Sunday, April 28, 2013

Ex-Gay Leader Apologizes

This past week one of the most important leaders of the "ex-gay" movement revealed that he is not straight at all. John Paulk, whose picture you see here on the cover of Newsweek, wrote a letter of apology, which was posted by GLAAD and other sites.

The "ex-gay" movement touched public life in Montgomery County, Maryland, when Peter Sprigg told a crowd protesting the new sex-ed curriculum in 2005 about "the myth that people cannot change their their sexual orientation and in fact, we have thousands, tens of thousands of former homosexuals around this country who will testify to the possibility of change in their sexual orientation and my understanding is that the committee ignored all evidence in that regard." Our lives were further touched when PFOX -- Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays -- (but wouldn't that be PFOX-GAG?) joined in lawsuits that cost our county tens of thousands of dollars in lawyer fees.

A lot has been said about this letter. Many gay and lesbian people have struggled in their lives with the hope that their sexual orientation could be changed, and people like John Paulk, groups like PFOX, encouraged them to keep trying, to feel ashamed of the way nature made them and try to be something they are not.

Here is the letter:
For the better part of ten years, I was an advocate and spokesman for what’s known as the “ex-gay movement,” where we declared that sexual orientation could be changed through a close-knit relationship with God, intensive therapy and strong determination. At the time, I truly believed that it would happen. And while many things in my life did change as a Christian, my sexual orientation did not.

So in 2003, I left the public ministry and gave up my role as a spokesman for the “ex-gay movement.” I began a new journey. In the decade since, my beliefs have changed. Today, I do not consider myself “ex-gay” and I no longer support or promote the movement. Please allow me to be clear: I do not believe that reparative therapy changes sexual orientation; in fact, it does great harm to many people.

I know that countless people were harmed by things I said and did in the past, Parents, families, and their loved ones were negatively impacted by the notion of reparative therapy and the message of change. I am truly, truly sorry for the pain I have caused.

From the bottom of my heart I wish I could take back my words and actions that caused anger, depression, guilt and hopelessness. In their place I want to extend love, hope, tenderness, joy and the truth that gay people are loved by God.

Today, I see LGBT people for who they are–beloved, cherished children of God. I offer my most sincere and heartfelt apology to men, women, and especially children and teens who felt unlovable, unworthy, shamed or thrown away by God or the church.

I want to offer my sincere thanks to everyone who encouraged me to take this initial step of transparency. Even while promoting “ex-gay” programs, there were those who called me on my own words and actions. I’m sure I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but they have helped me to realize this truth about who I am.

This is a life transition that has been and will continue to be, challenging. Sadly, my marriage of 20 years is in the process of ending. I want to take the time to make sure my next actions come from a place of truth and authenticity. Therefore, I’m drastically limiting my public engagement until my own personal life can be settled. After that I eagerly anticipate giving back to the community.

Finally, I know there are still accounts of my “ex-gay” testimony out there being publicized by various groups, including two books that I wrote about my journey. I don’t get any royalties from these publications, and haven’t since I left the ministry nearly ten years ago. I discourage anyone from purchasing and selling these books or promoting my “ex-gay” story because they do not reflect who I am now or what I believe today.

John Paulk
This should be the end of it.

Friday, April 12, 2013

RIP Jonathan Winters

Now and then one passes and it hits home. Jonathan Winters was a pure stream of cool creativity, splashing right from the source. He has been part of our lives, it seems like, forever.

Look at him on Jack Paar. His prop is a stick.

I played in the band once at a party he attended in Santa Barbara, California. Gigantic mansion, lighted statuary on lawn after lawn, Rollses and Jags and Mercedes out front -- and one rusty Ford station wagon. Yup, that was Jonathan's car. You went in and there were waitresses in their little French maid outfits carrying around trays of stuff. The band set up, and at that whole party only two people came over to talk to us: Larry Hagman and Jonathan Winters. Hagman was having a little trouble standing and talking at the same time, but he seemed like a nice enough guy. Jonathan Winters, on the other hand, may have had a few himself, I don't know, but he chatted with us like he'd known us for years. He got into a story about a guy peeing on an electric fence, as I recall -- this was many years ago -- and he had us rolling on the floor. He was just like he is in this video, he was riding on a wave of pure brilliance.

