Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Bye Bye DOMA

This is not news to anyone who reads this blog, but I will put up a post to allow people to comment. A movement has grown from impossible beginnings to incredible success within one generation, as LGBT people have fought a well-organized and well-thought-out campaign to gain respect for themselves as they are. It has meant challenging and changing prejudicial beliefs that generations of Americans had held without questioning. Wednesday's court ruling killed the Defense of Marriage Act dead. The federal government will now treat all married couples equally.

We could quote this story from any source, but for fun I will take the FoxNews version:
In a big day for gay-rights advocates, the Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down a federal provision denying benefits to legally married gay couples and issued a separate ruling that paves the way for same-sex marriages to resume in California.

The more sweeping decision [ ... ] came in relation to the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which the court said was unconstitutional and effectively gutted by ruling against a provision that denied benefits to legally married gay couples.

The 5-4 ruling -- a major victory for gay-rights advocates -- means those same-sex couples would be eligible for federal benefits. President Obama, who applauded the decision, directed his administration to review "all relevant federal statutes" to comply with the ruling.

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion.

"DOMA divests married same-sex couples of the duties and responsibilities that are an essential part of married life and that they in most cases would be honored to accept were DOMA not in force," he wrote.

Kennedy wrote that the law "places same-sex couples in an unstable position of being in a second-tier marriage."

The ruling prompted tension among the divided court. Multiple dissenting opinions were filed. Justice Antonin Scalia, reading from his dissent, said the components of the majority's ruling are "wrong."

"The error in both springs from the same diseased root: an exalted notion of the role of this Court in American democratic society," he said.

Social conservatives were similarly disappointed. Supreme Court strikes down DOMA provision denying benefits to gay couples
Listen, it is hard to change a minor work process in an office, never mind turn an entire country's attitude a hundred eighty degrees, but it has happened. The social conservatives can be "similarly disappointed," a phrase with a lilting ring to it, but the fact is, they always lose because they are wrong. You still have to fight them, because they keep trying to impose their insane system of values on the rest of us, but when it comes down to it, this country is based on principles that empower individual citizens to live with rights that cannot be denied. Freedom always wins, love always wins, truth always wins in the long run.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Ex-Gay Organization Closes, Apologizes

I first heard the term "ex-gay" in 2004, when we organized to support the new Montgomery County sex ed curriculum. There were people saying that if you talked about gay people in schools you had to also talk about "ex-gays," that is, people who had stopped being gay.

I didn't know anything. I hadn't paid any attention to the politics of sexual identity, as far as I knew the world was crawling with people who "used to be gay."

But no, it wasn't that. It was a hoax to try to get homosexual adolescents to feel shame and pretend to be straight. There were religious people who claimed that God wanted you to be heterosexual, and if you just ... prayed, I guess ... and worked real hard at it, you could be straight, too. Young gay men, especially, were targeted by these groups. Those young men who felt an important tie with their religion and their God were torn between their beliefs and their feelings, and were made to believe that their feelings of love were sinful.

The main group advocating this position was Exodus International. There were a few other groups, too, including the ultra-nutty PFOX, but the people at Exodus were the best organized.

The "ex-gay" angle is a clever piece of propaganda. They will tell you there are thousands, hundreds of thousands of ex-gay people out there, but they can never produce more than the same three or four of them. They claim that the rest of us are discriminating against "ex-gays" by not mentioning them as a sexual orientation, along with straight, gay, and bisexual. In our suburban county this was used as a lever to oppose a sensible and comprehensive sex-ed curriculum.

In the meantime there were counselors, camps, church groups, all over the country working with young gay men, mostly, to get them to stop being gay. The damage done by "reparative therapy" is immeasurable. There is no way to count the suicides, or the tears, attributable to the black-hearted attempts to instill shame and get people to doubt their own sense of love and affection for others.

