Thursday, June 30, 2011

President Obama: 'I've Met My Commitments to the LGBT Community' No Sir, you have not!

President Obama: 'I've Met My Commitments to the LGBT Community'
No Sir, you have not!

The fact Sir that you can make such an absurd statement betrays a grotesque ignorance of the inequality that remains enshrined in American law on a Federal level. Even more disturbing is your apparent insensitivity and cynicism to such inequality and the suffering, despair, destroyed lives, broken families and, as we witnessed last fall, tragic suicides of LGBT youth.

Let us visit some of those inequalities:

1. In those states where Marriage Equality is the law, Same-sex couples are denied federal recognition of their marriages. This means that the IRS, Social Security, INS do not grant to those couples and their children the rights that are automatically granted to heterosexual couples. In the real world Same-sex, couples and their children are taxed at higher rates. Those couples do not receive the Social Security benefits that they and their spouse paid into over a lifetime. A legally married person in Massachusetts (or any of the other states that recognize [d] their marriage) can have their spouse deported by INS, effectively destroying that family and causing incalculable trauma to both spouses and their children for a lifetime.

2. You signed legislation from the Congress that authorized you to repeal the unjust Don’t Ask Don’t Tell law on 22 December of 2010. To date, DADT remains enforced and members of our community are currently being discharged under this discriminatory law. It is within your power, as President, right now to issue a stopgap order that would effectively end these injustices that are destroying the lives and careers of innocent people. You have chosen not to issue that order.

3. As President of the United States you command, what your predecessor Theodore Roosevelt called “the Bully Pulpit.” You could have used your position to promote the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act [ENDA] that would have protected huge swaths of members of our community from wrongful termination and denial of benefits. You choose to do nothing.

What is most disturbing is that you have, and continue, to squander the opportunities that the people of this nation have placed into your hands. You appear to place Reelection to the Office, in which you are called to serve, above the interests of the people whose votes; sweat and treasure put you into that Office. Here is the truth regarding your much touted signing of DADT [that you have yet to enact]:

"White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs expounded on Obama’s commitment to legislative repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” as he acknowledged that the president hasn’t yet reached out to senators to lobby them on the issue.

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."

Moreover, what moved Obama on DADT is reported in The Daily Beast,

"It’s critical for LGBT people to remember that a fulfillment that always heads Obama’s list—the dissolution of DADT—happened not since folks were calm with a occasional wink, though since groups like Netroots and GetEQUAL spurred him into action. The boss had been formulation to wait until 2011 to pull for repeal. But Lt. Dan Choi, a plainly happy Iraq War maestro who became a open face of antithesis to a policy, altered a diversion in Mar 2010 by chaining himself to a White House fence and removing vital media pickup. There was nonetheless some-more coverage a subsequent month, when another GetEQUAL romantic heckled Obama’s inaction on DADT during a fundraiser for Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA).

And that’s when things began to shift. According to GetEQUAL’s cofounder, Robin McGehee, a contributor from a White House pool emailed her immediately after a Boxer occurrence to say, “DADT hasn’t even been on this president’s radar, though now it’s a usually thing he’s articulate about.”

Even now, you continue to drag your feet on DADT certification. Your inaction leaves some in our community wondering if you will trade repeal of DADT to our opponents to obtain some political concession.

The best argument that your most ardent supporters/defenders in our community can muster is that you are acting out of political expediency and that you have done more than any other President has ever done for our community; let us take a closer look at those claims. The former argument serves as an apt explanation of why most people use the term “politician” as a slur. The latter argument is easily dismissed by the progress of history and that is due to the real world sacrifices of activists, people of moral conviction, and elected officials like Governor Cuomo who have honestly served our community, the people of New York, our Nation and World consciousness.

The only time we hear from you is when you want to take the credit for other’s work, when you have your hand extended for a contribution, or you need volunteers to staff your campaigns and for us to give you our votes. The rationale, “The other side will work against your interests, he is the lesser of two evils. Therefore, you have no choice but to vote for Obama.” Lesser or greater, both are evil and the only way to defeat evil is to name it as such and reject it. We deserve better, but we will not get better until we demand it and refuse to accept miserable crumbs and excuses meant to quiet us.

Sir, our patience is wearing very, very thin. ACT! Start by announcing your public and unqualified support for Federal Marriage Equality. ACT! Pick up your telephone and call the Secretary of Defense and the Head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Certify the repeal of DADT and in the interim issue an Executive Order to immediately stop all discharges under this hatefully unjust law. ACT! Pick up your telephone and order the Department of Justice to drop charges against Lt. Dan Choi. IF you did these ALL of these today you would make a good start towards making true your claim, “I've Met My Commitments to the LGBT Community.”

Not until you can sign legislation for the LGBT community, as your predecessor President Lyndon B. Johnson did when he signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for your community, can you honestly claim that you have met your commitments to us. That requires that you DO for us what President Johnson did for your community. That means that you must take risks, place your comfort and security beneath a real commitment to the ideals you beautifully enunciated as a candidate.

