Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Collective New Year’s Resolution?

Looking forward to 2011 it is valuable to ask ourselves “What can we do this next year to make our nation a more just, safe and welcoming place for LGBTQ people?” Something that comes to mind reflecting on 2010 were the tragic suicides by LGBTQ youth. The Center for Disease Control in its “Youth at Risk” study of 1999 stated that one-third of our communities’ adolescents will attempt suicide. One-third!

It seems to me that Anti-Bullying Laws would be a very important cause for our community to support in this New Year. Here are some very good reasons:

1. Anti-Bullying Laws will affect our entire LGBTQ community. This inclusive cause will help to heal a rift in our community. Many in the Trans community have felt abandoned by our community in our efforts to pass ENDA and repeal both DOMA & DADT.

2. “Social conservatives” have invoked “the children” as a trump to our civil rights repeatedly. Anti-Bullying Laws enable us to turn the tables on these bigots and places them on the defensive. They will counter claiming their right to “Free Speech;” however, their speech incites hatred, emotional and physical violence that is visited upon children.

3. Anti-Bullying campaigns and laws may be championed at different levels. From the local PTA meeting, School Districts, States and on a National level. This encourages grass roots and Direct Action. Ordinary people without huge financial resources can have a considerable impact.

4. We will be able to collaborate with various other organizations and people of good will. For example, PFLAG, GSA, ACLU, the Trevor Project, and It Gets Better, to name a few.

5. Grassroots action will help to change social attitudes and the very dialogue about LGBTQ civil rights. In short, this will put a human face on our civil rights goals. Children will be highlighted as the victims of anti-LGBTQ prejudice and bigotry.

6. The most important reason of all is that we will become a public voice for those in our community who have no voice. We will become advocates for those who are arguably the most vulnerable. Most of us have experienced the fear and sometimes-outright terror of constant verbal and physical harassment at school. It is time we spoke up and spoke out to end this monstrous evil.

How to start:

1. Have a team of Psychologists and Educators explain the effects of bullying on victims. Have this team also delineate some of the tell tale signs for parents; incidentally, this opens straight parents as our allies in this battle. Have this team also suggest active measures that parents/guardians and local school boards can take to help stop bullying.

2. Ask attorneys to take the recommendations of this team and help to fashion laws/legislation that could be adopted to assist parents/guardians, teachers, and school boards to reduce or eliminate bullying.

3. Ask each major LGBTQ organization to designate one contact person to meet with a national board to coordinate our efforts at advancing Anti-Bullying campaigns.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Tipping Point.

After President Obama signed the Repeal of DADT this last week, there have been a slew of comments from both ends of the political spectrum. Regardless of how a person “feels” about this, the conclusion that we have reached a significant “tipping point” in American society is evident. When President Harry S. Truman signed an executive order in 1948 desegregating the U.S. Armed Forces and Civil Service, it sounded the death toll for segregation in American society. The Courts took notice and in 1954, the landmark decision of Brown v. Board of Education took the President’s lead one step further. The signing of the Civil Rights Act in July of 1964 by President Lyndon Johnson drove a stake through legalized bigotry. Social racial bigotry has been slowly eroding ever since.

The U.S. Armed forces form American youth. Every year countless High School graduates leave their hometown and go to boot camp. Those young men and women acculturate to military standards. Years later I still find it disquieting to see a man wearing a hat indoors. I find myself writing the date/month/year and not the month/date/year. I still think of 4 PM as 1600 hour, the end of the workday at Edwards AFB. These are small things; however, acceptable and unacceptable attitudes about women and minorities are unmistakably articulated and enforced in boot camp. After years of living in this military culture, veterans return to civilian society along with these engrained attitudes.This is the real reason that social conservatives so rabidly oppose the repeal of DADT.

On Friday, the Los Angeles Times reported the following:

In a news conference Wednesday and in recent interviews, Obama signaled that his position favoring civil unions is not fixed and that he may one day conclude that, a committed gay couple should have the same right to marry as anyone else.

Obama's views seem to be tracking those of the broader American public. Polls show support for gay marriage is growing. A Gallup study showed that while in 1996 only 27% of the population believed gay marriage should be legalized, the figure had jumped to 44% in May of this year.

Many social conservatives, such as Eagle Forum president Phyllis Schlafly, refuse to believe that a majority of Americans would support gay marriage.

Gays, she said, are already free to live together. "Nobody's stopping them from shacking up," she said. "The problem is they are trying to make us respect them, and that's an interference with what we believe."

The last comment by Ms. Schlafly constitutes one of those rare moments of clarity when social conservatives reveal their true motives and intent. Judge Walker accurately perceived such motives when he ruled Prop 8 unconstitutional. The Judge cited an animus against gay people as the motive of the “Yes on [California’s] Proposition 8.”

Imagine the outrage if Schlafly’s comment had been made about any other minority group, or if interracial couples were stripped of their right to a civil marriage! Of course, 63 years ago social conservative made such comments about African Americans, Native Americans, Jews, Catholics or and women. Today Immigrants and LGBTQ people are the targets of “social conservatives.” Now as then, social conservatives wrap themselves in the flag and cite the Bible in a vain attempt to justify their bigotry. In a painfully slow process, their bigotry is exposed as such. One by one, their arguments are debunked by science and people of conscience.

It is an adage that “It is always darkest before the dawn” bigots will become more virulent and violent, as they correctly perceive they are losing control. Rather than being intimidated, this should embolden us to fight even harder for our rights and human dignity. Ms. Schafly your respect and beliefs are inconsequential to me, but my rights and dignity are not

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The battle for DADT ends. The battle for ENDA and DOMA continues

Pop a bottle of champagne and enjoy this victory we have worked very hard for this day and we should rejoice. This is one battle won in a continuing war for our full civil rights and human dignity. What next?

