Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The House of Representatives passed the Hate Crimes Prevention Act. It now goes to the US Senate for a vote.

My sincere gratitude to all of you who made time to contact members of the House of Representatives. You made a difference.Today, they passed the bill. President Obama has made the following statement regarding this bill:

This week, the House of Representatives is expected to consider H.R. 1913, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009.  I urge members on both sides of the aisle to act on this important civil rights issue by passing this legislation to protect all of our citizens from violent acts of intolerance – legislation that will enhance civil rights protections, while also protecting our freedom of speech and association.  I also urge the Senate to work with my Administration to finalize this bill and to take swift action.

I just watched a really powerful online video that I think you should see. Judy Shepard talks about losing her son Matthew to anti-gay hate violence and her ten-year fight for a federal hate crimes law that would honor his memory.
The right wing is spreading absurd lies, claiming it would send pastors to jail for giving anti-gay sermons. We need to fight back with the truth, and we don't have much time.

Please watch the video, write your senators, and then ask ten of your friends to do the same.

Thank you.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

PLEASE CALL 202-224-3121 by April 29th

The following is an article reprinted from the Human Rights Campaign. I have done this in an attempt to spread the word about this call in campaign. This is something practical that you can do today to help us all.

Human Rights Campaign, Coalition of Groups Launch National Call-in Campaign
Supporters of bill to combat hate crimes urged to call Congress.
Washington – The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, announced today a coalition campaign to call Congress in support of the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which would provide local police and sheriff’s departments with federal resources to combat hate violence. After more than a decade of lobbying on Capitol Hill and seven successful votes on the bill, this critical piece of legislation is again expected to see a vote in the House this week. The call-in campaign is set for April 27-29.

“We've received word that the House will vote on the Matthew Shepard Act very soon and we know that right-wing groups are flooding Congress with calls, emails and sickening ‘fact sheets’ full of lies about the lives of LGBT Americans,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. “We need more calls to Members of Congress, and we need them right away. It has been ten long years and tens of thousands more victims since the Matthew Shepard Act was first introduced in Congress. We are poised for a presidential signature this year but lies from the radical right could easily derail our efforts. We must not allow them to continue to demagogue and distort the truth.”
It takes about 45 seconds. Members of the community are urged to call 202-224-3121.
Callers are urged to tell the Member’s office:
Hate crimes against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are on the rise. One out of every six hate crimes is because of the victim's sexual orientation.
Hate crimes have more than one victim. They are intended to create an atmosphere of fear and terrorize entire communities.
The Matthew Shepard Act targets only violent acts – not speech. It does not tell any clergy member what he or she can or can't preach.
Because there is no federal law mandating states and municipalities to report hate crimes, they are often underreported. However, the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s own statistics, based on voluntary reporting, show that since 1991 over 100,000 hate crime offenses have been reported to the FBI, with 7,624 reported in 2007, the FBI’s most recent reporting period. Violent crimes based on sexual orientation constituted 16.6 percent of all hate crimes in 2007, with 1,265 reported for the year. In addition, while not captured in the federal statistics, transgender Americans too often live in fear of violence.

The LLEHCPA gives the Justice Department the power to investigate and prosecute bias motivated violence where the perpetrator has selected the victim because of the person's actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. It provides the Justice Department with the ability to aid state and local jurisdictions either by lending assistance or, where local authorities are unwilling or unable, by taking the lead in investigations and prosecutions of violent crime resulting in death or serious bodily injury that were motivated by bias. It also makes grants available to state and local communities to combat violent crimes committed by juveniles, train law enforcement officers, or to assist in state and local investigations and prosecutions of bias motivated crimes.

A wide coalition of national organizations has called for the passage of the LLEHCPA legislation. Some of those organizations supporting this legislation include: the National Sheriffs Association; International Association of Chiefs of Police; 26 state Attorneys General; the National District Attorneys Association; the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights; the Anti-Defamation League; the NAACP; the National Council of La Raza; the Presbyterian Church; the Episcopal Church; and the National Disability Rights Network.
To take action to support the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, please visit:

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.
Take Action

Monday, April 27, 2009

The sun in his orbit obediently shines(?)

