Tag Archives: marriage

I Was Wrong. Bernie Sanders Deserves Your Gay Vote

dem-2016-sanders

At the risk of being branded a “Bernie Bro,” and being banished to internet troll damnation for all eternity, I feel we must take a second to acknowledge that Senator Bernie Sanders deserves the gay vote. Yes, I know. Having made that statement, I must now be a reckless leftist who would rather see a reptile like Trump or Cruz in the White House than cast my vote for Hillary Clinton, right? Wrong.

In a previous piece, I championed both candidates, and applauded their rhetoric as a far cry from the hateful, bigoted, violent tone we’ve seen throughout Republican rallies and debates. The truth is, we would ALL be remiss to not cast our vote for the democratic nominee in the upcoming election, whether it ends up being Sanders or Clinton. But since we are still in the primaries, and political discussion is far more worthy of internet time than food porn or Throwback Thursdays (which I love, don’t get me wrong), I see no harm in examining the political differences between our two democratic candidates.

Take a look at this clip of Sanders defending LGBT citizens in the military, dated back to 1995.

Years before LGBT issues would hit the mainstream, we see Sanders passionately defending gay soldiers who have served in the US military. Keep in mind, this was only one year after Bill Clinton signed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” into law, a move that only allowed gays in the military if they were closeted. The policy prohibited people who “demonstrate a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts” because their presence “would create an unacceptable risk to the high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion that are the essence of military capability.” Senator Sanders voted against this policy.

Some argue that Sanders isn’t a true ally, as he supported civil unions in 2006. Interesting to note, however, is that he opposed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Perhaps his support of civil unions was simply in alignment with his “before-it-was-cool” stance of passionate support for the LGBT community? Perhaps he simply wanted to extend whatever opportunity was available to us at the time?

On the other hand, we have seen some serious missteps from Hillary Clinton in regard to the LGBT community. It is often said that her reversal on gay marriage came too late, and was done only for political gain. Also, who could forget last month when she spoke incorrectly about the Regan’s involvement with the HIV/AIDS crisis? In fairness, she did offer any apology, one that seemed highly disingenuous, if you ask me:

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 3.11.52 PM

Hillary’s comment was clearly deliberate and intentioned. That is not what misspeaking is. That’s called misinformation.

In fairness, once Hillary turned the corner on the issue of gay marriage, she became a very vocal and prominent supporter. What we cannot forget, however, is how vastly different her stance was in 2004:

The best broadcast I have discovered, which gives a fair and in-depth look at Clinton’s LGBT history, can be found here:

http://www.wnyc.org/story/tale-tape-hillary-clintons-gay-evolution/

So, again, let me be clear. I am not trashing Hillary. I am also clearly stating that if she does receive the nomination, we need to vote for her. What I am saying, however, is that as it stands, Bernie Sanders deserves the gay vote. And with his recent victories, and vastly rising support, he may not have a “delegate problem” when it comes time to select our candidate. We support Bernie Sanders and we thank him for his lifelong support for the LGBT community.

LGBT Rights: Hillary Clinton vs Bernie Sanders

Sanders-vs-Clinton1In case some of you missed the first democratic debate last Tuesday, allow me to bring you up to speed. It was not the moronic shit-show we are used to with the Republican debates, and instead was an engaging, interesting discussion between mostly intelligent people. While I would encourage everyone to watch the entire debate, if you are pressed for time, I recommend at least catching up on the greatest moments below.

I don’t know about anyone else, but in the past, I’ve loathed the presence of LGBT questions at many different debates, as it seemingly always results in at least one candidate’s homophobia being put on display. This debate was different, however. There was very little mention of the LGBT community at all. I believe the reason for this is that it is understood that each democratic candidate is a champion of LGBT rights, at this point.

Who can forget Hillary’s infamous 2011 speech in Geneva, when she called for global support for the LGBT community. Still, Clinton is often criticized for being “late to the game” on supporting same-sex marriage. The Economist called her move a “belated conversion” and deemed it “cautious to the point of cowardice.” Still, Hillary has since offered her full support, and I stand with many in the LGBT community who have watched our own family and friends evolve over time, understanding that doesn’t always happen overnight.

Representative Bernie Sanders, however, has been a longtime, fervent supporter, long before LGBT rights were even a hot-button issue. Check out a letter he published in the early 1970’s where he called for further LGBT support:
letter

So, with Hillary’s initial lack of support and change of heart, naturally people begin to question her authenticity. “You know, somebody is always first,” Clinton told NPR in 2013. “Somebody’s always out front and thank goodness they are. But that doesn’t mean that those who joined later in being publicly supportive or even privately accepting that there needs to be change are any less committed. You could not be having the sweep of marriage equality across our country if nobody changed their mind. And thank goodness so many of us have.”

