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  • Posted on May 28, 2012 By Chris Hedges

The sentencing of Dharun Ravi for the hateful abuse that may have driven his gay roommate at Rutgers, Tyler Clementi, to commit suicide, or Barack Obama’s public acceptance of gay marriage, prevents many of us from seeing that life for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people is getting worse—much worse.

No one understands this better than the gay activist and pastor Mel White. White, along with his husband and partner of 30 years, Gary Nixon, founded Soulforce, an organization committed to using nonviolent resistance to end religion-based oppression. White and hundreds of Soulforce volunteers protest outside megachurches that preach hatred and bigotry in the name of religion. White travels to communities where young gays, lesbians, bisexuals or transgender people have committed suicide. He holds memorial services for them in front of the church doors. He accuses the pastors of these churches of murder. His books “Stranger at the Gate: To Be Gay and Christian in America” and “Holy Terror: Lies the Christian Right Tell Us to Deny Gay Equality,” are two of the most important works that examine the innate cruelty and proto-fascism of the Christian right. White, more than perhaps any other preacher in the country, has pulled young men and women back from the brink of despair, from succumbing to the tragic fate of Tyler Clementi. And White is scared.

“What kind of environment creates a Dharun Ravi who would carry out that kind of bullying, as well as a kid like Tyler who would become a victim of that kind of bullying?” White asked when I reached him by phone at his home in Long Beach, Calif. “It is society. At its heart it is the church. The churches should be convicted, not just Ravi. He’s just an extension of the hatred that people feel about this threat, this gay threat. Pope Benedict XVI should be on trial. Richard Land from the Southern Baptists should be on trial. Religious leaders, Protestant and Catholic, should be on trial. They made this happen, but too few Americans make the connection.”

White applauds President Obama for taking a personal stand for marriage equality. But he also notes that the president’s statement was accompanied by a reiteration that states have the right to determine their own policies toward marriage.

Despite gains by gays in the wider culture, especially in the entertainment industry, and despite the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the civil rights of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people in most states are deteriorating, White said.

“Married gays in the military are miserable,” White said. “They can get married, but they can’t have any of the rights of other married military members, including housing or travel. They can give their lives but they get so little in return.”

“Class difference is at the heart of understanding sexism and homophobia,” White said. “Class difference is based on sexism. It is based on homophobia. It is based on men who want to stay in power. And men who want to stay in power go to church. They sit in the front pews. They are generous, loving and faithful. They give away a tiny little bit to keep these churches going. Which is why I stand with the Occupy movement. At least I know I’m with people who will be on my side.”

White and Nixon left Virginia for California a few weeks ago because the culture, he says, had become increasingly inhospitable to gay couples. In distressed communities across the country there is a correlating rise in intolerance, hate talk and homophobia.

“When I moved to Lynchburg it was a blue city, in spite of Liberty University being there,” White said. “We had an amazing progressive woman, Shannon Valentine, as our state representative. She visited our home. We had a progressive mayor and a progressive City Council. In 2008 everything went to hell. Our new attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli, is crazy. He talks about putting cameras up vaginas [as part of a trans-vaginal ultrasound procedure that would be required by law of all women seeking abortions]. We had so many possibilities until 2008. Then it suddenly ended. Unfortunately, more and more this is reflected across the country. The reversal came with the collapse of our financial system. Suddenly everything blue was seen as costing too much money, including helping the poor. There was a revolt led by Fox News and its allies. It’s difficult to find a restaurant or bar in Lynchburg that isn’t playing Fox News. People quote Fox as though Fox is the arbiter of truth. In fact, Fox is the enemy.”

The long-term unemployment, the collapse of housing prices, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the draconian cuts in social spending have created a climate in which the vulnerable, the different, the marginal—from Muslims to undocumented workers to homosexuals—are blamed for the nation’s decline, White argues. This climate is fueling a culture of hate. Right-wing candidates, channeling the rage and frustration of a beleaguered working and middle class, use marginal and oppressed groups as scapegoats. And, White says, those who disseminate this culture of hate lie about the positions and records of liberal elected officials such as Shannon Valentine.

“The lies against her were heinous,” White said, “but the Christian right is convinced that if you have a call to save the nation you are allowed to lie, because the ends justify the means. Jerry Falwell lied on a regular basis. We lost Shannon Valentine. We lost so much that was good about our state after that election. And this is true almost everywhere.”

