The Wind At Our Backs

Civil Rights Movement Builds Momentum In Popular Discourse

Whether you’re talking about marriage equality, hate crimes legislation, or workplace protections, the momentum for LGBT civil rights is undeniable. As a movement, LGBT activists have known for years that we’re on the right side of history, and as such we were never turning back. Now others who have been silent on the issue, whether it’s because they thought it didn’t impact their lives directly or they didn’t think it was important, are starting to recognize its importance and take a stand on the issue.

I’m encouraged by the dialog, even as some of it is painful. I’m seeing people really struggle with the issue with honesty and sincerity. Several politicians have stated that they will not support Chick Fil A restaurant franchises coming into their districts and cities because company president Dan Cathy’s assertion of the company’s stance on same-sex marriage. Even the Muppets have said that they no longer wish to do business with Chick Fil A. Unrelated to the Chick Fil A debate, numerous powerful corporate executives have recently made significant gifts and public statements to support marriage equality.

It may be even more significant that even activists who have been central in the movement to repress LGBT civil rights are starting to change their positions. Insiders to the so-called “ex-gay” movement are starting to say that “curative” therapies developed to make gay people straight do not work. In June of this year, David Blankenhorn, a central figure who provided testimony supporting Proposition 8 in the trial that questioned its constitutionality, publicly changed his position on same-sex marriage.

Also of enormous significance, two major civil rights organizations this year passed resolutions supporting marriage equality, effectively identifying themselves as LGBT rights allies. Both the NAACP and and the National Council of La Raza (NCLR – which coincidentally has the same acronym as the National Center for Lesbian Rights) issued resolutions supporting President Obama’s endorsement of marriage equality.

I could go on. There is no doubt about it, 2012 has been a very important year in turning the tide in the movement for LGBT civil rights.

As more and more people start to get it, the debate has finally been popularly framed as being about fairness, equality, and civil rights.

In the past, those opposed to gay rights have successfully framed the public debate by relating morality to sexuality, and conflating homosexuality with sexual perversion. That framework and way of thinking has been soundly rejected. Currently, in popular discourse the question of morality as it relates to LGBT civil rights is about how people treat one another in a diverse society.

The opposition to protecting LGBT civil rights is widely recognized for what it is: bigotry.

Priorities: Love over Hate

#LGBT

In light of the rash of gay teen suicides and anti-LGBT violence, I am feeling little patience for those with the “Religious Right” who are preaching from the pulpit and from high-profile public platforms that homosexuality is a sin. They have a right to preach and teach that, but I seriously question their priorities as Christians.

What would Jesus do?

He would prioritize expressing love over expressing views on sexuality.

Is it not more important to speak the word of peace and love, and the right for all kids to attend school in safety? Whatever your views on homosexuality, at this moment it is hard for me to understand how Christians of any political persuasion are not speaking out more loudly about the morality of violence against any human being for any reason.

It is appalling and shameful.

Bottom line: anti-gay violence is wrong, and the church has a responsibility to speak out against it. Speak your mind about sin and sexuality, but if you do that and speak from a Christian point of view, you must also say something about anti-gay violence.

The pastor at my church this past weekend preached that the Church has blood on its hands. Indeed. By not speaking out  more vehemently, people of faith are condoning this violence.

A good week for marriage equality, but struggles still continue

I woke up this morning and found the following three items in my Twitter feed:

It is gratifying to see that the judiciary all over the world is recognizing marriage equality as a civil rights issue. It’s a bumpy ride for LGBT rights right now, and I think that this is an era of gains and losses for LGBT civil rights as religious conservatives foist their internal struggle with bigotry on the rest of us. As a result, religious institutions like the Catholic Church are making unfortunate decisions like ending the foster care program in Washington DC because the Archdiocese there doesn’t want to recognize same-sex marriages.

Meanwhile, Ugandans live in fear for their lives while anti-gay legislation is debated in that country, and in Malawi police have been conducting an anti-gay sweep. Stories like this demonstrate the danger that LGBT folks endure just living their lives day to day.

It is truly astonishing to witness the disconnect of so-called “pro-life” Christian activists who continue to prioritize their own fear and bigotry over protecting human lives that are threatened by violence, hunger, and poverty.

Hostages of Bigotry

I am truly disgusted by the latest moves by conservative churches to deny services to the homeless and hungry in order to protest gay civil rights ordinances by local governments.

The needs of the poor and homeless have nothing to do with the civil rights of the LGBT community. Yet these conservative churches have decided to express their displeasure over the legal protection of LGBT families by leveraging much-needed social services.

What this means is that these churches are going to refuse to serve a hot meal to a homeless family in Washington D.C. because they don’t want to respect Adam and Steve’s love and commitment to each other.

