Saturday, July 2, 2011

More Toronto Pride Controversy

      Tomorrow is the Toronto Pride Parade and Queers Against Israeli Apartheid - the group which Toronto Mayor Rob Ford banned from participating in the parade - is making another round at it. This time though, they have morphed themselves into the group "Dykes and Trans People For Palestine". This is what their facebook group invitation states about their event.
Dykes & Trans People for Palestine is a group that has come together this year to organize a Palestine Solidarity contingent for this year’s Trans March and Dyke March. We recognize and speak out against Israeli Apartheid and the Israeli Occupation of Palestine. As queers, we recognize that transphobia and homophobia exists in Israel, Palestine, and across all borders. But queer Palestinians face the additional challenge of living under occupation, subject to Israeli state violence and control. There is no pride in apartheid.

This year we will send a clear message to Pride Toronto, the City of Toronto and Pride’s corporate sponsors that we will not be silent or censored! We will speak loud and proud as we always have in support of the struggle for freedom and justice in Palestine while standing with the Trans community and the demand for Trans rights and visibility here at home.

Our Plans!
We plan to march as a Palestine solidarity contingent at this year's 2nd annual Trans March. Our approach is one of peaceful non-violence and we ask anyone who wishes to march with us to respect this – we do not want confrontations with the police or any others present and we do not anticipate being arrested.

Our aim is to have a contingent that is representative of the Trans community. In order to reach this goal and in recognition that the Trans march is an emerging event that is still young in its inception, we may be asking some who join our contingent to express their support by standing on the sidelines as opposed to marching alongside us in the actual march. The specifics will be decided on the day of the event, which is why we are asking people to meet us at the Centre for Women and Trans People in the early evening, prior to the march. Here we will make banners, have a light snack and listen to music while making final plans for the march.
       First off, if this group was truly concerned about Palestinian queers - as they claim  to be above - why are we not hearing any cries for the Palestinian Authority to decriminalize homosexuality and/or treat LGBT people with decency and respect - rather than death and revulsion. Instead, they are targeting Israel, the lone and singular voice for equal treatment of LGBT people in the Middle East. This really doesn't seem to be about "queer Palestinians" as they claim. But, since I don't know any of these activists, I cannot legitimately go any further in my analysis. 

      As I have already stated on this blog, Pride exists in order to facilitate cooperation among our communities - whether they be gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. There is no room in Pride for a political group whose position actually has the direct possibility of alienating a large percentage of LGBT people (LGBT Jews). QAIA and now DTFP's insistence upon being in the parade defeats and IS defeating the very essence of why we have Pride. This years Toronto Pride has been marked by controversy because of this singular group; and now - with this offshoot - will be mired in even more controversy and negativity. Does this bring our community together? I think not. 

Homosexuality A Choice? To Christians It Must Be

     In the debate over marriage equality, it is only a matter of time before someone brings up the idea that gays and lesbians should not be afforded rights because they “choose” to be that way. Why should such a “choice” be given governmental benefits when there is an equally valid alternative that already has these benefits? Though government honors individual choices in many other areas – religion being one example – this argument has a lot of power on the Religious Right and in evangelical Christian circles; because it explains the apparent contradiction between gay and lesbian peoples existence and these Christians religious beliefs. 

     Christianity is a religion which prides itself on the assertion that “all men can come to repentance” if they accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior; that no matter what they have done in their life, they can be cleansed and freed from their bondage in sin.  How does this line up with those who are homosexual, since the Bible “clearly” states in 1 Corinthians that homosexuals will not inherit the kingdom of God?

      Because gay and lesbian people exist - and have existed since the dawn of time -  in order to meld these two seemingly contradictory concepts in their understanding of Christianity (of all men being able to be saved, and that homosexuals cannot go to heaven) evangelical Christianity had to come up with the doctrine that individuals “choose” to be gay.  God would not create a being that would go directly to hell because of his/her sexual orientation, so therefore all individuals must be created heterosexual. But for some reason ,a small group decides that they do not want to be heterosexual but instead be homosexual.  Evangelicals use passages such as Romans 1 to point out that those who struggle with “same-sex attraction” choose this sinful habit because they have fallen far from God, and only by coming closer to Him can they turn straight again. This is one reason, for example, that reparative therapy – though rejected by all major psychiatric and medical organizations – still sees traction within denominations like the Southern Baptists

     Choice theory comes out of what I like to call the “Christian necessity”. We have seen the “Christian necessity” play out in  almost every other major scientific issue in the past thousand years – from astronomy, to physics, to evolution, to geology.  You see, evangelical Christianity’s animosity towards homosexual people is not necessarily based not upon the text of the Bible itself – but upon their interpretation of that text. It must also be remembered that any interpretation of a text is based upon that individuals preconceptions about certain issues.  If an individual feels negatively about gays and lesbians, they will read that view into the passages that deal with homosexual conduct and will by necessity have to take the “choice” theory. On the other hand, those who are gay and lesbian who read the passage will take a different interpretation and will reject “choice” theory.  In the end, we must realize that our interpretations are only so valid; that when they fly in the face of science and reason they are, by necessity, wrong.  So though choice theory holds great sway in religious circles, it is up to us to show these people the facts, and though changing their view of a divine text will be hard, we can do it.