The culture of hate feeds off the frustrations and feelings of betrayal among the impoverished, the unemployed, the underemployed and the hopeless. And the longer the expanding underclass is ignored, the longer we refuse to define what is happening to us in our corporate state as a vicious class struggle, the more the culture of hate spreads. The dwindling culture of tolerance, confined now mostly to white, urban, college-educated members of the middle class, because that group refuses to engage in the struggle of class warfare, unwittingly abets the economic dislocation that is empowering the increasingly potent culture of hate.

“Progressives ought to move out of New York immediately,” White went on. “Gay people should evacuate the major cities to see what life is like for gays in rural areas. The urban centers of the gay community are too isolated from wider reality. Many in these [urban] communities do not seem to care about reality. Gay people can survive, unfortunately, without paying attention to reality, especially if we’re white and male. If you’re white and male you often can pass.”

“You see Ellen DeGeneres, the most popular talk show, or you see Queen Latifah leading this week’s gay pride parade [May 20] in Long Beach, and you think all is well,” White said. “But you have to remember that in the local Baptist church, or among any of the 15 million Southern Baptist congregants, people see Ellen andQueen Latifah as a threat to family values. What we count as a forward step, they count as evil. They see it as more gay people getting power. We may watch the same television programs. But while we cheer the presence of an openly gay woman or man on television there are large numbers of people in Virginia and other states who see these public affirmations as another step towards the country’s oblivion.”

White fears that the vast sums of money available to the Christian right and groups such as the tea party (which he sees as an extension of the Christian right) are solidifying institutions from universities to media outlets in the propagation of this culture of hate. White, before he accepted his homosexuality as a gift from God, ghost-wrote autobiographies for Christian-right leaders including Falwell. White and Nixon, knowing that White’s old clients were the primary sources of anti-gay rhetoric, moved to Lynchburg. They set up house across the street from Falwell’s megachurch. They attended services and stood together in silent protest as Falwell delivered anti-gay rants from the pulpit. White watched as Liberty University rose to dominate Lynchburg.

“Liberty University is funded by fundamentalist billionaires, like the man who owns Hobby Lobby, like Chick-fil-A and the fundamentalist author who wrote these terrible books, the ‘Left Behind’ series, Tim LaHaye,” White said. “These guys are giving tens of millions of dollars to institutions such as Liberty. They see the Liberty Universities of the world as the Koch brothers do, as the bastions of training for the new Americans. They are brainwashing young people whom they hope will guide us away from the precipice of liberalism.”

Liberty is one of the fastest-growing universities in America. It has 50,000 students, on campus or taking degrees through online courses. The university built a 24-hour, all-seasons ski resort, the first in the nation. It has an Olympic-size pool and an Olympic-style ice rink. It has an accredited law school. Its debate team often beats major Ivy League teams. It is putting in a medical school. This is also a university that teaches that the oldest fossils date from only 6,000 years ago. It produces Ph.D.s who believe exclusively in creationism, reject evolution and deny that global warming exists. And it is a university that is openly hostile to gays, lesbians, bisexuals and those who are transgender.

“By the time Gary and I moved away from Lynchburg, a majority of Virginians seemed to be turning against gay people,” White said. “They passed a constitutional amendment against marriage equality and new laws saying we cannot adopt [children] or provide foster care. More than half the people of Virginia seem to see us as the enemy.”

As the economy unravels, as hundreds of millions of Americans confront the fact that things will not get better, life for those targeted by this culture of hate will become increasingly difficult. Rational debate will prove useless. “Fundamentalists aren’t interested in data,” White said. “They are not influenced by truth, including scientific, psychological, psychiatric or historic truth. They are not influenced by a personal experience with truth. The Bible is more important. Verses are taken out of context to condemn even sons and daughters. How do you oppose that?”

“We have 29 states that do not outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation,” White said. “Transgender Americans are invariably the worst victims of discrimination and violence. And yet there are 44 states that do not outlaw discrimination on the basis of gender identity. There are 44 states that have laws or constitutional amendments denying us the rights of marriage, claiming our relationships are unholy, that we’re sick and icky,” White said. “And Mr. Obama has just said marriage equality is up to the [individual] states. A majority of the states have already decided against us. If you ask a gay person in New York, ‘Can we adopt?’ he will respond of course we can adopt. Can we provide foster care? Of course we can provide foster care. Can we get jobs equally? Of course we can, especially if we are white and male. But with all the progress we have made, 44 states still see us as the enemy. Add a few more states to this list and it is over. How awful it will be if these restrictions make their way to states such as Connecticut, New York and California. Remember, California is going down the tubes financially. And the fear about the nation’s financial future is the engine that drives all of this.”

