Thursday, November 18, 2010

Why I handcuffed myself to the White House fence.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 14, 2010

These Stones Do Talk

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Sleight of hand

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 5, 2010


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Benedict's Spanish Lesson.

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

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

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

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

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

The second two years.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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