Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Keep those cards and letters coming

Scot recently expressed disappointment that the LDS Church reneged on its initial words of support for gay domestic partnership benefits. When I first read those words I didn’t interpret the Church’s profession of support of some DP rights as being sincere. It seemed to me that they were simply trying to avoid being labeled as anti-gay in the context of a particular political campaign. I saw it as "strategic communication" in the finest tradition of Karl Rove.

It's a bad feeling when one's suspicion of another's motives is later borne out by the course of events.

The fact is that the LDS Church is profoundly hostile to same-sex couples and their children and is willing to use the political process to enforce its views. I don’t see this changing in the near future, although I do see many rank-and-file Mormons becoming less and less comfortable about it. If anything the success of their Prop 8 efforts may embolden rather than moderate the LDS leadership's political activity. I would not hold my breath for the Church to allow any action by the Utah legislature that would help our cause.

It’s time to appeal to the Feds.

I’m a believer in Federally recognized civil unions as an intermediate step along the road to full marriage equality. The Obama transition team has recently updated their website to include LGBT issues. See here for more. The support for our rights is unlike any we've seen from a previous administration, including those headed by Democrats. One of their agenda items is this:
Support Full Civil Unions and Federal Rights for LGBT Couples: Barack Obama supports full civil unions that give same-sex couples legal rights and privileges equal to those of married couples. Obama also believes we need to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and enact legislation that would ensure that the 1,100+ federal legal rights and benefits currently provided on the basis of marital status are extended to same-sex couples in civil unions and other legally-recognized unions. These rights and benefits include the right to assist a loved one in times of emergency, the right to equal health insurance and other employment benefits, and property rights.

I encourage people to write a letter to Vice President-elect Biden and remind him of "Biden’s promise" from the VP debate. (Including a family photo can’t hurt, especially if you have a partner and/or kids.) NOW is the time to get these letters out. They should be personal, to-the-point and clear about the practical need for legal protections for same-sex couples and their children. Briefly describe your personal situation and ask for the administration's support.

The mailing address is

Office of Vice President-elect Joe Biden
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

P.S. Letters of support from straight allies or folks in mixed-orientation marriages are also extremely helpful. This is for everyone who believes in marriage equality.

If you are an Internet-only kind of person, you can send your letter via Web form at change.gov.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Seeking forgiveness

I ran across a new Web site with letters from Mormons asking forgiveness for Prop 8. It's called Seeking Forgiveness. Check it out.

I looked through some of the posts and found myself touched. It really matters to me that some Mormons, even if a minority, opposed the Church's rollback of gay rights.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Why does the LDS Church care about gay marriage?

Slate magazine has an interesting spin on why Americans are so positive about some gay rights but overwhelmingly reject gay marriage. Could it be anxiety over sex roles?

After all, traditional marriage isn't just analogous to sex discrimination—it is sex discrimination: Only men may marry women, and only women may marry men. Same-sex marriage would transform an institution that currently defines two distinctive sex roles—husband and wife—by replacing those different halves with one sex-neutral role—spouse. Sure, we could call two married men "husbands" and two married women "wives," but the specific role for each sex that now defines marriage would be lost. Widespread opposition to same-sex marriage might reflect a desire to hang on to these distinctive sex roles rather than vicious anti-gay bigotry.

Mormons are invested in gender. In fact, gender is eternal. The priesthood applies only to males. Women are excluded from almost all leadership positions in the Church. Men preside in the home or do so at least ceremonially. If 'husband' and 'wife' are not necessarily distinct roles then why should women put up with the current system? Hmm... maybe gay marriage does upset the apple cart, after all.

I'm for federally recognized civil unions as an intermediate step along the way toward full marriage equality. For now, let's just avoid the quagmire of unresolved gender-role issues that seems to have the rest of America knee deep in muck. Federally recognized civil unions would give us desperately needed rights (like not having your non-US boyfriend deported). Maybe it's true that a civil union is 3/5ths of a marriage, but right now excuse me for not being so picky.

Civil unions that are recognized only at the state level are probably 1/5th of a marriage, if that. Also, marriages that are not recognized by the Federal government are of significantly protective value than other marriages. If forced to choose, I'd take a federally recognized civil union over a marriage recognized only at the state level.