“Too many of my sisters and brothers in the gay community don’t seem to understand the power of religion,” White lamented. “They have been rejected by religion. They hate the idea of religion. Therefore, they’re not going to deal with religion, which is fatal, because religion is the heart of homophobia. Without religion there would be no homophobia. What other source of homophobia is there but six verses in the Bible? When Bible literalists preach that LGBT people are going to hell they become Christian terrorists. They use fear as their weapon, like all terrorists. They are seeking to deny our religious and civil rights. They threaten to turn our democracy into a fundamentalist theocracy. And if we don’t reverse the trend, there is the very real possibility that in the end we will all be governed according to their perverted version of biblical law.”

FORBES 3/15/2012

Santorum Promises Broad War on Porn

speaking at CPAC in Washington D.C. on Februar...

You had better not be watching what Rick Santorum thinks you’re watching. (Image via Wikipedia)

The Daily Caller flags a little-discussed position paper on Rick Santorum’s campaign website—his pledge to aggressively prosecute those who produce and distribute pornography. Santorum avers that “America is suffering a pandemic of harm from pornography.” He pledges to use the resources of the Department of Justice to fight that “pandemic,” by bringing obscenity prosecutions against pornographers.

I would note that this is very different from what the Bush Administration did. The Bush DOJ did establish an Obscenity Prosecution Task Force in 2005, but this body focused on bringing prosecutions against small-time producers who made porn with extreme content. (Even so, it faced significant pushbackfrom U.S. Attorneys, some of whom viewed such prosecutions as a distraction and a misuse of resources.) Many social conservative groups were disappointed with the task force, contending that more mainstream hardcore porn violates obscenity laws, and they urged the Bush Administration to bring obscenity cases against major producers.

Some of Santorum’s defenders have taken the tack of separating his personal views from his policy views. Santorum thinks contraception is “not OK” and he has announced his intention to use the bully pulpit to discuss “the dangers of contraception.” But he doesn’t think contraception should be illegal, and he voted for Title X contraception subsidies (though he said in a recent debate that he opposes Title X, despite voting for it.) On pornography, though, Santorum’s views can’t be written off as purely personal—he has stated a clear intent to use the levers of government to stop adults from making and watching porn.

  • MR. SANTORUM AND I ARE HERE TO MAKE SURE THE GOVERNMENT DOESN’T INTERFERE WITH YOUR LIVES…

 

HUFF POST POLITICS Posted: 03/19/2012 12:59 pm

Obama and gay marriage: 'Evolving' is no longer an option

President Obama has been called on the carpet yet again by some gay activists for not forcefully and unequivocally saying “I support gay marriage.” This doesn’t mean simply his backing full equality, civil rights, and civil unions for gays, or support for gays in the military, calls on UN to end discrimination against gays, making supportive speeches to gay rights groups, or strongly opposing the seemingly never-ending ballot initiatives and legislative efforts to outlaw gay marriage. He’s done all of that. No, he must say the words, “I support gay marriage” to fully satisfy some gay rights activists. The “some” is a crucial qualifier. Many gay rights activists understand that a GOP White House would be beyond a horror. GOP Presidential contender Mitt Romney would subtly, and GOP Presidential contender Rick Santorum would openly, back any and every anti-gay rights initiative measure, and piece of legislation any and everywhere in the country. But the president is different. He is clearly a friend of the gay rights movement, and an African American so therefore more, much more, is expected of him.

However, the 2012 election will be, as it was in 2008, a numbers, not a percentage game. This means that Obama must not just get a majority of gay votes which he’s assured of. It means he must stir passion, excitement, and enthusiasm among gay voters as he did in 2008. This translates directly into numbers, and in the key battleground states of Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida with a large number of gay voters and an even larger number of conservative Christian evangelical voters, any slack off in the number of gay voters that turn out in November would be a hard blow to the president.

But President Obama would have to totally reverse his cautious approach to politically loaded issues to say once and for all: “I support gay marriage.” It would also be the final test of his fundamental and personal beliefs. He’s made those beliefs clear on several occasions when he flatly said he wouldn’t sign on to same sex marriage because of his “understandings” of what traditional marriage should be. He later softened that to the equally cautious note that he’s “evolving” on the issue.

