Growing up with marriage (in)equality

It’s not often I take long walks into my past. That’s not because I have a dark past. I like to think I was a very lucky kid. Yea, I got picked on and bullied in Elementary School. But who didn’t? You got picked on for being overweight, too tall, too nerdy, too socially awkward, too feminine (for guys), too masculine (for girls). It seemed there was always *something* bullies could pick to beat you over the head with. But this isn’t about that. I guess I just find myself so busy these days trying to balance school, work, volunteer work and a wonderful relationship that I don’t reminisce very often anymore. I don’t know if other people do very often, but I assume they do. We all like to think back at what has been and compare it to what it has become. Well lately, I’ve been thinking about the past a lot more. Most of my close friends know my past. I’ve never been one to hide anything about myself. I figure we all have equal moments of genius and stupidity in our lives. We all have our gold stars and blemishes on our life report card. What spurred me to think about my past wasn’t any blemishes, or even successes, so much as a realization of just how much my life has changed in so many positive ways that I couldn’t have possibly imagined when I was a short, emotional, naive young boy. But the reality is that my life could change a lot more depending on what happens in this state on November 6. No, I won’t be rushing out to get married right away; and I’m not sure when that day will come… I haven’t quite thought that far ahead to be honest. But the possibility of being able to legally marry someone I truly, deeply love is something I never dreamed of.

As children often do, I dreamed a lot. Perhaps I dreamed more than the average person my age, I don’t know. I was the “artistic one”. So maybe that had something to do with my wild imagination. Instead of playing sports, I would often sit down at the dinner table and sketch my little heart out. I won’t lie, I was pretty good at it. I envisioned a future as an artist… Or at least some sort of famous entertainer. We all did right? I’d imagine my drawings hanging in an art exhibit and how everyone would just rant and rave about the work their eyes were feasting upon. Even when I played, I’d dream I was in a different universe. My dinosaur toys were alive. The pillows were mountains. The extension cords were river and moats. The rocks I carried around were boulders. I don’t consider much of this out of the ordinary per se. A lot of kids joined me in my games. And we all used to believe we were little Da Vinci’s running around waiting for our talent to be unleashed on the world. But there was something a little out of place (more on that later).

I didn’t stop dreaming beyond my Pre-teen years. We often get crushed by the weight of reality and social pressure when we enter junior high. It’s all science and math and reading boring novels that you’re not sure why they’re called “classics”. We stop hearing that “reach for the stars” refrain and start hearing that certain people need to be flipping burgers at McDonalds and you don’t want to be them so make sure to finish that Algebra assignment. I resisted, as teenagers sometimes do. I took up writing. Drawing and painting fell on the back burner a bit. I still enjoyed them, but I found myself enthralled with screenplays. You see, when I was young I became a movie geek. I’m not sure if it was the cheesy 50’s B Scifi films like “Praying Mantis” or “Attack of the Killer Leaches” that reeled me in to this fantastic world, or if it was the classics of cinema like “Frankenstein” or “Casablanca”. Either way, I was enchanted. I couldn’t get enough. And so, the logical thing to do was to dream of being a screen writer. I didn’t want to direct. Directing was for people who wanted control. I didn’t want control. I wanted unbridled creativity. I would write away, for years and years, every day. I could write as much as 30-40 pages in one 3 hour sitting, or as little as one sentence in an entire day. Anyone who’s ever written more than a paper for school knows that the writing process can often be rewarding and immensely frustrating all at once. I dreamed that all this work, all these words, would someday make it on screen as images for the masses to watch as they grabbed a handful of popcorn. I would sit in the theater with them and see the joy on their faces. This was my creation, bringing a smile to people’s face for two hours.

That brings us to my reminiscing (I told you we’d be coming to it later didn’t I?). I bumped into a big box of my screenplays when I moved. I hadn’t looked at them in probably two or more years. There was so much paper. Enough to fill a U-Haul box in fact. I started to pour over them. I didn’t even remember what a lot of them were about. Some were horror, some were action, some were drama… all the genres were there except romantic dramas and comedies. As I read more and more, I noticed something. I noticed that ever single one of my main characters was alone. Every. Single. One. They were usually men, because as they say, you write what you know. But what struck me wasn’t their gender, it was that they didn’t have a wife, a husband, a boyfriend or a girlfriend. None of them. Most of them didn’t even have a romantic interest in the story. I kept getting stuck on this as I read them. I thought, “Every movie has a love story”. But none of mine did. This bugged me. I couldn’t put my finger on why all my characters were alone. i kept thinking, “If art is a window into someone’s soul, what does this window say about mine?” Then I realized something… the thing that was different in my childhood that led to me to write about lonely, isolated characters: I only knew being alone, and I never dreamed of being anything other than alone. I never dreamed of grand weddings and love and commitment. It all seemed so foreign to me.