 Tobi and I attended a gay rights rally today. Originally the rally had been organized to protest Prop 8, but I think it moved away from being a protest and toward being a rally for gay marriage. I gave some thought as to what sign I wanted to carry and finally settled on a positive message. (Believe me, I am angry enough about Prop 8 to have come up with a number of other signs.) The front of my sign said "Keep Biden's promise" and the back said "Federally recognized civil unions now." Biden's promise refers to what Vice President Elect Joe Biden said during the VP debate:
Do I support granting same-sex benefits? Absolutely positively. Look, in an Obama-Biden administration, there will be absolutely no distinction from a constitutional standpoint or a legal standpoint between a same-sex and a heterosexual couple.

This language is pretty clear. I think we should hold the Obama-Biden administration to it.

 The rally was larger than expected. I don't have a count of the number of people, but I would estimate 10,000 or so. There was a rally in a park that included the mayor declaring today to be "Marriage Equality Day" and promised to help fight for gay marriage in our state. There were a number of other speeches.
 Only a few of the signs being carried by the marchers referenced the LDS Church. There were also a few signs carried by Mormon supporters such as "Mormons for Queers" that I saw carried by an opposite-sex couple in their early twenties. I live in a very liberal city with lots of gay people. I think many of the members of the church who live here may not hold the more conservative LDS view. I didn't get a chance to talk to any of these people. Also, I think a fair number of straight people were marching.
 After the rally in the park we marched to a square downtown along a two-mile route. The police blocked traffic so that the marchers could use the street. The march was extremely peaceful. One of the speakers mentioned at the final rally that 300 marches had taken place simultaneously worldwide and that approximately 1,000,000 people participated.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Gay spirituality

Connell O'Donovan has an account of Sunday's protest at the Oakland Temple.

There were no epithets being yelled, no "hate speech," no wall climbing, etc. I was also very happy to note that on this very busy street that the temple lies on, easily three-quarters of the vehicles that passed by honked, waved, and thumbs-upped in support! From where I was, I could easily see four LDS security officers in the temple parking lot watching us, oddly all dressed exactly like Mr. Smith of "The Matrix" fame, right down to stylish sunglasses. They were visibly disturbed by the amount of supportive honking from passing traffic. I had made a sign to hold that proclaimed myself an "Adult Survivor of Mormon Homophobia". I held it up so that the security officers could easily see it. They shook their heads in disapproval. It makes me laugh that I used to be a security guard on Temple Square. One of my duties was to let the Tabernacle Choir into the Tabernacle on Thursday nights for rehearsal. Oh the webs we weave!!

When the crowd dwindled to less than about 60, the 40 or so police officers that were there decided they could leave as well. I asked who was the officer in charge and I then asked that him how it had gone. He said he had no complaints whatsoever - that we had all been completely law-abiding, peaceful, compliant, etc. I did stay until the end - about 3:30. And our clean up crew looked around and there was not a single bit of trash for any of us to clean up.

Read the whole thing here, especially if you're skeptical of spirituality outside of LDS orthodoxy. He'll change your mind.

Via: Emily Pearson

Where do we go from here?

The defeat in California was a big setback for gay rights. Where do we go from here?

The immediate aftermath has been emotional. This is why we've seen protests. Such protests are useful in venting frustration and building up momentum, but in and of themselves they don't accomplish the needed change.

My opinion is that the next steps need to come at the Federal level. There are seven items on the standard gay-rights agenda: 1) Federal hate crimes legislation, 2) ENDA (employment nondiscrimination act), 3) Repeal of DADT (Don't Ask Don't Tell) so that gays can serve in the military, 4)Repeal of DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act), 5) Federally recognized civil unions, 6) UAFA (Uniting American Families Act) to give equalize immigration rights for gay and straight couples and 7) same-sex domestic partner benefits for Federal employees.

Although Candidate Obama supported all of these items during his campaign, only two days after the election it is becoming clear that President-elect Obama is interested in acting only on items 1) and 2) on this list. The story behind this can be found here.

I don't agree with the naysayers. I think that the defeat of Prop 8 gives us a window of opportunity. Supporters of Prop 8 including the LDS Church insisted that they were not anti-gay and that they did not want to take away rights. Let them make good on that assertion by supporting civil unions at the Federal level. An argument for this point of view can be found here.

