June 2008


Push by Sarah McLachlan

Every time I look at you the world just melts away
All my troubles all my fears dissolve in your affections
You’ve seen me at my weakest but you take me as I am
And when I fall you offer me a softer place to land

[CHORUS:]
You stay the course you hold the line you keep it all together
You’re the one true thing I know I can believe in
You’re all the things that I desire, you save me, you complete me
You’re the one true thing I know I can believe

I get mad so easy but you give me room to breathe
No matter what I say or do ’cause you’re too good to fight about it
Even when I have to push just to see how far you’ll go
You wont stoop down to battle but you never turn to go

[CHORUS]

Your love is just the antidote when nothing else will cure me
There are times I can’t decide when I can’t tell up from down
You make me feel less crazy when otherwise I’d drown
But you pick me up and brush me off and tell me I’m OK
Sometimes thats just what we need to get us through the day

[CHORUS]

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I thought about posting a response to the LDS Church’s letter to CA wards encouraging members to support the constitutional amendment fight with their money and/or efforts. But I came across this letter from Jeffrey Nielsen, the former BYU professor that made headlines a couple of years ago for opposing the federal marriage amendment after the church asked members, from the pulpit, to support it, and thought he expressed it much better than I could in my current emotional state:

Open Letter to California Mormons

by Jeffrey S. Nielsen
24 June 2008

I am a member of the Mormon Church, a married heterosexual, and a supporter of marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples. I am asking you to pause and give sincere thought to the letter from our religious leaders you have heard read, or will soon hear read, over our church pulpits asking you to get involved and oppose marriage equality in California. Please think deeply about this, not only as a member of a particular church, but also as a citizen of a democracy.

To press for an amendment to a civil constitution that would legalize discrimination against an entire class of people is no small matter, but of the greatest significance. When the argument, no matter how well intentioned, is based solely upon a religious proclamation; then, I believe, it is a serious contradiction of the wisdom of our founding fathers. It also does tremendous damage to the great progress in civil rights we’ve made in our country respecting the equal dignity of each person and towards a more certain legal equality for all citizens.

You should also know, not all faithful Mormons agree with our religious leaders’ encroachment into political matters. In fact, a growing number of active Mormons, who have gay friends and family members, are coming to the conclusion that our current leaders are as mistaken in promoting discrimination against gays and lesbians as was the Mormon hierarchy in the 60’s when they opposed equal rights for people of color, and our Mormon leaders in the 70’s when they opposed legal equality for women.

Of course, religious authorities of any denomination possess the right, and may claim the legitimacy, to set the theology and policy for their religious community. When they; however, attempt to interject religious doctrine into the public spaces of a diverse democracy without reasonable justification, then members, especially faithful members, of that religious organization have the civic responsibility to express public disapproval of such dangerous and undemocratic behavior.

No one is asking that you condone a behavior that might violate your religious faith, but we need to allow everyone the freedom to live their life as they see fit, so long as it does not physically harm another person. After all, religious values must be something an individual freely chooses, not something forced upon him or her by the state. We should never allow our constitutions, whether state of federal, to become weapons in a crusade to impose a particular religious value system upon a pluralistic democracy. Today it might be a particular religious value that we affirm, but tomorrow it might be a religious system, which would seek to legislate against our own sincere beliefs. So now is the time to take a stand and keep separate civil and religious authority.

I do not believe that people choose their sexual orientation any more than they choose their skin color or gender. So to discriminate and deny them equal protection and equal opportunity under civil law because of these natural traits; especially in this case, sexual orientation, is grossly unfair and should be rejected outright in a compassionate and just democracy. If anyone could give me a single reasonable argument against marriage equality in our civil society, which doesn’t make fallacious appeals to tradition, misplaced appeals to religious authority, or make some ridiculous claim about nonhuman animals, then I would like to hear it. So far, no one has been able to present me with even a single justifiable reason.

You should know that like you, family and marriage are very important to me. As I have become acquainted with gay and lesbian couples, I have been touched by their goodness, sincerity, and commitment. I am persuaded that allowing marriage equality would, in fact, strengthen the institutions of family and marriage in our country. Perhaps it might even make all of us a little more considerate and responsible as both marriage partners and parents. I can only hope that the citizens of California, and my fellow Mormons, will possess the wisdom and moral decency to reject the unreasonable and unjust call to discriminate against our gay and lesbian coworkers, friends, neighbors, church members, and family.