Monday, June 27, 2011

OUR STRUGGLE: Past, Present, Future and Beyond.

After the seismic decision by the state of New York in favor of Marriage Equality and the subsequent weekend of elation and celebration, it occurred to me that this is a good time to pause and reflect. A good time to look back, to see how far we have come; a good time to look at our present realities and a good time to look forward to the near future and beyond.


Let's begin by looking at the following chart.

In examining the chart, you will note that a precipitous decline in the percentile favoring the criminalization of homosexuality begins in 1973. It was at that time that the American Psychological Association publicly stated that homosexuality was not a form of mental illness and, in fact, constituted a sexual orientation. In 1975, the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (the Holy Office of the Roman Inquisition) declared that for some, homosexuality was innate.

From 1973 to 1980, the percentage of states in which homosexuality was illegal fell from 92% to 52%, a staggering 40% drop in only seven years time. By the 2003, date of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Lawrence v. Texas the number of states in which homosexuality was illegal had dropped to 30%. Over two-thirds of the states had rejected criminalization of homosexuality as being both irrational and unjust.


Currently the American Psychological Association states the following,

Is 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.

As increasingly more in our community come-out to parents, siblings, friends, and co-workers and society in general. As we become more visible in media, stereotypes have begun to give way to reality and prejudice to reason. The most liberating and healthy part of this coming-out process is on a personal level. The joke that, “the last person you come-out to is yourself,” as with all humor, it is funny because it is built around a kernel of truth. People who learned self-loathing as children, through reason slowly come to accept and assert themselves. This in turn advances the cause of simple justice and equality for all.

There are, as always, those opposed to the expansion of civil rights for disenfranchised minority groups.

"Cuomo was able to convince people -- both Democrats and Republicans -- that they were more likely to get reelected if they supported marriage equality than if they didn't," said Richard Socarides, of gay rights organization Equality Matters and the chief aide on LGBT issues in the Clinton White House. "The right-wing threatened these guys and the Catholic Church threatened them."

Actually, if statistics are accurate, it was not “the Catholic Church” that threatened elected officials; but rather, Catholic bishops and a minority of Catholic voters. Catholic laity, as a group, are far more supportive of Marriage Equality than any other American denomination and even more progressive on this question than the general American population. Evidently, even cautious politicians are beginning to realize that listening to the Catholic bishops and the Knights of Columbus will actually lose them Catholic votes.


On a visit by the late John Paul II to New York City, he said to then Cardinal O’Connor, “You are the Archbishop of the Capital of the World.” Friday’s enactment of Marriage Equality by the Republican led senate of New York state is the equivalent of Waterloo, or Stalingrad in our war against discrimination.

I think that the courts will reinstate Marriage Equality in California within one year. The certification of the repeal of DADT will have a national impact as a culture changer and move forward full equality for our community. People forget the role that Truman’s desegregation of the Armed Forces had in changing national social attitudes on racial equality.

Courts have already declared DOMA unconstitutional and Obama has instructed the Department of Justice NOT to appeal that ruling.

Any one of these events would be a serious wound to NOM, which is a Pac of the religious right, but in combination, these constitute a mortal wound to legally sanctioned discrimination in our nation. As this occurs, Marriage Equality will also be moved forward in France and other EU and Latin American nations. As John Paul II said, “What happens in the United States of America today happens everywhere else in ten years.”


New York state Senator and ardent Equality opponent Ruben Diaz’ surprisingly lucid and honest quote that, “same-sex marriage is inevitable in New York state,” is an accurate prophecy for the United States of America, the European Union and Latin America. In our own nation, this will probably occur within the next few years.

President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Law in 1964. After that date, legal discrimination based on race was illegal in the United States of America. Racial bigotry has diminished since that date; however, still remains ingrained in American popular culture, although it is increasingly less socially acceptable to hold and express such bigoted views.

Once we have full legal equality and protection, our community must also fight a similar series of battles. What Affirmative Action was to the struggle for equality for racial minorities, I believe that Anti-Bullying laws will be for our community. Despite nationally held perceptions of “Hollywood” as being ultra-liberal, the culture of the Entertainment Industry in this town is very socially conservative on the question of sexual orientation.

Like Roman Catholic priests, many actors, writers and people in the film industry are gay. As with priests, many of these folk’s livelihoods are predicated on keeping that fact a secret. Self-loathing is unhealthy both for the individual and for society as a whole. Hold studios accountable for their (non) depiction of our community and for their employment practices towards members of our community. Marriage Equality households need to be presented not as a comedic foil, but as an increasingly normative reality. We must demand the same respect and exposure in film and television depictions of our community as is currently accorded to religious and racial minorities in our society.

Draw inspiration from our past, draw hope from our present victories, rejoice and continue the battles first to secure full equality on the federal level and then create a safe and positive environment for both ourselves and the next generation.

Friday, June 24, 2011



New York state senators Friday night voted 33-29 to legalize gay marriage, a breakthrough victory for the gay-rights movement in the state where it got its start.