Today in Iowa, people will go to courthouses and enter into civil marriages. Some of those people will be same gender couples. The fact that these marriages happened years ago in Canada, Spain, Belgium, South Africa and that all of those societies seem to be doing just fine is perhaps the most frightening scenario that some religious leaders could envision.

After all, if Canada was struck by a giant asteroid, Spain slid into the Atlantic, Belgium was smitten with flesh eating virus and South Africa were hit with a devastating drought, then, they could claim GOD (spelled GAWD) was punishing the sinners. However, God does not seem to have acted as cued.

All of this could cause people to question. People might actually discover that the lesbian couples at the PTA meeting are decent parents and that the gay couples who live on our block are nice neighbors. It is hard to hate nice people, even when you have been told they are sinners. Then, the scary part would come, they would remember that the religious leaders who warned them that all manner of evil would occur, were wrong.

Be not afraid! Religious leaders have also condemned scientists for claiming that the earth revolved around the sun. There were religious leaders who condemned abolitionists and claimed that the Bible mandates slavery. Religious leaders also warned society of the evil of interracial marriage. Religious leaders told us that the man was the head of the household. Permitting women to work (for pay), own property, vote or hold elected office would undermine the family. Everyone forgot all of those warnings/condemnations and the dire consequences such liberalism would produce.

When Catholic religious leaders direct the people, they claim they represent the Holy Spirit speaking through the magisterial authority of the Church. When later Catholic religious leaders correct their predecessor’s errors, they claim that it was churchmen and not the Church who misspoke.

Why did people overlook all of these things? Because, there were good religious people teaching, working in hospitals, running free clinics, helping the homeless, feeding the hungry and fighting for the rights of the marginalized, all in the name of God.

Today in Iowa, people will enter into civil marriages. Some of these will be same gender couples and God seems to be far less upset than many religious leaders.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Beyond Jesus?

“Moving beyond the Church, even beyond Jesus.” Those words are used in the title of an article in the California Catholic Daily. They are attributed to a speaker at the Leadership Conference of Religious Women. Statements such as these have triggered an investigation by Cardinal Levada of the Sacred Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (formerly known as The Holy Office of the Roman Inquisition). For the full story please read:

Reading those words “Moving beyond the Church, even beyond Jesus” seem on one level as abandonment of the Church and of Christ. Yet, before reaching for your pitchforks and torches it might be good to remember that the late John Paul II was similarly criticized in 1986 when he convened an International Day of Prayer at Assisi.

At the time, the late pontiff was accused of opening the door to religious relativism. Inviting individuals such as the Dalai Lama, who is also inconveniently addressed as “your holiness,” was just too bitter a pill for many in the Church to swallow. Obviously, John Paul II was not abandoning the Church or Christ. He was merely acting on the belief expressed at the Second Vatican Council that truth resides in every religion.

Spiritual growth and an aperture towards greater holiness necessitates, as does all learning, a modicum of humility. Namely, that we do not possess all the answers, we do not know all of the truth, nor do we understand fully the little, which we presently know. The understanding of the truth about God is different and fuller within the Catholic Church of 2009 than in the Church of 1909, 1509, 1009, 509 or 9. God is still working with us both collectively and as individuals.

To say that a community is “Post Christian” sounds like Christ has been jettisoned; however, I remember a professor at seminary using that very same expression to describe this age. We no longer live in medieval times. The twentieth century was arguably the most secular century in human history. In this sense, we are all Post Christian.

The sisters have merely suggested that opening themselves to the rest of humanity and learning from their spiritual traditions enriches us all. That in no way constitutes a betrayal of Christ or an abandonment of the Church. It is quite arguably precisely what Jesus would want us to do, at least if you read the accounts of his reaching out to the Samaritan communities in the Gospel. It should come as little surprise that this will be badly received by those in positions of religious authority today, the religious authorities of 2,000 years ago were equally upset.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Thank you, Sister!

The Associated Press reported today that the “Pope [is] Investigating US Catholic Sisters For Not Holding Vatican Line On Homosexuality.”