I thought that Jack Paar video was funny, and then I saw this one, from Dean Martin's show:


There are a few people in the world who are, let's say, verbal jazz musicians. They can improvise in the linguistic medium and invoke the full range of emotions with skill and dignity. Jonathan Winters was the best of the best. It is sad to imagine a world without him.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Ruling: Plan B Must Be Available OTC

There was an important court ruling this week about Plan B, the medicine that a woman can take to prevent pregnancy after intercourse. The LA Times had the story:
A federal court judge has ordered the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to lift controversial restrictions on the so-called morning-after pill, saying females of all ages should have unimpeded access to emergency birth control.

In a ruling released Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge Edward Korman directed the FDA to make levonorgestrel-based contraceptives available over the counter, and without a prescription. The ruling overturns a 2011 decision by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius requiring that girls under age 17 obtain a prescription for the Plan B One-Step contraceptive or its equivalents.

In his strongly worded ruling, Korman called Sebelius' decision “politically motivated, scientifically unjustified and contrary to agency precedent.” No serious health risks have been associated with the drug’s use among adults and children, Korman wrote, and even the FDA acknowledged that the drug’s “safety and efficacy in the pediatric population have been established.” Plan B must be available to all without a prescription, judge rules
The government has been making Plan B hard to get by dragging its feet. The medicine meets all the standards for unrestricted over-the-counter sales, but politically motivated leaders in the Bush and Obama administrations have ignored the science, preferring to moralize about it.

The presumptuousness of it is mind-boggling. There is no rationale for restricting access to this medicine that is not ugly. If something has happened to make a woman believe that she could become unintentionally pregnant, and all she has to do is take a pill to prevent it, it is unbelievable that anyone thinks the government should tell her she can't take that pill.

It doesn't matter if she's fifteen, or if she's married, she doesn't need to explain whether she was raped or a condom tore or what the circumstances are, it's not your-and-my business how she got into the situation, a woman should not be forced to bring a child into this world as punishment.

There is nothing dangerous about Plan B, and if you're afraid teenagers are going to misunderstand what it's for, the solution is better sex education.

In Southern Maryland yesterday I saw a church with a sign out front that said, "If the government makes sin legal, that doesn't make it right." And I thought, that is a church that is on the right track. Let the preacher preach that the world out there is full of people making bad choices, and let him lead his people to do things right, however he defines that. If his flock disagrees with him, they are free to choose a different church. The church sign, and I suppose the sermon he is delivering as I type this, support the fundamental concept of separation of church and state. That is a good thing.

There may be people who feel that a woman's sexual purity is so important that someone should be born, an entire human life should be lived, as punishment for her moral failure. If you feel that way, then you should band together with others who agree, and you can start a church and apply social pressure to one another. You can have any rules you want, you can oppose all sex that does not result in procreation, for instance, you can make alcohol a sin, playing cards, women's ankles can be deemed too provocative to display in public. America lets you make up any crazy rules for living that you want, call it a "religion," and nobody will interfere with your right to impose whatever restrictions on your members' lives that you like.

But the deal is, your restrictions only apply to your group. You can punish your members however you want, but your church has absolutely no authority over anybody else. If women walk in public with their ankles showing, it is up to your members not to look, you do not get to pass a law to force women to conceal their ankles.

In the same way, if you think women should be punished for being raped, you are free under the US Constitution to form a religion and share your beliefs with like-minded citizens. You can call contraception a sin and make sure your church members do not use any form of it, and the rest of us won't try to stop you. We might joke about you, like when people say "Q: Why don't Baptists have sex standing up? A: Because they're afraid somebody will think they're dancing." But nobody is going to try to convince somebody that dancing is actually kind of fun and harmless, if their religion forbids it.

