Monday, January 9, 2012

The Loss Of Christian Social Power: The Threat Of LGBT Rights

At the start of the American experiment, when the delegates from the individual states met in Philadelphia to rework the Articles of Confederation, there was a debate over power. It is not a debate that we often hear in our history classes, or read about in our textbooks, but this debate pitted the Northern States against the slave owning States of the South. From the beginning, the South held the North hostage in the proceedings, refusing to budge unless the southern slaves were fully counted as part of a states population. This became an issue, because the South felt as though the populous North (which had dispensed of slavery by this time), would use their vast population (and the representation that such population would bring) to eliminate one of the key institutions of the Southern economy. In the end, the delegates decided upon the 3/5ths compromise, which counted every slave as 3/5ths of a person.

Throughout the debate over the 3/5ths clause, we saw a debate over power. The South did not want its power diluted, and its society made equal. Instead, it wanted the status quo to reinforce its power pyramid of racial superiority. Such a historical example plays quite well into our discussion of rights for LGBT people; for in American today, we see a similar struggle over who controls society. It it Christian conservatives, who wish to project their religious beliefs onto an unbelieving populous, or is it the LGBT community, who wishes to be equal to those Christians in rights and privileges.

Before I go any further, I would like to make a disclaimer. I am in no way painting all of Christianity with this brush of oppression. I know many great Christian people who agree that ones religious beliefs should remain private and not be imposed upon a religiously different populous. Instead, this post is describing those Christians who take the scriptural commands of "dominion" far too literally, and who, instead of promoting a more perfect society, regress that society into a pseudo-theocracy.

Power is what makes the world go round. Who has it, who utilizes it, who we have power over - all of these dictate the inherent class structure of society. Throughout American history, it can be noted that those at the top have been those who hold to a Judeo-Christian religious worldview. But, beginning in the 1960's, with the emergence of the sexual revolution and the throwing off of traditional morality, those who were at the top of the power pyramid realized that their influence was shrinking. Thus, in the 1970's we saw the push-back of the Moral Majority, and the birth of the Religious Right. To these religious fundamentalists, it was important that the old systems of morality and legal legitimacy (aka. the law is from God), be upheld in the popular culture and government. During this time, we saw Phyllis Schlafly advocate against the Equal Rights Amendment, and other influential figures like Anita Bryant advocate against the evils of homosexuality and legalized abortion (or infanticide as they deem it).  Such religious based advocacy has continued even to this day, from the establishment of marriage amendments around the United States, invasive abortion regulations, as well as the back to back Iowa wins of noted social conservatives - Mike Huckabee in 2008 and Rick Santorum in 2012.

Now what does this power struggle that has emerged in American society have to do with LGBT rights? I feel that in order to understand why the culture war is a "war", we must understand what those who fight against us feel that they are losing. To them, it is about Power. With LGBT people placed upon an equal playing field as them, they have lost their status as the movers of society. Instead of society being viewed as a pyramid when it comes to LGBT rights, where heterosexuals are "better" than homosexuals, every victory for LGBT people (whether that be marriage equality, workplace protections, anti-bullying policies) alters the playing field and makes it slowly more equal. Instead of being able to arrogantly look down upon us as "sexual deviants", they are required to look upon us as social and legal equals.

Such equality is why our opponents fight so much against us. That is why you have a bill being introduced in Tennessee that would allow exemptions for Christians to bully gay kids. That is why you have a bill being passed in Michigan that strips same-sex domestic partners of benefits afforded to heterosexual couples. And that is why you have the people of countless states voting to enshrine discrimination into their Constitutions with marriage amendments. Such manifestations of blatant hatred are the dying breaths of a movement that is afraid of losing its grip upon American culture,society, and government.

Now, as much as our community likes to say that extending our rights will not impact others, that is only half true. Yes, my marriage to my husband does not affect the married couple next door, but at the same time, it does affect our society. Instead of the blatant homophobia that we hear from Presidential Candidates like Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, and Mitt Romney, with the elevation of our rights to equal status, such homophobia no longer becomes acceptable. In that day, the supposed "morality" of claims like "gay people are deviants" or "gay people can change, thus deserve no protections" will no longer be the norm, and instead be viewed as eerily similar to the moral justifications for treating women and African-Americans as property. And it is that day, the day that we are social and legal equals to our heterosexual brethren, that I hope I will live to see.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

If LGBT People Did Not Choose To Be Gay, They Would Not Be Killed

In a rather bizarre piece published in the Tuscaloosa News, University of Alabama History professor Larry Clayton, attempts to assert that because gay rights are not human rights, there is no "right" to same-sex marriage. Normally, such an article would not be interesting, as such thinking has come to be expected by the anti-gay crowd. But this article goes further, for within it we see the undertones of an approval of the slaughtering of LGBT people by international governments. 

In this article, Dr. Clayton starts to discuss the recent statements by the Obama administration that are pro-LGBT, such as Clinton's statement that "gay rights are human rights" and the State Departments vigerous enforcement to protecting LGBT people from persecution. But then Dr. Clayton morphs his discussion into one about 'value' judgments, saying,
Legal rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are already guaranteed to all, including the LGBT community. But moral judgments and values which clearly distinguish historically between sexual preferences are not legal rights.
What this has to do with the State Departments directives regarding gay and lesbian people I have no idea, but with a simple reading of his argument, it seems as though Dr. Clayton believes that based upon the fact that one is gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender one does not deserve human rights protections, because one already has "protections". for being human. According to Dr. Clayton, because homosexuality is a "sin", that automatically eliminates it from being a "right".

Then, instead of Dr. Clayton standing upon the side of human dignity and human life, he brushes aside the imprisonment and death that LGBT people around the globe are subjected to, saying, 
If you prefer to be a LGBT, that is your choice and you will continue to enjoy all the civil rights guaranteed by the Constitution. You may be stoned to death in Africa or parts of Asia whose level of tolerance for homosexuality is very low, but we live in a country where we defend our human rights....That Obama and Clinton want to world to follow this country's insistence that same sex marriages, and the LGBT community, enjoy the same protection under human rights legislation, such as liberty, freedom of expression, freedom of religion, etc., is a rather odd mixing of rights and preferences. (emphasis mine)
Within this statement, Dr. Clayton does the unthinkable. Instead of condemning the persecution and death sentences given to LGBT people by governments, he puts the blame upon those people who are being killed, because it is their fault that they have chosen to "prefer" to be gay. Because such a "preference" is considered "sinful" in the Judeo-Christian tradition (which is a claim that I would dispute heavily), there is no right to be LGBT. 

Though the entire article is worth reading - if you can stomach the lack of intellectual rigor and blatant disregard of logic and science - one sentance speaks volumes about Dr. Clayton's feelings about our community, for he says,  
There are few moral ambiguities for Christians, and certainly none with respect to homosexuality, which is, by definition, is a sexual preference, not a human right.
Thus, because ones immutable sexual orientation is a "sexual preference", one is not deemed to be protected because of it. And if you "choose" to be sexually attracted to other men or women, it is acceptable for a government to openly harass, imprison, and kill you. That is the ultimate end of Dr. Clayton's logic, and it is an end that I am thankful this nation does not embrace. 
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