The adoption of gay marriage makes New York the sixth and largest state in which gays and lesbians can legally marry. It also marks the first time in the nation that a Republican-led chamber has voted to adopt gay marriage.

Clearly, this is HUGE! Within a year, the Ninth Circuit Court will most probably uphold Judge Walker’s decision to overturn Prop 8 in California. The certification of the repeal of the odious DADT (Don’t Ask Don’t Tell) is expected this fall. Obama’s decision not to defend DOMA (the so called “Defense Of Marriage Act”) will probably cinch the Court’s decision declaring that unjust law unconstitutional. That in turn will usher in full federal rights for Same-sex couples and effectively make Marriage Equality the law of the land.

So, pop open a bottle of Champaign and raise a toast to Maggie Gallagher’s new job search and the defeat of NOM (and its puppet masters in the Mormon & Catholic leadership).

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, in the NY State Marriage Equality Battle.

First, a heartfelt THANK YOU! To Governor Cuomo for his noble intentions and great efforts on behalf of Equality. His courage, vision and unwavering leadership stand as a national model that will hopefully inspire other elected officials to move from being “politicians” to becoming “statesmen.”

Consider State Sen. Jim Alesi of Rochester, the first Republican senator to express support for same-sex marriage, predicted last week that the measure would pass with 35 votes. Not the bare minimum 32 votes, six of those votes in Senator Alesi’s projected count, would have been Republicans. So, why does it seem that the Republican Senate Majority Leader Dean G. Skelos is choosing kill the bill by political maneuvering?

The “micro” answer is that Michael Long, a majority of Republican State Senators, Archbishop Dolan & Co., and probably the national RNC are applying considerable political pressure in order (among the Republican Party elements) to appeal to their base. On the part of Dolan & Co., it was to appeal to Benedict XVI (and secure future promotions).

The “macro” answer is essentially that Skelos, Long & the Republican Party are driving in a very determined manner, tragically they have their eyes firmly fixed on the rearview mirror and are not looking through the windshield. Politically, this is a strategic error on the part of Republican leadership, since objective poling indicates that Americans now approve of Marriage Equality by 53% (58% in New York state). Furthermore, those polls show a movement in favor of Marriage Equality by 2% to 4% annually.

This posits a serious national problem for the Republican Party, their current strategy might work for one more national election, but after that they will have to do a radical 180-degree course correction on Marriage Equality and other LGBTQ Civil Rights issues. In short, if they kill New York State Marriage Equality legislation, they will squander a credible opportunity to begin making that course correction. An ardent Equality Foe, New York state senator Ruben Diaz said, “gay marriage is inevitable in the State of New York.” Had I been a political consultant to Skelos & Co., I would have advised him to bring the bill to a vote and timed it to occur while the President was delivering yet another of his signature milquetoast speeches at an LGBTQ fundraiser in Manhattan.

In one of life’s delicious ironies, President Barack Obama was speaking at an LGBTQ fundraiser the very night that the New York State Senate Republicans were expected to announce a decision on allowing the Marriage Equality Bill to come up for a vote. Talk about a missed opportunity for the Republicans! Take a moment now to imagine (and enjoy) the frenetic conversations between Obama and his speechwriters as he attempted to calculate the most non-committal and yet “encouraging” speech possible. Reach for an airsickness bag as you read Obama’s statement that Equality legislation should, “Best addressed by the states.” What would you call a politician that made such a statement regarding Jim Crow laws?

Consider Obama's actions on a national Health Care Plan, the two TRILLION dollar wars, the housing/financial crisis, the closing of GITMO in Cuba, his reluctance on ending DADT, hesitation on ENDA and his last hour conversion on DOMA. Winston Churchill's quip about America seems very apt about Obama as well, "Eventually they [he] will do the right thing, but only after they have [he has] exhausted every other option." In my heart, I wish it was President Cuomo instead of Obama, but like a person on a bicycle who sees an Aston Martin drive by, I wish that was mine, but the bicycle will get me were I need to go.

That said, I am not reaching for my checkbook with any enthusiasm or haste and if DADT is not certified by the projected September 2011 date, I will have extra money to spend on gifts this holiday season. I am sure that Obama’s view, and more importantly, his real world actions on, Equality legislation will “evolve.” However, I believe that evolution will reflect objective political polling, and not a personal moral conviction, on the subject. At the end of the day, he is a politician. He may well be of service to Equality, but he is no Joan of Arc, Dr. King, Gandhi or even Abraham Lincoln.

So, what practical lessons have we learned from this circus? The squeaky wheel gets the oil. Stand-up, Speak-out, reward/punish with your vote & checkbook, and perhaps most of all, do not settle for anything less than Equality NOW, or that is what you will get.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Why Separation of Church and State is good for the Church.

