Pride and Prejudice – Gays and Religion

Sitting in my home in North Carolina, I am quite disappointed by the vote earlier this week to reiterate that marriage should be between one man and one woman. This was already on the NC books, but the evangelical right wanted to make sure others heard them. It also went an extra mile to deny civil unions for any citizens. Within 24 hours after it passed, a very staunch conservative county commissioner in one of NC’s largest counties wanted to repeal the domestic partner benefits offered by the county as an employer. This was one of the arguments against the amendment’s passage and the advocates for the amendment assured others that this would not happen. We shall see what transpires.

On the very positive front, I am delighted and encouraged by the President’s stated position on gay marriage. I also applaud Vice President Biden and the Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, for stating earlier in the week their positions in favor of such marriages. Not that this next phrase is important, but as a 53-year-old married father of three children, to deny the ability for the LGBT community to marry is discriminatory. I have noted in earlier posts and will repeat again here that my Christian bible very much supports treating gays the same as everyone else. Yet, to be honest, that is beside the point. In our governmental construct set up by our founding fathers by the constitution, Bill of Rights and initial operating principles, we clearly have a separation of church and state for a reason.

Our founders knew first hand what religious persecution looked like, so they were careful to guard against it. So, it is irrelevant what one interpretation by evangelical readers of one religion’s textbook says. It is discriminatory to treat people differently based on the sexual orientation. Only when someone’s rights infringe on another’s rights should people be concerned. Taking this one step further, the fact that a Catholic Priest is gay is irrelevant. The fact that some Priests are pedophiles is a crime.  So, it is ironic the Catholic Church, who comes down on the gay community, has employed a number of gay men in their ranks for many years. To me that is a little hypocritical. Especially when a very capable and popular male minister of music at a NC church was fired earlier this year for getting married to another man in a monogamous, loving relationship in New York. I would add that some parishioners of that church attended the ceremony. Yet, he had to be fired when the marriage was announced at the Bishop’s request.

I have been encouraged by the number of church leaders – ministers, rabbis, imams – and Republicans who have publicly stated their support for gay marriage. These are people who are risking more by publicly advocating their position. I applaud them. Even on Bill Maher’s show last night, one of his Conservative guests openly supported the President’s move as did David Brook’s on PBS News Hour. I would expect no less from Mr. Brooks, as he is then most reasonable conservative pundit around and his opinions are well thought out and respected even by others who disagree with him. These advocates give me hope for America on this issue. We need to move this train along the track and I am hoping we can get on the right side of history on this issue in the very near future.

I am less encouraged by a couple of things Mitt Romney did, which is making rethink my post that I could tolerate him, even though I won’t vote for him. The fact he threw one of his staunchly conservative colleagues under the bus when a radio talk show host made an issue that this colleague is gay bothers me. He should have stepped up and said “so what.”  He did not and that is unfortunate. The other is his handling of the story where he apparently led (or was part of) a group of teenage boys to accost a gay fellow student and cuts the student’s hair against his will. This teenage bullying is inappropriate by any stretch of the imagination, but what concerns me most today is the adult Mitt Romney not remembering the episode, when all of his cohorts remember vividly the shameful act and their huge remorse. At my age, I remember every stupid, shameful act I ever did as they stand out. I try to live a good life, treat others like I want to be treated and do good deeds, so I may not be able to remember every good thing I did. Yet, I can attest at the age of 53, I remember and truly regret all the dumb things I ever did. So, for Mr. Romney to say he does not remember gives me pause – to me, it means one of two things. Either he did a number of things like this, so many he cannot remember them all, or he is lying when he says he does not remember. I know he has done some very honorable things and has raised fine young men and has been married for a number of years, yet this lack of memory concerns me.

Let me close by noting two things I witnessed this week, First, my wife and I rented a movie the other night because we liked the actors, which is usually the reason for renting movies we had never heard of. “A Single Man” starring Colin Firth and Julianne Moore is a love story, but not the kind we envisioned. In the movie. Firth plays a gay man in the 1960’s who early in the movie loses his live-in soul mate of 16 years to an auto accident. Let me repeat they had a monogamous relationship for 16 years. Firth’s character finds out about the death when the brother of his lover calls him to tell him of the death. He calls quietly after hours against the wishes of his lover’s parents, who forbid him from attending the funeral. I recognize this movie is set in the 1960’s, but this still happens today.

Second, I happened to be in downtown hotel in NC the day after the passage of Amendment One noted above. I was reading the paper and overheard a lesbian woman and gay man chatting. It was then I noticed a national LGBT gathering was occurring at this hotel and they arranged it in NC I presume to advocate against this amendment. The gay man noted his mother had called him to offer her condolences for the amendment being passed. The lesbian woman noted that her mother would not ever do that and her mother had never come to grips with her daughter’s sexual orientation. This made me sad for her and her mom. This is your daughter, your child. Nothing in my bible would ever say do not love your children. If it did, then it is a religion not worth having. If I was in a church and a minister said something like that I would walk out. Maybe that is what we need people to do more of. I think people are voting with their feet by not attending already. Organized religion is on the decline due to its exclusivity and lack of tolerance in some houses of worship. As noted in an earlier post, when religion is inclusive, it is a wondrous welcoming experience. When it is not, it can be debilitating.

The mom story touched me greatly. My mom is one of the finest people I know, but she is very conservative in her religious views and listens to her minister. When the President was able to get Congress to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, my mom echoed the church’s party line on this. After hearing her out, I simply said “Mom, it is discriminatory to let this policy continue.” She heard the conviction in my voice and she agreed. When this issue comes up in conversation, be polite and speak plainly and say “it is discriminatory” to deny the LGBT community the same rights as others. History is waiting on us.

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