Tag Archives: LGBT rights

Calvin College’s new president speaks out

Over the weekend, someone who is a member of the Calvin College Support and Celebration group shared an interview of Calvin College’s new president, Michael Le Roy.

Don’t let the article’s subtitle mislead you when it promises that we’re going to talk about something besides homosexuality.

At the bottom of page three he starts talking about the “biggest theological challenge” facing Calvin College in general terms of how do we call others to follow Christ? How do we gracefully ask people to carry their cross without watering down our message and yet communicate compassion and sympathy when the message seems hard?

By the top of page four, Dr. Le Roy is directly applying these questions to the college’s gay student population and that’s how the article ends with the president reflecting on Calvin College’s continued desire to avoid “political” issues.

Go ahead and read the article for yourself. I myself am very disappointed in Dr. Le Roy’s seeming commitment to keep on keepin’ on with regards to the LGBT community on campus. But I’m disappointed not simply because Calvin College and its new president are keeping to the same path they’ve been on for years – that’s no real surprise. What’s more surprising is that Dr. Le Roy, unprompted, decided to make the connection between the call to carry one’s cross and Calvin’s LGBT community – as if they needed any reminding of the cross they have to carry!

To a certain point I appreciate the humility that comes through when Dr. Le Roy says, “Anybody who speaks in platitudes or thinks it’s simple to be a faithful and wise Christian in these issues [regarding homosexuality] is overlooking something.” When you consider that the group he’s speaking to is primarily hostile to the LGBT crowd, this kind of aside matters.

Dr. Le Roy and many others at Calvin College don’t want to be “political”, which I interpret as meaning controversial – which you may also interpret, if you wish, as meaning that they don’t want to upset donors.

By my definition of what it means to be “political” in this context, Calvin College is ignoring the Gospels. Jesus was never one to avoid controversy. During his ministry, Jesus associated with tax collectors and Samaritans – two groups of people who were viewed in many ways as the LGBT community is viewed by many in the Church today.

Jesus called on the Samaritan woman and the tax collector both to go and lead good and honest lives – which he calls each of us to. He didn’t tell the Samaritan woman to be Samaritan no more or the tax collector to change professions.

This comparison, of course, is far from perfect so I don’t want to push it too far.

When Jesus went to oppressed groups of people or when he spoke to those who were looked down upon by the who’s who of religious society, he never went to them with a message of, “Here. Take this cross and follow me.” He went to them with a message of liberation and freedom that he had to offer. He went to them with hope.

The most difficult message that Jesus had to give was to the wealthy man, the individual of privilege, who was respected and virtuous. When he asked what else he must do to enter God’s kingdom, Jesus said that he must adhere to the law – which he already did, the man said. What else? Go, Jesus told him, sell all you have and follow me. The message was difficult for him since he was so well off.

That’s quite the burden! And Jesus didn’t go giving this burden to the downtrodden. He gave this message to the well-off and powerful.

A little bit of humility from those who carry on Jesus’ message today would be a good starting point. Simply saying, “I’m sorry you feel bad about our message to you” is hardly an embodiment of humility or grace.

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Filed under My heart I offer you, Religious Wrong

Dear Advocate, Please Stop

Last year, there was an uproar following The Advocate naming Grand Rapids to its list of the top 15 gayest cities in America.

It bothered me that my hometown had been named to the list. While I understand that The Advocate is trying to spotlight gay life in other corners of the country besides the East and West Coasts, this was a complete misrepresentation of my hometown.

A year later, Grand Rapids is off the list but other small towns across America like Salt Lake City and Spokane, Washington remain firmly entrenched on the list because of The Advocates’ questionable criteria:

The Advocate Gay cities criteria

You can pick apart the criteria for yourself and decide how fair you think it is. I think this year’s criteria is slightly less eyebrow-raising than last year (no more nude yoga?), but still. Whole Foods makes a city gay? Glee concerts? Rugby?

You know what I think would make a city gay friendly? How about not getting harassed when you want to hold hands in public? How about not having to worry about whether or not you can go look at an apartment together and be seen as a couple or if you should act like you’re just friends? How about partner benefits?

The best part is that MARRIAGE EQUALITY is 5 points. Marriage equality is not equality. Legal recognition, though a step in the right direction, guarantees relatively little in life. Legal recognition doesn’t mean that your family will be accepting or that you won’t have people lean out their car windows and yell hateful words at you.

For the sake of all of us in Middle America, The Advocate needs to seriously reevaluate what makes a city “gay”. If these cities really are so gay, they should make a great vacation destination for the staff at The Advocate. You know, they can go to the roller derby and stuff.

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2013 is our year

Equality DE

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28/01/2013 · 16:55

A little perspective

It’s good to remember your place in the world. Injustice anywhere is inextricably linked to injustice at home, it is a threat to justice everywhere.

I feel privileged to fight against injustice with a relative amount of security in the United States. Cases of violence against gay men and lesbians occur – and occur with all too great a frequency – but there is little organized threat against us in most corners of the United States.