A professor in theological graduate school stated to our class, “The greatest tragedy for Christianity was the conversion of the Emperor Constantine.” By entrusting some government functions to the Christian clergy Constantine actually made the church an agency of the imperial government. the Church became one of the Departments of the State. When the Western half of the Roman Empire collapsed in 410 C.E., civil officials vanished in the wake of the barbarian invasions and clergy effectively filled the void. First, the Church was part of the government and then, government became a tool of the Church to impose/enforce its teachings on the people.

This remained largely unchallenged until the Protestant Reformation, but then it largely became a question of what would be the State Religion of England, Germany, France, etc. The American and French Revolutions were “game changers.” The United States of America became the world’s first secular state. We have no formal “State Religion.”

Old habits die hard and after fourteen centuries of defining laws and setting policies, the hierarchy of the Catholic Church does not want to let go of that role in society and the intoxicating power it grants to them. However, as my professor pointed out, this union between the State and the Church was an illicit marriage to begin with.

Religion provides an understanding of the universe and life, structure, rules and values to adherents, as does a loving parent for a child. Religion, like a family, forms a community of love for its members. It is the role of a parent to enable the child to stand on his/her own feet and face life as an adult. In the case of religion, it is the function of the religion to enable the adherent to attain spiritual maturity and be equipped to make informed moral decisions.

Simply because we become autonomous adults does not mean that we abandon the parent/child relationship, or our family. It means that the relationship (like us) matures and develops. How a parent relates to a child aged 8 should be different from how they relate to a child who is 18, 38 or 48. If it is not, then there is something seriously wrong in the parent and/or the child, and most certainly with the relationship.

If a child encounters a parent who demands that the relationship remain at an infantile level of development, the child will either cease development, or that development will strain and eventually rupture the relationship. That is what has been happening in the Roman Catholic Church since 1968.

The Catholic Church is suffering from such a dysfunctional relationship between its hierarchy and its laity. It began with the rejection by Pope Paul VI of the recommendation by the Majority opinion of a Pontifical Commission (established by John XXIII) examining the question of artificial contraception and his implementation of the Minority opinion in Humanae Vitae. In a book entitled “Sexuality and Catholicism” former Catholic Register Editor, Thomas Fox lists four probable motives for Paul VI’s highly controversial (and widely disregarded) prohibition of artificial contraception.

Fox asks why Paul VI took the stance he did and suggests that at the end of the day he may have had four motives.

1. One was the possibility that the traditional church had grown "increasingly defensive and even ghettoized" in the face of modernity's attendant "evils," and the pontiff wanted to draw a clear line in the sand against said "evils."

2. Another possibility was the danger seemingly imposed to the longstanding "systematic theory" the church had promulgated concerning matters of sexuality, a theory which linked moral beliefs about contraception with those proscribing extramarital intercourse, homosexuality, and masturbation.

If childbearing within marriage alone justified sexual expression, and if the church changed that teaching to allow sex for purposes of other than creating new life (such as cementing the loving relationship between husband and wife), might not changes concerning other matters of sexual morality be unavoidable?

3. A third possibility was that the pope might simply have wanted to reaffirm the church's "great emphasis on tradition."

4. And fourth, there was the question of the church's authority, never mind the details of the particular moral issue involved. If the pope changed the church's signals on birth control, would he not be admitting the church might have been wrong in other of its previous stances.

As Fox puts it, "How could the Holy Spirit allow the church to have been wrong?" If wrong on one important matter, then possibly wrong on others ... and the whole edifice of church authority might come tumbling down.

The real world result? The great cathedrals of Europe are not filled with worshipers, but with tourists. They have effectively ceased being churches and have become museums. This dysfunctional state of affairs was even alluded to by the current pope at the outset of his administration in 2005 when he set as his goal, “to re-evangelize Europe.” Europe will never be re-evangelized until the hierarchy of the Catholic Church is re-evangelized. That was precisely the intent and thrust of Pope John XIII and the Second Vatican Council.

Tragically, the current pope has spent the greater part of both his life and ministry as part of the Vatican Curia (a highly centralized bureaucracy). As with most bureaucrats, the institution is paramount and becomes seen as “the good.” This in part explains the mentality that prompted the pedophilia Cover-Up Scandal. Many changes ushered in by the Second Vatican Council, alarmed and disquieted both the Curia and many within the Church, since they called into question the very existence of the Curia. Bishops should instead govern in collegiality with each other and the successor of St. Peter.

Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae marked an attempted return to a more orderly age in which one was not disturbed by questions, simply by not questioning. This is Benedict XVI’s “smaller purer Church.”

Pastoral concerns regarding artificial contraception, divorced and remarried Catholics (in the USA annulments are easily obtained in other countries it is almost impossible to obtain an annulment), women priests, Marriage Equality, married clergy, ecumenism, or collegiality (bishops actually governing with the pope instead of being his functionaries), these are simply brushed aside. This may have worked in pre-Napoleonic Europe; but began to unravel in the twentieth century and even more so in the twenty first century. Pope John XIII understood this and that is why he convened the Second Vatican Council.