Barney Frank has said that then next two years nothing will happen in Congress on our front. Perhaps; however, that does not mean that nothing will happen nationally. There are, after all, fifty states connected to the DC beltway. In those states, we need to fight for the election of congressional representatives that will vote for the passage of ENDA (the Employment Non Discrimination Act). While we are on that subject, we need to ask officials of the Democratic Party why the 111th Congress FAILED to pass ENDA.

We need to hold them accountable and responsible, not out of some irrational desire for vengeance, but to remind them and future politicians that they will be held accountable for failing to keep their promises to our community. There must be a real world consequence for selling us out.

The repeal of DOMA (the so called Defense of Marriage Act) should be reinstated in the list of legislative goals of both the DNC and the White House. Both organizations have recently removed them from their list of objectives. We have noticed and we do not like this sin of omission. Politicians and political parties are vehicles towards justice, but often have ulterior motives. Recall that both DOMA and DADT bear President Clinton’s signature. We have been sold out before and if we look the other way, we will be sold out again.

On a local level, I suggest we focus resources on electing State Senators in New York State who support full marriage equality. Common wisdom is that the Ninth Circuit Court or the US Supreme Court will rule narrowly to uphold Judge Walker’s decision that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional. This will restore Same-sex marriage in California. If New York State passes legislation that permits Same-sex marriage, we will have achieved a “critical mass” that will propel same-sex marriage forward in the United States.

Savor today’s victory, but realize that we are still engaged in a war for our full civil rights and human dignity. This is no time to “rest on our laurels.”

Friday, December 10, 2010

Barack Obama [R]?

The following is a list of things that President Barack Obama could do without an Act of Congress.

1. Direct the Department of Justice to immediately drop an appeal of Judge Virginia Phillip’s ruling that DADT is unconstitutional.

2. Order a “Stop Loss” that would effectively end the enforcement of DADT.

3. One/all of over 100 actions as Chief Executive delineated in the “New Beginnings Initiative”

The following is a list of what you can do as a voter if President Obama fails to do the aforementioned items.

1. Encourage your friends and coworkers to consider supporting another Democrat in the primaries for presidential elections in 2012.

2. Work for another Democrat running against Obama in the 2012 primaries.

3. Consider working for/supporting a third party candidate in the 2012 primaries.

4. Join GetEQUAL and help form a local chapter.

5. Engage in Direct Action to help underscore the injustice of laws such as DADT and DOMA.

6. Donate to organizations like ACLU, make a photocopy of the check and mail it to the DNC. Inform them you’re redirecting your funds to organizations that actually make a difference in social causes.

Finally, share the following video clip with your "die-hard" Obama supporters.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Why I handcuffed myself to the White House fence.

I have been asked by some “Why did you handcuff yourself to the White House fence?” In brief because 1) DADT is an evil policy that strips LGBTQ people of their human dignity, and 2) President Obama can make a difference right now. As an article in the Washington Blade states:

One Senate Democratic aide, who spoke to the Washington Blade on condition of anonymity, said repeal — currently pending before the U.S. Senate as part of the fiscal year 2011 defense authorization bill — is “barely hanging on with life support.”

“The only way to resuscitate this effort and get a ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ vote is for President Obama and [Defense Secretary Robert] Gates to start pushing directly, something we on the Hill had expected the president and Gates to do long ago,” the aide said.

Asked whether Obama had made any phone calls to “swayable senators” such as Susan Collins (R-Maine), who voted “no” on moving forward with the defense authorization bill in September, Gibbs replied that he doesn’t believe the president has spoken to the Maine senator on the issue.

Amid doubts about whether the White House would push aggressively for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal this year, Senate leaders are reportedly considering dropping the repeal language from the defense authorization bill to move forward.

It is critical for LGBTQ people and the vast majority of Americans who support the repeal of DADT to know that its repeal, or failure to repeal, rests primarily on the shoulders of Barack Obama. If he fails to provide leadership on this issue and take effective and decisive action, DADT will be stripped from the appropriations bill and the discriminatory policy will continue in place.

Federal Judge Virginia Phillips has ruled DADT unconstitutional; however, Obama chose to appeal that ruling and actively sought a stay to Judge Phillips order that the Armed Forces immediately stop the enforcement of DADT.

The fact that DADT is still the law of the land is because President Obama has fought for it to remain in place. He claims that he has appealed Judge Phillips’ ruling on principle. If he now fails us again by choosing not to aggressively push for the repeal of DADT in the lame duck session, then we need to hold him responsible and accountable for this betrayal.

I handcuffed myself to the White House fence, because the current tenant is the person who can grant us or deny us justice. Direct Action places the spot light on him, not to damage him but to move him to doing the just and moral thing.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

These Stones Do Talk

Edgar Allen Poe quipped that the best place to hide something is in the obvious place, no one would ever think of looking for it there. We stand here today at the grave of Leonard Matlovich who came out and lived in the light of day as a gay man.

Approximately 12 feet from his grave is the grave of Clyde Tolson, the gay lover of J. Edgar Hoover. Hoover’s grave is about 45 feet away (a discreet and respectable distance) from Tolson’s grave. This very cemetery is a poignant illustration of the terrible cost of silence and fear. Shakespeare said the brave man dies but once, the coward dies a thousand deaths. Think of the many times Hoover and Tolson had to lie about themselves and each other. Think of the self-hatred and pain that ultimately was turned outwards to LGBTQ people like Matlovich. We hate most in others what we hate most in ourselves.

DADT is a codified form of hatred and discrimination against people because of their orientation. It is unjust, it is evil and it is a policy that our President promised us he would end. President Obama asked us at an HRC banquet in 2009 to “hold his feet to the fire.” That is what we are here to do. Mr. President why did you appeal Judge Virginia Phillip’s ruling that DADT is unconstitutional? Why did you seek a stay to her ruling directing the Armed Forces to immediately stop enforcing DADT?