Not so in many other corners of the world. And hell, it’s not even “corners” of the world, but great swathes.

Just one news story. One out of so many others. The people of Lebanon, the people of Iraq, the people of Uganda, the people of X country, Y country, Z country.

We need more leaders like Hillary Clinton. A major reason why I am supporting Barack Obama’s re-election is because of the courage his administration has in spotlighting the need for equality. Mitt Romney’s promise if he gets elected to office? He won’t deport us or criminalize homosexuality.

If this becomes the U.S. policy – quiet tolerance at best – what does that mean for the rest of the world? Would Romney’s Secretary of State deliver speeches to the UN about the need for leaders to be out front, leading their respective countries on the question of LGBT rights? What would Romney’s election mean not only for us as the LGBT community in the United States but for our fellow LGBT siblings across the globe? Our progress is linked. We don’t make advances in isolation of one another and Romney’s election would be an inevitable setback for all of us.

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Filed under Election 2012, Injustice anywhere

The choice

Need any more proof that there is only one viable candidate for LGBT people in this election?

Mitt Romney reportedly met with gay Republicans recently seeking their support. Did he do to a Log Cabin Republicans event or a GOPride event or, God forbid, the HRC? Nope. He went to a “rural farm” where he met with them privately.

We have a president now who is fighting for us and with us. President Obama has signed the Mathew Sheppard Act which allows hate crimes to be investigated on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, he has endorsed marriage equality, and fought to end Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Mitt Romney is promising that he won’t send us to internment camps….

Is the choice clear enough? Get out and vote!

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Filed under Election 2012, Queer Politics, US Politics

People really think this way

Since I follow NOM on Facebook, I have at least one “WTF!?” moment every day when I see something on my newsfeed.

Today, I learned that I’m a fascist.

I don’t know how much credence can be given to this story that a woman got bullied at her front door by a liberal, pro-gay rights activist. Anyone can go on Rush Limbaugh or any other call-in radio show and make up anything they want. But for the sake of it, let’s pretend that this really did happen and this woman really was intimidated by a canvasser in her own home to the point where she felt threatened by this “evil person”.

Apparently she was asked to sign a petition against the ballot initiative in Minnesota to define marriage between one man and one woman and she told this canvasser that she supported his right to his own opinion but she disagreed with his views on marriage at which point the conversation went from bad to worse.  According to the caller, “Then he really went off the wall and started yelling and screaming and shouting and waving his arms.”

First of all, I would like to apologize to this woman first and foremost as a canvasser. Supposing that this really did happen. As a canvasser, I do everything I can to approach people with sensitivity, recognizing that not everyone I talk to is going to agree with me on politics. In fact, I had my own interesting run-in last weekend. Long story short, no one should ever feel intimidated by a canvasser. That’s not our job. Our job is to connect with voters, to have conversations, to exchange ideas and try our best to sell ours. If people don’t want to talk to us, we shake the dust off our feet and go on our way.

Secondly, I would like to say that when we frame political discussion based on extremes, we get nowhere. The only way forward is earnest discussion between reasonable people of good faith. People who “go berserk” are not going to lead the way forward, whatever side you’re on. People who compare gays to Nazis or terrorists are not going to lead the way forward. People who propose an “underground railroad” to save kids from gay parents are not going to lead the way forward.

As an advocate for LGBT rights, I ask heterosexual people who oppose LGBT rights to examine what exactly they’re opposing and why. As necessary as legislation is, the best way forward is for all LGBT people to live their lives as authentically as possible – something that’s not always easy, which is why I would like to particularly call on other gay men to do so since we, as a group, enjoy the greatest privilege of any letter in our community. (Of course I don’t want to say that all gay men enjoy the same level of privilege, any number of other factors come into play from religion to socio-economic background, to where you live, etc.)

The more visible we are, the more authentic we are as queer people, the less credence the Right Wing has when they point to stories like this about “gay fascists” taking over America and trying to “take away religious freedom”. People will be able to dismiss these stories when they know our faces, when they know our own stories, when they know that we’re they’re friends, co-workers, children, sisters and brothers.

I’m out. Are you?

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Rethinking Marriage Pt. 2 (and other like things)

There is more good news for supporters of marriage equality this Monday morning. According to the Advocate, a Republican state senator in the great state of Washington has pledged support for a bill that would extend marriage rights to same-sex couples.

Not quite as memorable as Roy McDonald’s statement when he announced his support for the marriage equality bill in New York in 2011, but that doesn’t lessen the authenticity or the importance of Mr. Litzow’s statement of support from the West Coast.

Now if you remember from my last post about marriage, you’ll know that I have my reservations about “marriage equality” myself. However, I think that more and more people are beginning to come to three realizations regardless of their political or religious affiliations:

1) Some people are born differently. Or if not born differently, have some sort of natural predisposition that’s triggered so early in life that they have nothing to do with it.

2) Just because people are born differently or develop differently, that doesn’t mean that they are incapable of loving another human being.