In our society, we often hear young girls (especially) talk about how they’ve always dreamed of the moment when they would meet their Prince Charming; about how they’ve always dreamed of a white flowing dress in a stained glass Cathedral; about how their family would be sitting in the pews, smiles and tears of joy running down their face; about how in that moment where they and their Prince say I do, everything would be so perfect. I never got that experience. Many in my community never got that experience. We couldn’t dream of finding “the one”. We couldn’t dream of an opulent wedding with close family and friends. We couldn’t dream of love and commitment; not like everyone else. I certainly couldn’t. I guess I was writing what I knew; living a life in isolation, cut off from a part of me that I wanted to escape but couldn’t.

I tell you this not because I feel as though I still cannot dream about these things, but because I *can*. The chance to see the state of my birth become the next state where the people like me could have the freedom to marry the person they love is making it easier for me to dream. Who will be at my wedding? What song will be playing as I walk down the aisle? What will I be wearing? Will it take place in a grand cathedral? Will my heart flutter and my stomach get butterflies when I see him in that suit? Will I have to hold back the tears as I read my vows? As we both say I do, will everything seem so perfect?

I hope that I’ll be able to give you an answer to all of these questions some day. But until then, please remember that marriage inequality doesn’t just hurt and scar those of us who made our journey into adulthood. It hurts and scars all of us. It cuts across ages, genders, social class and racial boundaries. It tells people like me, since I was young, that I should reach for the stars… just not the ones too high up. I don’t know about you, but thats not a dream I want to live in.

I’ll show you what hate looks like…

There’s been a lot of ink spilled on the recent shooting that occurred at the Family Research Center compound. I won’t go into the specific details of the incident, but if you want to know more, click here. Suffice to say, before anyone knew anything about the shooter or his motivations, Tony Perkins of FRC got his Outrage-O-Meter to go into the red. He immediately blamed Southern Poverty Law Center, a group that tracks right wing hate groups around the country, for the shooting; saying SPLC had given Corker a “license to kill” for having officially labeled FRC a hate group about two years ago. I urge you to read SPLC’s reply to this charge.

Suffice to say, now the double speak has started coming from more places than just the usual anti-gay groups. We need look no further than the likes of Dana Milibank in his WaPo column two days ago. He sides with FRC and National Organization for Marriage as saying that the hate group label used by SPLC is unwarranted because they’re a “mainstream Christian advocacy” group and shouldn’t be included in the same label as the KKK or Aryan Nations. I beg to differ. The hate group label is the only label that makes sense for a group like FRC.

Dana of course, is coming at this from a heterosexual perspective, so we couldn’t possibly ask him to *personally* understand what it feels like when “mainstream” Christian Advocacy groups say that pedophilia is a “homosexual problem” and that our goal as a community is to “abolish all age of consent laws and to eventually recognize pedophiles as the ‘prophets’ of a new sexual order”. Or to know what it feels like when Pastors affiliated with these groups say gays “worthy of death”. Or to have one of these groups compare your relationship to fucking a horse. Or to have this same group compare you to a terrorist. Or when of these groups says you’re being “held captive” by Satan. Or when that same group suggests that “banning Homosexuality” should be taken into consideration. Or having that group endorse Conversion Therapy to “change” gays and lesbians to “normal” people. Or to have that same group endorse false research saying gays are a “public health threat“. I could go on, but at this point…. I don’t think there would be any point.

Now, I’ve linked to enumerable posts and articles and blogs showing you just what FRC and NOM think about us (more here and here). They’ve been saying these things about the LGBT community for years (if not decades). And since Dana seems to assume that in order to be labeling a group a “hate group”, that group must be out dragging gays behind trucks and firebombing LGBT Centers, let’s talk about what these kind of lies do to our community:

– The LGBT Community is 2 times more likely than any other group in the country to be a victim of a hate crime (source).

-LGBT Youth make up 5-10% of the general youth population, but 20-40% of homeless youth. Of those LGBT youth, 58% have been sexually abused compared to 33% of the heterosexual homeless youth (source).

