Thursday, May 27, 2010

DADT: It ain't over till the fat lady sings

Politico made these comments today regarding the passage of repeal legislation by Congress:
The White House and the Pentagon both approved the compromise in the amendments that allows Congress to act while granting the President, the defense secretary and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff the ultimate authority to implement repeal only when they are satisfied that the military’s readiness, recruiting, retention and morale would not be adversely impacted by it.


And because the House defied President Obama's veto threat to hang onto funding for two Joint Strike Fighter engines, the situation is even stickier. With the engine money and don't ask don't tell, Obama is situated between a promise he's made to his most powerful Cabinet member and his liberal base of support on a landmark civil rights issue.
The Pentagon is aggressively pushing for a veto.

"We don't want nor need the extra engine, but this is just one step in a long journey and Secretary Gates is committed to staying engaged in this process the whole way, including if necessary ultimately recommending President Obama veto this legislation," said Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell after the vote.

So too is Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.), who supports don’t ask don’t tell repeal but who fought to strip funding for the General Electric engine but who said he was encouraged by a strong vote on the amendment and the fact that the Senate Armed Services Committee did not include funding for the engine in its bill.

“I fully expect the President to follow through with his threatened veto of the Defense Authorization Act if the F-35 Extra Engine Program is in the final legislation,” Larson said.

Gay-rights groups, which have been assured by the White House that repeal will work out in the end, immediately hailed the Senate panel’s vote as historic.(FULL STORY)


So, what does this all mean? It means we have taken an important and positive step forward towards the repeal of DADT; however, repeal has not happened yet. The Congress has done what it can and now the ball is in the President’s court. Hopefully, he will follow through and sign this into law and then, meet the demands of signing off on it with his Secretary of Defense and the Head of the Joint Chiefs.

Friday, May 21, 2010

May 22, 2010 the first Harvey Milk Day


Michigan Avenue in Chicago, Illinois is known as “The Magnificent Mile.” Close to the Art Institute, if memory serves me, a street connects Michigan Avenue to Lake Shore Drive. There are two bronze sculptures of Native Americans mounted on horses. It is a beautiful scene, the two bronze sculptures framing Lake Michigan.

I stood on that spot as a boy looking up at the statues, my grandfather stood at my side. He retained his Spanish passport and citizenship. He said to me in Spanish, look at that and learn grandson. First, the Americans kill them off and then, they erect a statue in their honor

I thought about the “Trail of Tears” that President Andrew Jackson unjustly imposed on Native Americans. About our own nations’ “Death March” that claimed countless Native American’s lives. Jackson wanted all Native peoples forcibly relocated west of the Mississippi river. To this day, there are many Native Americans who refuse to use twenty dollar bills, because they bear Andrew Jackson’s portrait. We have a somewhat “secret history” in our country. In that same city of Chicago, that I loved so much as a boy, Mayor Richard Daily boarded up the blighted part of the city during the 1968 Democratic Party’s Convention out of sight, out of mind.

I thought about my boyhood memories of Chicago today on the eve of the first Harvey Milk Day. I thought about the promises made to our community by Presidents Bill Clinton and now Barack Obama. I thought about how easily those promises were violated. In the case of Clinton, because he wanted to push through a national Health Care Plan, he failed. Instead, he gave us Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. In the case of Obama, he sent his Secretary of Defense to the U.S. Senate. Secretary Gates asked the Senators NOT to repeal DADT, until yet another study can be completed on December 1, 2010.

To those more literate in politics, Secretary Gates (and his boss, President Obama) gave “cover” (i.e. Permission) to Democratic Senators to not vote for the repeal of DADT. His thinking is that Mid-term elections are in November and we do not want to do something that might be unpopular with Middle American voters so close to an election. This inaction and apparent weakness was seen in the recent Health Care debates. Those saw the administration withdraw from a National Health Care Plan (Public Option) to a possible lowering of the eligibility age for Medicare to 55. That was then also abandoned and FINALLY, Obama pushed at the eleventh hour for Health Insurance Reform. Thankfully, that reform became law; however, it is a ghost of what was initially sought.