It’s a heartless political move, and they will one day be ashamed of themselves.  Right now, Christian charities that serve the hungry and homeless should be worried about filling the gap of those who are food insecure, making sure kids have enough to eat so that they can stay focused in school and learn more effectively. Instead, they are worried about their influence over local governments to continue the discrimination of LGBT people and families and deny their civil rights. It is seemingly more important to them to make a statement about homosexuality than it is to feed the hungry or shelter the homeless.

It strikes me that many conservative Christians resent being called bigots when they express their anti-gay sentiment. They claim to love gay people, but acts like this, withholding social services in the name of discrimination, this is not a loving act. It is an act of bald-faced bigotry.

I bet Jesus would overturn the tables in the temple.

Heartbreak in New York

Once again, being on the right side of history is proving to be cold comfort when one’s civil rights are at stake. I am so tired of waiting. I am so tired of feeling like I have to justify my existence and my life. I am tired of paying unfair taxes. I am tired of hearing about the growing violence against my LGBT brothers and sisters. And I am tired of people not copping to the hate they feel in their hearts for us, insisting that they not be called bigots while they deny a woman the right to be by her dying spouse’s side in the hospital.

I am tired of bigots claiming moral high ground while they are silent about the outrageous proposed Ugandan law that would put gay HIV positive people to death in that country. I am really tired of people claiming that they love us, when it is clear that hating the “sin” is equivalent to hating the “sinner”.

The real sin is hate and not taking responsibility for one’s own ignorance and fear.

New York missed an opportunity to be on the right side of history today. what a shame.

A Place at the Table

Like my queer sisters and brothers, I am very disappointed in the choice of Rick Warren to lead the invocation at the  presidential inauguration of Barack Obama. Indeed, he has said things about us that are extremely ignorant, hurtful, and prejudiced. For our civil rights agenda, Warren was the absolutely wrong choice. But I disagree with those who claim that Obama’s choice of Warren is any sort of signal to us that he isn’t leaving a place at the table for us.

Indeed, he has, more than anyone who has come close to holding the Office of the President, sent signals to the gay community that we do have a place at the table. It may not be exactly in the way that we want it, but we have an opportunity to move our civil rights agenda forward in a way that we never have before.

Now I learned today that Geoff Kors, the Executive Director of Equality California, is literally giving up his place at Obama’s table. In a purely symbolic gesture to protest Warren’s invitation, Kors is giving up an opportunity to represent queers and the #1 civil rights issue of our time at one of the most historically significant events ever. This accomplishes nothing positive for us.

We have every reason to be outraged at Obama’s choice, and it is right to point out Obama’s flawed decision. But, it is a mistake for us to squander any of our precious resources on a futile effort to convince Obama to rescind the invitation.

We have been fighting for a place at the table for so long, and now that we finally have one, Geoff Kors is trying to make his attendance conditional with nothing to leverage. The only ones who lose out by his decision to turn down this opportunity is the LGBT community. We can get the message of our disapproval, hurt and anger across without sacrificing this opportunity to represent ourselves and our cause.

Finally, I urge Geoff Kors to ask himself what Jesus would do. The answer is that he would make a place at the table for everyone, including the likes of Rick Warren. We need to do the same.

Protesting True Ugliness

I woke up this morning to find an email on Facebook regarding an action here in Chicago. Fred Phelps was in town to protest the Center on Halstead, and local LGBT activists were organizing to show our strength in numbers. The sign-making was already under way by the time I read my email, so I decided to get down to the Center in time for the protest.

We all kind of waited around for a while, and I ended up making awkward small talk with strangers. The organizers weren’t entirely certain whether or not Phelps was actually going to show up. Regardless, they decided we were going to make a show of force, sending a message to Phelps and the world that hate isn’t welcome here.

We all filed outside to stand infront of the building. Because it was pretty cold out, we walked in a loop in the sidewalk infront of the Center, many of us holding signs or rainbow flags, chanting alternately “Hey hey! Ho ho! Homophobia’s got to go!”, or “Gay! Straight! Black! White! Marriage is a civil right!, or “Gay! Straight! Black! White! Same struggle, same fight!”

Eventually, someone spotted the Phelps clan in front of the police station down the street, so people strated moving towards them. No one was sure where we were going until we got there. There were at least 200 of us, and there couldn’t have been more than four of them in the Phelps group. I was standing towards the back of the crowd, and I could hardly see them. But I couldn’t mistake their signs: something ugly about “Fags”, and a picture of Obama with horns with the word “antichrist.” One of them was holding a very young child who looked terrified.

They were clearly intimidated. I almost felt bad for them. People in the crowd were really angry, and I think the message was conveyed: Hate is not welcome here.

My fear about this action is that there were many in the crowd who have as much hate in their hearts as Fred Phelps does. As I watched the goings on (and yes, I was glad to see them retreat), what kept running through my mind and heart is “God loves everyone.” I hope that my LGBT brothers and sisters, while they express their anger and their pain at the acts of hate perpetrated by Phelps and his ilk, can find enough room in their hearts to love, forgive, and feel compassion for these most misguided people.