Monday, December 22, 2008
Rev. Warren was very vocal about his endorsement of Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in California, and LGBT rights proponents continue to protest in front of his church (as well they should). Now they feel insulted that their guy, Obama, has made Rick Warren such a public part of our celebration
Now, don't get me wrong. I don't particularly like Rick Warren either. Oh, he's friendly, and he's a good speaker and all, but it's hard for me to like someone who is so opposed to a lot of the things I believe in.
When Prop. 8 made it to the ballot, I came out as bisexual in places where I wouldn't normally be out, and I gently made the argument for gay marriage to people with pretty closed minds. I encouraged people to vote against Prop. 8, and I helped get out the vote. Since the proposition passed, I have signed petitions and written emails (and blogs) against it and continued to speak out about it. I have supported the boycott against businesses that contributed money to the campaign, and I am following the legal challenges to it going through the state court system right now.
I absolutely do not want to invalidate anyone's feelings about Warren and his giving the invocation. He certainly would not be my first choice. Then again, I'm not Barack Obama. I don't have his experience, and I'm not as smart as he is. That's why he's going to be the next President and I'm not.
I was not always an Obama supporter either, but once I threw in with him, I went in with him 100%. I don't agree with his choice of Rev. Warren, but you know what? I'm pretty sure I'm not going to agree with all his choices or actions during the next 4 - 8 years either. I trust the man, though, and realize there must be good reasons behind the decision.
Some of Warren's apologists have tried to say, "Well, he's not that bad, or he also does charity work for AIDS. He says he loves gays even if he doesn't love gay marriage." I myself can't say that he's "not that bad," but he's not the worst, and therein (I think) lies part of the reason Obama picked him.
Unlike Pat Boone, he's not comparing the gay protesters in front of his church with the terrorists in Mumbai (What happened there, Pat? Early senility?). He listens to Melissa Etheridge and was willing to have Obama come speak at his Saddleback Church, despite their differences in opinion about abortion, gay rights, and probably a slew of other things. Warren is willing to give the invocation at a Democratic inauguration, despite the flack he is getting from the conservatives for "going over to the other side."
More importantly, Warren has hundreds of thousands - perhaps millions - of followers and readers all over the world. We already know that many of these people are not traditional Christians, despite their traditional social values. Warren has been asking his followers to focus less on abortion, gay rights and stem cell research, and more on global warming, world poverty, literacy, education, and AIDS and other diseases. He had tried to predispose them to placing a lesser value on some of the things that divide them from us, and more value on the things that unite us.
Does that mean he is worthy of giving the invocation? Not particularly. What it does mean, is that - through him - we now have access to all of his worshipers, and all of the readers of his book, "The Purpose Driven Life." A lot of his American supporters are "Reagan Democrats," or people who used to be Democrats before Reagan charmed the pants off of them. Many of them are not hateful or particularly homophobic; they are ignorant and biased, but not impossibly so.
We need to reach out to those people and bring them back into our fold. How do we do that? Not by yelling or being hateful. We do it by showing them our best side. We demonstrate to them what decent, honorable, normal people we are and what loving families we have. Will it win over everyone? Of course not, but given a little time, it will start winning over many of them. I am convinced of it.
Why else would Obama invite Warren to the party? Well, I think Obama knows just how uncomfortable he makes many Americans. I did phone banking full time during the election for 2 months, and I spoke to some of those people. They bought into John McCain's and Sarah Palin's insinuations that Obama is an unAmerican, Muslim, White-people-hating anarchist, and they bought into it lock, stock and smoking barrel. Choosing Rick Warren will calm them down. They know and like Rick Warren, and will be more inclined to watch the inauguration if he's a part of it, and maybe that will be one of the first steps toward the unification our country so desperately needs.
I know a lot of us worked our asses off for Obama - many people worked much harder than I did. We would all like a big pat on the back and reinforcement that Obama is going to be on our side in the struggle for gay rights. Unfortunately, I don't think we're going to get much more than we've already gotten. Telling us how he feels about gay rights is like preaching to the choir. I believe he is already at work on our behalf softening up Americans who don't know anybody openly gay (yes, they still exist). He's got an international financial crisis to deal with, as well as an extremely unpopular war he has to get us out of, and a million other things. In his mind, he knows what he's going to do about gay rights, and he's told us, and it's time to move on to other things.
Undoubtedly, Obama is as tough as nails. You would have to be in order to deal - day in and day out - with the scum of the earth racists I'm sure he's encountered almost every day of his life, and still maintain his cool and get where he is today. And obviously he can listen to people with whom he disagrees without changing his own opinion; his membership in fiery pastor Rev. Wright's church proves that.