Exodus closed up shop this week and issued an apology to the people they had hurt. Here is Exodus President Alan Chambers' statement to the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning) community, as posted on the Exodus blog, with some explanation, under the title I Am Sorry:
To Members of the LGBTQ Community:

In 1993 I caused a four-car pileup. In a hurry to get to a friend’s house, I was driving when a bee started buzzing around the inside of my windshield. I hit the bee and it fell on the dashboard. A minute later it started buzzing again with a fury. Trying to swat it again I completely missed the fact that a city bus had stopped three cars in front of me. I also missed that those three cars were stopping, as well. Going 40 miles an hour I slammed into the car in front of me causing a chain reaction. I was injured and so were several others. I never intended for the accident to happen. I would never have knowingly hurt anyone. But I did. And it was my fault. In my rush to get to my destination, fear of being stung by a silly bee, and selfish distraction, I injured others.

I have no idea if any of the people injured in that accident have suffered long term effects. While I did not mean to hurt them, I did. The fact that my heart wasn’t malicious did not lessen their pain or their suffering. I am very sorry that I chose to be distracted that fall afternoon, and that I caused so much damage to people and property. If I could take it all back I absolutely would. But I cannot. I pray that everyone involved in the crash has been restored to health.

Recently, I have begun thinking again about how to apologize to the people that have been hurt by Exodus International through an experience or by a message. I have heard many firsthand stories from people called ex-gay survivors. Stories of people who went to Exodus affiliated ministries or ministers for help only to experience more trauma. I have heard stories of shame, sexual misconduct, and false hope. In every case that has been brought to my attention, there has been swift action resulting in the removal of these leaders and/or their organizations. But rarely was there an apology or a public acknowledgement by me.

And then there is the trauma that I have caused. There were several years that I conveniently omitted my ongoing same-sex attractions. I was afraid to share them as readily and easily as I do today. They brought me tremendous shame and I hid them in the hopes they would go away. Looking back, it seems so odd that I thought I could do something to make them stop. Today, however, I accept these feelings as parts of my life that will likely always be there. The days of feeling shame over being human in that way are long over, and I feel free simply accepting myself as my wife and family does. As my friends do. As God does.

Never in a million years would I intentionally hurt another person. Yet, here I sit having hurt so many by failing to acknowledge the pain some affiliated with Exodus International caused, and by failing to share the whole truth about my own story. My good intentions matter very little and fail to diminish the pain and hurt others have experienced on my watch. The good that we have done at Exodus is overshadowed by all of this.

Friends and critics alike have said it’s not enough to simply change our message or website. I agree. I cannot simply move on and pretend that I have always been the friend that I long to be today. I understand why I am distrusted and why Exodus is hated.

Please know that I am deeply sorry. I am sorry for the pain and hurt many of you have experienced. I am sorry that some of you spent years working through the shame and guilt you felt when your attractions didn’t change. I am sorry we promoted sexual orientation change efforts and reparative theories about sexual orientation that stigmatized parents. I am sorry that there were times I didn’t stand up to people publicly “on my side” who called you names like sodomite—or worse. I am sorry that I, knowing some of you so well, failed to share publicly that the gay and lesbian people I know were every bit as capable of being amazing parents as the straight people that I know. I am sorry that when I celebrated a person coming to Christ and surrendering their sexuality to Him that I callously celebrated the end of relationships that broke your heart. I am sorry that I have communicated that you and your families are less than me and mine.

More than anything, I am sorry that so many have interpreted this religious rejection by Christians as God’s rejection. I am profoundly sorry that many have walked away from their faith and that some have chosen to end their lives. For the rest of my life I will proclaim nothing but the whole truth of the Gospel, one of grace, mercy and open invitation to all to enter into an inseverable relationship with almighty God.

I cannot apologize for my deeply held biblical beliefs about the boundaries I see in scripture surrounding sex, but I will exercise my beliefs with great care and respect for those who do not share them. I cannot apologize for my beliefs about marriage. But I do not have any desire to fight you on your beliefs or the rights that you seek. My beliefs about these things will never again interfere with God’s command to love my neighbor as I love myself.

You have never been my enemy. I am very sorry that I have been yours. I hope the changes in my own life, as well as the ones we announce tonight regarding Exodus International, will bring resolution, and show that I am serious in both my regret and my offer of friendship. I pledge that future endeavors will be focused on peace and common good.