Religious people vote, and of course they tend to vote for people who believe as they do, and in some parts of the country certain religious groups are a majority or close to it. So politicians say and do things to win their votes. That leads to the theocratic situation where government expresses a particular religious temperament, instead of protecting the freedom of all.

Luckily the people who formed the United States government were smart enough to put in some checks and balances, so that politicians' stupid campaign promises would not become law for the rest of us. And now a judge has ruled that pregnancy will not be a form of punishment for women, including young women, who do not guard their chastity sufficiently. Good.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

77 Non-Religious Reasons to Support Man/Woman Marriage

I got a link to this thing recently, it's been going around, and you might get a kick out of it. It is a flyer entitled "77 Reasons to Support Man/Woman Marriage," posted at Eagle Forum but originating with a certain Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, PhD, an economist who founded the Ruth Institute -- you can purchase mass quantities of this pamphlet there. The Ruth Institute is a spin-off of the National Organization for Marriage.

I notice that our little suburban Maryland county is mentioned in Reason #43: "Montgomery County, Maryland, removed all references to gender in the county code. The words 'father' and 'mother,' 'husband' and 'wife' are becoming suspect." I think I have figured out what they are talking about. There was a 2008 press release HERE, which describes our county's gender-identity nondiscrimination bill by saying "... the Montgomery County Board voted to render the citizens of their county legally androgynous by removing all references to gender from the county code ..." It really says something when a statement like this can be elevated to one of the 77 reasons. I'll bet the other 76 are just as good.

The flyer itself is posted in a beautiful PDF format with a tasteful background of "US Route 77" signs. It does not seem possible to copy from the original, but luckily some other bloggers have transcribed the text. Here they are, seventy-seven non-religious reasons to support man/woman marriage:
1. The essential public purpose of marriage is to attach mothers and fathers to their children and to one another.

2. Man/woman marriage allows children to know and be known by their biological parents. Same sex marriage separates children from at least one parent.

3. Man/woman marriage sets the foundation for children to have the same biological, legal, and care parents. Same sex marriage separates these functions among different people.

4. Man/woman marriage provides children with access to their genetic, cultural, and social heritage.

5. Even though it is not always possible, children have the best life chances when they are raised by their biological married parents.

6. The research in this area is preliminary. we don’t have studies that last long enough to show the long term impact of being raised in a same sex household.

7. Much of the research in this area does not use a representative sample of same sex couples. People volunteer to be in the study. Volunteers are often more affluent, more educated, and more likely to be better parents regardless of sexual orientation.

8. Each member of the same sex couple may be a fine parent. But two good mothers do not add up to a father.

9. This looks at marriage from the adult point of view. It reveals just how deeply same sex marriage inverts the purpose of marriage.

10. Look at marriage from the child’s point of view. Not every marriage produces children. But every child has parents.

11. Every child is entitled to a relationship with both parents.

12. Every child is entitled to know and be known by his parents.

13. No child can possibility protect these entitlements on his or her own.

14. Adult society must protect the child’s right to affiliation with both parents.

15. Adult society must protect these rights through prevention of harm, not through restitution after the fact.

16. Man/woman marriage is the institution adult society uses to pro-actively protect the rights of all children to affiliation with both parents.

17. Same sex marriage changes marriage from a child-institution to an adult-centered institution.

18. Without man/woman marriage, there will be no institution specifically protecting the rights of children to be in relationship with both parents.

19. Adopted and foster children tell us that they long for relationship with their biological parents.

20. The law in most states helps adopted children find their birth parents.

21. Deliberately conceiving a child with the life plan that he or she will never have a relationship with his or her father is unjust and cruel to the child.

22. If the love between adults were the only important factor, we would expect stepparents to be interchangeable with biological parents. But this is not generally the case.

23. Children in stepparent households, on average, have more emotional problems and lower school achievement than children of married parents.

24. Discipline can be complicated in stepparent households compared with households with married biological parents. Some biological parents exclude the stepparent from discipline, saying “they are my kids, not yours.”