-9 out of 10 LGBT Youth have experienced bullying at school; with almost 2/3 of those surveyed saying they feel/have felt unsafe in school due to their sexual orientation (source).

-Suicide is one of the leading causes of death of LGBT youth (source).

-The LGBT community is at higher risk for alcohol and drug abuse than the general population (source).

There are so many other soul crushing statistics one could link to, but the point of it is this: Anyone who thinks that the lies that groups like FRC spread *don’t* contribute to a climate in which there is an epidemic of bullying of LGBT youth, in which hate crimes against LGBT individuals are more likely than any other group and in which, due to the social isolation so many people in our community feel, LGBT individuals turn to drugs and alcohol more than others, is living in a fantasy world.

There’s this old cliche everyone knows, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me”. It’s bullshit. I think more and more people are coming to know it’s bullshit. Words can hurt. Words can leave mental scars deeper than any physical wound. And unlike a cut, a scrape or a bruise; the wounds you build up from those hurtful words can take years to recover from if ever. There’s no band-aid you can put on these scars. There’s no neosporin you can rub on to make the pain stop. It lives with you. That’s what these lies do. They create a place of fear, disdain and hatred. They create an atmosphere in which at one point in life someone like me thought the only way out was to not live anymore; and many more children will end up feeling the same way. They create an atmosphere where it’s acceptable for parents to disown their children for the “crime” of being who they are. They create an atmosphere where people undergo years of mental and physical torture in the misguided hope they can “change” who they are. They create an atmosphere where holding hands with your lover in the wrong area, or in front of the wrong person, can lead to a horrifying assault or even death.

We’ve lived under this cloud our whole lives. We know it better than Dana ever could. We know that even the simplest task, as a gay man, a trans* person, a lesbian woman or bisexual, can be life threatening. We know that our families and our relationships are treated as second class in too many corners of this earth. We’ve had friends get beaten and abused, try to kill themselves, get addicted to drugs, have their families throw them out on the streets…. all because of lies from the likes of FRC. This hate speech isn’t abstract to any of us; it never has been.

I challenge Dana to look at these facts, to read all the stories, to go down to an LGBT Center near him and talk to people in our community, and still say that these groups aren’t hate groups. I challenge him to look at us, in all our humanity, and tell us what we’ve faced and are still facing in our community, isn’t hate.

The unending campaign against the LGBT Community

In a great article over The American Independent, Andry Birkey has a story up about a new religious right campaign under way in several states that would make it illegal for local Governments to enact anti-discrimination legislation that differs from the State laws. Th intent is obvious:

The Human Rights Campaign estimates that more than 160 communities have enacted comprehensive anti-discrimination laws, and dozens more have enacted incomplete ordinances that leave out the transgender community or that only provide limited protections.

But under proposals by Republicans in several states, such ordinances in Lawrence, Kans., Missoula, Mont., and Kalamazoo, Mich., would be illegal.

Bills in Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, and Michigan would bar local governments from enacting laws that prevent discrimination against any group not already covered by that state’s own nondiscrimination laws. Montana’s House passed a similar bill last year, but it died in the Senate.

The article goes on to note what occurred in both Tennessee and Montana; with the former passing just such a law in response to the Government of Nashville adding sexual orientation under the anti-discrimination umbrella and the latter trying to pass a similar bill and failing (because the anti-gay animus of the bill was out in the open when people like Himes testified in favor).

As you’ll notice when you read the article, almost of all this assault against the LGBT community is cloaked in the language of “religious freedom”. The Bill in Kansas carries the Orwellian title of the “Kansas Preservation of Religious Freedom Act” and one of the primary coalitions backing the bill, the Kansas Catholic Conference, has this to say about it:

“We believe that HB 2260 is necessary as a bulwark against an alarming development in the interpretation and application of the First Amendment,” the group wrote. “Increasingly, freedom of religion is being reduced and confined to little more than the freedom to worship in a private setting. Religious institutions should also be allowed to operate with integrity, and to pursue their ministries, without undue burdens being placed upon them by government. Opponents of a state religious freedom law have been busy making the inaccurate claim that it would legalize discrimination. To the contrary, a state religious freedom law would help prevent discrimination, namely government-sanctioned discrimination against people of faith.”