Read now this piece about the Oil Spill disaster in the Gulf and the attitude of the Administration towards that disaster:




Democratic strategist James Carville and MSNBC anchor Chris Matthews, two reliable supporters of President Barack Obama, have issued withering critiques of the administration's handling of the Gulf oil spill.

Carville, the famously outspoken Louisianian who was a chief political aide to Bill and Hillary Clinton, told CNN's Anderson Cooper on Thursday that the administration's response to the spill has been "lackadaisical" and that Obama was "naive" to trust BP to manage the massive clean-up effort.

Likewise, Chris Matthews argued during a "Tonight Show" appearance that the President was to "acting a little like a Vatican Observer."

"The President scares me," he said. "When is he actually going to do something? And I worry; I know he doesn't want to take ownership of it. I know politics. He said the minute he says, 'I'm in charge,' he takes the blame, but somebody has to. It's in our interest."

The Obama administration has thus far avoided the political backlash that President George W. Bush faced in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, in part by comprehensively documenting its actions in the Gulf and staying on message ("Fully engaged since Day One...").

But crude oil has now been erupting into the Gulf of Mexico for over a month, and the sense that the Obama administration is treating the spill as an urgent national emergency has diminished even as the impact of the disaster has magnified. Not until yesterday, critics note, a full 30 days after the oil rig explosion, did federal officials establish a technical team to measure the full extent of the spill. (FULL STORY)




When is he actually going to do something, indeed? I wonder if Barack Obama would ever have been elected a U.S. Senator or President of the United States, if President Lyndon Johnson assumed such a pragmatic and “bi-partisan” approach towards Civil Rights legislation. Most probably not and Mrs. Parks would still be riding in the back of the bus. The most disappointing thing about Obama’s failure to support the Civil Rights of another minority group is that he himself has suffered discrimination and abuse. He knows what it means to be the victim of slurs, threats, discrimination, injustice and bigotry.

There is a ray of hope these days and of all places; it is to be found in Arkansas. In the Tuesday night Primary Elections in that state, the “blue dog Democrat”
Senator Blanche Lincoln failed to win. This silver lining is far more than a mere consolation, it is a sign of one thing LGBTQ people must now do, if they want to secure Civil Rights. DO NOT VOTE FOR ANYONE WHO FAILED TO VOTE FOR OUR RIGHTS. As in the case of Arkansas, that will mean voting for a progressive (i.e. Real Democrat) in the primary elections. Don’t stop there, write to the incumbent and tell him/her why you did not vote for them. Enclose a copy of a generous check you wrote to their opponent.

The Blue Dog Democrat will undermine us anyway and if enough LGBTQ people become a swing vote, perhaps the Democratic incumbent and Party itself will think twice in the future before selling us out. Think about it from the perspective of a Democrat up for reelection. If I do not support Equality Laws, I will not only lose LGBTQ votes, but my opponent will gain those votes and yes, all that wonderful LGBTQ money too.

Harvey Milk famously said, “You’ve got to give them hope.” President Obama promised us many things, including hope. Sadly, it now seems that his were empty promises and a false hope. We need to look elsewhere. We need to become less accommodating and more belligerent when it comes to our rights. We need to be more like Act-Up/Get Equal; and less like Log Cabin Republicans, or their Democratic “establishment” counterparts.

Progress has been made since Harvey Milk was murdered. Seven nations in Europe, Canada, South Africa are being joined by Latin American governments in recognizing same sex marriage. Israel, Great Britain, the Dutch and many other nations allow gay and lesbians to serve openly in their Armed Forces. What would Harvey Milk say to us today? I think he would ask us to be encourage by that progress, and to remember that it was achieve through great sacrifices. The baton has been handed to us.

BE STRONG, for those who are not.

BE VISIBLE, for those who cannot.

BE, for yourself and for us all.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Repeal DADT, NOW!



I was asked to speak at a Repeal DADT rally last evening. This is a subject close to my heart since I have both served in the USAF as a Chaplain and I have counseled many LGBTQ people who serve in the Armed Forces. I thought of those people and their painful experiences as I stood at the podium last evening.