     I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes on the dichotomy that exists between interpretation and truth, from the great Catholic theologian St. Augustine,
‘If anyone shall set the authority of Holy Writ against clear and manifest reason, he who does this knows not what he has undertaken; for he opposes to the truth not the meaning of the Bible, which is beyond his comprehension, but rather his own interpretation; not what is in the Bible, but what he has found in himself and imagines to be there’”

Rhode Island Governor Signs Civil Unions Legislation

      Much to the chagrin of gay rights activists and anti-marriage equality groups alike, Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee has signed the states flawed civil unions legislation. According to CNN,
In a move largely seen as a compromise over the rights that can be afforded to gay and lesbian couples, Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee on Saturday signed into law a bill that legalizes civil unions, making his state the fifth in the nation to allow them.
The bill -- which was signed just over a week after New York legalized same-sex marriage -- will take effect later Saturday, according to the governor's spokesman Christian Vareika.
The law will provide same-sex couples with a host of new state tax breaks, health-care benefits and greater ease of inheritance.
     Though this bill was extremely flawed, and hence why I didn't support it in its current form; the protections that are now afforded to gay and lesbian couples are important.  This now brings the tally of states and jurisdictions with either full marriage equality or civil unions to twelve. (CA, WA, OR, and NV have domestic partnerships as well)

Marriage Equality: Iowa, Massachusetts, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Washington D.C.

Civil Unions: Hawaii, Illinois, Delaware, New Jersey, and now Rhode Island.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Anti-Gay Preacher Charges 74-Year Old Woman With Assault For "Kiss".

Salisbury, North Carolina has made the news...and not in a good way. In a show of complete ridiculousness, an anti-gay preacher has filed assault charges against 74-year old Joan Parker. The Associated Press tells us that, 
"A Bible-waving preacher protesting at a gay pride event was kissed on the cheek by a female gay rights supporter - a 74-year-old woman who was charged with simple assault, with the preacher's blessing.
Joan Parker admits she kissed a preacher on the cheek at the Saturday event in Salisbury, N.C., proclaimed by the mayor as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Day.
"He was just waving his arms and has a Bible in one hand, up and down, and screaming at the top of his lungs, 'sodomites' and 'you're going to hell,'" Parker said in a phone interview with The Associated Press. "I thought he needed a hug. So I gave him a hug."
At some point, the preacher turned to yell at a man with a camera. Also at some point, she kissed him. On the cheek, she says, not on the mouth.
He described the encounter this way: "She ran her arms all the way around me and pulled me toward her." As he held his Bible in one hand, he stuck both arms in the air and turned toward a police officer standing nearby who witnessed the exchange, he said."
     Seriously? A 74-year old woman is being charged with assault because of a stupid kiss and hug. According to the preacher - James Edward Belcher - this woman showing him such affection is the M.O. of the gay movement, for this kiss and hug "was just one of many attempts to silence the preaching to those in need of salvation who practice a death style that they call a lifestyle."

      When will these so called "Christians" learn that their evangelism techniques of telling people that they are "sodomites" and "going to hell" don't work, and actually turn people away from their religion? Maybe they need to take a cue from Jesus - didn't he hang out with the sinners and prostitutes? 

Senator Grisanti Shrugs Off NOM's Threats

     New York Republican State Senator Mark Grisanti from Buffalo really doesn't care if the National Organization for Marriage attempts to unseat him as part of their $2-million pledge in New York. As he told YNN news,
"I'm comfortable with my decision and my vote because I think it was a balance, and whatever NOM wants to do, as I said, that's what makes this country great. Go ahead and do what you’ve got to do...It was not going to be a political vote. It was a vote of my conscience and it was a vote basically, definitely of fairness, and a balance that personified what I stated on the floor, that same sex couples should have the same right that I enjoy with my wife that I love...The other side of it is that the religious organizations, the non-profits and the benevolent organizations, they're all protected,”
     Many on the anti-equality side are attempting to paint Senator Grisanti as a flip-flopper; that he betrayed his district and his voters because same-sex marriage was a key issue that he campaigned upon. Though I understand these individuals anger and frustration at not getting what they "asked for", I would not go so far as to say that Senator Grisanti was a "flip-flopper". A flip-flopper is one who changes his mind for political expediency, and by all accounts that was not the case with Senator Grisanti. Though some will question his motives, it seems as though his decision was well researched and thought out - clearly not a flip-flop.

Watch his speech on the floor of the Senate again...and tell me with a straight face that he "flip-flopped".