Currently, on both candidate’s websites, you can check out where they stand on LGBT issues, and it seems they are both aligned. Now that gay marriage has been voted a constitutional right, it is now a focus to end discrimination with housing and employment. It is true that Sanders was lightyears ahead of Hillary on that issue, but they have both certainly ended up in the same place, and they are running for president now, not in previous decades.

What I am most impressed by is what solid supporters and allies we have in these candidates. It was lovely to watch a debate and not have to worry that in some way, one of the candidates was going to decimate the LGBT community. Instead, we could go in knowing that each candidate will champion support, and ultimately our decisions can come down to other issues including race relations, gun control, environment, etc. Such a sweet relief from the homophobic, racist, sexist circuses that are the republican debates.

Employment Discrimination: A New Approach from Religious Homophobes

Early this week, President Obama signed an executive order prohibiting discrimination against LGBT employees amongst federal contractors. The move simply added two terms to the already existing non-discrimination ordinances: sexual orientation and gender identity. These two terms, however, seem to be quite controversial among certain groups, namely the religious right. Prior to the order being signed, religious leaders came forward requesting exemption from said non-descrimination. Obama did not oblige, but did leave intact a 2002 executive order signed by George W. Bush which allows religious organizations to prioritize the hiring of people of shared faiths.

The president of the National Organization for Marriage, Brian Brown, called the move “a path toward a new thought-policing state where those who hold traditional values about marriage and family are to be marginalized.” He further opined that “the fact is that non-discrimination rules like the order issued by President Obama can become a weapon used to punish and harass individuals and groups who support marriage as the union of one man and one woman.”

What is interesting about Mr. Brown’s statement, however, is that this executive order is an entirely separate issue from same sex marriage. In the United States, at present, there are nineteen states where same sex marriage is legal, with an additional twelve states currently in the appeals process after having overturned same sex marriage bans. What this weeks ruling offered was employment non-discrimination. It is one thing to have a deeply-held religious belief that marriage should be between one man and one woman, but to publicly shame the president for ensuring employment non-discrimination… This simply offers total evidence that you are not an organization who merely values marriage as a ‘sacred’ institution that shouldn’t involve LGBT citizens, you are homophobes. (Author’s Note: We already knew this from your stance on same sex marriage, among other things, but this completely solidified it).

The Family Research Council’s Peter Brigg’s offered the following:

“Religious faith is not simply a matter of intellectual affirmation but of active practice. A religious organization which is denied the power to require its employees to conduct their lives in a way consistent with the teachings of their faith is an organization which is being denied the right to exercise its religion, period. People with deeply held convictions regarding the morality of certain types of sexual behavior should not be bound by the dictates of President Obama’s agenda.”

Are your “deeply held religious convictions” keeping you from supporting equal employment opportunity? I mean, after all, it is in your best interest to support the right to employment for LGBT citizens. Without employment, LGBT citizens wouldn’t have the honor of paying taxes and if LGBT citizens don’t have the honor of paying taxes, who is going to make up revenue for the church’s sizable exemptions? It seems that the new approach from the religious right is to submit to the inevitable advancement of LGBT equality, while simply asking for exemption. It is as though we are sitting in a classroom instructing children not to bully one another, and receiving requests from certain students to continue their bullying because it simply aligns with their “beliefs.”

I would like to add, however, that not every religious organization has been as disgusting. In an editorial published by the National Catholic Reporter, the editorial staff applauded the decision and called opposition a “willful misunderstanding,” adding that “a religiously affiliated organization does not hire an inclination or an act, it hires a person.” So, it turns out that it is possible to honor your “deeply held religious beliefs” while still not being homophobic.

So, despite the inevitable backlash, this was a positive move. We are happy to see that some religious organizations understand this, while others simply oppose any legislation that would ensure equality for LGBT citizens. We are also happy to see that the White House did not succumb to religious pressure to allow for these exemptions, and stood ground that equal employment opportunity is an imperative for all American citizens. (Author’s Note: Can you believe we are even discussing this?)

The Repeal of DOMA, Bachmann’s response, and the History of marriage

Today was a monumental day in the fight for gay rights and marriage equality. The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) declared DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) unconstitutional by a vote of 5-4. This was the 1996 federal act which prevented same-sex couples who were married in their home state from receiving hundreds of federal benefits afforded to other couples, a move that then-president Bill Clinton has since regretted. Furthermore, California’s ban on gay marriage, Proposition 8, was overturned by a similar vote and same-sex marriages will resume in California within 30 days.