I was an officer in the USAF when candidate Bill Clinton promised that he would lift the ban on gay and lesbians serving in the US Armed Forces. After he was elected, Clinton made a national Health Care Plan the primary focus of his administration. We were told that we had to wait. Ironically, we did not get a national Health Care Plan and we got DADT (Don’t Ask Don’t Tell).

When candidate Barack Obama ran for the office of President, he promised our community that he would repeal DADT and permit gays and lesbians to serve openly in our Armed Forces. Next week the Senate’s Armed Services Committee will decide if the Repeal of DADT is added to the language of an appropriation bill. Like many in our community, I felt a sense of betrayal when Defense Secretary Gates recommended to the US Senate that they wait until an additional report is completed on December 1, 2010. This would effectively postpone the repeal of DADT until 201l, or later. Why? To avoid this as a political issue at the mid-term elections. Once more, we are asked to wait.

Can you imagine Rahm Emanuel asking Dr. Martin Luther King to wait for Civil Rights Laws to be passed, because of political expediency? Can you imagine Rahm Emanuel asking Gloria Steinem to wait for laws granting equality and legal protection to women and their rights? We have waited 18 years for Civil Rights. We have waited far too long. Justice delayed is justice denied.

What is the cost of this denial of Civil Rights and legal protection to LGBTQ people? In 1999 the Center for Disease Control issued the results of a study entitled “Youth at Risk.” That study found that one third of gay adolescents attempt suicide. ONE THIRD!!! I ask you, the next time you are at a gathering of LGBTQ people to look at the crowd and envision an additional one-third the number of people. Those people are in graves instead of with us today.

To understand why, I ask you to recall that time in your life when you discovered that you were “different.” Remember those feelings of fear that seized you in your youth. Fear that you would be rejected by the people you loved the most in the world, your parents, your family and your friends. The vast majority of LGBTQ people learn how to “pass” in effect to lie about who they are. That deception is a survival skill. It is imposed upon us by society, a society that would punish us not only with verbal and physical abuse, but also with rejection if we were to reveal our true self.

The price of lying about yourself is self-hatred. Not reflected in the CDC’s Youth at Risk Study results are the vast number of LGBTQ people who suffer from alcohol and substance abuse, or those who exist in a chronic state of depression as a result of societal and self-hatred. As an official from the City was speaking yesterday, a silver BMW drove by and the passenger yelled “FAGGOTS.”

Do you want to know what the “Gay Agenda “is? Here it is, Equal Rights and all the protections extended to every other minority group by our government. The Civil Rights legislation of the early 1960’s granted full Civil Rights and legal protection to racial minority groups in our society. Those laws did not end racism; however, they protected racial minorities from housing and employment discrimination. They protected their Civil Rights under law. Today this means the Repeal of DADT and the passage of ENDA.

Last night voters in the Primary Elections sent a message to Washington DC. If you do not vote for us, we will not vote for you! If you do not support us, we will not support you! Malcolm X said, “Civil Rights have never been granted to anyone, you have to take them!”

President Obama, Keep Your Promises! Use the power we gave you to secure justice and Civil Rights, while you still have it!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Pope Benedict XVI: Gay Marriage Is 'Insidious And Dangerous'


Benedict himself admitted to the "sins within the church" on the first day of the trip, his most explicit admission of Church culpability in the scandal. By Thursday, however, he had moved on to stressing core church teachings in the largely Roman Catholic country, where abortion on demand has been available since 2007 and where Parliament in January passed a bill allowing same-sex marriage. In addition, a judge in 2008 made it easier to obtain divorce even when one spouse objects.

Benedict told the gathering of lay Catholics that he appreciated their efforts fighting abortion and promoting the family based on the "indissoluble marriage between a man and woman" – the Vatican's way of expressing its opposition to divorce and same-sex unions.
Such initiatives "help respond to some of the most insidious and dangerous threats to the common good today," he said. "Alongside numerous other forms of commitment, such initiatives represent essential elements in the building of the civilization of love." Full story


Please note the three issues the pope touches upon, abortion, same sex marriage and divorce. In each case, the pope laments that civil government has made these actions legal. In other words, law no longer prohibits them. Now, a woman may decide for herself regarding reproduction. Persons with same sex orientation may enter into a union of love and life (marriage). People are no longer forced to remain in abusive or loveless marriages.