Happy Canada Day!!

To all of my Canadian readers, I would like to wish you a happy Canada Day. For LGBT people around the world, Canada exists as a beacon of hope and tolerance in a sea of hatred. Since 2005, when the Martin Government legalized same-sex marriage after Court rulings in the provinces forced their hand, LGBT Canadians have enjoyed many of the same rights as their heterosexual counterparts. Though Canada still has a long way to go (for example, transgender protections), its light of equality shines in the mist of a world where LGBT people are still not equal. Thank you Canada, and Happy Canada Day!!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Drake Study Shows Iowans Approve Of Marriage Equality Law 61%-34%

     Yesterday, Drake University released a study of Iowa voters regarding the States marriage equality law, and public perception of same-sex marriages. To many equality advocates in Iowa, as well as the rest of the country, the results are quite encouraging - 61% of Iowans say that they are in favor of marriage equality, with only 34% expressing disapproval. Some, such as Truth Wins Out's Evan Hurst, are lauding this poll as indicative of a wider trend - that when marriage equality exists in a state, that state's population slowly embraces it because they realize that the "sky didn't fall". Though I agree with this sentiment, I feel that our excitement over this survey is a little premature. 

      This survey was developed by Drake Universities Master of Public Administration Program  students as part of their capstone project for graduation. According to the methodology of the survey, 
Researchers used a quantitative, 54-question, web-based survey developed and distributed in Survey Monkey®.  The survey was primarily quantitative, with six ‘other’ open-ended response fields and two ‘comments’ fields.  An initial pilot of the survey was conducted with approximately 25 respondents.  The survey was adjusted and questions finalized.  The survey link was distributed using various social media outlets including Facebook and Twitter, web pages, and e-mail.  In an effort to balance conservative, liberal and independent responses, researchers requested distribution of the survey link to several special interest groups on both sides of the issue. The survey was open to the public for 12 days.  A total of 2,217 attempts to complete the survey were received in that 12-day period.
      Pause for a bit and read that again. This survey was conducted over the internet using Survey Monkey. Though online surveying is a legitimate form of surveying, and is in fact overtaking phone surveys in frequency, there are still a few issues with such surveys. First, these surveys trend younger, as those who are elderly are not likely to own a computer and/or have internet access, and Second, respondents are self selected, rather than truly random. Though the researchers attempted to remedy the first issue, and it looks like they  successfully did so, the second issue still remains.

     Surveys are only valid representations of public attitudes when conducted randomly. But when it came to this survey, the respondents were made aware of the survey - whether it be on facebook, twitter, or email -   and decided themselves whether they wanted to complete it, based upon knowledge of what the survey was about. This can be seen in the results of the demographics - particularly the sexual orientation category. 11.4% of respondents indicated that their sexual orientation was non-heterosexual. Compare this with the accepted average of LGB people in the U.S. - that being between 3% - 5%.

      In the end, though this survey is cause for excitement; I would give great pause before trusting its validity. In the end, we must use surveys like this as encouragement, that as we continue our fight for full equality, the rest of society is coming along.

EqualityMaine To Put Marriage Equality On 2012 Ballot

Today, EqualityMaine and GLAD (Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders) announced that they will be collecting signatures to put a marriage equality question on the ballot in 2012. In order to accomplish this goal, they will need to collect 57,277 signatures from across Maine. If successful, this marks the first time ever that a pro-marriage equality resolution has appeared on a ballot in the United States. The ballot question is slated to read as follows, 
Do you favor a law allowing marriage licenses for same-sex couples that protects religious freedom by ensuring no religion or clergy be required to perform such a marriage in violation of their religious beliefs?
     If you recall, back in 2009 the Legislature of Maine passed a marriage equality bill, just to see it derailed a few months before it went into effect by a voter initiative. But both EqualityMaine and GLAD are confident that 2012 will be different and that Mainers will approve the measure saying,  
For the past year and a half, EqualityMaine and GLAD been focused on moving Mainers to be more supportive of marriage for gay and lesbian people. Since March, we’ve had one-on-one conversations with more than 20,000 Mainers about marriage; we’ve already changed a lot of minds and we’re changing more every day. 
Now, after extensive conversation and consultation, with you – our members – we are excited to take the next step in the campaign to win marriage for all Mainers.
     If you live in the state of Maine and care about equality, be sure to get in contact with EqualityMaine to see what you can do in your city and town. Visit for more information. 

Obama's Principled States-Rights Marriage View

     The Obama Administration has been coming under alot of fire from equality advocates for its view that marriage equality is an individual state issue and that federal encroachment into that jurisdiction is unacceptable. Though LGBT advocates will cry foul - for they look upon states like my home state of Tennessee and realize that marriage equality is a long way away - Obama's position is actually quite principled and, in my opinion, the best position to take regarding the issue.