However this is not 1962; we live at a time when nuclear and biological weapons are proliferating throughout the world and not simply confined to two superpowers. We find ourselves in the midst of an AIDS pandemic that is consuming the African continent. We face a global recession that may well worsen into a global depression that threatens to ignite social unrest of unprecedented proportions. Scientists warn of cataclysmic climatic and oceanic changes that even now approach being irreversible. We do not find ourselves in the religiously homogenous Christendom of medieval Europe, but in a very diverse world made smaller by instant communication and by an increasingly interconnected global economy.

The world does not need and will not welcome an autocratic religious institution that treats and speaks to us in imperial tones. What the world needs from religious figures now, is not a failed attempt to restore the historic Constantine relationship between Church and State. Even if this were to succeed, it would ultimately simply create another theocratic state like Iran, which would only further exasperate the international crisis the world now faces. On a spiritual level, such a marriage between Church and State would reduce faith to a form of ideology and rob it of its spiritual value.

Catholics would profit by considering the motives that caused John XXIII to convene the Second Vatican Council. John Paul II said that the Church had to enter the Twenty-First century on her knees. Such humility suggests, that if more and more Catholics are leaving the faith, perhaps the problem is not with the people, but with the hierarchy.

Tonight Obama will speak at an LGBTQ event in New York

Monday, June 20, 2011

Passing, a symptom of bigotry.

We have been here before, at the threshold of equality, waiting and hoping that tomorrow will see an end to discrimination. That tomorrow will bring the relief and hope of a sunburst after a terrible storm. For many of us, that storm began when we were children and discovered that we were “different.”

Learning how to “pass” as straight was a requisite for survival in grammar and High School. The cost of pretending to be something other than our self was self-hatred. It meant dating people for appearance sake. It meant lying to our parents and siblings, our cousins, our classmates, our teachers, to strangers. It meant laughing along at “fag” jokes told by all of the aforementioned people. Do they know? Do they suspect?

For many of us that psychological and emotional straight jacket, with which we were fitted as children, remained immovably in place as adults. Serving in the military, in religious organizations of our birth, in states without protections for LGBTQ workers, in “corporate cultures” that looked down on “them.”

I was at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama attending Chaplaincy School in 1992. President-Elect Clinton had promised to lift the ban on gay & lesbian service in the Armed Forces. About sixty Chaplains sat in a conference room listening to a lecture from a Major. “Let’s brainstorm,” he said, “the Commander-in-Chief has said he intends to lift the ban on gays in the Air Force. I would like all of you to share how this we can implement this change.”

In my peripheral vision, I saw a glass wall, behind which several Airmen were operating recording equipment. Directly in front of each Chaplain on our desk was a small microphone, about the size of a dime. Perhaps it was seven years of navigating my way through seminary, where comments made at dinner, or on the recreation field, or in class, would appear on reports and be inserted into files. Perhaps it was having gone through years of “peer evaluations” and being voted on by professors as to whether or not I was fit for ordination. Something inside of me sensed this was a trap.

“Sir, until the Uniform Code of Military Justice is amended, it is inappropriate for us to speculate on what laws, policies or procedures will change." My comment abruptly ended the exercise. Years later, I discovered that similar “exercises” took place on other bases and that those who spoke out in favor accommodating gays faced career repercussions.

These memories streamed into my mind as I read the following piece in the Baltimore Sun,

In Maryland, Del. Emmett C. Burns, himself a veteran of the civil rights movement and one of the state's most outspoken opponents of same-sex marriage, gave voice to the disconnect between the two issues. During the floor debate on the gay marriage bill, Delegate Burns, who is a minister, said the push for same-sex unions is not comparable to a civil rights movement in which blacks and their supporters were beaten or killed. "If same-sex marriage is to be equated with the civil rights movement that I know … show me your Birmingham, Alabama, where high-pressure water hoses were turned on us, so powerful they knocked the bark off trees."

Reverend Burns concluded: "I am a black man, an African-American. I cannot change my color, nor do I wish to do so. Those who are gay can disguise their propensity. Even in this legislature, 50 or 100 years ago gays and lesbians were here because they could disguise who they were. I was not here because I can never disguise who I am."

I would encourage Rev. Burns to read the story of black Americans who “passed as white,”

Thelma Marshall knows that routine.

During the 1950s and early '60s, she did what her mother before her had done. What her grandmother and aunts had done.

She passed for white.

"One time I told a woman I was black, colored in those days," Marshall recalled. "She said, 'You won't get the job unless you pass for white.' "

So that's what Marshall did.

"I passed for white on lots of jobs," she said. "I had to be white to get the jobs." It's what many fair-skinned blacks did during those times.

Marshall's remarks are without shame or remorse. She felt she did what she had to do. Still, it is a prickly subject, and the 76-year-old woman does not want to offend so she asked that her real name not be used.

Passing for white offered not only opportunities, but also the opportunities white people received. During slavery, it could mean freedom. There are many documented instances of fair-skinned slaves who posed as white to escape. In modern times, it meant being able to vote in the South. It meant a job in the office rather than a job cleaning the office. It meant schools with the latest equipment and books, instead of dilapidated buildings and out-of-date texts. It often meant better housing. It meant being treated with respect, not disdain.