Christendom was a stage in European history when the Church and the State were in an active partnership. Realize that it was only about 45 years ago that Pope John XXIII removed the papal tiara from his head at the Second Vatican Council. One of the three crowns in the papal tiara symbolized temporal power, power over the secular order. The high point for papal influence and power was the pontificate of Innocent III in the twelfth century.

The teachings of the Church effectively informed, if not constituted the State’s laws. Christendom began to fade with the Renaissance.The Non-Establishment Clause in the US Constitution created the world’s first secular nation. This process was further accelerated by the French Revolution and its famous document “Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen”

By the end of the Twentieth century the idea of secular states, in which citizens dictated laws through the democratic process, has become normative in Europe, North America and much of South America and Africa. Images of suicide bombers, theocratic dictatorships in the Middle East and fatwa against authors and journalists cause justifiable concern in the minds of contemporary people. These concerns are underscored when religious leaders attempt to force their teachings on society as a whole.

Yes, faith is an important part of most people’s lives; however, it is understood that this is a personal decision. It is voluntary. To take a page from human development, the relationship between parent and child is different when the child is 8, 16, 26, 46, 65, etc. If a parent attempted to exercise, the same form and level of control over a 45- year-old as over a 5-year-old, one would immediately recognize a problem. If the child at 45 agreed to being treated like a 5 year old, one would have serious concerns about the maturity/psychological health of that 45-year-old person.

Perhaps it is time for the pope to speak to believers and to the world at large, as adults. Perhaps it is time to move beyond prohibition and condemnation and to employ reason and dialogue. Jesus did not employ force of arms or the power of the state to force discipleship. He moved people by the power and beauty of the truth he proclaimed. Perhaps, I know this is a tad radical; but it is time for the Church to imitate its founder on this point.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Two Closets


If the name George Allen Rekers is unfamiliar to you, then you've probably been in a coma for one week or off hiking in the wilderness. Lucky you! In brief, Rekers is a closeted gay man who has spent the better part of his adult life bashing LGBTQ people. Pam's House Blend will fill you in on all the details. It seems that Rekers is now attempting to claim that he is not "a homosexual." How could he possibly hope to be able to get away with such a ludicrous claim in the face of such overwhelming evidence to the contrary?

If Liberachi could publicly claim that he is not a homosexual and be believed, then why can’t George Rekers? Yes, that was many decades ago and society has evolved “somewhat.” However, people will always prefer a palatable lie to a challenging truth. The pathetic tragedy, both for George Rekers and for our society, is that some of the most homophobic people are repressed/self-loathing homosexuals. This tragedy is further compounded by the fact that even within the openly LGBTQ community there is yet another internal division.

In the movie “Milk”, the gay Opera elite of San Francisco have an exchange with Harvey Milk. They are displeased at his activism. They have been “accepted” and found a respectable niche in society and they do not want Milk’s brash activism upsetting the apple cart. I have found a huge rift within our community between “establishment” gays and activist LGBTQ folks. Just mention Lt. Dan Choi or Robin McGhee at a black tie fundraiser and wait for the flood of verbal vitriol that will follow.

You would think you were speaking with someone from NOM, NARTH, an evangelical or Republican. Nope, it is someone from our community. A “good little boy/girl” who, like Log Cabin Republicans believes that if you dress up, smile and ask very, very politely; then eventually you will be granted civil rights. I think that there exist two closets. The first closet in which many, like George Rekers, are trapped, and the second in which many LGBTQ people patiently wait for society to accept them. The Book of Revelation states: “So, because you are lukewarm, neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth.” [Rev 3:16]

Malcolm X said, “No one ever gave anyone civil rights, you have to take them!” Yes, self-loathing homosexuals, like Rekers, do great harm to our community. However, organizations and individuals in our community, who are willing to barter away justice for respectability arguably do as much, or worse damage. Whose hypocrisy is more damaging? Repressed people, like Rekers, who lash out at their own kind are at least psychologically understandable. Those in the well-healed, black tie set who settle can make no such defense. They are either na├»ve, or opportunists.