      The issue of marriage has been under state - not federal - jurisdiction ever since this country was founded. The states have decided who they wanted to allow to get married for hundreds of years, and the federal government has respected this jurisdiction by recognizing all marriages performed by these states. But in 1996, this all changed, and the Federal Government inserted themselves into the marriage issue by passing the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). This law specified that only marriages between a man and a woman would be recognized by the Federal Government, no matter what the states did regarding the marriage equality issue. As many know, this law is winding its way through federal courts and has been deemed unconstitutional by said courts because it violates the states historical right to determine who is and who is not married. The decisions are not about "gay marriage" per say, but it is about the level of federal control that should be allowed in a states decision.

     The Obama Administration recognizes this fact; and it is one reason why it is fighting so hard against DOMA. In principle, in order to be consistent with their position on DOMA, they would also have to fight against a federal law that mandated national marriage equality; because that law violates the very essence of state jurisdiction over marriage.

     Not all see this view of State jurisdiction as legitimate, and some - such as former Clinton advisor Richard Socradies - go so far as to say that it is fundamentally anti-American. He stated, as quoted by ABC news,
This states' rights argument is a separate but equal argument. Would the president have thought it right to let the states decide on the issue of interracial marriage, or on whether or not women should be allowed to vote?
     This argument, though it may seem correct, is actually a red herring. You see, it asserts that if the Federal Legislative and Executive branches went with a "states rights" approach, we would see separate by equal treatment - using, for example, anti-miscegenation laws. Though it is true that anti-miscegenation laws created a patchwork of marriage rights in the states, in making this argument, Socradies fails to recognize the difference between a Legislative/Executive branch passing a law, and rights gained under the Constitution. If state law violates the federal constitution, then it must be struck down, because the Constitution is the supreme law of the land, above both state and federal governments. This is why, for example, anti-miscegenation laws were struck down, because of their violation of the 14th Amendments equal protection clause.  But, when the Legislative and Executive branches invade the arena of states rights in regards to marriage law - whether pro- or anti-marriage equality - with federal legislative law; that ALSO violates the Constitution, per the 10th Amendment. Thus, if anti-gay state constitutional amendments violate the Constitution, then yes, they can be and will be struck down (just like anti-miscegenation laws), and the Court has that authority. But at the same time, until then, the federal government must respect the limits of its Constitutional authority, and not infringe upon state jurisdiction to do what it wishes, a position that the Obama Administration is holding to quite well.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

An Individuals "Religious Freedom" Comes Before Equality In Rhode Island

The last time I dealt with the issue of Rhode Island and marriage equality, I urged us to follow a pragmatic approach regarding the issue. Hence, I gave support to civil unions legislation, when it seemed as though a marriage bill would not pass the State Senate. But, with the recent developments regarding the "Corvese Amendment" I must necessarily withdraw that support.

The Amendment reads as follows, (thanks to Think Progress for the full text of the legislation)
15-3.1-5. Conscience and religious organizations protected. – (a) Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, no religious or denominational organization, no organization operated for charitable or educational purpose which is supervised or controlled by or in connection with a religious organization, and no individual employed by any of the foregoing organizations, while acting in the scope of that employment, shall be required:
(1) To provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges for a purpose related to the solemnization, certification, or celebration of any civil union; or
(2) To solemnize or certify any civil union; or
(3) To treat as valid any civil union; if such providing, solemnizing, certifying, or treating as valid would cause such  organizations or individuals to violate their sincerely held religious beliefs.
(b) No organization or individual as described in subsection (a) above who fails or refuses to provide, solemnize, certify, or treat as valid, as described in subdivision (a)(1), (a)(2) or (a)(3) above, persons in a civil union, shall be subject to a fine, penalty, or other cause of action for such failure or refusal.
       Though this may read like any other religious exemption clause, pay close attention to section 3. This one clause allows religious organizations and individuals to not even recognize the fact that a Rhode Island couple is in a civil union, if by doing so, they would violate their religious beliefs. This could cause problems, for example, in religiously affiliated hospitals, where a nurse who has an objection to civil unions could refuse to let someone in a civil union see his partner in the hospital.

        Religious exemptions, though not necessary per the First Amendment, are an important part of any marriage equality/civil union bill. But such exemptions should not be supported when they cross the line and allow individuals to not even recognize a civil union based upon the vague concept of "religious belief". This bill, with its attached amendment, was approved by the Rhode Island legislature, and now makes its way to Governor Lincoln Chafee's desk. If he signs it, which he has said he will, the state of Rhode Island will be giving an individuals religious beliefs preference over a civil contract, creating a very dangerous precedent.

