The Case Against 8 – Excellent documentary on fight for same-sex marriage

The train for the right to same-sex marriages in the United States has left the station and is building steam. Currently, 19 states permit same-sex marriage, with nine others in litigation over the constitutionality banning such marriages.* But, the action that caused the train to start moving was the court case in California to overturn Proposition 8 for its unconstitutionality, which made its way to the US Supreme Court. There is an excellent documentary called “The Case Against 8” which is now airing on HBO.**

“The Case Against 8” is well worth the watch as it is a fascinating rendition of how the law works and the gist of the case. The people who represented the vote for Proposition 8 could show no standing that by allowing such marriages any harm was being done to others. Yet, the story is more about three sets of individuals who made this happen.

First, the two couples – Kris Perry/ Sandy Stier and Paul Katami/ Jeff Zarrillo – deserve tremendous credit for being involved in the series of court battles for over four years. They show who the law is designed to help and evidence two very loving couples who have the support of their families and children. To see what this all means from their eyes is powerful

The other couple is the two lead attorneys, whose names I did not know, but who have had a hand in numerous cases involving the US Supreme Court – Ted Olson, a conservative attorney and David Boies, a liberal attorney. Olson took a lot of crap from the right, especially the pundits, when he took this case. But, his rationale is so simple. Marriage between a loving couple, who want to build a family and contribute to the community should be supported by conservatives as well as liberals.

The strength of their combined expertise shows as both said we need to do this the right way from the beginning. We need to do this in a manner such that when the US Supreme Court hears the case, our position is as strong as it possibly can be. What I found of interest from a legal front are three sets of events.

First, during the initial court hearing to try to throw the case out, the judge asked opposing counsel what harm is being done to others and he could not think of an answer. Both Olson and Boies were amazed by this. Second, during depositions for six expert witnesses to testify that same-sex marriages should not be allowed, five of the experts decided to back out of the case, leaving only one expert. Third and most profound, the remaining expert actually conceded during cross-examination that the children would be better off if the couples were married. He later wrote an op-ed piece saying he had been wrong to support Proposition 8.

With the solid case, the US Supreme Court eventually decided 5 to 4 that same-sex marriages could occur in California and that Proposition 8 had no standing, meaning no one could show harm. The two couples were first in line to be married and led the way for many. The nine states in court now should have their same-sex marriage restrictions overturned as unconstitutional, as judges have ruled as such, and they are in the appeal stage. The others will follow suit at some point. The Virginia Attorney General noted he would not defend the law as he deemed it to be unconstitutional. He noted Virginia was on the wrong side of the law in the first interracial marriage case, ironically and importantly named for the plaintiffs – the Loving couple, and he did not want to be on the wrong side of this.

Everyone should watch this documentary. If you are against same-sex marriage, this documentary will challenge your thinking. If you are for same-sex marriage, it will validate why it is important. If you are a gay or lesbian couple, it will make you proud that what you are fighting for is finally making a difference. I would love to read your feedback before or after seeing the movie.

* A current listing of states can be found with the attached link: http://gaymarriage.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=004857

** A link to the HBO film follows: http://www.hrc.org/blog/entry/documentary-on-proposition-8-to-premiere-today-on-hbo

 

Reflections on the week it was – intimidation and bigotry abound

Looking back at a few occurrences over the course of the week, I observed Vladimir Putin is quite good at influencing outcomes and bad behaviors. Even ministers are not immune from his lessons of bigotry. This is a key reason he is unlike other Soviet leaders (word intentionally used) as he is a very skilled, scary and corrupt politician.

Crimea election shows 96% plus favor joining Russia

History has shown when you intimidate voters, the election results will favor your cause. A few weeks before, North Korea voted to continue with Kim Jong Un with 100% of the vote. Something about killing your own Uncle for not bowing low enough or clapping hard enough has a tendency to sway voters. Saddam Hussein used to win elections with 98% of the votes as well. Hussein was not too tolerant of dissent, but was smart enough to allow 2% vote against him to show the world he is fair. I would not want to be in the 2% in Iraq back then or 4% in Crimea this week, as you might not be around much longer..

In Crimea, the native Tartars and pro-Ukrainian voters decided to stay home, since there was evidence of dissenters disappearing and having big “X’s” marked on your door can make you feel unwelcome. Yet, I found an interesting statistic. One district had 124% turnout. That is a turnout any Tammany Hall politician would love. It appears, if you had a Russian passport, you could vote. So, people who are not even citizens of Crimea voted to join Russia. You could have sensed something was amiss when reporters were having their cameras thrown to the ground and independent election officials were not allowed in to verify results.