Dang…I can’t embed the video…I need to figure out why WordPress has such a hard time with that…

But click the link. Best coverage anywhere…

The Daily Show: “The Gay After”

This from Orrin Hatch (R-UT) in today’s Deseret News

“This is what happens when judges mistake themselves for legislators,” he said. “They discover previously unknown rights in constitutional texts. While falsely asserting fidelity to enduring constitutional principles, they substitute their own idiosyncratic notions of right and wrong for the judgments of the people.”

Why have people (particularly on the far right) forgotten that the role of the courts is to protect the minority from the tyranny of the majority? The “judgements of the people” are NOT always right…there would be no right to vote for women or blacks in this country if the voice of the people had won the day, no interracial marriages, no civil rights at all for any minority populations. Is that what it is? Is a guy like Orrin Hatch just afraid that his white male power can no longer dictate what is right and wrong to the unclean masses below him?

REAL quote of the day:

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

From The New York Times:

“We are so happy, we can’t stop smiling,” said Kathi Gose, 52, who wed Keren Briefer, 45, in Bakersfield on Tuesday morning.

The couple, who have been together for 11 years, plan to change their surnames to Briefer-Gose.

From the San Fran Chronicle:

Several feet away sat a couple on vacation from Ireland who happened to stumble on the historic event. Christine Yearsley said she planned to stay at City Hall the rest of the afternoon to witness as much as she could.

“This gentleman just told me there are two elderly ladies who are getting married today after being together for 50 years,” she said. “They’re obviously committed! I think it’s terrific. They’re an example for heterosexuals, I think.”

That one is referring, of course, to Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon.

Obviously, those are two very frightening old ladies, and what they are doing is wrong. It must be stopped.

And one more from the Chronicle:

Jeff Beck of Orinda came to City Hall to see his daughter Alison, 32, and her partner, Huong Nguyen, 34, get their license. He said that when he was young, gay men and lesbians were subjected to constant ridicule, and he was nervous when his daughter came out because of what she might face.

“I’m almost 65 years old, and I’m amazed this happened in my lifetime,” he said, crying. “It could have been another 50 years, and I’d be gone.”

From the LA Times:

In San Diego, Bob Lehman and Tom Felkner wed underneath an arbor of bougainvillea outside the San Diego County clerk’s office, with palm trees swaying and a view of the harbor.

The men, both 43, became the first to marry each other in a county known for its conservative politics.

“Their decision to stand here today shows their love has stood the test of time,” said Lehman’s brother, Jeff, who was deputized for the day to officiate at the 7:22 a.m. ceremony.

“I’m a Marine. I like to do things first,” said Bob Lehman, a veteran of the 1991 Persian Gulf War who served 10 years in the military and wore a dark suit with Marine Corps and American flag pins on his lapel.

I’m so hopeful that some of these stories, these photos of couples who have been together for almost their entire lifetimes, is going to sway hearts and minds, not just in CA but around the country. There is nothing to be afraid of!

So, I was really surprised to see this clip floating around the internet. Bill O’Reilly takes Family Law attorney Don Schweitzer to task over not being able to actually explain why he’s opposed to gay marriage, without invoking religion.

OREILLY: “You’ve got to go beyond religion if you want to win the fight against gay marriage. You’ve got to go into a reason why this is not good for the state of California. Now what would that reason be?”

[redlasso id=”9ca7efa6-5a1d-4443-97be-00cd871b6726″]

Here’s the best part of the discussion (which I found at Republic of T’s place), in case you don’t have time to watch the whole thing:

O’REILLY: …What’s the the reason that you oppose gay marriage?

SCHWEITZER: I don’t oppose, uh, a civil union. We already have that. We’ve had that for three years.

O’REILLY: (Talking over Schweitzer.) Alright, alright … Gay marriage, Mr. Schweitzer, why do you oppose that?

SCHWEITZER: I only oppose the defintion of marriage applying to same-sex marriage, because it’s an age-old definition. It’s like naming one thing from another.

(Crosstalk.)

O’REILLY: But are … Isn’t change good? This is a year of change? Everybody wants change?

SCHWEITZER: Well, that’s a decision for the people, and the people determined that they don’t want it. Year’s ago there was a referendum, and the people spoke, and the California Supreme Court overruled the people’s voice, in this regard…

O’REILLY: So you really don’t don’t have a good reason for me about why you oppose gay marriage.

SCHWEITZER: Yes I do. I think the reason is that the people want a definition making a distinction between gay marriages and …

O’REILLY: Why do they want that distinction?

SCHWEITZER: Because of the fact that it is different. It is just a different distinction. They’re two different relationships. And they don’t want to be grouped together in the same type of relationship.

O’REILLY: Isn’t that bigoted?

SCHWEITZER: No. No, it’s like describing Summer from Winter. They’re two different things.