Shortly after this mornings announcement, President Barack Obama released a statement applauding the Supreme Court’s decision and calling DOMA “discrimination enshrined in law,” stating that “when all Americans are treated equal, no matter who they are or whom they love, we are all more free.” Celebrations broke out nationwide, with the legendary Stonewall Inn opening early, stringing rainbow flags and filling with LGBT citizens and their allies committing to each other to keep fighting. Other states were excited to soon join the right side of history as well, with Michigan Democratic Majority Leader Gretchen Whitmer announcing her support of the decision and declaring “It’s clear that it’s time to move forward on that process to ensure that same-sex couples have the same rights, opportunities and protections as everyone else in our state.”

Along with the flood of support came, naturally, opposition. Famous haters including the Westboro Baptist Church and the American Family Association expressed their dismay. Conservative pundits, politicians, and other people that nobody cares about took to Twitter to express their feelings on the decision, including former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee (R) stating that “Jesus wept” and quoting some bible verse about five men in robes.

My personal favorite reaction, however, came from none other than Michele Bachmann (R), member of the House of Representatives representing Minnesota’s sixth congressional district. As many may recall, Bachmann was outspoken against gay rights during her 2012 GOP Presidential bid, before dropping out of the race after placing sixth in the Iowa caucuses. Controversy arose when it was discovered that the representative, along with her husband Marcus Bachmann, owned and operated a Christian counseling clinic which engaged in “gay reparative therapy.” I’d like to examine Ms. Bachmann’s response to today’s rulings, and offer a response to her comments which will, essentially, extract the crazy sauce and replace it with logic.

Her, response, in full: “Marriage was created by the hand of God. No man, not even a Supreme Court, can undo what a holy God has instituted. For thousands of years of recorded human history, no society has defended the legal standard of marriage as anything other than between man and woman. Only since 2000 have we seen a redefinition of this foundational unit of society in various nations. Today, the U.S. Supreme Court decided to join the trend, despite the clear will of the people’s representatives through DOMA. What the Court has done will undermine the best interest of children and the best interests of the United States.”

Alright, Michele, take a deep breath…

It is interesting that you should feel this way, Ms. Bachmann, when the earliest recorded marriages were actually performed in ancient Mesopotamia without the church and served as a way to preserve power, acquire land, and create heirs. During this time, women had very little say over whom they married. Polygamy was very common. It wasn’t until the twelfth century that the church entered the process deeming marriage a “holy union” and it wasn’t until the sixteenth century that marriages were performed in public by a priest. Love didn’t enter the equation until the 17th and 18th century, when it became generally accepted that life was about the “pursuit of happiness.” In the nineteenth century, the Industrial Revolution paved the way for men to be able to select a spouse and pay for a wedding. This is when divorce came in to play. Prior to this, marriages were mostly loveless unions created for practical reasons. If love miraculously ensued, so much the better. Women were considered property and required to be subservient to their husbands until women’s rights starting gaining ground in the 19th and 20th centuries.

What is interesting, however, is that same sex unions were actually common in midieval Europe until the thirteenth century. Known as “spiritual brotherhoods,” these ceremonies were identical to opposite sex marriages complete with marriage prayers, the joining of hands at the altar, and a ceremonial kiss. It is believed by some that these unions were designed to seal alliances and business deals. It was, however, later discovered that these men were commonly engaging in sexual acts with one another, and it was for this reason that the entire process was banned in 1306.

It is with all this in mind that it seems clear that marriage has evolved over time. After all, it wasn’t until 1967 that the Supreme Court ruling Loving vs Virginia abolished laws prohibiting interracial marriage. In the wake of interracial marriage, the Superior Court of New Jersey commented “In case after case, legislation prohibiting racial inter-marriage was justified as unbending tradition rooting in received natural law.” Furthermore, the Georgia Supreme court had the following to say (please take note, Ms. Bachmann, of the similarity between your response today and this horrific declaration of 1869): “…moral or social equality between the different races…does not in fact exist, and never can. The God of nature made it otherwise, and no human law can produce it, and no human tribunal can enforce it. There are gradations and classes throughout the universe. From the tallest archangel in Heaven, down to the meanest reptile on earth, moral and social inequalities exist, and must continue to exist throughout all eternity.”

Finally, if we are to continue accepting “god” and “faith” within our public policy, I challenge you to provide scientific evidence of the existence of your god and your faith. After all, LGBT citizens have been asked for years to provide sound scientific evidence linking homosexuality to biological origins. Well, I exposed this evidence back in January in a blog post titled “Homosexuality ultimately a result of gene regulation, researchers find.”