That is why I personally don't think the battle to kick Rick Warren out of the inauguration is one worth fighting. I have confidence that Obama is on our side, and has our best interests (and the best interests of our country) at heart. Protest peacefully if you want and make a statement, but I say let this election's losers have a place of honor in our celebration. After all, we just made more than a statement; we won the election.
Monday, December 15, 2008
A Union Between One Man and One Woman?
Anyone reading this is probably aware that gay marriage was banned in California by Proposition 8 on the November 2008 ballot. The text of that controversial proposition reads as follows: “SEC. 7.5. Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California. ” (1)
Consequently, California will now issue marriage licenses only to couples that consist of one man and one woman. I'm pretty sure the state is competent to enforce this law, but what I'm not so sure about is the state's ability to define the terms “man” and “woman.”
Hold on, I hear you saying. That's counterintuitive, right? Everyone knows what a man is and what a woman is. A man is a an adult human with a penis, and a woman is an adult human with a vagina, correct? Yes, that is correct . . . if we are willing to define gender by exterior genitalia, which works in most cases. There are, however, a small percentage of people who do not fit as neatly into these categories as we might expect.
One example would be transsexuals, who have had gender reassignment surgery. Their external sexual organs now appear male or female, but they were born a different gender. Are they allowed to marry, and if so, can they marry people of the same gender they are now, or the gender they were when they were born?
Different states have handled this dilemma in different ways. In some states, anyone who is now legally a man can marry a woman and vise versa. In other states, one's legal gender is determined by one's birth certificate. That would allow someone who was born a man, but had gender reassignment surgery to become a woman, to marry only another woman. Sounds like gay marriage to me, but since the state has worked out definitions of men and women (on the basis of birth certificates), it guess it works. Those couples can enjoy the legal benefits of marriage while they reside in the state where they married, regardless of whether they look like a gay couple or not. Outside that state, of course, they won't necessarily be entitled to those benefits, because other states may define “a man” and “a woman” differently.
Barring transsexual people, however, it should be fairly easy to determine gender based on external genitalia, right? Once again we encounter people who are not as easily categorized. Some people are born with some form of intersex, a group of conditions where there is a discrepancy between the external genitals and the internal genitals (the testes and ovaries). (2)
Briefly, humans have 46 chromosomes, which contain all the genes and DNA, the building blocks of the body. The two sex chromosomes determine if a person becomes a boy or a girl. Females normally have two of the same sex chromosomes, written as XX. Males normally have an X and a Y chromosome (written as XY).
People who do not have the standard XX or XY configuration - usually due to hormonal abnormalities in the womb - may have external male genitals, but the chromosomes of a female. This condition is called, “46, XX Intersex.” Similarly, someone with “46, XY Intersex,” has female genitalia, but male chromosomes. (2)
One additional condition, “True Gonadal Intersex,” affects people who have both ovarian and testicular tissue. The external genitals may be ambiguous or may appear to be female or male. Additionally, “Complex or Undetermined Intersex” results from one of many chromosome configurations, including “45, XO” (only one X chromosome), and “47, XXY” or “47, XXX” -- these cases have an extra sex chromosome, either an X or a Y. (2)
Often children born with these conditions are operated on as a matter of course to make them appear unambiguously male or female. This can result, however, in disorientation and emotional difficulties later in life, if the initial gender selection was incorrect. They often seek gender reassignment surgery again later in life to bring their self-identity and their physical appearance into agreement. (3) How do we determine who – if anyone – these individuals are allowed to marry?
How many people will be affected by laws that define marriage as between one man and one woman? It is estimated that between 1.7 and 4% of the population is born with intersex conditions. Various estimates of the gay population range from 1% to 10%. (4) If the population of California is 36,457,549 (5), then that percentage refers to at least a million Californians. That may be statistically insignificant, but it's certainly important to the people it describes.
I am making this argument in all earnestness. The truth is, however, that in addition to wanting you to consider the impact of Prop. 8 and other laws like it on specific people, I also want you to take a minute and consider in the abstract the arguments against defining marriage as a union of one man and one woman. Don't allow yourself to simply succumb to a knee-jerk reaction – or even a well-thought-out rationalization – about homosexuality. Consider it – at least for a time - from a detached, logical perspective.
Are you positive you know the definitions of man and woman? Have you really thought about why gay marriage would be bad for society, or have you just accepted the popular arguments of “It's always been that way,” and “It's against God,” in the same way that gay marriage activists have labeled everyone in favor of Prop 8 as bigots, haters, and religious zealots? Can you try to open your mind and see the other side of the equation as well as you expect everyone can already see your side? As flawed and sinful as the rest of us, gay people, transgendered people and intersexed people are made in God's image and are God's children. I believe it is for God to judge them, not Man, and I'm not willing to codify into law any opinions about God's will that don't coincide with the Constitution. And does it ever seem to you the slightest bit of hubris to assume you know God's law and God's plan?