In Michigan, where Republicans are working to Amend the Elliot-Larson Civil Rights Act to ensure no more groups are added to the anti-discrimination laws on the books, we find a similar thread:

He said it protects religious groups from the “discrimination and persecution they’ve regularly suffered under so-called ‘gay rights’ laws such as passed in a handful of Michigan cities.”

The only thing any of these “Christians” have suffered of course, is having to do business with people in the LGBT community. That’s it. No one is forcing them to believe anything. No one is forcing their Churches to change their stance or practices. The only thing they’re being “forced” to do is allow members of the LGBT community an equal chance at having a decent life by not turning them away for an employment opportunity or a place to live solely on basis of their sexual orientation. But to these “Christians” that’s an assault on their beliefs. Which perfectly illustrates just how warped some strains of Christianity have truly become. They presume that freedom of conscience means that they have the freedom to impose their conscience on the rest of us. And not only that, they’ve taken a religious tradition that, at its core, is about love and forgiveness and warped it into an ideology of hate and exclusivity. I assume in their version of the Bible, Jesus tells to the tax collectors and sinners to go to hell when they ask for help.

But it’s not just the warped religious sensibility that’s a little shocking; it’s how utterly out of touch with business culture these champions of the “free market” are. More and more, we’re seeing major businesses step forward and support equal rights for all. Here in Washington, we saw Amazon, Starbucks, Microsoft, Nike, etc. come forward and announce their support for marriage equality. More than 85% of the companies in the Fortune 500 have anti-discrimination policies that include sexual orientation (unfortunately, far fewer have policies that include gender identity). That’s because these companies understand something that the religious right doesn’t seem to: Diversity pays. It’s not just a matter of the LGBT having disposable income that they prefer to spend at places that are LGBT owned or friendly; it’s the difference in perspective and ideas that different sub cultures bring to the table. It’s the vibrant communities that attract tourists from all over the globe for major cultural events and festivals. It’s the flourishing real estate markets that are open to all who can afford to live there. Major companies understand this more and more in today’s world. They understand that we’ve never been a monolithic country and that we are competing in a national and global market that draws from people with all sorts of different backgrounds, identities, cultures, etc. In short, they’re forward thinking. Unfortunately, so many of our Governments are still stacked with (or influenced by) people who still have a dark ages mentality that if enacted, will bring untold suffering and pain and hold this country back in numerous ways.

What does the Bible say about Homosexuality?: Sodom and Gomorrah

I’m doing something a little different today. Instead of doing blogging on current news involving gay rights; I’ve decided to take a little detour to dive deeper into a topic that often gets brought up in debates about homosexuality and gay rights: The Bible.

In literally every debate over gay rights I’ve had there’s something I always expect: That those opposed to gay rights will use the Bible in some way or another to argue that being gay (or doing any sort of “gay” activity) is wrong. As sure as the sun rises and sets every day; someone will quote or bring up the Bible to tell you being gay is an abomination. It’s just a given. On a personal level, I could care less what the Bible says. Even though I used to be an ardent Christian as a child, I’m not a Christian now and therefore don’t really see much of a point in getting too bent out of shape over what an over 2000 year old book says about who I am. But a part of me realizes something else: That I have to care what it says to some extent. Hundreds of millions of people believe that this book is the word of an infallible God and thus every word is literal truth. And these hundreds of millions of people also happen to be very active politically and culturally; shaping the laws we have to follow on a daily basis, shaping the way we view the world and even how we speak when we talk about these issues. The Bible has been such a dominant source of inspiration in Western society that it would be almost impossible to ignore it.

But the one thing you’ll notice is that one story gets used more often than others when it comes to anti-gay forces doing some serious cherry picking: Sodom and Gomorrah. Sure, people quote Leviticus and Romans like there’s no tomorrow if they want to leave some pithy comment, but it almost always falls back to Sodom and Gomorrah. It’s played such a gigantic role in how people view homosexuality that for centuries (and even now in many places) gays were referred to as Sodomites. As such, I think it’s appropriate that we look at just what the Bible says about Sodom and Gomorrah (and what it doesn’t), and see whether or not the popular interpretation of the story which says that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by God for homosexuality actually holds up under close scrutiny.

It all starts with Genesis 13:13* after Lot moves to the Jordan Valley. We are told:

Now the men of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the LORD.

It doesn’t get any clearer from there. God speaks again in Genesis 18 again and instead of lying out precisely what is going on in these cities, God simply says that their sin is “very grave.”:

Then the LORD said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomor’rah is great and their sin is very grave, I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry which has come to me; and if not, I will know.” (Genesis 18:20-21).