When Judge Walker ruled that Proposition 8 was unconstitutional, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) refused to appeal Walker’s ruling; in fact, Schwarzenegger asked Judge Walker NOT to stay his order. Mr. President why have you perpetuated an evil injustice when all you had to do to end it was nothing. Why did you lack the strength and justice of Gov. Schwarzenegger?

Deeds not words! Justice delayed is justice denied. Mr. President you have betrayed both justice and our community. You have betrayed the many LGBTQ people who worked, donated and voted for your election. You have made a mockery of your campaign slogan “Hope” and your actions have written the word “False” across that noble sentiment.

After the Mid-Term Elections the New Republican Speaker of the House Mr. Boehner said that America had sent a message to President Obama “Change Course.” Even a broken clock is right twice a day. Mr. President it is indeed time to change course, not as the Republicans and the Religious Right to whom your policies have pandered would have you do. It is time for you to remember and keep the promises you made to your base, to us, as a candidate. It is time to do the right thing Mr. President. If you fail us in these next two years, we will not work for you, or donate to you, or vote for you in 2012. It is better to deal with an honest enemy than with a dishonest traitor. It is better to endure a painful reality than to be deluded by a false hope.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Sleight of hand

Speaking in Barcelona, Spain on November 7th Benedict XVI stated: "The generous and indissoluble love of a man and a woman is the effective context and foundation of human life in its gestation, birth, growth and natural end." Let’s examine Benedict’s statement more closely.

Indissoluble” In plain English this means that divorce is forbidden (and should be illegal, but we can’t quite pull that off yet). Benedict would point to the Gospel as the scriptural proof for this statement. However, the Catholic Church itself finds a legal way around these scriptural requirements for heterosexual couples.

“Context and foundation” Well, yes and no, Yes, biological reproduction necessitates a sperm and an egg. However, not all heterosexual marriages are capable of biological reproduction. The first marriage I officiated as a priest was between two people in there 70’s. The Catholic Church has always recognized marriages incapable of biological reproduction as valid and sacramental marriages. In fact, in the marriage rites of the Catholic Church references to children appear in red brackets. This is so the priest may easily omit such references in the cases where the begetting of children is impossible. So if two heterosexuals (who are incapable of reproduction) may enter into marriage, which the Catholic Church defines as a “Union of Love and Life”, then why can’t two people homosexuals enter into marriage?

Benedict employs a false logic when he creates a false opposition between heterosexual marriage and Same-sex marriage. How specifically and exactly do Same-sex marriages endanger, or undermine heterosexual marriages? Benedict and Maggie Gallagher desperately avoid these logical fine points, because this is where logic fails them and reveals their arguments as mere bigotry.

At the start of the visit on Saturday the Pope compared the "aggressive lay mentality, anticlericalism and secularisation" of modern Spain to that of the 1930s, when the church suffered a wave of violence and persecution as the country lurched from an unstable democracy to civil war.During that time the church claims that 4,184 members of the clergy were put to death by supporters of the Republican cause for their perceived backing of General Francisco Franco, whose 36-year fascist dictatorship ended with his death in 1975. The comparison angered many. An editorial in Spain's left-leaning newspaper El Pais declared such an opinion to be based on "ignorance"

The problem with Benedict’s historical references is that they focus on a true historic event; however, they are cited out of context. It would be the equivalent of citing General Sherman’s burning of Atlanta or the fire bombing of Dresden by the Union/Allies as immoral acts. Yes, one may certainly make a moral case against both of those historic acts; however, they must be read within the greater historic context in which they occurred. The Confederacy and the Third Reich through their governmental injustices contributed to the conditions that contributed to these acts. Likewise, the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in Spain after centuries of abuse helped to create the conditions that contributed to the acts of the Spanish Republic.

Benedict said "at a time in which man claims to be able to build his life without God, as if God had nothing to say to him." The percentage of atheists in our country is rather small. I don't think that most people in our society have a problem with God; but rather, with those who claim to be God's official spokespersons. In the case of Benedict and the catholic hierarchy, especially in the light of the Sex Abuse Cover-Up Scandal, I fully understand and empathize with their skepticism.

Friday, November 5, 2010


When I attended Saint John's seminary dinner began and ended with grace. The Rector (College President) would announce grace after dinner by striking his water goblet with a spoon. We were not excused from the table until grace after dinner. A classmate and good friend of mine David chafed at this requirement. I've got things to do! He'd protest angrily.

David represents a very contemporary American attitude about meals. You are there to eat and move on. After all, we invented the drive-thru, microwave ovens, and T.V. “dinners.” The last of those inventions actually replaced human conversation with a passive observance of an electronic gizmo throughout the meal.

That was precisely the rationale for grace after dinner. We were required to stay and have conversation. To share our thoughts on the latest book we’d read (now I’m really dating myself), the news of the day, travel. Meals historically are far more than merely about “eating” they are about interpersonal communion. It is not a mere coincidence that major western religions center their worship on meals (the Mass, Communion Services, Seders, etc).

In a few weeks families across America will sit down to share Thanksgiving dinner. Thanksgiving is far more than the consumption of turkey and all the fixings. Eating a Thanksgiving dinner alone would be pointless and empty. Thanksgiving is about all the loved ones at that table with whom we share, not just a meal but also our lives.

Many LGBTQ people will sit down at tables across America not with their parents, siblings and relatives but with friends. There is actually a saying I’ve heard “friends are the new family.” This is a bittersweet sentiment. The Book of Sirach 6: 5-15 contains an insightful meditation on the various types of friends one encounters in life and their value. Friendship is a form of love and as Sirach says, a treasure. Still, there is void, a painful absence at holiday meals for LGBTQ people and their families.