Obama is no different than many other moderate, tolerant and broad minded African Americans on diversity issues. But he, like many others, still can draw the line on gay marriage and that’s fueled by deeply ingrained notions of family, church, and community, and the need to defend the terribly frayed and fragmented black family structure. This mix of fear, belief, and traditional family protectionism has long been a staple among many blacks and virtually every time the issue of legalizing gay marriage has been put to the ballot, or initiative, or a legal challenge, or just simply the topic of public debate there has been no shortage of black ministers and public figures willing to rush to the defense of traditional marriage.

At the same time, polls have shown that anti-gay attitudes among blacks have softened at least publicly among many blacks. But the line continues to be just as firmly drawn among many blacks on same sex marriage. The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life (in polls in 2009 and 2010) found that blacks opposed same sex marriage by gaping margins over whites or Hispanics. The finding was even more striking in that Pew also found that for the first time in the decade and half that it had been polling Americans on attitudes toward gay rights, and that includes gay marriage, that less than half of Americans opposed same sex marriage.

The Pew poll is in line with other polls that show that the number of Americans that either outright back gay marriage, are or tolerant or indifferent toward it, is inching toward a majority nationally. The number that supports gay marriage has topped a majority in the states that have legalized it. But those states are still in the numbers minority, and the public acceptance of it is hardly evenly widespread. In the Deep South, parts of the West, and in the Midwest, gay marriage still stirs anger and loathing among many. Presidents, like other elected officials, take keen note of the polarizing impact of gay marriage.

President Obama, though, has not taken the final step and said, “I support gay marriage,” solely because of narrow religious beliefs, conservative family upbringing, or a racial herd mentality that is unyielding on the traditional defense of family values. However, these are factors that have made for pause and caution by him. Still, Obama still has gotten it mostly right on gay rights, and given the grim GOP presidential alternative and the near certainty that he’ll eventually get it right to the total satisfaction of gay activists in full support of gay marriage, to hold his refusal to utter the final words and endorse gay marriage now is worse than dumb and silly; it is politically suicidal.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is the author of How Obama Governed: The Year of Crisis and Challenge. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is host of the weekly Hutchinson Report Newsmaker Hour heard weekly on the nationally network broadcast Hutchinson Newsmaker Network.

Posted on Advocate.com February 26, 2012 01:55:54 PM ET | By Lucas Grindley

Rick Santorum Tells Two Whoppers

RICK SANTORUM VERSUS DAVID GREGORY 390x (SCREEN) ADVOCATE.COM

Rick Santorum tried yet again to pretend on Meet the Press today that he doesn’t talk about social issues, and in response he got a swift dressing down from moderator David Gregory. But that didn’t stop Santorum from telling an even bigger whopper, claiming no proof exists that he wants to impose his own values on other Americans.

“These are my personal held religious beliefs,” Santorum said. “There is no evidence at all that I want to impose those values on anyone else.”

Lately, Santorum has regularly claimed he doesn’t actually talk about social issues. Instead, it’s a myth perpetuated as part of a “game” the media plays, he’s said. After the CNN debate in Arizona this week, Santorum predictably attacked moderator John King for asking him about contraception, for example. And before that, he sniped at a television reporter in Michigan for asking about whether same-sex couples should be allowed to adopt.

So today it was Gregory’s turn, and he asked about Santorum’s past criticism of President John F. Kennedy for saying a president’s religious views should be separate from policy. He noted that Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberley Strassel has called Santorum “Moralizer in Chief” for his belief that contraception and homosexuality, among other things, are against God’s will.

“It’s so funny,” Santorum started to answer Gregory’s question with a smirk. “I get the question all the time, why are you talking so much about the social issues as people ask me about the social issues —”

“Senator, no wait a minute,” Gregory interrupted him. “You talk about this stuff every week, and by the way, it’s not just in this campaign.”

Gregory had done his research. (And so have we; check out our list of some of the many places on the campaign trail where Santorum’s gone antigay.)

“I’ve gone back years when you’ve been in public life, and you have made this a centerpiece of your public life,” Gregory lectured. “So the notion that these are not deeply held views worthy of question and scrutiny, it’s not just about the press.”

Santorum admitted that, “Yeah, they are deeply held views, but they are not what I dominantly talk about.” And then he implored Gregory to “look at my record, I never wanted to impose any of the things that you’ve just talked about.”