Two final comments. First, if Crimeans want to join Russia, I understand that, but at least have a fair, democratic, and constitutionally (Ukraine’s not Russia’s) supported vote and not one that looks and smells like it was rigged as this one was. Second, as I said in an earlier post, I would not put it past Putin to send in his own thugs to stir up trouble in a community and then send in troops to provide security. This is an old school strong-arm tactic and I believe it was used in Crimea and is being used in other parts of Ukraine. PBS Newshour corroborated this with their belief last night when they spoke of a seemingly orchestrated set of eleven demonstrations in an Eastern Ukrainian city at the same time. It is too much a part of Putin’s nature to believe he did not puppeteer this outcome in the manner I described.

Franklin Graham applauds Putin for denigrating the LGBT community 

Reverend Graham published an article that said he admired Putin’s stripping away the rights of the LGBT community in Russia. He did not support other things Putin has done, but he took a shot at our President and Attorney General for supporting non-discrimination of gays and lesbians and heralded Putin for discrimination. From the bible I was taught, Jesus was inclusive. In fact we used to sing a bible song, “Red and yellow, black and white, Jesus thinks we are out of sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.” I have searched my memory banks, but cannot recall an exception on whether they were gays or lesbians in the song or in Jesus’ Golden Rule.

I have a very low tolerance for bigotry from the pulpit and have written several posts about my distaste for when ministers misuse the faith the congregation has placed upon them. Per the song from the movie “South Pacific,” you have to very carefully taught to be a bigot. My mantra has been when religion is inclusive it is at its best and when it is exclusive it is at its worst. Let me go one step further. When religion is bigoted, it is wielded as a weapon to divide. I have known many ministers in my day and they are by and large the most wonderful people and give much of themselves. But, just because someone is a minister does not mean they are immune to biases and mistakes. They are imperfect just like everyone else.

What disappoints me about the younger Graham is his father was so admirable in cutting a path of inclusion for all. Using an old phrase, he was a “Big Tent” preacher who wanted everyone to come and hear the word of God. That is the way it should be. Franklin would ask you to complete a survey and if you checked the wrong boxes, you would not  be allowed to enter the tent. He needs to spend some more time with his father and ask for guidance on how to be inclusive.

I will reiterate what I said before. Vladimir Putin is a thug, but a skilled one who uses people’s biases to divide and achieve his purpose. Franklin Graham took the bait and tried to appeal to a base of bigotry that is being cultivated in our country. I am hopeful many will see Putin’s true colors through this process and will not tolerate bigotry from anyone, but especially a religious leader.

A fictional story about an Arizona Retailer

I am so glad Governor Jan Brewer was forced to veto the bill that would have permitted me to discriminate against people who do not share my religious beliefs. As a shopkeeper, I have always tried to serve my customers well. I learned that from my mom and dad when I took over the business when they retired.

You see, I was in a quandary as I try to live every day by the Golden Rule. You know the one where you try to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I always simplify it for my kids and say “treat others like you want to be treated.” Sometimes you have to break it down for people to understand. And, I try to follow my minister’s preaching on every issue asking “What Would Jesus Do?” I even wear one of those WWJD bracelets and get asked often about it.

I was troubled by the bill passed by our Arizona legislature. I did not like the power they were granting me as it runs counter to what I believe – treat others like you want to be treated. Jesus even said to treat “the least of us” as if they were Me.  Now that Governor Brewer responded to pressure from local, regional, national and global businesses as well as our two US Senators McCain and Flake, I can rest easy and serve all people willing to do business with me.

I now don’t have to discriminate and can serve bigots even though they do not have the same religious beliefs that I have. Even bigots need to be treated like we want to be treated. That is what Jesus would want.

Alan Turing – a WWII War Hero Posthumously Pardoned for being Gay

One of the key successes in 2013 has been the movement to advance the civil rights of the LGBT community. While restrictions continue in too many places, the movement is garnering more favor than not. Yet, on Christmas Eve, we were reminded on how far we have come, when Queen Elizabeth signed a pardon for the then criminal behavior of Alan Turing for simply being a gay man. Turing was not an ordinary man, as his efforts helped shorten World War II by two years, in the estimation of more astute historians. He led the efforts to break the Nazi’s Enigma Code working with a team of people at Bletchley Park near Oxford. He saved the lives of countless military and civilian people and helped end the crusade of one of the more vicious villains in history.