O’REILLY: I don’t think that’s gonna cut it.

SCHWEITZER: How is that bigoted, Bill?

O’REILLY: I’m not saying it’s bigoted. I just asked the question. I mean, if it’s … Look. I think you guy are going to have to come up with a cogent reason to convince independents, who are going to make the decision on this, because it is now getting closer, why gay marriage isn’t good for California. And you really haven’t done it tonight.

SCHWEITZER: OK. Well, I beg to differ with you, and I think the people will speak in November. They’re gonna say that we just want the definition. They’re not gonna say that it’s…’

O’REILLY: “We just want it.” OK. Maybe you’re right, but I think that there’s got to be a more pointed definition.

Wow…if the blowhards can see it, maybe the tide is turning. There IS no reason, other than religious discrimination, to oppose gay marriage. And we used to be FOR freedom of religion in this country.

So, the other day I was reading letters to the editor at the Deseret News (this isn’t as bad as reading the reader comments, though people still say some pretty silly things sometimes). And I came across this letter which was a response to this letter.

The first letter asks a question that I have often asked myself, not just about Obama but other Democratic candidates, and not just for LDS members but for all Christians:

What is it about the Obama message that is so off-putting to LDS Utahns? Actually I would think it is the exact message to which we LDS members would gravitate in great numbers. Why have we strayed from our emotional and spiritual roots?

The response from the 2nd letter writer is thus:

Let’s see, maybe it’s because his views are opposite the core of the LDS faith? His stances on abortion and gay marriage are just two issues.

Ah, now I understand.

Except I don’t, really. Even before I became dedicated to gay rights issues (and came out), even when I was a faithful LDS member, I gravitated towards Democratic candidates because I agreed more with their stances than with their Republican counterparts. I think LDS people in general, and the larger Christian community, have fallen too easily for the point of view first argued in the early 80s during the rise of the Religious Right, that abortion and gay marriage/rights are the only two “values” issues that matter.

Why, for instance, does killing an unborn fetus trump killing adults in a war that even many Republicans, the Legislature, independent analysts and most other countries in the world recognize as being started under false pretenses and exaggerated threats? I’m not saying I don’t understand and even agree with people who believe abortion is wrong – but seriously, at this moment in our history, can we really afford to vote for someone who will continue this war and probably start a new one with Iran, mainly because he says he’s pro-life?

Why does preventing gay couples from getting married trump the fact that the number of children living in poverty increased by more than 11 percent between 2000 and 2005. Can we really call ourselves Christians when there is so much needless suffering in our country? Why isn’t more attention paid to the fact that the percent of all children who lack health insurance increased for the first time in nearly a decade in 2005—from 10.8% in 2004 to 11.2% in 2005.

Why not consider electing a man who is not among the nations top 1% wealthiest individuals, and who will therefore hopefully fight for the smallest and weakest among us, those children who need more help than another corporate bailout will provide?

It just feels very hypocritical to me to fixate on abortion and gay marriage, and call yourself a Christian voter. There is a movement among some evangelicals to start focusing on other values, such as poverty and war, but it doesn’t have much political traction yet. Though some are predicting that this is the year we’ll see a shift among that voting base.

The other thing that I think keeps many Republicans still solidly voting Republican (but wasn’t mentioned by the letter-writer above) is fear of socialism. This is also something, from a Mormon perspective, that I don’t quite understand. Mormons believe in the law of consecration, which is basically a form of socialism – pooling collective resources that are then re-dispersed based on need. I’m not saying I think socialism is better for our country, in our current situation, than capitalism – but I do wonder why LDS people in general are so afraid of the idea, and particularly in relation to Obama. Why do the Rush Limbaughs and Sean Hannitys only have to say “socialism” in regard to Obama to put so many people off? Just because he’s for mandated health coverage doesn’t mean he’s going to turn the country into communist Russia.

I guess it just seems like the Christian right, for the most part, has been sold a bill of goods about manifesting their values in their voting patterns. If you read the four Gospels, the books that actually focus on Jesus’ personal ministry, there is no mention of abortion or gay marriage. There are admonitions not to sin, or to repent and sin no more, but there are countless more admonitions to care for the hungry and poor, to turn the other cheek, to be kind and loving to one another. Jesus himself outlined what should be most important:

Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question:

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
–Matthew 22:34-40

I’m not sure how that translates into the current religious-political environment, where working to outlaw abortion and gay marriage seem to be the only laws or commandments that matter.

I’m not saying I don’t understand the moral argument behind the anti-abortion and anti-gay stances. All i’m saying is – aren’t there more important things that we, as Christians, should be voting to protect?

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