Religious leaders who value controlling people more than loving them have caused these hurtful divisions. They have instructed members of their communities that acceptance and love “really” mean exclusion and rejection. The poison fruit of these men will be found at countless family gatherings.

I have seen many people in the ICU pick up the phone and have a conversation with a family member they have avoided for decades. Many have said to me, I wish I’d had that conversation years ago. Don’t wait for the ICU, love is the heart of humanity, spirituality and meaning, everything else is counterfeit spirituality and a death-dealing lie.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Benedict's Spanish Lesson.

How Spaniards perceive Catholicism has evolved over the centuries. Spain a monarchy with a Socialist Prime Minister was a bastion of Catholicism during the Protestant Reformation in Europe. The saying was “What was lost in Europe was regained in Latin America.” Spain itself was born as a nation due to a eight century long religious war “La Reconquista” that reclaimed the Iberian peninsula from Islam.

Spain is an illustration of what happens when you make any religion “The State Religion.” The old adage that “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely” is not limited to the secular sphere. What was initially the religious zeal of Theresa of Avila and John of the Cross, soon devolved into the Spanish Inquisition. The Church became a department of the state and theological beliefs became a matter of national law and security. Sound familiar?

In the Twentieth century all of this boiled to the surface. A Civil War followed by decades of unrest in Spanish society only began to heal after the death of Generalissimo Franco and the introduction of authentic democracy in Spain. Perhaps the most striking difference between Spanish and American societies is that the former had a State Religion and Inquisition and the latter desires both.

The remnants of centuries of State Catholicism will greet Benedict XVI when he visits Barcelona. The Spanish have planned a same-sex kissing event to protest Benedict’s visit. They are offended at Benedict’s attempts to cast the Church as the final authority in Civil Marriage laws.

A university professor of Spanish removed his glasses during a lecture. He held up the pair of glasses and said that studying a foreign language is like putting on a pair of glasses. Everything out there remains the same; however, your perception of that reality changes. Reality is now perceived through the history and culture of another people and that enriches the student. That same year our professor told us of a national contest in Spain held by “El Pais” (The Nation) a leading newspaper. The newspaper wanted a drawing that captured the “national spirit.” The winning submission was a boy spelling out the words “Viva Yo” (Long live me) on the sand, in his own stream of urine.

The second two years.

In the last six months I’ve bumped into Governor Schwarzenegger, Maria Shriver, Governor-elect Brown, Dolores Huerta and filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection. Pretty surreal, eh? Speaking with various folks who are connected to our political system, I’ve been told that former President Bill Clinton is amazed that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell has survived this long as a law. The reason for his amazement is that the law was deliberately written to be unconstitutional. How could such an unreasonable and unconstitutional law remain in force for so long?

Kant maintained that reason alone would lead us to truth. A philosophy professor commenting on Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason said that what Kant failed to take into account was the role of the human will. Our professor said in his thick French accent “you stand before the open refrigerator door and reason tells you to eat the salad, but your will tells you to eat the chocolate cake. OH, and there is some ice cream in the freezer! Guess who wins?”

Think about it, Clinton is shocked that the courts have not thrown out DADT because it was deliberately written as a blatantly unconstitutional law. Ironically, its inherent unconstitutionality did not stop him from signing it into law. He did so because it was politically expedient for him to do so. As Karl Rove quipped, it’s all about numbers and there are more of them (bigots) than there are of you (LGBTQ).

This past summer President Obama sent Secretary of Defense Gates to testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee. The Committee was poised to recommend the repeal of DADT. Gates recommended that the Senate not immediately repeal DADT. He asked them to wait for yet another study that would be completed in the first week of December 2010. Conveniently, the results of that study would be announced one month after the Mid-term Elections.

Federal Judge Virginia Phillips ruled in October, inconveniently just before the Mid-term Elections that DADT is unconstitutional and ordered that the military immediately stop enforcing DADT. All that President Obama had to do was “nothing.” That’s right, nothing. He just had to hit the snooze bar on his alarm clock and DADT would, as Clinton foresaw, be taken care of by the judiciary.

Instead our “fierce advocate” President Barack Obama (D) had his Department of Justice appeal Judge Phillips ruling and obtained a stay to the enforcement of her ruling while it is under appeal. In sharp contrast Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) of California who chose not to appeal Judge Walker’s ruling that California’s Prop 8 is unconstitutional. Who loves ya baby?

Now, the LGBTQ community has been reassured that DADT will be repealed during the “lame duck session” of Congress. I’m not holding my breath on that one. Something wonderful did happen in the Mid-term Elections in California. The Republican candidate for Governor, Meg Whitman was soundly defeated. Why? She said that her former housekeeper, an undocumented Latina should be deported. That mobilized the Latino vote against Whitman. Latinos have taught Ms. Whitman (and future candidates) a clear and unmistakable lesson.

When someone acts against you, you vote against that person, period. If you make excuses for that person and continue to support him/her, you become an active accomplice of your own continued oppression. Only when we stop volunteering, funding and voting for false hope, will we be taken seriously. President Obama, you have two years, use them to do what is right not what is expedient. Keep your promises, while you still can!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Hope & truth in the face of hate.

The elections are this week and yet, my mind and heart are focused on something I think is far more important. I have found these two clips of great help and value to me in these days and I share them here with you. I hope that you find these reflections both uplifting and insightful.

Fr. Geoff

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Mormon & Catholic leadership's role in LGBTQ suicides.

This last week has provoked feelings of sorrow and anger deep within me and within many in our community. I have presided at countless funeral liturgies since my ordination in 1985 and the most difficult of these are funerals for suicide victims.