Turing committed suicide using Cyanide in 1954 after becoming an angry and depressed man. He was imprisoned and maltreated with his guards giving him estrogen treatment to control his perceived wrongful sexual urges. Historians have termed this “chemical castration.” This brilliant mathematician went on to contribute advancements to computer science and biology on top of his war contributions. Yet, we will never know what other contributions he could have made to society, as he was treated like an animal and, eventually, took his own life. More on Turing’s story can be found with the attached link: http://www.maysville-online.com/news/world/europe/uk-finally-pardons-computer-pioneer-alan-turing/article_7d1b71a7-e131-5123-b623-d369a011bf5b.html

Treating people like you want to be treated is the greatest teaching I gleaned from the bible. It is the right thing to do. When Pope Francis answered a question on homosexuality being a sin, he made the most significant statement of the year – “Who am I to judge?” Yet, we still have too many who do judge acrimoniously and want to exclude people who act and believe differently. These folks deem LGBTs as not worthy to be loved by their god. I used a small “g” with purpose here, as the God I tend to believe in as an inclusive one. A god that excludes people deserves a small “g” because the people who created that image are being small-minded.

Turing was a war hero and was still treated like criminal when he committed no crime. A pardon sixty years later seems to be a far cry shy of what is needed. But, setting that aside, let me offer the same comment I make when I speak of women being treated as second class citizens and possessions around the globe. If you consider people as assets and intellectual capital, by treating them poorly and not giving them opportunity and liberty to live a productive life, then you are short-changing not only them, but society as well. What is interesting is the number of corporations who are realizing this and are leading change as noted in the attached link to an article from this week in Benefits Pro: http://www.benefitspro.com/2013/12/26/corporate-lgbt-policies-drive-social-change?ref=hp

Even if Alan Turing was just a Joe Schmoe, he deserved to be treated better than he was. The fact that he was one of the most brilliant mathematicians who saved many lives and made the world better, but was treated like an animal is a horrible tragedy. It makes me wonder how many other brilliant accomplishments have been squelched out before they ever began because of the infringement on the civil liberties or lives of people who were treated differently due to their sexual orientation, gender, caste level or color of their skin. Treat people like you want to be treated. Jesus’ Golden Rule did not have any caveats. We should not either.

Don’t Laugh at Me

Peter Yarrow, Noel (Paul) Stookey and Mary Travers made famous a song written by Steve Seskin and Allan Shamblin called “Don’t Laugh at Me.” Mark Wills, another artist has also recorded a variation along with Seskin, but it is the context and words that are embodied in Peter, Paul and Mary that makes the song resonate. When you live your lives speaking out for the disenfranchised, this song takes on far greater meaning than with any other artist, even the writers. Here is the entire song, courtesy of Peter, Paul and Mary with due thanks to Steve Seskin and Allan Shamblin. You can give it a listen after the lyrics.

I’m a little boy with glasses, the one they call the geek. A  little girl who never smiles ‘Cause I have got braces on my teeth. And I  know how it feels to cry myself to sleep.

I’m that kid on every playground who’s always chosen last. A single teenage mother tryin’ to overcome my past. You don’t have to be my friend but is it too much to ask?

Don’t laugh at me, don’t call me names. Don’t get your pleasure from my pain. In God’s eyes we’re all the same. Someday we’ll all  have perfect wings, don’t laugh at me.

I’m the beggar on the corner you’ve passed me on the street. And I wouldn’t be out here beggin’ if I had enough to eat. And don’t think I  don’t notice that our eyes never meet.

Don’t laugh at me, don’t call me names. Don’t get your pleasure from my pain. In God’s eyes we’re all the same. Someday we’ll all  have perfect wings, don’t laugh at me.

I’m fat, I’m thin I’m short, I’m tall I’m deaf, I’m  blind Hey, aren’t we all?

Don’t laugh at me, don’t call me names. Don’t get your pleasure from my pain. In God’s eyes we’re all the same. Someday we’ll all  have perfect wings, don’t laugh at me.

Well I’m fat, I’m thin I’m short, I’m tall I’m deaf, I’m blind. In a way we’re all.

I’m black, I’m white. And I am brown. I’m Jewish. I’m  Christian. And I’m a Muslim.

I’m gay. I’m lesbian. I’m American Indian. I’m very, very young. I’m quite aged.

I’m quite well fed. I’m very, very poor.