Civil unions are not marriage. They are less than marriage. But they are not without benefit. They can solve a number of practical problems that harm gay families by providing the many benefits that the US Government gives straight couples, including spousal rights to Social Security survivor benefits, the ability to file joint tax returns and spousal immigration rights. We need these protections right now.

I am not proposing that we settle for second-class status. Instead, I see the practicality of finding a middle ground where we can bring on board many of the people who voted for Prop 8. Civil unions will not be the last word and the do not preclude an eventual move toward marriage at the time when there is sufficient political support for that. I, in my own personal situation, can't afford to wait until marriage equality is politically feasible nationwide.

If you agree with me on this, start acting. Write President-elect Obama (web site: http://change.gov) and ask that federally recognized civil unions for gay couples be put on the agenda. You might mention that Vice President-elect Biden promised this during the VP debate. Another thing you can do is just have the discussion about civil unions with people you know, including friends and family members who may have supported the LDS Church's position on Prop 8.

I don't want to let the Democrats off the hook as the gay community has in the past. We need to be on the agenda.

Also, by the way, there will be a nationwide protest on Saturday against Prop 8. This protest is not directed specifically at the LDS Church. I encourage all of you to attend. Information is at the Join the Impact web site.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Local protest

Protesters picketed an LDS ward about a mile from my house today. See here and here for pictures and text.

Another protest is planned for next Saturday outside the temple grounds. For those who may question the fairness of such actions, be sure to read Chanson's analysis at Main Street Plaza:
If you open up a grocery store in the middle of your chapel, you can hardly complain that people are disrespecting your “sacred places of worship” by shopping there.

I love some of the signs carried by protesters here and at Temple Square. Three of my favorites:

  • Would you rather I marry your daughter? (carried by a gay man)

  • Keep your DOCTRINE out of my COVENANTS!

  • Can I vote on your marriage?

  • I believe credit for the D&C reference goes to Craig.

    If you were to protest the passage of Prop. 8, what would your poster say?

    Saturday, November 8, 2008

    LDS newsroom meme

    Here's a new meme. You start with the text of the LDS Church's newsroom release about a protest march on Temple Square, and you insert a few paragraphs of your choice after each of theirs.

    Thanks to Scot, Craig and Abelard for tagging me. Everyone else, consider yourself tagged!

    Here goes:

    It is disturbing that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is being singled out for speaking up as part of its democratic right in a free election.

    Anyone who has kids recognizes this opening gambit instantly. Translation: "I was just being so good and minding my business and those meanies came up and started pointing at me." The kids have been fighting and the instigator of the fight knows that consequences are on the way. The instigator therefore puts up a smoke screen to preemptively establish victimhood. This always has two parts: a profession of one's own virtue plus an accusation of unfair treatment. It would be funnier if we were talking about eight year olds instead of an esteemed religious organization.

    In other words, the first paragraph of this press release warms things up with a massive denial of responsibility. It also gets bonus points for two extremely slippery uses of the passive voice in the first sentence. Do you think this press release might be trying to-- I don't know-- evade something?

    The next paragraph does not disappoint:

    Members of the Church in California and millions of others from every faith, ethnicity and political affiliation who voted for Proposition 8 exercised the most sacrosanct and individual rights in the United States — that of free expression and voting.

    Whoa!!! This is an amazing sleight of hand. "Voting" is a straw man. No one is complaining about voting or free speech.

    I'm sorry to have to spell this out. What happened is that the LDS Church exercised powerful religious authority over its members to produce over 50% of all funds and the lion's share (nearly all) of the labor hours used to campaign against marriage equality in California. The Church owns Proposition 8. It was bought and paid for with cash and thousands upon thousands of hours of its members, who were "volunteers" only in the same sense as home teachers and payers of tithing.

    Let me repeat. For better or for worse, now and forever, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints bears primary responsibility for providing the majority of funds and the overwhelming majority of labor hours used in the Yes on 8 campaign. Period. This is the Mormon Church's amendment.

    Voting or free speech on the part of individual Mormons is a red herring. The issue is about the nature of and the consequences of the LDS Church's political exercise of ecclesiastical power. Reports from California tell us that specific quotas were given to individual wards and stakes for money and volunteer hours. This is a case of the pulpit being used for political ends, not a grass-roots political movement. The Church used "priesthood keys" to run a full-blown political campaign and is now trying to say that it didn't.