Aside from the grief that accompanies the loss of a loved one to death. Losing a loved one to suicide adds to the grief feelings of anger. That anger is directed at oneself, for not having been more aware and more sensitive to the needs of the deceased. Anger is also directed at the deceased for not having spoken directly and plainly the depth of their pain and need.

When confronted by the death of a loved one to suicide, we attempt to console ourselves with the realization that each of us has a “breaking-point.” That the person we loved was overwhelmed, that the pain or fear simply became too much to bear. That there, but for the grace of God, goes I.

In the cases of the young gay men who took their lives this last week, I remain personally affected. Even though I did not know them personally, I have known many gay people who have been pushed to their “breaking-point” and I’ve been there myself. I recall at nineteen years of age standing on the balcony of the thirteenth floor of Fontana Hall at the University of South Florida and staring down at the sidewalk and considered doing a jackknife into eternity.

Growing up gay in the 1960’s meant that it never even crossed my imagination that I could fall in love and make a home with someone I loved. It meant being subjected to taunts, emotional abuse from classmates, it meant countless fights because of something I never chose. It meant living in fear of rejection by parents, family, relatives, friends and classmates. Later in life it meant fear of loss of employment and career.

The American Psychological Association makes the following statement on its website:

sexual orientation a choice?

No, human beings cannot choose to be either gay or straight. For most people, sexual orientation emerges in early adolescence without any prior sexual experience. Although we can choose whether to act on our feelings, psychologists do not consider sexual orientation to be a conscious choice that can be voluntarily changed.

Can therapy change sexual orientation?

No; even though most homosexuals live successful, happy lives, some homosexual or bisexual people may seek to change their sexual orientation through therapy, often coerced by family members or religious groups to try and do so. The reality is that homosexuality is not an illness. It does not require treatment and is not changeable. However, not all gay, lesbian, and bisexual people who seek assistance from a mental health professional want to change their sexual orientation. Gay, lesbian, and bisexual people may seek psychological help with the coming out process or for strategies to deal with prejudice, but most go into therapy for the same reasons and life issues that bring straight people to mental health professionals."

The statement by the APA quoted above contains an important insight as to why those young people took their own lives. “Some homosexual or bisexual people may seek to change their sexual orientation through therapy, often coerced by family members or religious groups to try and do so.

The 2008 California ballot initiative Proposition 8 stripped Same-Sex couples of their right to a Civil Marriage. 72% of the funds spent on the Proposition 8 campaign came from the Mormon Church. They did not want to be directly associated with this political campaign that Judge Walker stated was motivated by an animus against gay people. “For every one who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed” (John 3: 20)

So, the Mormon leadership joined with Los Angeles Cardinal Mahony, the Catholic Archbishop of San Francisco George Niederauer, the California Conference of Catholic Bishops and Evangelical groups in California as part of a coalition to attack the Civil Rights of Same-Sex couples. By implication this also affects all LGBTQ persons casting them as second-class citizens.

Through their alliance with the Catholic hierarchy they arranged for Professor Robert George to retain the services of Maggie Gallagher (please take a moment to read the jump for information on Maggie). The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) was started in 2007. “Miraculously” in the middle of the worst economy since the Great Depression NOM has a 10 Million dollar reserve. NOM aggressively fights any attempt to disclose the sources of those funds.

According to the Center for Disease Control’s Youth Risk Behavior Study (1999), 33% of gay youth will attempt suicide. Each time I am asked to speak at an LGBTQ event, I think about that missing one-third of the room.

Psalm 106 verse 37-38 states:

"They sacrificed theirs sons and daughters to the demons; they poured out innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters."

Are you angry about the suicides of the young people who took their lives last week? Do something constructive with that anger. Do something that can prevent suicides in the future. Find out more about the role of the Mormon Church leadership in oppressing LGBTQ persons, view the Documentary “8 The Mormon Propo$ition.” Expose the Mormon/Catholic leadership’s financing of laws that strip LGBTQ persons of their Civil Rights and human dignity. Ask your elected officials to direct the IRS to investigate possible tax-exempt status of these organizations. Were members of the Mormon Church coerced into making specific dollar amount donations to the Prop 8 campaign in California? Write to LGBTQ organizations and ask them to do the same.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


The other day I was introduced to a lesbian activist at an event. She took me aside and confided to me that she is an atheist and then, proceeded to ask me about spirituality. She chuckled and said, “you know you’re going to get questions like this because you’re a priest.”

That encountered backlit a recurring theme that I have encountered in contemporary society and especially in the LGBTQ community. One constantly hears the statement “I’m spiritual, but not religious.” This young atheist woman was prompted to ask about spirituality due to the death of her neighbor. The neighbor died at home and several days passed before the decomposing body prompted someone to search the house.

There are moments like that in life. Life operates on “auto-pilot” until one day our routine is unexpectedly interrupted by the death of a love one, a health issue, etc. Suddenly, we find ourselves confronted with one of life’s great existential questions. We seek answers as we attempt to orient ourselves as we reappraise the meaning and purpose of our life.

At such moments many contemporary people shun traditional religions and any insights, or wisdom they might be able to share. LGBTQ people have often been the victims of clergy who have intervened to alienate them from their parents and family. One needs only to visit the gay section of any American city during the holidays. You will find children who are not welcome at family gatherings huddled with other LGBTQ friends. Together they celebrate holiday meals and gatherings “friends are the new family.”

Beyond the LGBTQ community many Americans scratched their head in wonderment when pope Benedict XVI visited Africa in the middle of an AIDS epidemic and advised people to not use condoms. Even though such irresponsible advise will result in the infection and death of untold numbers. Even though such advise will result in countless children being made orphans.

Speaking of children, I was left speechless when I witnessed the pope cry into his handkerchief while visiting England. He was so moved by the plight of pedophilia victims. As I gazed at the photo I wondered how the same hand that held that handkerchief could sign an order to maintain such acts secret. Perpetuating injustice and creating new cases of pedophilia is a legitimate cause for remorse. However, is it remorse for having caused such injustices, or for having been connected to such injustices? Frankly, I am not amazed that Americans have become so skeptical of organized religion.