God never says what the outcry against these two cities is in any verses that God speaks of the two cities. But Abraham comically heckles with God; getting a promise that God won’t kill any righteous people in the town if they can be found. God agrees in the end and says, “For the sake of ten I will not destroy it.” (Genesis 18:32).

In the next chapter (Genesis 19) God sends two angels to Sodom to survey the immorality taking place. Lot invites the angels to stay with him, which they initially decline (saying they will sleep in the streets); but he insists and the two angels come with him. Before they can even begin to sleep however, the men of Sodom come to Lots home with a little request:

Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them. (Genesis 19:5)

The word “know” here is a pretty straightforward euphemism; as Michael Coogan in the fantastic book “God and Sex” demonstrates. It means the men of Sodom wanted to rape the two angels. But wait, there’s more! Rather than allow the men of Sodom to rape the guests he invited to stay in his home, Lot offers them his two daughters to be raped (WTF right?!):

“I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly.
Behold, I have two daughters who have not known man; let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please; only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof.” (Genesis 19:7-8)

Thankfully (for the daughters especially), the angels end up blinding the men at the door as they try to push their way past Lot to get their hands on the two divine messengers. Lot and his family are saved before God lays waste to the city (although his poor nameless wife doesn’t make it). The implication is that Lot was saved because he was hospitable and welcoming to strangers; in contrast to the men of Sodom at his door requesting to “know” the angels. So what were the sins of Sodom? It doesn’t explicitly say what any of their sins are, but many take the above passage in which the men ask to know the angels to mean that their sin was homosexuality. Is this the correct interpretation? Let’s first look at early interpretations of this story in Biblical and Biblically related sources to see if there’s any precedent for this interpretation.

The earliest interpretation of the events at Sodom and Gomorrah comes to us in the first century Jewish “Apocrypha” work known as The Wisdom of Solomon. In Chapter 19, the anonymous author goes on to say this about the people God killed there:

The punishments did not come upon the sinners without prior signs in the violence of thunder, for they justly suffered because of their wicked acts; for they practiced a more bitter hatred of strangers.
Others had refused to receive strangers when they came to them. (Wisdom 19:13-14)

The interpretation here is clear: The men of Sodom were killed because they were hostile to strangers. Given that, it would be safe to say that many in the Christian/Jewish communities of the time interpreted it vastly different than we do now. But are there other places in the Bible that perhaps reference homosexuality (in some way or another) as a sin of Sodom?

We move from the Wisdom of Solomon to Jesus himself. The Gospel According to Luke is said to have been written around the first century, so this puts it around the same time period as Wisdom of Solomon. In Chapter 10 Jesus is giving instructions to his disciples on how they should act as they go on their mission to spread the word:

Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you;
heal the sick in it and say to them, `The kingdom of God has come near to you.’
But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say,
`Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off against you; nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’
I tell you, it shall be more tolerable on that day for Sodom than for that town. (Luke 10:8-12).

This verse may not be as clear cut as the Wisdom of Solomon, but the implications of what Jesus is saying are: He links the sin of in-hospitality to and hostility of strangers directly to the destruction of Sodom. But is this Sodom’s only sin? Surely there has to be something in the Bible that makes people think the sin of Sodom was homosexuality. According to the sixth century Prophet Ezekiel as he addressed Jerusalem, the sin of Sodom was as such:

This was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty, and did abominable things before me; therefore I removed them when I saw it. (Ezekiel 16:49-50)

 

This theme of God punishing those who do not help the poor and marginalized is quite possibly one of the most consistent themes in the Bible. Ezekiel sees their key sin as having not sufficiently provided help to those most in need. We find this same interpretation at play in the Gospel of Isaiah. Isaiah lived during the eighth century in the Kingdom of Judah. In the Gospel of Isaiah, he addresses his audience in Jerusalem and compares their sins directly with those of Sodom (similar sentiment is found in Jeremiah 23):

Hear the word of the Lord,
you rulers of Sodom!
Listen to the teaching of our God,
you people of Gomorrah!….

Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
remove the evil of your doings
from before my eyes;
cease to do evil,
learn to do good;
seek justice,
rescue the oppressed,
defend the orphan,
plead for the widow. (Isaiah 1: 10, 16-17)

There is no reference to “sexual immorality” in this verse. Instead we see Isaiah stress the sins of not standing up for the oppressed, poor and marginalized in society. This was their sin he says. But there is one other key text that we have yet to look at which perhaps answers the question of why the interpretation of the story of Sodom and Gomorrah seems to have evolved so much over time from what we find in other texts. We find this in the Epistle of Jude. The short letter is often attributed to the brother of James the Just, who was the first Bishop of Jerusalem. In the letter, Jude addresses the Churches of early Christendom and says this to them about Sodom:

 Now I desire to remind you, though you are fully informed, that the Lord, who once for all saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterwards destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not keep their own position, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains in deepest darkness for the judgment of the great day. Likewise, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which, in the same manner as they, indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural lust, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire. (Jude 5-7)

This could very well be a reference to homosexuality, but there is a far more plausible explanation that rarely gets explored in Conservative or Evangelical circles. Follow me for a moment. In Genesis 6:1-4, we are told the story of angels who come down from the heavens and have sex with women (also recounted in more detailed form in 1 Enoch 6-10). This was said to “change the order of nature” (Testament of Naphtali 3-4). So could it be that the sin was trying to “know” divine flesh as a human being? It’s certainly a plausible interpretation (and as we’ve seen, one that at least a few Jewish/Christian authors seemed to have adhered to), although it would require that the men of Sodom knew the visitors were angels. Either way, it’s a safe bet to say that all of the interpretations of Sodom and Gomorrah that we find in the Bible take a very different view of the story than what we hear today,

We find no explicit mention about homosexuality in any of these texts. Not to mention, the fact that the men of Sodom were being offered up Lots daughters to be raped would at the very least imply that Lot certainly didn’t think of these men as having primarily engaged in homosexual behavior. Which brings us to another point in the crossroad; is this story appropriate as a morality tale in any way, shape or form? Even from a literal sense the answer should be no. So, according to Evangelical/Conservative thought; God saw gay rape as wicked but not hetero rape? I doubt many of us in this universe of ours would claim someone as “holy” who offers his own children up for rape. Thus, not only do we find the Evangelical interpretation scripturally lacking, but we find it lacking in clear moral values.

*(Here I use the New Revised Standard Version of The Bible. I use it for three reasons. First off, it is one of the more accessible translations. The scholars who worked on it did away with the archaism (thee, thou, etc.) we find in the King James Version. Secondly, it was written after things like the Dead Sea Scrolls became available to scholars and Biblical scholarship had advanced well beyond what it was in earlier years. And lastly, while it is not a perfect translation; it is by far one of the most accurate in how it translates the original text.)

A little education: Mormon Edition

Over at the Slog today, Dan Savage received a letter from a self professed Mormon. Read the whole thing. While I applaud the emailer for supporting LGBT equality personally, I find it slightly ridiculous that they don’t know the official Church teachings of their own faith on homosexuality.

It’s useful first, to understand just what the book of Mormon says about homosexuality, so we can understand their position in that context. In the book of Alma (39:5), it states that sexual transgressions are a heinous sin second only to the shedding of innocent blood. And the LDS translation of the ever popularly used Leviticus 18:22 even has a subsequent verse (18:23) which indirectly links homosexuality with beastiality. Furthermore, according to the Doctrine of the Covenants, one can only reach the Celestial kingdom if they are engaged in the “sacred bonds of marriage” (of course we know they mean this only in the context of heterosexual marriage).

This teaching is unfortunately what we would expect to find in any religious text that claims itself as a continuation of Judeo-Christian thought. But how did the early Church handle homosexuality? We need look no further than Michael D. Quinn, whose 1996 book Same-Sex Dynamics Among Nineteenth Century Americans: a Mormon Example, sheds light on this very issue. According to Quinn, one of the first (and few) publicly known cases of the Early Church dealing with sexuality falling outside hetero normative assumptions involved John C. Bennett. He was a relatively high ranking member of the early Church. But he was soon caught committing adultery and was accused of homosexuality in conjunction. He initially repented, but the behavior and rumors of his behavior continued and so he was excommunicated, cast out of the Church and stripped of public office. We don’t find much in the way of official church dealings, teachings or literature until we reach the mid 20th Century; and that’s when things start to look very ugly.