Now turn to the issues I raised earlier, because I am still quite serious about them. Are minorities protected in America, regardless of how small they are, and whether they are based on skin color, birth defect or sexual orientation? Should we insist that everyone who applies for a marriage license get a chromosome test, and if so, to what end?
It's easy to say gay people shouldn't get married; it's hard to figure out who legally does have the right to get married and why. Does it matter whether a minority offends you, or does everyone get equal treatment under the law? Should we treat people of different religions differently that we treat everyone else? And who is “everyone else” anyway?
It's my belief that in America, everyone is protected equally under the law: people of all races, religions, creeds, genders, countries of origin, or sexual orientation. People are entitled to their religious beliefs, but when it comes to the law, we should all be treated equally.
California General Election Official Voter Information Guide - http://www.voterguide.sos.ca.gov/title-sum/prop8-title-sum.htm
Medline Plus, Medical Encyclopedia, a service of the US Library of Medicine, and the National Institutes of Health - http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001669.htm
- "Who Will Make Room for the Intersexed?” AMERICAN JOURNAL OF LAW AND MEDICINE, Volume 30, Number 1: Pages 41-68,Summer 2004 - http://www.cirp.org/library/legal/USA/haas1/
- “Size matters: a comparison of anti- and pro-gay organizations' estimates of the size of the gay population,” PubMed.gov, a service of the US Library of Medicine, and the National Institutes of Health - http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12066990?dopt=Abstract
- US Census Bureau State & County QuickFacts, 2006 estimate - http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/06000.html
Friday, November 21, 2008
I was talking on the phone to my girlfriend the night of the election, and I couldn't believe how fast things happened. The polls closed at 8 PM here in California, and by 8:15, CNN was projecting Obama as the winner! McCain conceded around what seemed like 8:30. I couldn't believe it! No big election fraud. No recounts needed (at least not for Obama). No legal wrangling. McCain gave it up in a dignified and gracious speech, and then it was just time to celebrate!
Well . . . except for one niggling little thing. It was starting to look like Proposition 8, which would ban gay marriage in California, was going to pass. By the next day, almost everyone agreed that it had passed, and Los Angeles County stopped issuing marriage licenses to gay couples. That was like piss in my champagne, I have to tell you.
Let me fill you in on a little background: I do not consider myself gay. I have been bisexual all my life, although I tried reeeaaallly hard not to be until I was in my mid-thirties. I had crushes on a few girls, and I mentally and emotionally explored bisexuality, but I didn't do anything about it. I figured: I can live a straight lifestyle with none of the discrimination gay people face. Why borrow trouble? The story of my acceptance of being bisexual, however, is a story for another day. I just wanted to note that I am not, nor have I ever been, a big promoter of the "Gay Agenda," as the right-wing Christians like to call it.
Neither, just for the record, do I want to get married. Not to anyone: male or female or transgendered. Okay, if Angelina Jolie were available, I might consider it, but otherwise. . .
So the banning of gay marriage didn't mess up any of my plans, or the lives or plans of anyone very close to me.
When the original ban against same sex marriage was overturned this spring, though, somehow I started subconsciously thinking that I had the same rights as everyone else. I knew from personal experience that not everyone agreed with gay marriage. Hell, some of my fellow Obama phone bankers disagreed with it. That's their right; this is America, after all, where we are all allowed to have our own opinions.
My personal opinion has been, if you think something is wrong, don't do it. If you think abortion is murder, for God's sake don't have one! If you believe homosexual relationships are sinful, don't have a homosexual relationship. Likewise, if you think -- like the Pope does -- that birth control is wrong, then don't use any (although I do have some ideological problems with world population rates). If you agree that imbibing alcohol or caffeine is against God, like the Church of the Latter Day Saints (AKA the Mormons), then don't imbibe. Christian Scientists think you are going against the will of God if you receive medical care, and the Jehovah's Witnesses say you will go to Hell if you have a blood transfusion. Thankfully, none of these beliefs have been codified into California or national law at this time.
In America, we don't base our laws on our religion. Some of you probably have a different opinion about that too, but as I said, you're entitled to it. Our Founding Fathers (and Mothers) had seen Europe torn apart by religious wars, and wanted to protect our country against that by separating church and state. If you disagree on that one, you are still entitled to express your opinion, but I suggest you find your own damn country if you decide you want to enforce it.