So, Ms. Bachmann, please be advised that LGBT citizens and their allies nationwide are still celebrating todays victory with pride while we simultaneously celebrate LGBT pride month. Perhaps your comments are rooted in fear? Fear that LGBT citizens may in fact be seen as equals? Or fear that your own husband, Marcus Bachmann, may stray and seek out his own “spiritual brotherhood?” (Authors note: I am not calling Marcus Bachmann gay. Instead, I am calling him ssssuuuper gay.) Either way, we LGBT citizens feel very similar to the way Nanci Pelosi felt about your comments. Simply, “Who cares?”

Congratulations fellow GWOG members and readers on a huge victory today! Happy Pride Month!

UK Census for 2011: Christianity in decline; Atheism on the increase.

My first ever GWOG BLOG (!) and it is a privilege to write for this special collection of the sceptical and the scandalous! I’ll be posting on themes of being gay and godless with regular updates of news, reviews, shout-outs, and counter-apologetics and promoting science and reason and discussion thereof. There might be a distinctly Anglophile sensibility too and frequent references to cups of tea.

I spent time over Christmas pondering what I could write about ( and just so you know how hard it was) writing and rejecting several first drafts before alighting on my current muse.

Indeed, I was wondering if I’d ever get anything written.  Then this morning I happened across this story from December 11th. Yes, I know ‘ever with my finger on the beating pulse of current events‘  – but bear with me, this is interesting:

The Results of the 2011 UK Census.

Okay so it’s a story about statistics. And I know I said “interesting” but stick with it.

So first some background, The UK Census is a national survey of all households in all local council districts.  Its aim is to get a statistical picture of Britain’s population and The Office for National Statistics (ONS) analyses this data and Government and The Civil Service utilise it when deciding policy and makes decisions about funding; it also gives a record of demographic changes.

Demographic changes  as many will know, are largely considered to have sealed President Obama’s second term, so movements in the opinions of populations are important.

The last Census before this one took place in 2001, and this census relates to the survey in 2011, the results and analyses of which were published in 2012. You can also get a very useful breakdown from the ONS from this YouTube video of the survey results and analyses as they specifically relate to religion, which is available here.

Christianity on the decline?
So what should the gay and the godless have to celebrate? Well how about Christianity being still the largest religion but shrinking significantly down from 72% of the population when asked in 2001 to only 59% in 2011?

“That’s it?”,  you scoff!  “We want better than that!”, I hear you demand!  Alright then!

How about the next largest proportion of the UK population rising from 15% in 2001 to one-quarter (25%) is for those reporting “No Religion”?  That is a rise of 10% of the total populous. Expressed as a proportion rather than a percentage of the total, that’s a change of some 7.7million reporting “no religion” when asked in 2001 to some 14.1million in 2011, if you assume a linear change that’s an irreligious increase of 54% in ten years!

How to account for that seeming discrepancy?  Well, these census figures potentially mask the true extent of the decline in religious belief of the UK, for what the Census actually measures is religious affiliation. It does not in fact measure belief, and how could you?  To be fair, the ONS makes that clear in the YouTube video in the previous section, but it’s possible someone could read these Census results as “59% believe in The God of Christianity” and that wouldn’t be true at all but to understand what the answer is, it is best to begin with the question that was asked.

From Bad to Worse?

The Census, you see is compulsory: if you don’t take part you are fined a pecuniary amount.   The question of religion was the first “voluntary question” to be introduced the census, originally in 2001 and then again in 2011 and both times this attracted quite a bit of controversy.

The British Humanist Association led by vocal CEO Andrew Copson initiated the Census Campaign which sought to challenge the nature of the question that was asked, which was:

“What is your religion?”

While not a problem of a leading question, the complaint was that it did not capture the heart of religious practice, only the religious identity people who call themselves “Christian”, and from The Government’s point of view they don’t care if you think sola scriptura or sola fide is your guiding principle, nor does it matter to them if you haven’t attended a church service or cracked open a bible in years or who hold to any of the dogmatic positions of a particular faith.

‘So what?’, you might well ask.  Well, data from the census is used to make funding and policy decisions, so such as the issue of faith schools and whether you think segregating education down sectarian lines with very little in the way of curricular oversight for controversial areas is a bad thing or not: how many there are, what proportion there are, how they are funded;  it all comes back to the census and so the overwhelmingly “christian” majority of England, the Christian nature of religious practice in schools and the policy of encouraging faith schools themselves  looks less secure when you consider is about identity not belief and when contrasted with data from other surveys that tend to increase the margin of the non religious by an even greater extent when asking follow-up questions.