Tea Party Nation Blogger Says LGBT Bullying Is A Good Thing

This past week, Tea Party Nation published an editorial on their site by Dr. Rich Swier, who claimed that LGBT bullying is actually a good thing and that it teaches LGBT children to be stronger. He also stated that LGBT bullying is a form of positive peer pressure, because homosexuality is just as bad a drugs and alcohol. Here are his exact words

"The problem is the entire bullying campaign is a sham created by radical gay activist Kevin Jennings. Jennings is the founder of the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network (GLSEN). As reports, "The homosexual movement in the public schools has always been based on lies and deception. But until the mid-1990s, they were still having difficulty getting into the schools. Then they found the key to their huge success -- what they call 're-framing the issue'".
So what does "re-framing the issue" mean? It means changing the dialogue from homosexuality is bad behavior to bullying homosexuals is even worse behavior. How do you and I know this is the plan?
This is not bullying. It is peer pressure and is healthy. There are many bad behaviors such as smoking, under age drinking and drug abuse that are behaviors that cannot be condoned. Homosexuality falls into this category. Homosexuality is simply bad behavior that youth see as such and rightly pressure their peers to stop it. In Sarasota County over 70% of all HIV/AIDS cases are due to male sex with males. I agree with Gulf Coast Gives that "LGBT youth are up to five times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight counterparts". Homosexuality, like drugs, harms young people if they experiment with it. That is the greatest tragedy."
        Sadly, this type of thinking - that LGBT students are the cause of their own depression and suicides - is something that permeates the mentality of the Religious Right. As I pointed out a few days ago, my own father used this bit of "you are more depressed and suicidal because you "chose" the sin of homosexuality" rhetoric.

      Additionally we can see that Dr. Swier still believes that homosexuality is a choice...that it is something that can be "experimented with" and that it is something that can be "changed". This idea that you must be changed because you are abnormal is actually what leads LGBT youths to commit suicide, to have greater risk of reckless behavior, and to be mentally unstable. LGBT youths exist and will be in our schools no matter what Dr. Swier claims, because it is a normal biological variance in the human species; thus we must not tell these children that they need to "change", and we most certainly do not need to assert that LGBT bullying is beneficial.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

NOM Releases "Three Phased Strategy" To Defeat Marriage Equality In New York

The National Organization For Marriage has released its three phased strategy to "take back" the institution of marriage from the gays and lesbians in New York. Quite an ambitious project that will undoubtedly require ALOT of money to finance. Their plan is as follows,
Elect pro-marriage majorities next November that will approve a marriage amendment in both the Assembly and Senate during the 2013 legislative session.
Yea, quite a realistic goal that you have there NOM. I can potentially see the Senate moving into the anti-marriage equality column, but the Assembly not so much. Why? Because, the Assembly has overwhelmingly been pro-equality, and even if this was not the case, the majority of voters in pro-ssm Representatives districts will undoubtedly have more important things to worry about when the elections roll around.
Protect pro-marriage candidates in the 2014 elections, so that the amendment can receive final legislative approval in the 2015 legislative session.
Again, do we really see this happening?
Successfully pass the ballot measure when it goes before voters in November 2015.
What is rather amusing is that NOM actually thinks that an anti-marriage equality ballot measure would pass in the state of New York. Besides the obviously biased and skewed Alliance Defense Fund/ NOM poll released last week, most polls before and after the marriage equality law passed show strong support for the measure.

Brian Brown then agrees that reversing marriage equality in New York is a long shot...yet still "believes it can happen" if you give a generous donation to the organization.  And that my friends, is the end goal of this "three phased strategy". Brian knows that repealing the marriage equality law in New York will not happen, he knows that this "strategy" will be ineffective, yet he also knows that the organization must save face. NOM suffered a brutal defeat in New York, and its only a matter of time before such defeats become more and more common.

Citizen Link Cries "Victim" Regarding New York Marriage Equality - Again

     Focus On The Families "Citizen Link" has once again cried foul regarding the passage of New York's marriage equality bill. Now that the bill passed the New York legislature - much to the bemoaning of this group - they are attempting to assert that the individual liberties of Christians are going to be threatened by an overreaching State.

     They first go through the religious exemptions to the bill, outlining which organizations would be covered - such as the Knights of Columbus. Then they start discussing the implications of the bill on Christian individuals within New York who might have issue with same-sex marriages.

       First, They claim that religious individuals who own their own business, say a wedding photography studio, and refuse to serve a same-sex wedding, will be sued for discrimination. This my friends, is a red herring. Under New York's anti-discrimination laws, organizations and individual businesses cannot discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. So even before the bill passed, if a same-sex couple had wanted to have a commitment ceremony, a wedding photographer could not have turned them away. Legalization of marriage equality has no impact on this law whatsoever.

     Second, they then discuss the issue of schoolchildren being taught that homosexuality is normal and same-sex marriages are normal marriages. I discussed this objections quite extensively about a week ago, so if you would like to read my discussion on this issue, it can be found here.

     It seems as though Citizen Link believes that "Christians" should be a class above all; and that no matter the ramifications of an individuals actions upon the rest of society, as long as that person is doing it for religious reasons, it should be permitted. This my friends, has always been the mentality of organizations like Focus On The Family, and it should be a mentality that we strive to fight against.