Barbara Douglass recalls the difference between going out with her white college friends vs. her black college friends.

"We went to a show, about six of us [black students]. The manager came and sat behind us. I asked him 'Why are you sitting behind us?' He said, 'I have to make sure you don't destroy anything.' "

Douglass said she told the manager that he had never sat behind her before.

His response was, "You never came with these people before."

Douglass, who the manager had assumed was white, encouraged her friends to leave the theater rather than be insulted.

So, Rev. Burns, what is worse? Being called an epithet, or having someone like you being called that epithet? No more than you had a voice in your skin color, did I have a voice in my orientation. As a child in the fourth grade when I discovered that I was a homosexual, and then discovered that this was “wrong.” I spent decades of my life trying to repress who I was and “passed” as straight, as Thelma Marshall and Barbara Douglass “passed” as whites.

You speak of being able to “disguise” who you are as some sort of a luxury, or personal indulgence. Shame on you Sir! Shame, for your lack of empathy and for the ignorance you have of your own people’s suffering. Shame for having come from a people who were subjected to discrimination and for now choosing to be an instrument of discrimination for another group of human beings.

If the Buddhist are correct, you will come back as a gay man in a culture you helped to create. If Catholics are correct, the same fate will be your purgatory. If Protestants are correct, it may well be your own personal hell. Sadly, for us all, you (like Archbishop Dolan of New York) help to make hell on earth by being an instrument of discrimination, by adding to the sufferings of others, by choosing to be a bigot.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Who decides what is legal in New York (& the USA)?

The New York Times reports,

Several Republican senators in New York are urging Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to consider changing his proposed same-sex marriage bill to better protect religious institutions, addressing a concern that has emerged as one of the bill’s chief obstacles as the legislative session comes to an end.

Conservative religious leaders and representatives of the New York State Catholic Conference made the rounds of the Capitol on Thursday seeking to press their case against the measure.

“We are relaying our very serious concerns to members of the Legislature regarding the religious liberty implications of Governor Cuomo’s bill,” said Dennis Poust, a spokesman for the conference. “It should be noted that we will continue to strongly oppose any redefinition of the historic understanding of marriage, regardless of the strength of the religious liberty protections. However, should the bill pass without adequate protection, it will have potentially far-reaching consequences for our ministries, both in terms of contracts to provide services and potentially to challenges to not-for-profit status.”

Dennis Poust, communications director for the New York State Catholic Conference, says it has a network of more than 60,000 people across the state emailing and making thousands of phone calls to senators' offices.
"We're trying to convince them, this is not right for the state," he said.

The bill does not compel any member of the clergy to conduct same-sex marriages, but some Republican lawmakers are concerned the legal protection is not strong enough.

New York's Archbishop Timothy Dolan on Wednesday equated the actions of lawmakers to restrictive Communist regimes.

Actually, Dolan has far more in common with those dictatorial despots who use the power of the State to impose their vision of right and wrong involuntarily on powerless citizens. Make no mistake, this is not about "morality" it is about raw naked political and social power. It is about the power of individuals to live freely versus the power of institutions, like the Catholic hierarchy, to dictate how those individuals may live. Dolan's assertion is not merely absurd, it is an unsophisticated inversion of the truth meant to seduce and deceive the public and intimidate politicians. In his own words,

"Last time I consulted an atlas, it is clear we are living in New York, in the United States of America - not in China or North Korea," he wrote on his blog. "In those countries, government presumes daily to 'redefine' rights, relationships, values, and natural law."

So the question is: what's "natural" or "unnatural?" That, in turns, leads to a more overarching question: Is homosexuality a status or a choice?

Some thinkers, including several members of the Supreme Court, seem to reason that homosexuality is an inborn status.
Catholicism--and, indeed most religions--teach that while homosexuality exists, homosexual activity is a "disordered" choice against the laws of nature.
If homosexuality is indeed a status rooted in biology or genetics, then homosexuals, like left-handed people, act according to their nature. But if homosexuality is a choice rooted in behavior, then homosexuals act against nature.

Stay with me, because here the argument splits even further. Are we talking about civil rights or morality?

In terms of civil rights, individuals deserve and are afforded protections for both status (say, skin color) and choice (for example, religious affiliation).
In terms of morality, status is neutral, while choice has implications and consequences.

Catholicism argues that homosexuals deserve legal protections, but not because homosexuality is a status. Catholicism says homosexual activity is a choice. So while bishops support non-discrimination policies, they won't agree that homosexuals are protected because of their genetic makeup.

Catholic thinkers have grappled with this question for ages. Creighton University professors Todd A. Salzman and Michael G. Lawler are the latest voices on the Catholic circuit. Their 2008 book, "The Sexual Person," just earned a rebuke from the U.S. bishops' doctrine committee.