25. Some children in stepparent homes expertly pit the parents against each other.

26. Loyalties in stepparent households can be complicated. The biological parent can feel torn between commitment to the child and commitment to the spouse. Intact biological families are more likely to feel that loving their child is also an act of love for the child’s other parent.

27. Research shows that stepfathers spend less time with their spouses’ children than do biological fathers. Remarried mothers, on average, spend less time with their own children. The child and the spouse become competitors for the mother’s attention.

28. Same sex parenting means that one of the adults will have no biological relationship to the child, and may be more like a stepparent than a biological parent. We can’t assume the adults’ love for each other will resolve the complications inherent in stepparent families.

29. Same sex marriage makes an implicit statement that mothers and fathers are interchangeable, and that sex is irrelevant to parenting. The burden of proof should be on those who make this strong, nonintuitive claim.

30. Even same sex couples believe sex is relevant: the sex of their partners. A gay man insists on a male sex partner. He is not satisfied with a female sex partner, no matter how masculine she may be. A lesbian insists on a female sex partner. Even a very feminine man will not do.

31. It is unjust for the law to decree that adults are entitled to have what they want, namely, partners of the same sex, while children have to accept whatever we give them.

32. Mothers and fathers each make unique contributions to the child’s development. Father absence creates risks in children that mother absence does not create.

33. Teenaged girls without fathers are at risk for early sexual activity, multiple sex partners, out of wedlock pregnancy, and sexually transmitted diseases.

34. Teenaged boys without fathers are at risk for juvenile delinquency, violence, criminal activity, gang membership and incarceration.

35. Pre-teen girls not living with their biological fathers get their menstrual periods earlier than girls who live with their fathers. Getting an early period is associated with a host of health problems including unhealthy weight gain, breast cancer, cancer of the reproductive system, and emotional problems (such as body image disorders, depression, anxiety, aggression and substance abuse) not to mention early sexual activity.

36. Children need help and guidance in developing their sexual identities. Same sex marriage will make this task more difficult, if not legally forbidden.

37. The claim that mothers and fathers are interchangeable will affect men and women differently.

38. When a child is born a mother is always somewhere close by. Fathers are intrinsically less connected to children than mothers. The essential purpose of man/woman marriage is to attach mothers and fathers to their children and to each other. Same sex marriage implies that the attachment of fathers to their children is irrelevant.

39. Countries with same sex marriage symbolically diminish fatherhood. The Province of British Columbia, Canada changed its birth certificates. They have a place for the mother's name and a check-off box for the “other parent/father.”

40. The United Kingdom used to have a requirement that unmarried women could not use artificial reproductive technology unless they could show that the child's need for a father would be met. They dropped this requirement after instituting same sex marriage, for fear of offending lesbian couples.

41. Once same sex marriage becomes legally and socially acceptable, more women will decide to raise children together. They will view this as easier than putting forth the effort of crossing the gender divide and cooperating with a man through marriage.

42. In today's climate, we can imagine people looking at two women raising children together and saying, “See, it is just as I have always thought: women don't need a man. Children don't really need fathers.” It is almost inconceivable that people would look at two men raising children together and conclude that children don’t need mothers.

43. Same sex marriage will further marginalize gendered language and gender roles. In Scotland, schools stopped celebrating Fathers Day. Montgomery County, Maryland, removed all references to gender in the county code. The words “father” and “mother,” “husband” and “wife” are becoming suspect.

44. No one has a right to have a child. Children are not objects, to which other people have rights. Children are persons, with rights of their own.

45. We will not be able to maintain a free society if some people come into being as objects, created by other people for their own purposes.

46. Artificial reproductive technology violates the dignity of the child.

47. Using donated sperm or eggs necessarily involves the alienation of the child from one or both parents.

48. Children who were conceived by artificial insemination with donor sperm often experience a sense of loss from not knowing their fathers.

49. Advocates of the unlimited use of artificial reproductive technology argue “our children will be fine, because we wanted these children so badly.” Turn this statement around: “We got to manufacture another human being, because we wanted to.” It no longer sounds so appealing.