H/T to Truth Wins Out for the video.

Gays Have No Concept Of Fidelity - Bryan Fischer

I always find it amusing when Right Wing commentators from organizations like the AFA, FRC, and FOTF make blanket statements about the LGBT community. In this particular case, Bryan Fisher of the American Family Association, claims that same-sex couples are not monogamous - at all.

I just want to say to Fisher, have you actually met any gay and lesbian couples? There are thousands upon thousands of couples that view sexual monogamy and fidelity (my husband and myself included) as an integral part of our relationship. To insist that we do not exist, when in fact I am pretty sure I do, screams ignorance.

Sadly, this type of thinking is not relegated to folks like Bryan Fischer, but is espoused by many on the Right. They use this supposed infidelity that exists between gay and lesbian couples as a reason to deny us marriage equality - because they insist that we have no idea what marriage is truly about.

New York Clerk Refuses To Grant Marriage Licenses To Same-Sex Couples

     Today, Politico reported that an upstate New York county clerk, if approached by a same-sex couple for a marriage license, will not sign such a license because it violates her religious beliefs. We all knew that there was going to a situation like this sooner or later, especially given Senator Ball's insistence that individuals be allowed to exempt themselves based upon religious reasons from New York's new marriage equality law.
 "Barbara MacEwen, the town clerk in upstate Volney who is responsible for signing marriage licenses in the town, said she’s morally opposed to same-sex weddings and does not intend to affix her signature to any marriage documents for gay or lesbian couples.
“If there’s any possible way to not do it, legally, then yes, I would not want to put my name on any of those certificates or papers,” MacEwen told POLITICO. “That’s their life, they can do it, but I don’t feel I should be forced into something that’s against my morals and my God.”"
     Situations like this pop up all the time in States and jurisdictions that have approved marriage equality, and though I feel for Ms. MacEwen regarding her religious beliefs, a few things must be remembered when discussing civil marriage licenses for same-sex couples.

       First, same-sex couples are taxpaying citizens of her city, and thus cannot be legitimately be denied a public service just because she might "feel" uncomfortable with it - religiously or otherwise. That opens up a huge can of worms regarding other ethnic, sexual, or linguistic minorities that civil servants might have a problem with based upon "religious" grounds.

       Second, it is even more imperative that religious exemptions are not allowed to be extended to public servants such as Ms. MacEwen because of the nature of same-sex marriage. Many religious organizations eschew such marriages and thus the civil sector is the only area where same-sex couples know that they will be treated with equality and dignity. The civil arena has been specifically opened up to same-sex couples because of the relationship discrimination in the religious sphere of society. Thus, religious objections to same-sex marriage should and must fall to the wayside in the civil sector because of these limited options for same-sex couples.

        Third, in discussing this issue, we must take into account something I like to call the "doctrine of religious consistency".  Ms. MacEwen, as the one who grants civil marriage licenses, has many couples who come to her who have been previously divorced, of different religions, non-Christians, etc. According to a consistent application of her religion, all of these things are against her "morals and her God". Why then is she choosing to put her foot down when it comes to same-sex marriages? In order for me to buy her "religious" argument, she must show that she does this with everyone, not just with same-sex couples.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Why Queers Against Israeli Apartheid Should Not Be Included In Pride

     With Toronto Pride coming up this next weekend, there is alot of buzz within the LGBT community in the area about whether or not the group "Queers Against Israeli Apartheid" should be allowed to participate in the Pride Parade. Mayor Rob Ford informed the parade organizers a few months ago that if the group was allowed to participate in the parade, the city of Toronto would not fund or be a sponsor of Toronto Pride. Of course, many LGBT activists in the area cried foul, saying that QAIA is a legitimate LGBT organization, should be allowed to be included, and that Mayor Ford was stifling the "free speech" of LGBT individuals. 

     Personally, I would have to agree with Mayor Ford's decision, but not necessarily for the anti-hate speech reasons that he gave. As thouse who have read this blog over the months know, I think that every organization, even ones that I do not believe in, should have the right to exist and be heard; because it is only through this discussion can we know why we believe what we believe. But in this situation, I base my reasoning on the very nature of Pride and what it represents. Pride is about bringing the LGBT community together and saying to the world "LGBT people are here, LGBT people should be celebrated, and LGBT people should have rights." The parade is not about making political statements about non-LGBT issues; and it is not about causing divisions within the LGBT community. 

      Based upon the reactions within the LGBT community around North America to this particular group, it does not seem to fit into the purpose of Pride as a vessel of bringing people together. Allowing QAIA to participate in the parade causes division within the LGBT community, at a time where we need all of the unity that we can get. Thus I support Mayor Ford's decision; we should keep Pride as Pride, and not allow peripheral issues cloud our goal of LGBT equality and expression. 