Moving forward, we will serve in our pluralistic culture by hosting thoughtful and safe conversations about gender and sexuality, while partnering with others to reduce fear, inspire hope, and cultivate human flourishing.
Chambers and his organization have done untold harm over decades of misinforming people and nurturing prejudicial judgments of LGBT people, and it is lame to compare his lifelong mission of discrimination to a wreck caused by trying to swat a bee on his dashboard.

That being said, it is good to see this propaganda machine finally put to bed. The fact is, sexual orientation is not something you choose. You don't choose to be gay and you don't choose to be straight. Praying won't change you, wishing and hoping won't change you, this is a much better world when people accept who they are, and when the people around them accept who they are.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Anti-Gay Protest in DC

Turns out yesterday there was a big anti-gay demonstration right here in our back yard, in front of the Human Rights Campaign's building on Rhode Island Avenue. And by "big," I mean that approximately six to eight people turned out for it, according to observers. Some of the biggest names in the anti-gay movement spoke at it, including the founder and president of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality "Porno Pete" LaBarbera, Liberty Counsel's Matt Barber, and Mission America's Linda Harvey.

Here's the video of their speeches. Below is the rollicking commentary offered by Truth Wins Out.

TWO's comments are priceless:
0:10 Porno Pete says the “escalation of homosexual power” is bad for America.

0:45 Porno Pete also says that you could fill a small book with the hate crimes that have been “faked” over the years. Apparently the FBI and other organizations compiling statistics on hate crimes are part of the conspiracy?

1:00 ”Nature itself discriminates against homosexuality.” This is true, because in the thousands of species were homosexuality has been observed, there are also thousands of Porno Petes Of Land And Sea, with webbed feet and cloven hooves, flippers and prickly fur, standing by themselves in a corner, communicating by whalesong, howling at the moon and everything in between, about how gross their species-mates are for being gay.

1:40 Gay activists “meanly dismiss” the “reality” of ex-gay people. Usually, when we do that, it’s because we caught them in gay bars, etc.

2:00 Matt “Bam Bam” Barber speaks. He is quite boring.

2:55 Linda Harvey claims that there is only one standard for what is and what isn’t “sin,” which must be why the entirety of Christendom agrees on absolutely everything.

3:00 She then claims that we want people to “celebrate” the “stress and anxiety” of “gender confusion,” adding, “how wicked!” Actually, we want people to be able to live as they are, without fear, and when confronted with said anxiety, be met by a chorus of supportive voices, rather than the voices of fundamentalists like Linda Harvey telling them that what they are feeling is something they should be ashamed of and change.

3:15 Diane Gramley of the American Family Association of Pennsylvania with some boring, recycled words about “unnatural homosexual sex.”

3:57 Here is something truly insane. We are used to anti-gay activists claiming that there are thousands of “former homosexuals,” but yet they never can produce anyone for an interview who isn’t currently on the payroll of an anti-gay organization. It seems being “free from homosexuality” only sort of works when there is a paycheck attached. But Patrick Mangan of Citizens for Community Values of Indiana makes a truly insane claim when he suggests that “it is estimated that there are more that have come OUT of [homosexuality] than are in it.” Really? Estimated by whom, please?! Please provide source material for this suggestion that there are millions of straight people walking around the suburbs who “used to be gay.”

4:57 Finally, we have Eric Holmberg of Apologetics Group, doubling down on the crazy. You see, Americans are being sold a “bill of goods” on homosexuality. Listing off standard fare talking points about how gays aren’t born that way, Holmberg suddenly lists as a “fallacy” the idea that “homosexuals are not attracted to straight people.” Um, what? People are attracted to people. Sometimes straight people are attracted to gay people. (Raise your hand if you are a straight woman who dated a gay guy before he came out of the closet.) Sometimes gay people are attracted to straight people. I suspect that his statement is related to the Religious Right freak-outs over things like communal showers in the military, though, and the underlying suggestion that gay people are predators. The truth, of course, is that people have nothing to worry about in communal showers, as the same standards still apply: trying to have sex with someone who doesn’t want it is assault. It does not matter if the perpetrator is gay or straight. Otherwise, normal, well-adjusted people see people they think are hot all the time, and somehow refrain from trying to force sex on them. It is always strange to me, though, that the people who freak out over such things tend not to be very attractive, themselves.

I wonder how long the funding will hold up for this sort of thing.