Salzman and Lawler's dense academic argument turns traditional Catholic teaching on natural law on its head. They redefine natural law, saying "nature" is personal and individual, and that sexual activity need not be directed at procreation (contrary to what the Catholic Church has always said).

Salzman and Lawler argue that what is "natural" for a heterosexual is not "natural" for a homosexual, and therefore homosexuals and heterosexuals must act in accord with their personal "natures".

In other words, if it's "natural" for a homosexual to perform homosexual acts, then--for that person--heterosexual acts would be "unnatural" and immoral. For the two professors, homosexual activity is only immoral for the heterosexual acting against his or her nature.

Bottom line: Salzman and Lawler are arguing that homosexuality is a status, not a choice. If that's the case, then everyone--including the Catholic Church--should line up in support of an entire rainbow of gay-related arguments and ideas.

Taken to their logical conclusion, Salzman and Lawler's arguments would mean that Catholic moral teaching must do a complete about-face and disconnect sex from marriage--even from procreation--altogether.

Brooklyn Diocese' Monsignor Kieran Harrington says every diocese is now aggressively getting the word out to Catholics across New York, which make up 38 percent of the state population, to encourage parishioners to contact senators.

“Every diocese is speaking out to congregations to realize how significant this is,” he said.

Harrington also accuses Gov. Andrew Cuomo and liberal lawmakers of misrepresenting not only the issue, but also those who would oppose it.
"They're trying to say people of faith are bigots, and we think that's offensive," he said. "If they are convinced we were bigots they wouldn't be giving a religious exemption. How can they be proposing an exemption for bigotry?...They can't have it both ways."

What the “good Monsignor,” (I am reminded of an old seminary saying regarding Monsignors, “You have to kiss purple to wear purple.”) conveniently omits is that the majority of “Catholics are more supportive of legal recognitions of same-sex relationships than members of any other Christian tradition and Americans overall.”

State Senate GOP Majority Leader Dean Skelos just said there is no decision to bring gay marriage out for a vote, our Glenn Blain told me. Skelos said they were still deliberating the religious exemption issue and working on changes to the bill. Staffs will continue to work on the issue during the weekend but since Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver will be observing the Sabbath, not much official can be done until Sunday.

This is not a “cliffhanger” in the sense of loved ones waiting to hear from surgeons operating on a loved one. In that case, it is a question of skilled physicians and staff working feverishly to preserve life. In this case, it is a question of pope Benedict and archbishop Dolan working feverishly to preserve bigotry.

Bigotry is a term that is bandied about much by people on both sides of this issue. A danger in this practice is that we become desensitized to its meaning. Bigotry means, you don’t get the job, or you lose it because of whom you are. Bigotry means you are emotionally and physically abused EVERY day at school, year after year. Bigotry means that you are afraid to speak the truth about yourself to your parents and siblings. Bigotry means that you have to lie about yourself, simply to survive. Bigotry means that you turn to alcohol, drugs, comfort foods for some temporary relief and these themselves become new demons that you must wrestle. Bigotry means that one third of gay adolescents attempt suicide and many of them—tragically, succeed.

Let me say it here very clearly and unmistakably, archbishop Dolan and pope Benedict are actively promoting bigotry.

Sheldon’s comment about not working on the Sabbath recalls a question from a young Rabbi, “I ask you, is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath—or evil? To preserve life--- or destroy it?” [Luke 6:9]

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Many Eyes on New York

As a young priest, I sat at the dining room table of Saint Francis rectory in Bakersfield, California. Several clergy were enjoying a delicious lunch made by the housekeeper when the table talk turned to the many changes ushered into the Church by Vatican II. One priest stated that Vatican II had been a concession to “the Protestants.” Monsignor Lahey, an elderly priest noted for presiding over a “traditionalist” parish quipped, “So what?”

I thought of Monsignor’s dry quip when I read the National Catholic Register article on Bishop Thomas Tobin. The headline of the article quotes Tobin’s ominous assertion, “If we don’t care, gay marriage will pass.” So what?

Tobin goes on in that article to list four reasons why he opposes Marriage Equality. In his own words:

[#1] The arguments we’ve been making against same-sex “marriage” are well known. While the Catholic Church has respect, love, pastoral care and compassion for people with homosexual orientation, we believe that homosexual “marriage” is wrong because it gives state approval of an immoral lifestyle involving immoral sexual activity.

[#2] Also, it is an attempt to redefine the institution of marriage as it has been understood since the beginning of time. Marriage is a relationship between one man and one woman and is meant to foster life and love. Homosexual “marriage” can never do that. It is an ill-advised attempt to redefine something God has given us and what is one of the building blocks of human society.

[#3] Additionally, the passage of homosexual “marriage” presents a challenge to religious freedom and conscience protection, as has been the case in other places in the country. Our neighbors in the Archdiocese of Boston in Massachusetts, for example, had to get out of the adoption business because they were being forced to place children in situations where there were two gay people living in a home in an alleged marriage. The Archdiocese of Washington had to stop giving family medical benefits because they were being forced to provide them to gay couples who tried to get married in civil marriages.