     What do you all think? Is their a place for Queers Against Israeli Apartheid in Pride Parades? What is the overall purpose of Pride; and would their inclusion harm that purpose? I would be interested in hearing your thoughts. 

I Received My First "Hate Mail"

      Though its not really "hate mail" in the normal usage of the word, I received the following email from Sharon Kass - a well known anti-gay activist who, it seems, sends out emails to those advocating against "reparative therapy". She wrote,
There's a lot about ex-gay therapy you seem not to know.
Please see below.
The truth will out.  Really.
Thank you.
--Sharon Kass
Washington, D.C.
Then she gave me an article about the "real" causes of homosexuality...aka. that I had an emotionally distant father. Dr. Joseph Nicolosi of NARTH was mentioned numerous times in the article. I responded ,
Dear Ms. Kass, 

Thank you so much for your note. As one who has gone through "reparative therapy" I am well aware of this supposed cause of homosexuality. Though such science may be pandered by such figures as Dr. Nicolosi - who is mentioned in your article - most major medical and scientific organizations around the world have summarily rejected such a "cause" for homosexuality. 

As one who went through reparative therapy myself, and learned about all of these "causes", I can assure you that the practice is not a legitimate form of therapy, and actually leads to more psychological and emotional harm than any supposed benefits.  If you truly care about LGBT people, I would encourage you to stop supporting this known junk science. 

Thank you,

Kyle Luebke

I wonder how she will respond!!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

How My Parents Took My Rejection of "Reparative Therapy"

     I was asked by a few people, after I wrote about my experience at Love In Action last week, to detail how my family has accepted my coming out as well as my marriage to my husband.  In a nutshell, I am both pleased and disappointed in how my family has reacted to the reality of my sexual orientation and marriage. They have come a long way, yet still have a long way to go.

     As most of you who read my story know, my family is very much against homosexuality for religious reasons; this was probably the driving factor for my being sent to Love In Action. Though this has not changed in any way, my family has changed tactics in how they deal with the issue. I think this change stemmed from the fact that we didn’t talk for about a year after I came out. I wouldn’t call them and they wouldn’t call me.

     After this year or so, I think my parents realized that I was still their son, and that I myself didn’t change; that though they disagreed with my “lifestyle”, they still wanted me to be a part of their life. Thus, they started to reach out to me, and we had many awkward phone conversations – one of which I still have stuck in my memory. During that conversation, my mother expressed to me that I would one day come back to God, see the light, and meet a great girl. That I would longer struggle with homosexuality, and that I would be healed from my sin.

     That conversation sums up what my parents feel about my sexuality, as well as my marriage. I think they are still “holding out” hope that my husband and I will get a divorce, and that I will turn straight. My father has stated on numerous occasions that he knows many “ex-gays” who are now married with children and that change is possible. When I tell him about the pain and depression that I experienced during my Love In Action days, he attributes it all to me “knowing that I am living in sin”. He stated to me that my depression was caused, not because of the message of Love In Action, but because when we engage willingly in sin, our lives and emotional state, will reflect that.  Thus, my parents have never apologized for subjecting me to “reparative therapy”, for any of the negative consequences that I had because of it are because of my “homosexual lifestyle”.

     Thankfully, many in my family have not been like this, and have accepted my sexuality and my marriage. Yes, I have had one particular group of Aunts and Uncles who, in essence, cut off all communication with me, but the outpouring of support that I have been given from the other side of my family has made up for it tenfold. My grandmother accepts me and husband as a married couple, and has welcomed both of us into her home. My Aunt Amy and cousin Abby were thrilled when I announced to them my engagement and subsequent marriage to my husband, and have also been very supportive.

     Overall, I can say that though my family is not where I would want them to be, they have at least grudgingly accepted the fact that I am gay and that I am happily married. They may not like it, but they realize that if they want me to be in their life, they will have to accept it. Though they may think that I will one day become “straight”, I know that this is not possible, and I am one day holding out hope that they will realize that there is there is nothing wrong with being gay and that LGBT people can live a happy and productive life before the world and their God.   

Libertarianism Opposes Marriage Equality?