Don’t laugh at me, don’t call me names. Don’t get your pleasure from my pain. In God’s eyes we’re all the same Someday we’ll all  have perfect wings, don’t laugh at me.

My country ’tis of thee. oh, sweet land of liberty. It is of thee I that I sing.

http://www.sing365.com/music/lyric.nsf/DON’T-LAUGH-AT-ME-lyrics-Peter-Paul-Mary/3A0B58077C50623648256A22002CB23E

We need to stop the bullying of others whether it be physical or mental torment. Whether it is in person or online as cyberbullying. Whether it is in the legislature or in the pulpit. But, especially the latter. One of my greatest pet peeves is bigotry from the pulpit and when bigotry is espoused by a spiritual advisor it is just like bullying. And, per Dan Savage who advises teenagers who are bullied because they are gay or lesbian, it does get better. Yet, it could be better still, as we have too many adults and hate groups (which is the extreme version) who try to divide, exclude and torment. Please heed these words and advocate by voice and example to treat all as we want to be treated.

Don’t laugh at me, don’t call me names. Don’t get your pleasure from my pain. In God’s eyes we’re all the same Someday we’ll all  have perfect wings, don’t laugh at me.

Does Jesus Really Love Me?

On PBS Newshour last night, Jeff Chu was being interviewed about his book called “Does Jesus Really Love Me? – A Gay Christian’s Pilgrimage in Search of God in America.” Chu was raised and remains a devout Baptist, but he did not want to leave the church as it is a key part of what makes him whole. Chu married his male partner, but his mother refused to attend the service and according to an article by the NY Times’ Dan Savage, “cries herself to sleep every night.” So, his book is about his pilgrimage (a fitting word) across America to find out how others feel about his right to be gay.

This was a fitting story to end the week, as two other news items supporting the LGBT populations occurred. The first is Senator Lisa Murkowski, a member of the Republican caucus, announced that she is third GOP senator to support same-sex marriage. The second is the news that Exodus International will be shutting its doors. Alan Chambers, the executive director of Exodus noted that their efforts to convert gays or people with homosexual inclinations into heterosexuals was not successful. He even offered an apology for the pain and anguish they have caused their clientele and families.  Below is a link of an ABC News article on their announcement:

http://abcnews.go.com/US/exodus-international-gay-cure-group-leader-shutting-ministry/story?id=19446752#.UcWO7D_D-M8

Chu noted in his interview that he did not feel comfortable becoming an atheist or agnostic as he loved the Lord and the bible gives him great comfort. His journey was to find out why some people are told to ostracize others who don’t fit in with their understanding of the bible. I have shared the story of overhearing a conversation between two Lesbians last spring when North Carolina voted to reiterate the state position against same-sex marriage. When one asked the other if her family had reached out to console her, she said “my family has disowned me and won’t talk with me.”

I have made these points before, but let me be crystal clear on my feelings about this topic. As a Christian, married father of three, I detest bigotry from the pulpit. Jesus said to treat others like you want to be treated. He made no caveats about whether they were LGBT. He made no caveats about whether they had a different faith, ethnicity or race. He made no caveats if they disagreed with you politically. The bible may be inspired by God, but it was written by men, imperfect men (gender intended). It was not written in English and has been reinterpreted and refined in each of its interpretations. So, men’s biases are flavored into the document. To me the Golden Rule, which appears in variations in other religious texts, trumps everything. Whether you are an Atheist, Jew, Muslim or Christian, if you follow the Golden Rule, we will live in a better place.

The other key point is this is your child. I am not perfect and neither are my children. Yet, I love them no matter what. Your child has a brain and will do things that serve his or her passions and interests. You hope your child will heed your lessons on being a good person and following the Golden Rule. But, if your child chooses to go down a different path than you did or would, that is the choice your child must make. It breaks my heart that Chu’s mother cries herself to sleep and misses the chance to love her child. I hope the two of them can find some common ground based on their love for each other. The same holds true for the young Lesbian (and her parents) I overheard last spring.

Life is too short to hold onto bigotry and hatred. It will eat at you. Recent studies have shown that folks who give more of themselves to others actually live longer. To me there is no question they live a more purposeful life. But, especially with your children, do not let your opinions cause you to lose your love for them. There is still time to make amends. You cannot change past comments or maltreatment. But, for your own sake and the sake of your child, please reach out and find that person again. You will not regret it. What would Jesus do? Jesus would reach out with open arms. That is what it says in the bible.  And, yes Jeff, Jesus does really love you and me too, even with my many faults.