Read It Here
"If you wish to wage war successfully or to lead a people successfully through a difficult period of its history you must have no doubts whatever on one point—namely, any individual who in such times tries, either actively or passively, to exclude himself from the activities of the community, must be destroyed."

-Adolf Hitler
7 June 1942

"You do not become a "dissident" just because you decide one day to take up this most unusual career. You are thrown into it by your personal sense of responsibility, combined with a complex set of external circumstances. You are cast out of the existing structures and placed in a position of conflict with them. It begins as an attempt to do your work well, and ends with being branded an enemy of society."

Vaclav Havel
1936-, Czech Playwright, President

It seems to me that the truth does not need to be “imposed.” It is rather like a cowlick that pops up regardless of how hard one attempts to suppress it. We should not fear an open discussion of ideas; such an open and honest discussion will reveal both the merits of various arguments that are presented as well as the truth itself. Recourse to fear, intimidation, and reprisals are unworthy of those who act in the name of God. Such tactics serve neither God nor the truth. They breed not love and understanding but hatred and suspicion.

Countless people in America have received an education because of the selfless dedication and personal sacrifices of religious women. They taught us a dedication to the pursuit of the truth and to speak with the courage of our convictions. They are still doing so today by living what they teach.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Interview for Dignity USA

I have been invited to address the biennial convention of Dignity USA in San Francisco on the 4th of July weekend this year. Dignity USA is an organization of LGBT Catholics and provides spiritual guidance and services to these underserved and all too often marginalized people within the Catholic Church. As a prelude to this year’s convention, the organizers have asked me to respond to a series of questions which they believe will be of interest to their membership.

What are you doing right now and what are your near and long-term plans?

Presently, I am active with Love Honor and Cherish. This organization is working hard to place an initiative on the November 2010 California ballot, to repeal Proposition 8. Beyond that, I am speaking at various organizations both about Prop 8 and other such hate legislation.

How have your family and former colleagues reacted to recent events?

I have to say that I have been humbled and deeply moved by the reaction of my family. My parents have been extremely loving and supportive throughout these past six months. They have been most loving, generous and understanding to me in these difficult times. I stand in awe as I contrast their reaction with that of my “spiritual father” the bishop. “Only that which Civil Law requires” and when my Canon Lawyer invoked Church Law which requires that a bishop provide support for his priest, the bishop responded “I’m afraid I must decline.”

Mind you what is written in Canon Law is not a suggestion, it is not an “option” it is what is required. Nevertheless, I am glad that he reacted as he did. As a hospital administrator once told me about not accepting federal funds “If you take their money, you have to take their rules.” By not providing me with any monetary assistance, he has in fact freed me completely to work as an LGBT activist.

My parent’s unconditional love and support for me contrasts sharply with my bishop’s total lack of practical concern for me. Brother priests have been very supportive, although quietly so; I’ve received many messages of support, encouragement and gratitude. Some have also sent me some financial gifts.

What, if anything, has surprised you about West Hollywood’s vibrant gay culture?

The City of West Hollywood gave me an official commendation for my public statements in support of basic human dignity/civil rights for LGBT people. I was humbled by their expression of love and support. The gay culture in West Hollywood, well, we are people-just like everywhere else. People who work, who struggle, who try to find happiness. People who love, who hurt, who try to find their way through life with all of its joys and hardships. The passage of Prop 8 and the hate, which it represents, has actually caused the community to draw closer together and motivated everyone to work for equality.

How have you remained engaged with your Catholic faith since your dismissal?

The word dismissal implies rejection on some level. Many LGBT people have experienced this from their families and from their faith communities. As I mentioned earlier, I am blessed with a loving and supportive family. As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, if you think of the Catholic Church as the hierarchy then, there is very little reason to remain a Catholic. On the other hand, if you see the Church as the People of God, a living community of faith then, there are many reasons for hope. Catholics in the pews disagree sharply with their bishops on a host of social issues and tend to be far more progressive than their protestant counterparts. Eventually, the bishops will get it, or will die off and be replaced by bishops who do get it. John Paul II apologized for the hierarchy’s decisions regarding Galileo, the Crusades and treatment of Jewish people. No one in the hierarchy stood up and rent [tore] their garments because this represented a rebuff of the hierarchy. They simply nodded in agreement and hoped that the apology would be accepted and that everyone would simply forget. Considering that many in our society do not know what Vietnam is I believe that their hope is reasonable.