Yesterday I heard a report on the BBC. I love the BBC because they actually objectively report the news and leave it to the listener to draw his/her own conclusions. It is a refreshing and informative contrast to the “infotainment” that has replaced journalism in the USA. The BBC reported on the effects of drone bombs that were hitting targets within Pakistan.

Since the drones are unmanned, they often hit children and non-combatants. The resultant deaths and mutilations can have one of two effects on the population. It can either terrorize them into submission, or it can awaken within them a desire for revenge. The latter seems the more probable in the current reality; however, this raises a question regarding the morality of our nation’s actions.

Morality is a word that has lost its meaning in contemporary America. When the word is spoken, people usually think of sex. That Congress would impeach President Bill Clinton for a sexual encounter with Monica Lewinsky while taking no action at the war crimes committed under the watch of Presidents George W. Bush or Obama is the real scandal. That should cause all Americans to pause and reevaluate our values.

This is a twisted understanding of morality and ethics. Organized religion is largely responsible for these corrupt standards. Why such a distorted emphasis on sex? Quite simply, if you can control what people do in their bedrooms you can control what they do in the voting booth and with their checkbooks. While all of that makes great economic and political sense, it represents a failure and a betrayal by religious leaders of their people and the principles presented by the Prophets and the Gospel.

So, what did I say to the atheist about spirituality/morality? The choices you make when you entertain thoughts, speak words, and do deeds, shape who you become. They affect not only you, but also others and society in general.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Broken Promises

"Because the only way that you bring about change is if the American People are holding the people in office accountable. And right now, I think so many of us have become cynical and we've tuned out of the process in Washington that folks are getting away with murder."

-President Obama

Please remember the President's words when you go to vote this fall. Write him and the Democratic Party a letter stating your concerns and how you voted.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A strange morality and lackluster leadership

A group of tea party people stood at an intersection in Studio City holding signs protesting “Big Government” and “Socialism.” The strange thing was many of them were retirees and judging by their attire, not that well off. Most of them rely on their monthly Social Security check and on Medicare. If the tea party actually succeeds in their political agenda, many of these elderly tea party supporters would find themselves destitute and without medical care in the old age.

Today Senator John McCain successfully stopped the repeal of DADT. Countless of members of the armed forces and their loved ones will continue to suffer as a direct result of his efforts. He and his allies will doubtlessly make various “fag” jokes discreetly in their private conversations. They will speak of a “victory for morality.” Yet, by strict scriptural standards [Mark 10: 11] John McCain is an adulterer, since he divorced his first wife and took another.

Looming on the horizon are the Mid-term Elections and it seems that the Democratic Party stands to suffer substantial losses. Political analysts offer various insights why this is the case. The state of the economy and high unemployment figures are identified by most as the principle reason for the anger of voters. Democrats are quick to identify “obstructionist Republicans” as the culprits for their inability to govern. There is an element of truth to that charge; however, it does not excuse the fact that the President has simply failed to lead.

If President Johnson had assumed the same attitude towards Civil Rights legislation that President Obama has assumed towards Health Care legislation, then Obama would probably never have been a Senator, let alone the President. Corporate interests and the senators they bought off effectively torpedoed a national Health Care Plan. Realize that this is an issue that directly affects all Americans and was the centerpiece of the Obama Administration’s agenda.

Only at the eleventh hour did Obama become directly visibly involved when it appeared as though any Health Care legislation might fail. What we got was a modest Health Care Reform bill. I am grateful for that; however, it was much less than what we could have obtained. Even now there are legal initiatives and legislative threats to destroy that modest reform, before Americans realize it actually is to their benefit in 2014 when the Reforms take full effect.

When I was in High School I read a novel by Alexander Solzhenitsyn entitled “August 1914.” It was set during the First World War and included a conversation between two Russian soldiers. A young soldier was lamenting that when a Russian soldier was wounded that there was no medical attention whereas, the German soldier was transported via ambulance to a fully staffed field hospital. The old soldier nodded his head in agreement and said “good, good.”

Exasperated the young soldier blurted out, “Why do you keep saying ‘good, good’ things are terrible and getting worse.” The old soldier smiled and quietly answered, “The worse things get, the sooner they’ll change.”

Friday, September 17, 2010

Universal prescription?

I was lucky today. I was able to get a last minute appointment for a haircut on a Friday afternoon. Usually, my barber is booked weeks in advance, but I thought I’d try calling even though the odds were stacked against me. I arrived thirty minutes before my scheduled appointment. I have learned that LA traffic can be mercilessly fickle. What is a ten-minute drive one day can inexplicably become a thirty-five minute drive the next day.

The small shop was full of people. I found a seat on a bench and picked up the October issue of Automotive magazine. I’ve loved cars since I was a boy. I settled in and began reading an article about the BMW 3 series. My reading was interrupted by a discussion between two young men seated next to me on the bench.

One of them said to the others Happy Yom Kippur. A young dark haired man asked his friend "are you going to Temple?" "No" came the annoyed response. "Why not?" "I don’t want to, it’s a waste of time," the blonde man stated curtly. The dark haired man pressed his friend further and asked "are you going to fast tomorrow?" "No" answered the tall blonde young man. The dark haired man insisted saying "it is only for one day!"

The blonde man quipped, "then you fast." The dark haired man said "I will, but you should too." "Why?" Asked the blonde man pointedly. "It helps you appreciate food and your other blessings." The blonde man said "I already appreciate food. I’ll eat tonight like I’m going to fast tomorrow."