3) Despite external differences, the love that two human beings share and their commitment to one another should still be recognized by the state.

Of course this is not everyone. But this country has come a long way in a very short time. It’s come such a long way that the future political platform of the GOP is being drawn into question. Eventually opposition to gay marriage is going to be a losing battle for the GOP and more and more Republicans from state senators in New York and Washington to Laura Bush, Dick Cheney and the McCain women have come out in support of gay rights.

One of the lingering, tired arguments against gay rights is that this is the “homosexual radicals” trying to force their values on the rest of the culture.

Actually, it’s just the opposite. Gay people wanting to participate in the institution of marriage should flatter heterosexuals. Gay people wanting to get married says that people in the LGB community recognize the importance of and the benefits of committing to someone for life and that they want a part in this.

Again if you’ll recall, I do have my problems with marriage so I think that some of this flattery is a little undue.

After all, we are a tiny minority. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 5%. And on one level, it’s heartbreaking that some people live in so much fear – and also that we are scape-goated for problems we have little if anything to do with at all. (Cue Wanda Sykes and her brilliance.)

On another level, it’s completely disheartening that as human beings, we can be so keen on antagonizing minorities in such thoughtless rhetoric. (Current GOP presidential hopeful whose name you don’t want to Google, anyone? He has a whole Wikipedia page dedicated to his gay gaffes! Check it out!)

When Christians deny the right to marry or get a civil union to people who are lesbian or gay, this is even more heartbreaking.

Without getting into a long discourse, I think that every person who professes to be a “Bible believing” Christian should be concerned with minority rights (not just LGB or LGBT rights). When we’re called in the Torah to come to the aid of the fatherless and the widow, and when Jesus says later in the Gospels that true believers are the ones who came to clothe him when he was naked, to feed him when he was hungry, to visit him in prison – we are called to love and assist those on the margins of society. We are not called to load them down with extra burdens that we ourselves are unwilling to bear. For example, take calls by some religious folks for LGB people to deny their sexual impulses or for transgendered individuals to deny the core of their being. Well I’ve not met many straight people who have told me, “I’m going to be celibate for life because this is what God is calling me to do.” This group includes… Priests. And not all of them do such a great job at this, either. (Note that I am not saying people cannot be celibate, but very few make plans for this. Even fewer actually stick to these plans.) And just because gender disphoria is somewhat rare, that does not equate with not real. (And in fact, gender disphoria is probably more common than we’re ready to admit since many people suffer silently.)

Sometimes the Bible says things that need to be questioned. In the last 100+ years we’ve been realizing that perhaps the Bible doesn’t speak to a literal six-day creation story. We’ve been drawing into question texts that could be used to support genocide and slavery and the oppression of women.

Now some people get very uncomfortable when you start pruning branches away no matter how dead they may be. We start to hear a lot of this term “slippery slope”. When you get rid of verses that say homosexuality is wrong, well then what about verses that say you shouldn’t commit adultery? It’s a very frightening prospect, I know.

Allow me to be upfront in saying this: As religious people, we cannot rely solely upon a dated, sometimes cryptic text. I already hear people crying out how straight-forward the Bible is in saying that “man shall not lie with man as he lies with a woman!”. There’s nothing cryptic about that, right? I’ll be straight with you (haha). I probably have nothing to say that will change your mind if you’re convinced of this. Allow me to simply offer my conviction that as Christians we base our faith on the Bible. We shouldn’t push it aside just because there are a few weird, unsettling passages. But we should also make good use of the faculties God endowed us with – among them intellect and logic – to test what is good and worth preserving.

Some people are born differently. If you’re operating from a Christian worldview, you might explain this through sin entering the world. We as religious people have to decide if we are going to take an approach of grace when confronted with the fallen state of the world or if we are going to leave our friends, our sisters and brothers, our children, our neighbors in a no man’s land where they are not allowed to be fully human, where they are denied even the simple possibility to love another human being intimately because that might put them in danger of eternal damnation. Are we going to be so quick to forget that Jesus told his followers that as they judged others, so they too would be judged?

As a person of faith, I am more concerned about the passages in the Bible like in Matthew 19 where a rich man speaks to Jesus and asks what he must do to be saved. I am astounded that as one of the wealthiest nations in the world and one of the most religious nations in the world, we are not uncomfortable with passages like this where Jesus tells the rich man to go sell all he has and give to the poor. He didn’t tell him to start a culture war. He didn’t tell him to go out and look for socially marginalized people and do everything in his power to make them even more miserable.

Is that clear enough for you? “Go sell everything you have and give to the poor! Then come and follow me.”

Have you sold everything yet? Have you given it all to the poor?

Bottom line: being fully human means admitting that we are all wounded. Or, if you want, it means that we are all fallible. I don’t want to get into semantics. Essentially, we’re all fucked-up and we all fuck up, too. The sooner we all admit this, the sooner we can stop trying to make others miserable to compensate for our own shortcomings and get down to the business of living.

jrm

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