The 29th British Social Attitudes Survey taken in 2010 and  published in September 2012, tested whether people felt they “belonged” to a religion.  When asked 45.7% of respondents said they did not.  Outside of births, marriages and funerals, the survey also assessed attendance for regular religious observance.  Then a massive 57.7% of respondents said they never attend a church with a mere 14.3% in the most frequent category of “once a week or more”

Finally the BSA questionnaire asked what was their family’s religion?  18.3% said their family were non-religious, meaning that the remainder of the 45.7 %, who declared that they did not feel they “belonged” to a religion, had come from some religious family background.

The conclusions one can draw from data such as this is that people are leaving the faiths they grew up in and not joining another, which may account for the substantial rises seen in the “Non Religious” in both surveys but which also identifies the problems of simply asking “what is your religion” if one still identifies culturally as such but does not actually believe. Cultural Christian but de facto Atheist.  From surveys such as these it would seems that Christianity in England is in a greater crisis than even the decline in The Official Census suggests.

Yipee!

But one must, however, be cautious.  Have people converted to other faiths? Well the census seems to belie that possibility as the number of other religions have all risen but on the order of fractional increases at most a few percentage points and this is largely account for by postulated migration patterns.  Islam for example has risen by 2% in the last ten years, but rises to only 5% of the population putting pay to the idea that England is being over run with Muslims they make up barely 1/5th of the non-religious if you take even the Census’s conservative estimation of godlessness in the UK today at face value. It’s likely also that the religious figure is somewhat inflated by immigrants to the UK with a far greater degree of religious conservatism being imported.

Other things worth pulling out, for consideration.
We are currently in the middle of a full-throated opposition to gay marriage in England, with His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI being uncharacteristically given over to hyperbole and overt sexism decrying: “The future of mankind is at stake!”   Much more to say about this in future blogs, however, it is interesting to note that as of 2011 a mere 0.2% of the population has taken up the opportunity for a civil partnership seven years after it’s introduction into law in 2004.  There has been an overall decline in the number of marriages also, these are down 4.3% from 2001 to 46.6% of the overall population being married. However the result do show an increase for Civil Partnerships, albeit slender, for in 2001 no such provision was available. So watch these numbers in the decades to come, especially if gay marriage becomes a reality.

There was also outrage recently when the State Church voted to restrict the rights of women to ascend to the Bishopric within the Church and prevent their ordination. Now why is this important?  Well it’s caused all kinds of mess of a constitutional nature because this isn’t The Catholics, this is the State Church of England, with a female Monarch as it’s head (long story).  Saying that women are not considered equal to their male counterparts at the same time as women’s rights are moving forward in society was deeply incongruous and rather embarrassing. Indeed, even within the Church the motion was approved in two of the three houses of the Church Synod but lost – very narrowly – in the popular vote.  It was a massive backward step for a Church that flirts with progressive ideals and which  tries to be all things for all people but which usually ends up disappointing everybody equally, and teeters constantly on the brink of a schizophrenic schism leading to exactly the kind of paralysis of the sort seen in the vote over the ordination of women Bishops.  Nothing will happen internally now about this  for years.   As well, the vote had largely been expected to go for women’s rights and it caused dismay and anger when conservative forces in the laity voted the measure down. It saw some calling for laws  to compel the church to comply with existing equalities legislation outlawing discriminatory practices. Such revolutionary secularism will be something to watch in the New Year when the amendment is due before Parliament.

Trends

Will that vote be affecting attitudes of people ten years from now?

In the summary of the 2011 Census published in The Guardian it was also pointed out that a century ago in 1911, the suffragette movement was using the Census to campaign for rights for women, defacing poll forms and picnicking on the common as a means of avoiding the pollsters turning up to their houses and so flagrantly disobeying the compulsory rules for fulfilment.

Indeed one famous suffragette, Emily Wilding Davison, who two years later would be trampled to death by the King’s Horse at The Epsom Derby, spent the night hiding in a broom cupboard in The Houses of Parliament.

So from a Cupboard stuffed with Suffragette to Closet bursting forth with Gays –  as LGBT people become more visible in our society and grow in acceptance, and gain rights much as women did in the last century, and continue to fight for today; I find myself wondering what changes will see if we looked back 100 years hence:  Christianity marginalised? Secularism on the Rise?  A resurgence in marriages as gay people finally marry their long-term partners?

For those not living in these seemingly enlightened isles, will such changes ever be seen in the more heavily religious places in the world than Britain in the 21st Century? Americans please weigh in.

From this data it seems the identity of irreligiosity is on the rise in England, and that’s an encouraging thought for starting 2013 with.  Whatever else happens, the next year, the next century will be one to watch!

 Happy New Year Everybody!