[#4] And there are situations where ancillary Catholic facilities, such as reception halls, must be made available to gay couples as they attempt to marry. All these things are on the radar screen if you go down this road of approving homosexual “marriage.”

Regarding Tobin’s objection [#1], consider the question of Divorce. All fifty states grant couples the right to obtain a divorce and subsequently remarry. The Catholic Church literally interprets the Gospel on the question of divorce and remarriage,

“Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and the woman who divorces her husband and marries another commits adultery.” [Mark 10: 11-12]

Every divorced and remarried person reading this, unless of course you obtained a church annulment to your previous marriage(s), is an adulterer. Every time a divorced and remarried person has sex, he/she is committing the sin of adultery. Currently all fifty states give, in Bishop Tobin’s words, “state approval of an immoral lifestyle involving immoral sexual activity.” Since all fifty states, according to the Catholic bishops give state approval to adultery.

As for his assertion, “the Catholic Church has respect, love, pastoral care and compassion for people with homosexual orientation.” Hypocrisy is the nod that vice pays virtue. Tobin and the hierarchy of the Church state what is morally correct and then proceed to rob it of all practical meaning. Imagine if heterosexual people were instructed from childhood that they could never date, hold hands, kiss, fall in love and establish a home with a person who they loved. Furthermore, imagine that heterosexual people were then extended a “conditional” love, that as long as they never physically acted on their sexual orientation, then they would be OK. “Hate the sin, but love the sinner.” Just avoid any possible heterosexual contact, or anything that might lead to physical expression of heterosexuality. Too bad you are straight; you just have to remain a virgin all of your life, oh and by the way, don’t “flaunt” your heterosexuality. What would be the psychological, emotional and spiritual consequences for heterosexuals? Real people have already been subjected to this abuse. The Center for Disease Control “Youth at Risk” study of 1999 found that one-third of gay adolescents attempt suicide.

Tobin’s objection [#2] is based on the false premise that “the institution of marriage as it has been understood since the beginning of time. Marriage is a relationship between one man and one woman”
In many Islamic nations today, Marriage is a relationship between one man and several women. In some Native cultures, Marriage is a relationship between one woman and several men. Genesis says of Abraham, the Patriarch of Judaism, Christianity and Islam,

“Thus, after Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, his wife Sarai took her maid, Hagar the Egyptian, to be his concubine. He had intercourse with her, and she became pregnant.” [Genesis 16: 3-4]

Of King David, the Bible says this, “David took more concubines and wives in Jerusalem after he had come from Hebron, and more sons and daughters were born to him in Jerusalem." [2 Samuel 5:13]

Tobin is either ignorant of these Biblical passages, Anthropology and the Marriage Laws of Islam, or he conveniently ignores them in an attempt to deceive the people of Rhode Island.

As regards Tobin’s assertion, “Marriage is a relationship between one man and one woman and is meant to foster life and love. Homosexual “marriage” can never do that” There are many, many Sacramental Marriages in the Catholic Church in which the heterosexual couples are unable to procreate. Procreation is, by the Church’s own practices and standards, not required for a marriage in the Catholic Church. Consider the marriages entered into by post-menopausal women. Are their marriages invalid because they cannot procreate? Are those marriages incapable of love, because biological procreation is not possible?

Regarding Tobin’s objection [#3], this statement is false. Maryland, like all the fifty states recognizes a couple’s legal right to obtain a divorce and then to remarry. Legal divorce and remarriage is against the teaching of the Catholic Church. Divorced and remarried couples are believed to be living in adulterous relationships by the very bishops who make this statement. The fact that there is legal divorce in all fifty states, with a right to a second, third, fourth, etc Civil Marriage, is not viewed as an attack on religious freedom by Tobin or other Catholic bishops. Why then, is Same-sex marriage singled out as an “attack on religious freedom” while divorce and remarriage (i.e. adulterous marriages) are not?

[#4] Anyone who has ever been in a restaurant is familiar with the following sign, “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone.” As a pastor of many years, I can tell you that I often received requests to rent our parish hall. We had a policy in place that permitted us to say “no” to any request we did not wish to accommodate. As regards marriage receptions, we only lent/rented the hall to couples we married. This fourth objection by Tobin is baseless and serves only to instill doubt and fear in uninformed people. Tobin seems to share the same approach here as Marc Mutty, then public affairs director for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Maine, on the "Yes on 1" Strategy.”

"All we have to do is create doubt. You don't have to convince people that you're right....I know we need to do what we have to do -- not only slam people over the head with a two-by-fou¬r, but a two-by-fou¬r with nails sticking out of it... And it's nuts ... unfortunat¬ely, I think it's a lousy approach. But it's the only thing we've got -- it's the only way. That's the way campaigns work."

Tomorrow the State Senate of New York is expected to vote on Marriage Equality for New York State. Tonight will be a long night for Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York; bigotry is expensive and tiring work. Even more so, when Dolan’s master in Rome will be watching and expects Dolan to deliver New York, as Tobin delivered Rhode Island.