In the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, we see the Church responding more forcefully, and thus can say much more about their teachings. During this time period, the Church President was David A. McKay. And according to the book, Spencer W. Kimball: Twelfth President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the official reaction to a spate of gay men being arrested in Idaho and Utah was to push for more literature and teachings that promised that “homosexuality can be cured.” This was of course (and unfortunately) in line with mainstream psychiatric thought which at the time deemed homosexuality an illness. But nonetheless, the response from Church leaders is revealing as it speaks to a campaign the waged well beyond when most of the psychiatric community had shifted away from the antiquated and scientifically wrong assumptions they had made earlier (more on that later). This effort, first by McKay then by Kimball, led to the creation of a pamphlet produced in 1970 titled Hope for Transgressors. According to the pamphlet, Church leaders should assist “homosexual transgressors” by reciting verses, appealing to reason and encouraging them to disassociate themselves from gay lovers, acquaintances, etc.

Not but 5 years after the publication of this manual, Boyd K. Packer, President of the Twelve Apostles (a position he still holds) made a speech titled To Young Men Only in which he stated this:

There is a falsehood that some are born with an attraction to their own kind, with nothing they can do about it. They are just “that way” and can only yield to those desires. That is a malicious and destructive lie. While it is a convincing idea to some, it is of the devil. No one is locked into that kind of life. From our premortal life we were directed into a physical body. There is no mismatching of bodies and spirits. Boys are to become men –masculine, manly men –ultimately to become husbands and fathers. No one is predestined to a perverted use of these powers.

As the LGBT community well knows, the first shift in the scientific and psychiatric community came in the APA’s official shift on homosexuality in 1973; when they removed it as an “illness.” This is a moment that many in the anti-gay crowd, like pseudo-psychologist Paul Cameron, lament. And it would seem that much like anti-gay quacks of Cameron’s ilk who refuse to see the evidence in front of them, so too does the LDS Church.

In 1992, the Church published an official pamphlet meant to help leadership deal with those who have “homosexual problems” (pamphlets wording). This was done in response to the World Health Organization finally removing homosexuality from its list of diseases and disorders. The pamphlet is titled Understanding and Helping Those With Homosexual Problems. The language of the pamphlet makes clear that despite the fact that all evidence points to sexual orientation not being a conscious decision and not being something that can be “cured,” that the LDS Church believed that one could “overcome homosexuality”. A choice passage reads like this:

No general agreement exists about the causes of such problems. It is important for you as a Church leader to help members understand that regardless of the causes, these problems can be controlled and eventually overcome. Members can be helped to gain self-mastery, adhere to gospel standards of sexual purity and develop meaningful, appropriate relationships with members of both sexes.

The next section after this very quote is entitled “Helping Members Overcome Homosexual Problems”. In that section, they advise that in order for “change” to occur, the person coming to the leader for guidance must “understand the seriousness of the transgression” and be sincere in their beliefs that they can change their ways.

Since then, the Church has made an effort to tone down some of the earlier rhetoric and has stated, more than once, that they don’t concern themselves with the “debate” of whether homosexuality is innate or not. While they may “not concern themselves” with this, it’s quite clear that none of the previous teachings have been overturned. Notwithstanding the fact that there is evidence that some gays and lesbians in the Church have on occasion been subjected to horrifying conversion therapy that included electroshock to the privates and thus its plainly clear that they still believe the same things they were saying four decades ago; The Church still teaches that homosexuality can be “overcome” and that gays and lesbians should either remain celibate or be engaged in a heterosexual marriage. In an interview in 2007, Dallin Oaks and Lance Wickman laid bare the fact that the Churches position, despite some leaders saying they’re more “open” and “welcoming”, has yet to change in any measurable way. They compare homosexuality to alcoholism and violent tendencies, suggesting that one cannot only control their behavior and feelings, but work to “change” themselves to overcome it.

They of course claim that their treatment of the LGBT members of their congregation is no different than how they treat heterosexuals who engage in “sexual transgressions”. This is a lie in reality. Not only does the Handbook prescribe potentially harsher punishment for potential missionaries (they can be barred from going on a mission for gay or lesbian relations), but since the Church takes the position that heterosexual marriage is the only union that is pure; they’re asking LGBT congregants to either suppress a core part of their being (or worse, try and fail to change it) or force themselves into relationships that aren’t natural to them and this inflict untold misery not just on them but on the family they try to build.