The dark haired man asked "why wouldn’t you fast?" The blonde man said, "I don’t believe in religion. There, are you happy now? I don’t want anything to do with religion. It has no meaning, or value for me."

The discussion continued on like this for most of the thirty minutes while the barber cut their friend’s hair. The barber corrected the young men three times, asking them to lower their voices. “There are other people in the shop!” he said with the authority of a High School Gym coach.

At one point, the dark haired man pressed his blonde friend on the value of fasting; “It helps you understand what those who are hungry feel like.” The blonde young man quipped, “So, I should give up girls for a year so that I know what you feel like.” The other guys burst into laughter and the dark haired guy became quiet and crestfallen.

The dark haired guy regrouped and reinitiated his attempt to press his friend to observe Yom Kippur. His subsequent attempts were met with similar rebuffs. Finally, the blonde man got up along with the other friends and left the dark haired man sitting alone on the bench. The dark haired young man sat there quiet and hurt.

I felt for him; so, I leaned over and shared with him a rabbinical commentary about love. I stated, “that love is like water; the only way to hold it is with open hands.” Fasting is a conscious choice intended to open our spiritual selves by placing our own needs and gratifications aside. This spiritual practice open our hearts, our minds, our hands, and our very self to something greater than ourselves. Fasting is intended to ennoble the human spirit.

The barber finished with his friend and all the young men left the shop. The barber apologized to me for the loud discussion. “I’m not so old that I don’t remember being eighteen,” I said. “At eighteen, I knew all the answers.” The barber laughed in agreement adding, “it was just like people discussing politics.”

In both politics and religion, there are people who think they know what’s best for everyone else. “People are like that everywhere,” the barber said. “Yeah, but no one would try that at the pharmacy.” I retorted. What heals one person physically or spiritually can hurt someone else. What helped me seven years ago may not be what I need today, or what I will need in five years. If only folks could use the common sense of the pharmacy with politics and religion.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Change, or more of the same.

In January of 2010 the founding members of Catholics for Equality met in Washington, DC. Subsequent to that week of meetings, Catholic News Agency (CAN) published an article. The headline on the article read:

“Catholics for Equality demand changes from bishops on homosexuality.”

This past week Catholics for Equality launched as an organization. The National Catholic Reporter quoted Father Joseph Palacios, a priest from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Father Palacios said:

"We are not a church reform group," said Fr. Joseph Palacios, a founding board member and a sociologist and adjunct professor at Georgetown University. "We are not going to handle doctrine. We can't change that. That is the church's thing. We don't even have the illusion that we as Catholics can do that. …

Obviously, a change happened over the past nine months at Catholics for Equality. Father Palacios’ now states that doctrine is “the church’s thing.” His statement declares the idea that “the hierarchy” is “the church.” However, he forgets that WE, not just the hierarchy, are the Church. By its very nature, Catholics for Equality stands in opposition to the hierarchy's stance on LGBTQ equality laws. If Father Palacios believes that the Hierarchy should not change its position, then he should resign from Catholics for Equality and issue an apology to his bishop Cardinal Mahony for his role in founding this dissident organization.

Same-sex marriage is only one issue on a long list of issues that need to be considered, discussed and challenged within our church. The following video clip poignantly illustrates this point.

Admittedly people who love the church did not compose this clip; however, the points they make are very serious and a considered review and response is required by the faithful. The notion that fidelity should equal blind obedience is contrary to and undermines true faith.

The gifts of reason and free will require their recipients to employ them. “I was just following orders” was not a defense that worked at the Nuremberg Trials and it is not a defense that will work at our life’s review when we die. We, you and I, are each of us answerable for our actions and our inaction.

If we see an injustice and we chose to remain silent, we become an accomplice to that injustice. We are morally responsible and cannot delegate our moral responsibility to parents, a spouse, or religious leaders. Those people have an obligation to us, to help us form our conscience and to act uprightly; however, they can never act for us. In the end, each us must answer for our self.

Patriotism is not blindly approving every word and act of our government and piety is not blindly approving every word and act of our religious leaders. If our conscience informs us that something is morally wrong, we are obligated to try to right that wrong. We are obligated to try to effect change.

How to effect that change is a methodological question. Here media experts, political analysts, attorneys, journalists all can make great contributions. However, these individuals and their talents cannot compensate for the lack of a clear vision and just purpose. I write this in the hope that the Board of Directors of Catholics for Equality will not miss this historic opportunity to right a wrong.

Moving the movable middle requires clearly explaining to them why they should move. Make no mistake; this is calling the hierarchy to change their position. Anyone familiar with the history of the church knows the hierarchy has changed its position many times on moral questions ranging from slavery to marriage law.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Catholics For Equality, an analysis on the Eve of their launch.

Catholics For Equality states the following as the mission of their organization:

Catholics for Equality empowers pro-equality Catholics to put our faith into
ethical and effective political action on behalf of the LGBT community and their families.

Zack Ford writes an article in Pam’s House Blend on Catholics For Equality (C4E), an organization scheduled to launch on 14 September 2010. Zack makes the following points:

"Something about 'pro-equality Catholic' just doesn't sit right with me. There's very little in Catholicism that in any way resembles 'equality' and Catholicism has never been known for being pro-anything. Let's hear a little bit more from their website:

Drawing on the rich tradition of Catholic social justice teachings, grounded in the Gospel message of Love, American Catholics are among the strongest supporters of equality for LGBT people of any religious group in the U.S.

HA HA HA HA HA HA HO HO HO HO HO HO HO HE HE HE HE HE HE HE!! WHOO! I'm rolling around on the floor. Seriously ROTFLMFAO!!! That's the best joke I've heard all day. You can't be serious, right? I mean, the Catholics come close, but it's definitely the Mormons who are the strongest supporters of LGBT equality, by far. Oh, that's rich, or it would be if it weren't so offensive to all the religious groups who do actually support LGBT equality.