    While those who disagree with our position on Proposition 8 have the right to make their feelings known, it is wrong to target the Church and its sacred places of worship for being part of the democratic process.

    Translation, "we're sacred and that means we are off limits."


    If you exercise your right to participate in the political process, you can't claim that you are above it all whenever it's convenient. You can't suddenly hide behind sanctity. You are a political actor and will be held accountable for what you say and do in the public sphere.

    "Target" is one of the magic words that establish victim status. I can't decide if this is offensive or pathetic or both.

    Once again, we call on those involved in the debate over same-sex marriage to act in a spirit of mutual respect and civility towards each other. No one on either side of the question should be vilified, harassed or subject to erroneous information.

    This final paragraph shows chutzpah or possibly a complete lack of self-knowledge. The Yes on 8 campaign used dishonorable tactics-- outright lies, bizarre speculation of potential future religious persecution, "save our children " appeals, etc. It was disgraceful by even the low standards of modern political discourse. Now is not the time to feign innocence.

    This paragraph, by the way, implies an accusation that the Temple Square protesters were being uncivil or worse. This accusation is false. From the reports I've read, the protest was extremely civil and entirely proper.

    So there you have it, a press release that probably reveals more than its author intended. It's a transparent example of trying to avoid accountability for one's actions.

    Friday, November 7, 2008

    Second thoughts

    One of the things that gives me hope is the fact that many LDS people do not agree with the Church's involvement in eliminating marriage for same-sex couples. For example, see this thread on one of the Mormon blogs.

    Here are a few quotes by LDS folks:

    I’m a single straight LDS guy with no close homosexual friends or family. I’m more hurt and angry about this than I thought I ever would be. Right now I can only pray and hope that I can somehow do a small part to seek forgiveness for the sin we have committed.

    * * *

    A woman writes:
    For me there is such bitterness in the concept of my rights being put to a vote. Let me be clear, my partner is a man, but I speak of my rights in this because they are.

    * * *

    I take great comfort in knowing that our children will be better than us. Just as we look at the ignorance of our grandparents and their attitudes towards race and wonder, “Why?”, so too will our children and grandchildren look with disgust at our attitudes towards homosexuality.

    * * *

    For the record, I donated neither time nor money to Prop 8.

    * * *

    [S]ome of us ... don’t like being lumped into the group of those that wanted it to pass. in the same group that donated money. some of us are ashamed, mad, and downright disgusted with the direction our beloved church has taken.

    Thursday, November 6, 2008

    The morning after the morning after

    What a difference a day can make.

    Yesterday, the immediate aftermath of the election was a rollercoater of emotions for me. Today I feel resolute.

    I'm reconciled to the fact that the loss on Prop. 8 is a one step backward in what will be a decades-long struggle for civil rights. Our cause is just, and we will eventually prevail. There is a one point of tremendous hope coming out of the exit polls. Young people between the ages of 18 and 29 voted overwhelming in favor of marriage equality. The vote for Prop. 8 was strongly correlated to the age of the voter.

    I think it's important that we hold the Church accountable for its leadership role in the fight against civil rights for homosexuals. I don't mean boycotts or protests, but being clear about the role of the Church in the campaign is entirely within reason. I'd like to see some real investigative journalism applied here. In particular, inquiry into the way the money was raised and used would be of interest as well as how the infrastructure of the Church was used to support the campaign. It's a story that needs to be told. Sunlight is, after all, the best disinfectant. The Church should have no objection, since it should be willing to stand behind its actions and claims of fact and have them examined openly.

    I also think there's a need for ongoing public relations. We need a documentary film about gay families in the aftermath of Prop. 8's success. The human face of this issue was lost in the campaign.

    I don't think it's time to disengage or 'heal'. It's time to redouble our efforts, retain our sense of purpose and start working for a better future. We can do this with a sense of respect for differing opinions and without demonizing those, including the Church, who may disagree.

    I like President-Elect Obama's take on this. He says that it is up to us to do the hard work of convincing people of the justness of our cause. This happens at a personal level as we interact with those around us. It's not just a matter of donating money to a political cause. Step one is coming out to our families and friends. We cannot afford to hide in the shadows.