That's one of the things that worries me about the passage of Proposition 8. If it's legal to take away the rights of the minority with a ballot proposition, then the majority can take away the rights of any minority, as long as you can get enough people to vote for it. Fortunately, I don't think you could get a majority of people to vote to overturn inter-racial or inter-religious marriages, or anything that stupid, but it bothers me that it might be legal if you could.
Anyhoo, somehow I'd acquired the crazy notion that if I were out and proud - 24/7 - that I wouldn't encounter a lot of discrimination. You know, I'm talking about wearing the T-shirt and the jewelry, French kissing my girlfriend in public, that sort of thing. Well, that's one illusion brutally ripped away. No, I don't expect to be beaten up or lose my housing because of my same-sex partner, but I'm not completely sure about how it might affect a job or how people might treat me in public. Yes, I've been a wimp. Just like with being bisexual, I've tried to avoid personal discrimination when I could get away with it. I was out to my friends, and by now even my mother has guessed (although we don't actually talk about it), but until now, it was something I thought would be best kept private.
You'd think finding out that 52% of my fellow Californians found something objectionable about the idea of my marrying another woman would make me even meeker, but you'd be wrong. Nope, I've broken out the Freedom Rings, and have worn those puppies out in public. Even to the phone bank, although not to job interviews. And I've joined a whole bunch of gay online communities, and have no problem identifying myself as a gay person, even though, like I said, technically I'm bisexual. Somehow the passage of Proposition 8 radicalized me instead of making me want to lay down and die.
Now, do I want to take a flame thrower to the Mormon Temples? No (though I sure had the urge to tear down those stupid "Yes on Prop. 8" signs posted on public property, like freeway entrance ramps!). I don't even blame the Mormon Church itself. Not all Mormons supported "Yes on 8," after all, or even voted for it. Same for Catholics. Nor can we ethically blame a racial minority questionably identified in a small exit poll (70% of African Americans voted for Prop. 8? Really? Are you sure?).
I'm blaming the people who put this proposition on the ballot, donated money for it, and put on those despicable TV ads saying the not passing proposition 8 would mean homosexuality and gay marriage would be taught in schools, churches would lose their non-profit status, and people would be sued over their personal beliefs. Gee, I thought lying was as much a sin as homosexuality. Now, none of those things had happened since the ban had been overturned in the Spring, but most of those people probably actually believed what they said. Their ads told people that gay marriage threatened kids in school, and straight Californians freaked out. I wish they hadn't, but I can understand why they did.
So, do I hate the "Yes on 8" people? No, nor do I believe that most of them hate me. I believe that most people who voted yes on Proposition 8 don't believe they voted against my civil rights. Most of them - even some of the people who put the proposition on the ballot - don't believe they are being hateful and don't understand why we feel so hurt and oppressed. They honestly believe we are somehow trying to force our own beliefs on them, and they don't like it. Welcome to the club, folks!
Recently some of the Prop. 8 supporters made an announcement that gay marriage proponents were attacking them physically and attacking Mormons emotionally by demonstrating in front of Temples, which LDS followers consider to be very sacred. Someone anonymously sent unidentified powder to a couple of the temples, and while it turned out to be non-toxic, I'm sure it scared the people who received it to death. Maybe the people who received it didn't even believe in Prop. 8. Now we are being called terrorists.
I also want to add that gay people probably believe their marriages are just as sacred as the religious right people do, and they feel just as attacked by "Yes on 8" as the Mormons do by the demonstrators.
Some people have posted lists of people and businesses who contributed to Prop. 8 online, complete with website addresses, street addresses and phone numbers. I really hope that does not encourage same-sex-marriage supporters to act hatefully against Prop. 8 supporters. Speaking of which, have you ever noticed how hateful people always look so awful on TV? The calm, rational people always come off better? If not, watch of tape of today's Dr. Phil show about gay marriage.
Public protest is fair game, and writing respectful letters to businesses and public people is fine. Boycotting companies is legal and ethical. Outing private people to their employers is not, and neither is protesting at someone's house, saying or writing disrespectful things to them, or taunting their kids at school. Violence against people or buildings or cars or whatever is completely unacceptable, as are threats.
If we act in a hateful, immature, intolerant way - calling names, yelling, throwing eggs - we will prove to our detractors that we are the Godless, immoral, unlawful people they believe us to be.
If we treat them the way we want to be treated, with tolerance, civility, and maturity, we will show them the better angels of our natures, and the normal, everyday love we have for our families.
I do not intend to have my rights taken away without fighting for them, but I think our best chance to win is with love, communication, tolerance and fellowship. Obama has recently showed us how hope can win over fear. Let us show our fellow Californians - and the world - that love can win over hate.