      It always amuses me when social conservatives attempt to fit their ideology into the Libertarian philosophy of limited government. Whenever they try to do this, they have to twist some of the very fundamental tenets of Libertarianism. This twisting was seen last week when Peter Sprig of the Family Research Council attempted to explain why a Libertarian should oppose same-sex marriage. He gives us six reasons why Libertarians do not need to, and actually should support, keeping the "traditional" definition of marriage. Each will be addressed in the order they appear in the article. First, 
Marriage is not a privacy issue. Civil marriage is a public institution. Homosexual activists once demanded that the government stay out of their bedrooms. In attempting to legalize same-sex marriage, they are now inviting the government into their bedrooms.
       May seem like a compelling argument; and yes I would agree with him to an extent that civil marriage is a "public institution". But his argument fails when he states that marriage is not a privacy issue. Maybe the actual institution is not "private", but the choice of a partner is, and the government choosing which choices in partners are "valid" is government intrusion into our very private lives.  Why should my choice of a man for my partner be worth less in the governments eyes that my choice of a woman?
Homosexual marriage is not an issue of individual rights. Every American has a right to marry, but also faces restrictions upon whom they may marry. No one is permitted to marry a child, a close blood relative, a person who is already married, or, in most states, a person of the same sex. These are not restrictions upon the right to marry; they are part of the definition of marriage.
      As explained above, though the institution itself may not be an "individual rights" issue, and may have societal implications, the underlying basis of the institution in today's society- our choice in a partner - is a very individual matter, which the government has no authority to interfere in. Sprigg then engages in a very slick move...the government restricts people from marriage all the time, because that is the definition of marriage. A Libertarian would fundamentally reject this rational; for why should the government tell me or my religion what a "marriage" is? His rational only works because they line up with "his" definition of marriage. Additionally, most libertarians do not believe that incest or polygamy should be illegal, so his argument based on restrictions really isn't that strong.
Freedom of conscience and religious liberty would be threatened. In the wake of same-sex marriage, we have already seen religious nonprofits being told to compromise their principles or go out of business.
      No, religious organizations are protected under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, even when they do horrible things - eg. Westboro Baptist Church. Also the religious non-profits who are being threatened with "going out of business" are the recipients of state and federal funding. It would actually be more libertarian to expect them to hold their own without government support, which they have the ability of doing and keep their religious freedom.
Economic freedom would be undermined. Same-sex marriage would compel every employer, including the government, to give same-sex couples benefits identical to those of heterosexual couples
       True, I will give him this one. And many Libertarians would also have issue with this - but this issue would not be a reason for which they would not support the legalization of same-sex marriage; as it is an issue that could be dealt with through other means.
The rights of children would be undermined. Children have a natural right to be raised by the mother and father whose union produced them. Research shows that children who are raised by their own mother and father are happier, healthier and more prosperous than children raised in other family structures. The state should not affirm the deliberate creation of permanently motherless or fatherless homes.
      That's actually not what the research shows, but whatever. But the Libertarian would say, "so it is now the governments duty to ensure that all children have mothers and fathers"? Isn't that having the government greatly intrude into the personal and family lives of individuals; something which Sprigg claimed was a bad thing? I'm amused by the last sentence though, for it invokes a very common perception among social conservatives. If the State allows something - it is "affirming" the practice. To a Libertarian, this is a ridiculous claim; for individuals are the ones "affirming" a certain practice. The State, by allowing something, is not affirming that practice, but is instead doing just that...allowing it to happen. The State is morally neutral in regards to the private lives of individuals and their actions.
The breakdown of the traditional family leads inevitably to expansion of government. The best bulwark against a large centralized government is the existence of mediating social institutions which allow society to govern itself. Chief among these is the natural family, consisting of husband, wife and their own children. People living in this family structure are the least likely to become burdens upon society through dependency on government social programs or through crime and incarceration.
       Again, social research has shown that same-sex headed couples are just as good, if not better, at raising children than heterosexual ones. Thus, allowing same-sex couples to wed will actually increase the stability of the family structure and individuals so that they will not need the government to "intrude" upon their family life.

       In the end, Peter Sprigg attempts to advocate a "Libertarian" position regarding same-sex marriage; yet falls into the same pitfalls that other social conservatives do when trying to appeal to Libertarians. To a Libertarian, the government does not have the authority to tell one person who they can and cannot contract with; they cannot tell someone that their choice of a partner is more legitimate or illegitimate than another persons without any valid philosophical or Constitutional reason; and the government cannot "advocate" for a certain family structure or definition. A Libertarian recognizes that by Government allowing something, it is not affirming or condoning the practice, but is instead allowing individuals to make free and rational choices. And that is why the majority of Libertarians support legalizing same-sex marriage.

Buffalo Religious Groups "React" To New Marriage Equality Law

Here is a clip which aired last night on Buffalo's WIBV about the religious reaction to New York's new same-sex marriage law. I for one am both frustrated and confused as to why this segment even happened.

I'm frustrated, because why were there no denominations/religions interviewed - such as Unitarianism or Judaism - which are strongly supportive of the same-sex marriage. Instead of welcoming and affirming denominations, we saw the lukewarm response of the Episcopal Church and the antagonistic response of the Catholic Conference.

And I'm confused, because why are news outlets even giving these groups - both for and against - a platform to discuss the new law? The law specifically exempts religious organizations and denominations from performing, recognizing, or even wanting to look at such relationships. These religious groups should now - since they are not affected - stop complaining about it, and get to working on other issues that better deserve their time and attention.

What do you all think? Should religious organizations be interviewed by news outlets in regards to the new law, or should they worry about other, more important things?

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