Now, mocking aside, what they're talking about is that there is a rift between congregants and the leadership. Catholics for Equality is a group designed to oppose the bishops. The Catholic Church isn't exactly democratic or egalitarian in any conceivable way, so if congregants don't want to accept what the leadership is spoon-feeding, they have to form a separate group to represent their point of view, and this is such a group.

The question here is: what does it mean to be 'Catholic?'"

With all respect Zack, you may be asking the wrong question. A better question is "How will C4E move Catholic voters to support Pro-Equality legislation and candidates?" 25% of the American electorate is Catholic. They do not vote in “lock step” with the dictates of their bishops. Most Catholics do not follow the dictates of the bishops on artificial birth control. Many have suffered painful marriages that ended in divorce and they have subsequently remarried. The Catholic Church in the USA has attempted to accommodate many of these divorced and remarried Catholics through annulments. However, the Vatican has tried to make annulments more difficult to obtain. Many Catholics are now simply opting for Civil Marriages.

The point is that Catholicism is not a monolith and Catholics are not blind fanatics mindlessly following every dictate of the Vatican. Most significantly for LGBTQ people, most Catholics are not blindly following their bishop’s dictates in the voting booth. Catholic lay people tend to be progressive on many social issues and are far more progressive than most of their Protestant counterparts.

An organization such as “Catholics For Equality” should be welcomed, encouraged and supported by LGBTQ people because it could make a real difference on Election Day with Pro-Equality legislation and candidates. Zack, this is why I suggest that a better question would be, “How can Catholics For Equality reach Catholics and help foster pro-equality thinking and voting?”

The pro-equality thinking end of the equation could be addressed by the C4E foundation. Assembling progressive theologians and people engaged in pastoral ministries to speak to their Catholic brothers and sisters. Equality for LGBTQ people is a question of human dignity. Translating that into votes and political action is the missing piece in C4E.

As a former member of the founding board of directors, I do have very serious reservations about C4E’s ability to move Catholic voters and advance the cause of equality for LGBTQ people. At several Board meetings, Phil Attey (the current Executive Director) stated, “We do not want to change the [Catholic] Church.” Phil, why start Catholics for Equality if you are happy with the status quo? Phil also stated, “This is not an LGBTQ organization.” OK, then what is it? At one point, Father Joe Palacios, a priest of the LA Archdiocese, a board member of C4E and a Sociology/Latinos studies professor at the Jesuit Georgetown University, suggested that it was a Latino organization.

What emerged was a fragmented, insecure and vague set of goals. It is unclear how Catholics For Equality will move Catholics to vote for Pro-Equality legislation and political candidates. Anne Underwood is a board member of C4E and is also the head of an overlapping similar group in Maine called Catholics for Marriage Equality. She seemed concerned that C4E would replicate some of her own organization’s work in the drive for same sex marriage. This seems like this would be a conflict of interest.

The timid leadership currently in place at C4E fails to articulate (or more importantly agree on) how C4E will actually move Catholic voters. Additionally, some of board members gave me the distinct impression that they were there to make sure that C4E did not infringe on their “turf.” These conflicting agendas do not bode well for the success of this group and must be resolved.

An organization needs to have very clearly articulated goals and an understandable methodology in place to realize those goals. Here C4E breaks down and fails internally. If you visit the GetEQUAL website, they state their goal clearly and their methodology is the Direct Action/Civil Disobedience approach used by Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King. C4E offers “Brunch Captains.” I assume a "Brunch Captain" is someone who will host coffee and donuts after mass. Charming, to be sure; however, most parishes already offer coffee and donuts after Sunday Masses. The C4E website fails to explain how C4E "Brunch Captains” will make a real world difference on Equality issues. The C4E website invites visitors to submit reports of anti-LGBTQ speech/actions by Church officials; however, they fail to state how they will follow-up on those reports.

The C4E Board, as currently composed, lacks a clear vision and a forceful purpose. This exemplified by their launch date. The organization was scheduled to launch on 24 May 2010 and then this was changed to 16 August 2010 and then changed again to 14 September 2010. My fear is that C4E will focus on donations/fund raising and quickly degenerate into another “black tie, write us a check” LGBTQ organization. My hope is that the Board will grow a backbone and that its leadership will develop a clearly articulated vision and an effective methodology for actualizing Equality in the real world.

Some ideas that might help them would be to organize parish cells in the 17 states whose majority of voters currently support same sex marriage. The Woman Priest Movement is a good example of what can be accomplished on the parish level. These women made a real difference in my own parish by encouraging parishioners to question the hierarchy’s intransigent prohibition of women priests. Their members wore purple stoles, a scarf like cloth used by priests, at Sunday Mass causing parishioners to ask them about their unusual dress. Through their conversations with the parishioners, they engaged in theological discussions and moved people to understanding their position.

There is another organization called “The Rainbow Sash Movement” which does something similar for LGBTQ Catholics. Their members appear at Catholic Mass, and like the Women Priest movement, they quietly participate in the Mass while wearing rainbow sashes. Their high visibility provokes the same sort of discussion and thought that leads to greater understanding of their cause, which leads to real change.

Since they are “Catholics For Equality,” it would be a good idea for them to establish working partnerships with other Pro-Equality Catholic groups. Some suggestions would be: Federation of Married Priests; The Women Priest movement; Rainbow Sash; Bishop Accountability and SNAP.

I sincerely hope that Catholics For Equality will realize its potential to inform and move the conscience of millions of US Catholic voters. I am concerned that their current leadership cannot, or will not, provide a clear vision and an understandable methodology of how to obtain the goal of Equality. Without focus and a strong resolve, C4E will fail.

Let’s hope that they do not miss the opportunity to move significant numbers of voters into the Equality camp. That would be a loss for us all.