Do you think movements and faith communities like Dignity and Womenpriests are the faces of Catholicism in the future?

I believe that they are faces within Catholicism and that slowly the greater faith community will come to see the validity of their demands for simple justice and human dignity. After all, the heart of the Gospel is love and its practical extension to other human beings. In the end, some future pope will apologize to women and LGBT persons just as John Paul II apologized to Muslims, Jewish people and secular society. It took centuries for that apology to come; but, it came.

Now that you’ve come out-of-the-closet politically, do you see yourself engaging in more public speaking on GLBT issues as well as other issues?

I will endeavor to do whatever I can do in order to advance human dignity, civil rights and equality for all.

Do you have any words of wisdom for the GLBT Catholic movement, specifically Dignity USA?

Keep the beautiful and good things which our parents and grandparents shared with us through their lived expressions of love. Lose everything else. Share those good values with others, and as St. Francis said to his friars “Preach the Gospel always; when necessary, use words.”

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Marriage Equality, the ongoing struggle.

Great news! This week the state Supreme Court in Iowa ruled for full marriage equality in that state by declaring unconstitutional that state’s ban on marriage for people of the same gender. Lest anyone complain about “activist judges”, i.e. judges who protect the legal rights of people whom they wish to discriminate against, the state legislature of Vermont has overridden the veto of that state’s republican governor and granted full marriage equality to the people of Vermont.

Immediately after the court ruled in Iowa, the republican minority leader in that state’s senate approached the democratic majority leader and asked him to co-sponsor a bill to take away full marriage equality from same gender couples. The senate majority leader Mike Gronstal responded as follows:

"One of my daughters was in the workplace one day, and her particular workplace at that moment in time, there were a whole bunch of conservative, older men. And those guys were talking about gay marriage. They were talking about discussions going on across the country.

And my daughter Kate, after listening for about 20 minutes, said to them: You guys don't understand. You've already lost. My generation doesn't care.

I think I learned something from my daughter that day, when she said that. And I've talked with other people about it and that's what I see, Senator McKinley. I see a bunch of people that merely want to profess their love for each other, and want state law to recognize that.

Is that so wrong? I dont think that's so wrong. As a matter of fact, last Friday night, I hugged my wife. You know I've been married for 37 years. I hugged my wife. I felt like our love was just a little more meaningful last Friday night because thousands of other Iowa citizens could hug each other and have the state recognize their love for each other.

No, Senator McKinley, I will not co-sponsor a leadership bill with you."

His daughter’s quote offers a chilling insight for the forces that wish to manipulate and control both individual lives and societies. You are receiving a richly deserved new status of becoming irrelevant. This is primarily what churchmen in America fear the most

The political right and their power base, fundamentalist religions are just now connecting the dots and realizing that the “happy days” of George “W” and the neoconservatives are over. That they no longer are “movers and shakers” in national politics and that like “W” they are out and they are becoming increasingly irrelevant. At least, the Catholic Church should do nicely because, of the large influx of new Catholics from Latin America.

Latinos now account for 75% of Catholics in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and at least those who are recently arrived, still have an unquestioning subservience to the hierarchy. Once they are granted citizenship, they should provide a very nice “voting block” to the bishops. Provided, of course, that they can be kept pregnant and barefoot.

The Church’s teachings on contraception should help in slowing economic upward mobility and limiting educational opportunities, which would lead them to ask unsettling questions of their bishops. At the same time, anti-immigrant prejudice from the hierarchy’s allies on the political right cast the hierarchy as benevolent protectors of the immigrant communities.

So, people like Cardinal Mahony of Los Angeles and Archbishop Neiderauer of San Francisco who are among the principal architects of the Yes on Proposition 8 victory can still show up at Democratic party events, receive nice checks from progressive donors and pass themselves off as defenders of the marginalized. Oh yeah, we had to stop marriage equality but, after all, we do so much to help immigrants (i.e. ourselves).