50. Same sex marriage creates an entitlement to the use of artificial reproductive technology.

51. An “entitlement” to the use of artificial reproductive technology means that anyone with money gets to do anything they want. This cannot be correct, from any moral or religious perspective. Yet same sex marriage advocacy is driving the law in this direction.

52. The state creates same sex marriage by saying that marriage is the union of any two persons, instead of the union of a man and a woman. Same sex marriage affects everyone because the new legal definition applies to everyone.

53. Genderless marriage will drive out gendered marriage. Same sex marriage transforms marriage from a gender-based institution to a gender-neutral institution.

54. Judges who have imposed same sex marriage have made statements that appear superficially plausible in the context of same sex marriage, but which are certainly false as general statements.

55. The judges who imposed same sex marriage in Iowa stated, “The research … suggests that the traditional notion that children need a mother and a father to be raised into healthy, well-adjusted adults is based more on stereotype than anything else.” This is not true as a general statement.

56. The judge who overturned California’s Proposition 8 stated, “Gender no longer forms an essential part of marriage; marriage under the law is a union of equals.” The first statement assumes what needs to be proven. The second statement creates a false dichotomy, suggesting that unless gender is irrelevant, marriage is necessarily something other than a union of equals.

57. If enough judges say enough implausible things, people will lose respect for the law.

58. Creating one legal institution for both same and opposite sex couples requires the law to strip away all the essential public purposes of marriage and leaves only the inessential private purposes of marriage.

59. The judge who overturned California’s Proposition 8 stated, “Marriage is the state recognition and approval of a couple's choice to live with each other, to remain committed to one another and to form a household based on their own feelings about one another and to join in an economic partnership and support one another and any dependents.” By this definition, college roommates or members of clubs count as “married.”

60. By the time the activists are finished, there will be nothing left of marriage but a government registry of friendships.

61. Man/woman marriage is the institution that attaches mothers and fathers to their children. Same sex marriage transforms marriage into an institution that separates children from at least one of their parents.

62. Same sex marriage opens the door to children having more than 2 legal parents, as it has in Canada.

63. Same sex marriage routinely places biological parents on the same legal footing with adults who have no genetic relationship to the child.

64. Same sex marriage eliminates the legal principle that biology is the primary means of establishing parental rights and responsibilities.

65. Some other principle must take the place of the biological principle. That principle will be the state assignment of parental rights and responsibilities.

66. Judges in Washington State created a four-part test to determine whether an unrelated adult counts as a child’s “de facto parent.” These determinations require family courts to examine the most private parts of the family’s life.

67. Same sex marriage undermines the legal principle that children are entitled to a relationship with both parents.

68. Same sex marriage separates children from at least one of their parents, not due to extraordinary circumstances, as arise in adoption, but as a routine procedure.

69. Adoption currently exists to give children the parents they need, not to give adults the children they want.

70. Same sex marriage is a creation of the state. Man/woman marriage is an organic institution arising spontaneously from society.

71. The state will have to protect its creation of same sex marriage. Man/woman marriage can sustain itself.

72. Governments will enforce the belief that same sex marriage is the equivalent of man/woman marriage.

73. Religious organizations of all kinds, potentially including schools, adoption agencies and marriage prep programs, may be subject to government regulation. Catholic adoption agencies have closed in Massachusetts and the District of Columbia. The Catholic Archdiocese of the District of Columbia stopped providing health insurance to all spouses, once same sex marriage was created by the city council.

74. Governments will enforce the belief that mothers and fathers are interchangeable.

75. In Massachusetts, a father objected to his kindergartner being read a picture book that featured two men as the romantic couple. The father was taken away in handcuffs from a public meeting. The state declared parents do not have a right to remove their children from lessons they find objectionable.

76. The government of Quebec insisted the Mennonites teach that homosexuality is normal to the handful of children in their little country school. The Mennonites refused, and at last notice, were considering leaving Quebec, rather than surrender the teaching of their children to the Provincial authorities.

77. Same sex marriage amounts to a hostile takeover of civil society by the state.
So there, you homosexual activists. Take that.