marriage and tradition. More painful than the attacks themselves, however, is that this alleged “morality” is most often times claimed to be the word of God.

Just as the Bible was used to justify slavery, segregation and anti-semitism, conservative religious leaders are once again using the Holy book as justification for intolerance. And just as popular religious leaders like Jerry Falwell were forced to apologize for their “former” support of segregation and South African apartheid, there will be a time when religious leaders will feel compelled to apologize to gays and lesbians. Anyone who does not believe this has a poor understanding of the history of religious oppression.

The tide is already beginning to turn. More conservative Evangelicals are refusing to speak out against issues like same-sex marriage, even if they don’t support it themselves.

Cedar Ridge Community Church pastor Brian D. McLaren:

More and more people are saying this has gone too far — the dominance of the evangelical identity by the religious right. You cannot say the word ‘Jesus’ in 2006 without having an awful lot of baggage going along with it. You can’t say the word ‘Christian,’ and you certainly can’t say the word ‘evangelical’ without it now raising connotations and a certain cringe factor in people.

Because people think, ‘Oh no, what is going to come next is homosexual bashing, or pro-war rhetoric, or complaining about ‘activist judges.’

This concern among more moderate Evangelicals could transform the way pastors preach to their flock. It is part of a relatively new evangelical movement called the “emerging church”, which tries to lessen the polarizing views of fundamentalist Evangelicals on the right. The “emerging church” hopes to return kindness and compassion to the church… something that has nearly disappeared since extreme conservative ideology became embraced by the most visible preachers.

Evangelical megachurch leader Rev. Gregory A. Boyd believes some Christians have turned patriotism and political affiliation into a form of “idolatry”. From the New York Times:

Mr. Boyd lambasted the “hypocrisy and pettiness” of Christians who focus on “sexual issues” like homosexuality, abortion or Janet Jackson’s breast-revealing performance at the Super Bowl halftime show. He said Christians these days were constantly outraged about sex and perceived violations of their rights to display their faith in public.

“Those are the two buttons to push if you want to get Christians to act,” he said. “And those are the two buttons Jesus never pushed.”

These pastors are brave people of God willing to lose the parts of their congregations that are embedded with the belief that Christianity and the Republican party are synonymous. Religious teachings take priority over politics, and these pastors realize that the extreme-right is intent on creating a psuedo-theocracy in the United States. Theocracies have and always will lead to oppression and violence… America would not be an exception.

Christians, gay or straight, should continue to push for religious institutions free of politics – progressive or conservative. It is my belief that the Christian God is far more pleased with followers who help the poor, than followers who lobby Congress to ban same-sex marriage. This transformation is epitomized by the recent election of Episcopal leader Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. We can only hope that Bishop Schori represents Christianity of the twenty-first century, and Falwell becomes a distant memory.

Forgetting Washington and Moving on to Maryland July 28, 2006

Posted by newsfittopost in legal, lgbt Issues, marriage equality.
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In a quasi-unusual move, the Washington Supreme Court justices have discussed why the decision against marriage equality took over a year to come down. It seems as if the diverse views on the case resulted in an elongated opinion writing process. Although I disagree with the opinion in the case, it seems as if the decision-making process was more about legal standing than popular opinion, which is good.

In other news… the Maryland high court has agreed to hear a case seeking to overturn the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. Just when you think the flurry of court cases are over, more seem to come.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: Harming the War on Terror July 27, 2006

Posted by newsfittopost in bush administration, lgbt Issues, military.
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The Bush administration has made sure the entire world knows the immense threat terrorists and Islamic extremists pose to world peace. Controversial domestic spying programs have been initiated to combat the threat: wire-tapping, scanning financial transactions and purchasing extensive phone records from America’s largest wireless phone providers. Despite concerns over privacy rights, the administration has argued in times of war, drastic steps are often taken to protect the nation.

One of the largest obstacles to fighting the war on terror has been the communications gap between intelligence services in the United States and Islamic extremists abroad. As Newsweek reported recently, it has been difficult for the government to find the Arabic speakers necessary to effectively monitor the thousands of communications between potential terrorists worldwide. The language-barrier has been an on-going challenge for the FBI, CIA and Department of Defense.

Despite the almost desperate need for qualified Arabic-speaking intelligence officers, a 30-year-old decorated sergeant and Arabic language specialist was dismissed by the U.S. Army last January. Sgt. Bleu Copas had served his country for almost four years, saying he joined up because he wanted to fight for America after the horrific events of September 11th. Now, this valuable player in the war on terror is job-hunting with discharge papers in hand.