The list of reasons why that statement isn’t true would, of course, have to start with Santorum twice signing pledges that, if elected, he would ban same-sex marriage via an amendment to the U.S. Constitution. He’s said that would also immediately annul the marriages of thousands of same-sex couples and have the effect, he has promised, of banning adoption by those same couples. Santorum has actually bragged about being one of the original authors of the “Federal Marriage Amendment” that would do all of that.

WATCH VIDEO CLIP

Posted on Advocate.com February 17, 2012 08:31:37 PM ET, By Lucas Grindley and Andrew Harmon

MARYLAND MARRIAGE WATCH X390 (SCOTT MCPHERSON/PHOTOS.COM) | ADVOCATE.COM

What a week for marriage equality.

Following signing of the law in Washington Monday, then a decisive vote for same-sex marriage in the New Jersey legislature Thursday, lawmakers in the Maryland House voted today in favor of marriage equality in their state for the first time.

Nearly a year ago, the House voted to shelve a marriage bill by sending the legislation back to committee — this after it became clear that supporters simply did not have enough votes. But the Senate passed the bill and is expected to do so again this year. Gov. Martin O’Malley has pushed for the law and pledged to sign it. “Today, the House of Delegates voted for human dignity,” he said in a statement after the vote.

The Maryland House of Delegates needed 71 votes to pass the bill. Whether the chamber had the requisite votes was a matter of much speculation just hours before the vote. Pro-marriage equality lawmakers Thursday had to delay consideration of the legislation until today, when it passed 72 to 67 as cheers erupted from the gallery and on the floor.

Del. Anne Kaiser, a lesbian, said during debate of the bill that her parents had hoped she “finds someone to love.” Then, “I have, and I wish to be married.” Del. Maggie McIntosh, who come out as a lesbian while serving in the House, said “We seem to be on a roll.”

First, Democratic lawmakers succeeded in defeating a string of amendments that tried to transform the bill into a voter referendum or a civil unions law, plus one attempt to delay the vote until Monday so Republicans had enough time to ask the attorney general a question. Ultimately, the only amendment to pass was one from Democrats that claimed to give the courts the power to hold up implementation of the law if legal challenges are still outstanding.

On Thursday bill supporters agreed to an amendment that would push the effective date of the legislation to January of next year. Opposition groups have already begun collecting signatures for a potential November referendum. Only 53,650 signatures are needed to put the issue on the ballot.

Anti-marriage equality groups, including the National Organization for Marriage, told supporters they were “working the halls of the Capitol” as lawmakers considered the bill. And opponents were vocal on the floor of the House during debate.

“I’m not voting against this bill in judgment of these people,” Del. Patrick McDonough told his colleagues. “I am voting against this bill because of what my God told me.”

Minority Leader Anthony O’Donnell suggested that passage was aided by inappropriate political deals. “We all are not blind, and we all are not deaf,” O’Donnell said at the start of debate.

Meanwhile, national pro-marriage equality figures including New York mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Republican National Committee chair Ken Mehlman, who came out in 2010 and whose campaign contributions to anti-equality GOP candidates have recently come under scrutiny, called a small number of undecided delegates and asked them to support the bill, according toThe Baltimore Sun. The Sun claimed that even former vice president Dick Cheney offered to call Del. Wade Kach, who had been on the fence.

On Thursday morning, Kach, from Baltimore County, became the second Republican in the chamber to announce his support for the bill. The delegate said his thinking on the issue had “evolved” over recent months and that the enhanced religious exemptions in the bill championed by O’Malley were “instrumental” to his decision to change his vote.

“While no one event or conversation prompted me to come to this decision, I was significantly moved by the testimony of families — who are raising children in a loving environment and deserve every right to enjoy the same protections and responsibilities that our laws provide for others,” Wade said in a statement.

On Thursday, the New Jersey Assembly passed the Marriage Equality and Religious Exemption Act for the first time in a 42-33 vote. The historic passage, following Senate approval on Monday, turned the spotlight to Gov. Chris Christie, who fulfilled his pledge to veto the measure Friday, even as Maryland lawmakers debated. Supporters say they have two years to find enough votes needed to override the veto.

And on Monday, Gov. Christine Gregoire in Washington signed a marriage equality bill into law there. It is scheduled to go into effect on June 7, unless anti–marriage equality groups gather enough signatures to put the issue on the ballot in November.

Washington would become the seventh state in the nation, plus the District of Columbia, to legalize same-sex marriage, with Maryland possibly becoming the eighth.

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