    Our day will come.

    Wednesday, November 5, 2008

    The morning after

    It's been an emotional twenty-four hours.

    It started yesterday when I was walking out of the polling place, having just cast my vote for Barack Obama. I started crying. It felt like a release of frustration. What came to my mind in that moment was the issue of torture. All of a sudden I felt a sense of overwhelming relief that I had been able to cast my vote against the current administration's horrifying and illegal techniques of "interrogation." Why that particular issue of all the many things that need to be changed in this country came to mind at that particular moment I can't say. But that's what happened.

    I went through election day with a sense of cautious excitement. When the race was over I watched President-Elect Obama address the nation. Again, I just lost it. I cried through all of his very eloquent speech. It's unbelievable to me that we have come to this point. For eight long years we have watched our country suffer the results of catastrophic leadership. Seeing Obama win felt like catharsis, at once humbling, sobering and joyful. There is hope now. We now have a chance to begin to dig ourselves out of the mess we've created. It's only the first step, but it's a step I couldn't have imagined two years ago.

    Then, I started following the results of the four anti-gay ballot measures. All four passed. The defeat in California was particularly gut wrenching. Tears have been running down my face all morning. The loss feels so personal. I know this feeling will pass, but right now that's where I am. It doesn't help that my boyfriend has been laid off from his job and may not be able to stay in the U.S all because, unlike straight people, the person I love and I are legal strangers no matter what kind of life we build together.

    The loss in California also feels personal because of the heavy involvement of the LDS Church. When Mormons use the phrase "enemy of the Church" they mean someone who attacks the Church. What phrase do we use when the Church attacks, when it's the Church that does the destroying and the defaming? I feel like the Church has set its sights on me and calmly pulled the trigger. They made the kill, but who wins? Certainly not the Church-- the PR fallout from this is going to be awful. In the meantime, civil rights have been set back a decade.

    So it's up and down right now. Tears of joy and sorrow. Fear that Tobi and I may be forcibly separated by the government. Hope that our country may have adult supervision again. Appreciation for what I have this moment because I know it may be taken from me. I'm going to resolve to keep going, keep fighting and know that history is on our side. I just have to stop crying first.

    Sunday, November 2, 2008

    Mormon moms speak out

    Here is one of the best Mormon responses to Proposition 8 that I've read.

    As a Mormon, I affirm the sanctity of Mormon temple marriage. I stand unapologetically for the right of the Mormon Church to set its own doctrines, to hold its own standards, and to conduct its own sacred rituals on its own terms. As an American citizen and a person of faith, I stand unequivocally for the First Amendment guarantees to freedom of speech and freedom of religion for all.

    But I reject the tactics of the “Yes on 8” campaign as untrue, misleading, divisive, and destructive.

    Strictly, soberly, and truthfully considered, there is nothing in Proposition 8 that protects heterosexual marriages, nor the Mormon Church, or the free exercise of religion in any other church, synagogue, mosque, or temple in California.

    Strictly, soberly, truthfully considered, Proposition 8 only eliminates or takes away civil rights and protections now enjoyed by our neighbors, fellow citizens, and brothers and sisters who happen to be gay.

    This is why, as a Mormon, a California citizen, a person of faith, a community activist, a scholar, and a mother, I am voting no on Proposition 8.

    Read the whole thing here.

    Hat tip: Serendipity

    Saturday, November 1, 2008

    A PR disaster

    This No on 8 ad is a public relations disaster for the LDS Church.

    Does the church really want to align its public image so strongly with this single issue?

    Movie: The Times of Harvey Milk

    Harvey Milk was the first openly gay politician to be elected in California. He was assassinated in 1978.

    You may have heard about the Hollywood biopic Milk that has recently been released. You may not be aware that Harvey Milk was the subject of an Academy Award-winning documentary called The Times of Harvey Milk that was made in 1984.

    The documentary tells a story that needs to be heard today. What I liked about it is the perspective it gives on the history of gay rights. Milk was a pioneer in this area and helped defeat a California ballot measure called the Briggs Initiative that would have made it illegal for gay people to teach school. The arguments presented on behalf of this initiative are eerily familiar, since they are currently being repeated in support of banning gay marriage.

    Make yourself some popcorn and rent the DVD. Netflix has it.