Sgt. Copas was not dismissed because of harassment, sexual assault or any of the other problems that have plagued our military in recent years. He was dismissed because a fellow servicemember sent an email to his superior that claimed Copas was gay. After confirming the email’s assertion, Copas was honorably discharged from the U.S. military under the government’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.

“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was enacted during the Clinton administration as a compromise bill – Clinton wanted gay and lesbian people to be able to serve openly in the military and conservative members of Congress hoped to maintain the ban on gay members. The compromise allowed gay and lesbian people to serve in the military, but forbid them from telling a soul about their sexual orientation.

In the last year, 726 servicemembers were kicked out of the military because they are gay or lesbian. Since the World Trade Center fell, 55 Arabic language specialists have been dismissed under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”.

At a time when Neo-Nazis and white supremacists are infiltrating the military in record numbers, the U.S. government is dismissing invaluable Arabic-speaking gays and lesbians simply because of their sexual orientation. Aside from disrespecting gay and lesbian people serving the country, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has compromised the Bush administration’s war on terror. The government faces an immense task in controlling Islamic extremists, yet precious resources are being thrown out the door because of a policy that relies on blatant discrimination.

“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” needs to be repealed because it places our country in greater danger and discriminates against people who fight for a free and fair America. The military has never had to follow civilian laws, including legislation banning discrimination, but that does not mean “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is what’s best for the country. There are many reasons “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” should be repealed, and only one preventing it from happening: homophobia.

If the Bush administration truly believes the war on terror is a higher priority than pleasing social conservatives, he would immedialtely call for the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. His extremist base may hate the idea of gay and lesbian servicemembers being treated as equal, but pleasing his base should not take priority over valuable men and women who are willing to fight the war on terror.

Find out more at the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.

Changing Strategies After the Washington Supreme Court Denies Marriage Equality July 26, 2006

Posted by newsfittopost in legal, lgbt Issues, marriage equality.
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After nearly 16 months of waiting for a decision on the marriage equality case in Washington state, the ruling has come down. In a 5-4 decision, the Washington Supreme Court ruled there is no constitutional right to same-sex marriage and that a law banning marriage equality is constitutional.

Although the ruling did not come as a shock to LGBT advocates, it is a huge defeat which could have tremendous repercussions for those fighting for equal rights. After a month of legal defeats in New York, Georgia, Colorado and now Washington, it is time for the movement to reinvent itself and its strategies for achieving equal rights.

On Tuesday, a full-page advertisement affirming the movement’s dedication to marriage equality was printed in 50 papers throughout the country. Dozens of LGBT organizations, activists and allies signed on to this statement:

From coast to coast, millions of people and hundreds of organizations are working to protect gay and lesbian families by ending their exclusion from marriage, with all its protections, responsibilities and human significance. This is happening in state legislatures, in the media, in the courts, and around millions of kitchen tables. Along the way, there will be advances and setbacks, but we will not stop until every American family is treated fairly, with dignity and equality under the law.

The sentiment of the ad is much appreciated at a time when gay and lesbian families are feeling increasingly under attack from anti-gay organizations, religious leaders and Congress, but the ad also seems to overstate the movement’s focus on state legislatures and kitchen tables. LGBT advocates at the state and national level have placed a substantial portion of their resources into court battles, attempting to overturn laws instead of changing the hearts and minds of Americans. As has happened throughout history, the courts have failed to protect a marginalized group because of conservative and rigid religious beliefs. The justice system has failed to protect gay and lesbian people, so the movement needs to refocus its energies on the “hearts and minds”.

Marriage equality will have to be achieved through state legislatures and ballot initiatives, which requires using resources to ensure Americans understand the impact discriminatory laws have on LGBT people and the children living in their homes. Court battles can play a role, but most Americans will not change their view of gay and lesbian people simply because a few judges interpret the law one way or the other.

……….

Also… check out the great work of GLAAD and The Task Force. Every year, GLAAD trains thousands of people how to talk to the media so our lives reach homes it otherwise would have missed. GLAAD plays the media watchdog role – establishing relationships with reporters it can pitch stories to and ask for help when unfair reporting occurs. The Task Force focuses on grassroots work, sending troops throughout the country to provide support for states and communities advocating for LGBT legislation.

Here is what others are saying:

Pandagon – Washington State Rules Against Marriage Equality

BlogNYC – Washington Joins Ranks of Federal Fag Bashers

Fair Wisconsin – Washington Court Rejects Challenge

The Tin Man – Andersen v King County