Why is one closet so vehemently condemned by our community and the other so blindly overlooked? Perhaps it is because most of us have moved beyond the first poisonous stage of coming out, but less of us have moved beyond the second stage. Like the Log Cabin Republicans, many in our community desperately want acceptance from “Society” and they want that acceptance at any price. That price is the repeal of DADT--next year. The passage of ENDA--when it is more opportune. The repeal of DOMA--maybe in three or four years.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Confess your sins, amend your life and do penance


I find myself corresponding with a member of Episcopal USA. In the course of our E-mails, I referred to the Roman Church as the Catholic Church. He wrote back insisting that the Episcopal Church IS Catholic. I meant no offense, after all use of that term in contemporary American society is generally understood as a reference to the Roman Catholic Church. It is both theologically and historically accurate to understand that the Orthodox and Anglican (Episcopalian) Churches are part of the Great Universal (Catholic) Church. That Church broke into diverse parts after the Great Schism of 1054 and the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century.

Given the monstrous scandals now exploding internationally involving the Roman Catholic Church and the popular understanding of the term “Catholic” as meaning the Roman Catholic Church, I am amazed that Episcopalians, or any other Christians for that matter, would want to associate with that term. The British publication “The Tablet” (full story) reports the following:


The crisis threatens to reach catastrophic proportions. A staggering 6.25 million German Catholics, that is a quarter of the German Church, are expected to leave the Church this year because of the scandal, according to a poll in the [ITAL]Frankfurter Rundschau[UNITAL] daily.


Sensing the horrific fallout for the Cover-Up Scandal Cardinal Leveda has called for a new apologetic for the faith. He has stressed that such an apologetic must be sacramental.

A sacrament communicates something intangible (i.e. “grace” a sharing in the life of God) to the senses. The sacrament of baptism uses the tangible substance water, to communicate a cleansing. The life giving powers of waters communicate the new life of faith, a renewal in God’s love & life, etc. The problem with an apologetic for the (Roman) Catholic Church is precisely that the Institutional Church, rather than communicating intangible grace to the senses, acts as an obstacle to that communication.

The truth is that the hierarchy of the (Roman) Catholic Church has been involved in a Cover-Up of the violation of innocent children by a small percentage of priests. This is so much the case that the role of the bishops is even mentioned in a syllabus by the John Jay School of Law. The following is reprinted from a course syllabus

PAD 706—MANAGING DYSFUNCTIONAL ORGANIZATIONS (BUREAUPATHOLOGY)
:

Pedophile Priests and Negligent Oversight: What institutional factors in the Catholic Church helped hundreds of other pedophile priests carry on with their depredations, in many cases despite repeat offenses and the awareness of clerical peers about what they were up to? What parallels can you draw between problem cops (or problem employees in any profession) who remain “bulletproof” for years and the problem priests in this case who seemed equally invulnerable for so long?


Video: Hand of God. (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/handofgod/view/)





The Cover-Up discussed is not only an obstruction of justice, a crime in itself and a further psychological/emotional wounding of the victims and their families/loved ones. The Cover-Up is as great as the crime of the pedophile priests, because it facilitated new acts of pedophilia, new crimes, and created new victims. All of this would have been avoided if bishops (and the pope) had acted responsibly. This did not require some extraordinary knowledge or wisdom, simply common sense. If an innocent child has been violated and harmed by an adult, you remove that adult from any position where he/she could harm any other children. That means that you 1) inform the judicial/police authorities of the crime and let them adjudicate the matter; and 2) remove the priest/bishop from public ministry. It really is that simple.

Why the hierarchy did not do this is almost as disturbing as their failure to act. They wanted to protect the reputation of the institutional Church and its material assets. Ironically, their actions have seriously wounded what they so desperately tried to protect. Before any new Apologetic work can be written, the hierarchy (and the Institutional Church that they control) needs to take its own age-old advice. Confess your sins, amend your life and do penance (an attempt to offer satisfaction to the aggrieved).