Saturday, September 10, 2011

As Religion Comes To Our Side

Equality North Carolina has released a press release that should give all LGBT people, no matter the religion (or non-religion) that we ascribe too, hope during these dark times in the fight for LGBT equality.

In response to the anti-gay constitutional amendment that is being proposed in the North Carolina legislature in the coming weeks, nearly 250 Clergy and Faith leaders from across the state have signed onto a declaration which affirms that,
  • While we respect the fact that debate and discussion continue in many of our religious communities as to the scriptural, theological and liturgical issues involved, we draw on our many faith traditions to arrive at a common conviction. We oppose the use of sacred texts and religious traditions to deny legal equity to gay and lesbian people. 
  • We oppose any amendment to the North Carolina Constitution that would prohibit gay and lesbian couples from receiving the protections like health benefits and hospital visitation afforded by recognition of their relationships.
  • We affirm freedom of conscience in this matter. We recognize that the state may not require religious clergy to officiate at, or bless, gay and lesbian marriages. Likewise, a denial of state civil recognition dishonors the religious convictions of those clergy, supported by their faith communities, who officiate at and bless gay and lesbian marriages.
These faith leaders, in submitting their names to these three principles, show us once again that the love of God knows no gender or sexual orientation. Many times, those of us in the LGBT community view religion and religious organizations as hindrances in our effort to gain social equality with our heterosexual brethren. Too often, we see religious groups (such as Focus On The Family, the National Organization for Marriage, the Catholic Conference, and the Southern Baptist Convention)  working to deny us our rights and "change" our God given sexual orientation, and thus we falsely paint all religious organizations as being the same way.

Thankfully, these 200+ clergy members in North Carolina - from diverse denominations, movements, and religions - are working to shatter this misconception. These clergy are telling LGBT people that God accepts and affirms us for who we are, and not what men want us to be. They affirm that not only are LGBT people welcome in their congregations, but they also affirm that our relationships and love are valid and sacred before God.

Not only is this bridge building between the religious and LGBT communities happening in North Carolina, but it is happening across our nation. From here in Memphis, where religious groups have allied with the Universities SafeZone program, to national denominations such as the Presbyterian Church (USA) affirming the place of openly gay leaders, we are seeing the walls of institutionalized religious discrimination come tumbling down.

This is just another reason my friends, why it is essential that we be out and proud in our religious groups and communities; for without our voices being heard, we will remain an invisible minority, and change, instead of being slow to come, will not come at all. Thus, my challenge to you is that no matter how hard it may seem, live with dignity, honesty, and openness in your daily life...because YOU are change.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

To The Republicans - We Should Go Back Into The Political Closet

Now that the Republican Debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library has ended, it is important that we look back at what was said - or more accurately what was not said - during the debate.

Though the candidates argued about issues such things as healthcare, climate change, the role of the Department of Homeland Security, and the death penalty, what was conspicuously absent was any questions or comments regarding LGBT rights and/or equality. Even when discussing the issue of Immigration reform, there was no mention by any of the candidates about the struggles of gay and lesbian Americans who have a foreign spouse.

To me, it is a representation of the Republican parties overall dismissal of LGBT rights and equality which leads us to the situation that we had tonight; that is, of the complete absence of any mention of LGBT Americans.  Considering that candidates such as Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann have made their mark in politics by being warriors in the "culture wars", this absence is even more surprising. This absence could be viewed in two different ways.

First, it could be construed to remind us Americans who are LGBT that the majority of the Republican party - save a few individuals and groups like Fred Karger, Log Cabin Republicans, and Jon Hunstman - would like nothing more than to see us put back into the closet. They do not view our issues as "important" or even worthy of airtime; to these candidates, our cry for legal and social equality does not compare to the economic ills that plague the U.S.. There are more "important" things to worry about, why even worry about the gays.

On the other hand, the absence of LGBT issues in the debate could be construed as a positive development. LGBT rights are not the "hot-button" issue that they were in the 2004 election; so why risk alienating the moderate voters? Could it be that there was no mention of marriage equality, workplace discrimination, or immigration reform for LGBT people, because the candidates don't want their radical views on the subject to be the main topic of media reports? Could it be that these candidates know that the reign of the Religious Right and social conservative wing of the Republican party is slowly coming to an end?

Though the second rational may seem logical and even preferable to believe, it fails to recognize that these candidates have not only made their opposition to LGBT equality clear (read Bachmann, Perry, and Santorum), but they have gone out of their way to do so. It is therefore more likely that these candidates do not even recognize the legitimacy of our struggle (no surprise there) and do not even think that it is worthy of discussion.

It is clear, that to these candidates for the Republican nomination for President, LGBT people should be relegated back to the political closet; in favor of the more "important" issues facing America. Tonight's debate should be a lesson for our community; we must not be silent...otherwise, we will be forced to be so.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

N.C. Marriage Ban Opponents Get Clever - Bring In Economics

It is said that as the years go by, people recognize their mistakes and how, because of those mistakes, learn how to make better choices. This seems to be the case in North Carolina, where equality advocates are placing front and center arguments normally regulated to the peripheral  in defense of their opposition to a statewide constitutional amendment establishing the supremacy of heterosexual relationships.

According to Equality North Carolina, the states foremost advocate for equality matters, the proposed anti-gay constitutional amendment would make it difficult for North Carolina to attract top firms and corporations; thus having a negative economic impact on a state which has an unemployment rate of 10.1%. In a statement provided to EqualityNC, the Senior Vice President of Finance, Membership and Operations at the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), Anthony J. Pugliese, made it clear that this amendment is bad for business and the states national competitiveness, 
"The proposed amendment is bad for business. It interferes with our ability to recruit talent and our right to provide competitive benefits to our employees.  It also signals to major employers like ours that our state is not welcoming to the diverse, creative workforce that we need to compete in the global economy. It’s also bad for future business development in the state as we seek top grow our tax base. It is very unlikely we would have ever relocated our global headquarters to the Triangle and hired 450 local employees in 2006 if this amendment had been the law."
Mr. Pugliese's comments echo a theory of economics developed by Dr. Richard Florida of the University of Toronto; a theory which asserts that any region or city which desires to flourish economically must attract what is known as the "Creative Class". This "creative class" of entrepreneurs and business-people are the drivers of a regions research potential, innovation, and economic growth. In his book The Rise of the Creative Class, Florida argues that for a city to attract this "creative class" of individuals, it must posses the three "T"'s: Talent (an educated, skilled workforce), Tolerance (an atmosphere where individuals, regardless of sexual orientation, race, and gender feel welcome), and Technology. 

But others disagree with Mr. Pugliese's analysis of the impact that the anti-gay constitutional amendment will have upon North Carolina's business climate. Backers of the proposed amendment assert that states which have enacted similar prohibitions (such as neighboring Tennessee and Virginia)  have not experienced any decrease in economic growth or seen an unwillingness for businesses to locate in their respective states. 

But Andrew Spainhour, the general counsel for the Greensboro based firm, Replacements Ltd, does not see how this could be the case. In an interview with the Houston Chronicle, he challenges this assumption by amendment backers, saying, 
 "How can we say we take economic development seriously when we propose an anti-gay campaign that runs contrary to the employment practices of a majority of Fortune 500 companies?"
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