It’s no wonder then, that despite the fact that the Church tries to say its open and welcoming to all, that many of those who are LGBT feel rejected by the Church. They ARE rejected by the Church. That’s the simple truth of it. It’s not just true in terms of their thinking and teaching, their actions are evidence as well. While they support common sense anti-discrimination laws now (they didn’t back in the days of ERA), they’ve been engaged in a stealth campaign against gay marriage dating all the way back to Hawaii in ’93 when the Supreme Court ruled that discrimination against gays and lesbians in issuing marriage licenses was unconstitutional. The LDS contributed to an organizational effort that ended up succeeding in overturning the ruling via a Bill that outlawed marriage equality. In 2004, the Church hierarchy officially endorsed an Amendment to the US Constitution that would define marriage as between one man and one woman. And of course in 2008, they helped orchestrate and fund the Prop 8 campaign that overturned marriage equality in California. Thus, Prop 8 wasn’t some outlier. The Church has made it well known where they stand, both in relation to their views on homosexuality in general and how that translates into how they think gays and lesbians should be force to live.

“If we let them have rights, who’s next?!”

Sometimes I find myself completely speechless at the stupidity on parade in the anti-gay camp. It’s not that I’m shocked that it’s being said; we’ve all heard this rhetoric a million times over. It’s that I simply cannot wrap my brain around how anyone could say some of the stuff I’ve heard over the years with a straight force (or worse yet… actually believing it).

Enter Tanya Ditty. She’s the Georgia State Director for the anti-gay Concerned Women for America. Just a few days ago, she was testifying in front of the House Judiciary Subcommittee in Georgia for a bill that would expand state employment protections to include sexual orientation when she said this:

DITTY: There are 23 sexual orientations that fit under this definition and if this bill became law, then what we would be protecting for public employees is not only heterosexuality, bisexuality, pedophilia, transsexuality, transvestitism, I’m not going to read them all. Voyeurism, exhibitionism, feetism, zoophilia, necrophilia, klismaphilia and the list goes on. I teach in the public school system and I wonder if this would impact the public school system. And we have parents who bring their kids to school everyday and expect the school to protect them. And what’s going to protect our children if someone that is a pedophiliac comes in and gets a teaching job, is a bus driver, is a custodian, and they can be people that just want to prey on people and they will be protected with this law.

Apparently, the Concerned Women for America spend their time concerned about things that can’t happen and only exist in the Fundy LaLa land they’ve made for themselves in the empty space where their brain should be. Notwithstanding the fact that things like “feetism” (WTF?), klismaphilia, voyeurism, exhibitionism, etc. are NOT sexual orientations; a school can’t hire Pedophile because child molestation is a federal crime and sex offenders aren’t even allowed to live within a 1000 feet of a school, much less allowed to work there. But that didn’t stop her from trotting out this bald faced lie and once again pulling the old trick of trying to conflate homosexuality with pedophilia.

And what’s worse? The Committee tabled the bill. I doubt it was wholly due to Ditty’s asinine testimony, but when it comes to trying to uphold a system that oppresses an entire class of people it would seem fear mongering from the CWA never hurt.

Ken Hutcherson goes crazy…. Again….

In a Q&A over at the Antioch Bible Church website, Hutcherson, one of the most vocal opponents of Marriage Equality in the state of Washington, goes off the deep end (do we expect any less). We’re sadly used to the opposition brining up ridiculous arguments against Marriage Equality by trotting out slippery slope fallacies that it will lead to legalization of polygamy; but this has to be the first time I’ve seen ANYONE claim this:

Q: Where do Washington state Muslims and Mormons stand on “one man, one woman?”

A: They are on opposite ends of the spectrum.  Mormons are against anything except one man/one woman.  Muslims have come out in favor of same sex marriage, so they can usher in Sharia Law which allows polygamy.

That’s right, the Radical Islamic agenda rears it ugly head again! It’s a fixture of Evangelical Conservatism to see Muslim radicals hiding in your Cheerios in the morning, but this takes that a step further; especially considering the fact that many Conservatives have used their support for regime change in a country like Iran (which is very anti-gay) as an example of how they’re actually in favor of gay rights.

As usual, the key part of the Q&A however is the continued insistence that Marriage equality would threaten religious freedom. This is a complete lie. Churches can choose who they marry now (Ex: A Catholic church can choose not to marry a couple if one of them is not a Catholic) and that won’t change when (hopefully) this bill becomes law; and since Churches are not private businesses subject to anti-discrimination laws the canard about them getting into legal trouble for not hiring gay members of the congregation is complete crap. I don’t doubt that Hutcherson might actually believe this given his track record of insane statements; but we cannot allow our opponents to spread these ridiculous falsehoods anymore than they already have.