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  • TruthDig – “drilling beneath the headlines”
  • 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.”

NEW YORK — A day before Easter, the head of New York’s Roman Catholic archdiocese faced a challenge to his stance on gay rights: the resignation of a church charity board member who says he’s “had enough” of the cardinal’s attitude.

Joseph Amodeo told The Associated Press on Saturday that he quit the junior board of the city’s Catholic Charities after Cardinal Timothy Dolan failed to respond to a “call for help” for homeless youths who are not heterosexual.

“As someone who believes in the message of love enshrined in the teachings of Christ, I find it disheartening that a man of God would refuse to extend a pastoral arm” to such youths, Amodeo said in his letter to the charitable organization last Tuesday.

Phone and email requests from the AP for comment from the archdiocese were not immediately answered on Saturday.

The conflict started with a letter to Dolan from Carl Siciliano, founder of the nonprofit Ali Forney Center that offers emergency services to homeless gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender young people. He said the cardinal’s “loud and strident voice against the acceptance of LGBT people” creates “a climate where parents turn on their own children.”

“As youths find the courage and integrity to be honest about who they are at younger ages, hundreds of thousands are being turned out of their homes and forced to survive alone on the streets by parents who cannot accept having a gay child,” Siciliano wrote in his letter, sent last week.

Siciliano, who is Catholic, said parents who are strongly religious are much more likely to reject children who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. Of the nation’s homeless youths, as many as 40 percent are LGBT, studies show.

Siciliano received a response from the cardinal in a letter dated March 28.

“For you to make the allegations and insinuations you do in your letter based on my adherence to the clear teachings of the Church is not only unfair and unjust, but inflammatory,” Dolan wrote. “Neither I nor anyone in the Church would ever tolerate hatred of or prejudice towards any of the Lord’s children.”

The response prompted Amodeo to quit the board, said the 24-year-old gay Catholic who still teaches religious education to elementary school children as part of a New York archdiocese program. He’ll be doing that on Easter in a parish near Manhattan’s Union Square.

Amodeo was a member of the executive committee of the junior board of the New York branch of Catholic Charities, one of the largest global networks of charities, started in New Orleans in 1727 as an orphanage.

“Every Sunday, I teach second-graders to ‘love thy neighbor,’ but then, when we as a church have a teachable moment, we fail,” Amodeo told the AP in a telephone interview.

He said the cardinal “failed to respond to a call for pastoral assistance, to answer the question, ‘What can we do together as a church and as a people for youths who are homeless?”

Dolan leads one of the nation’s largest archdioceses — which has 2.6 million Catholics — and is president of the Washington-based U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Last summer during New York’s same-sex marriage debate, the prelate warned that the proposed legislation — which later passed — was an “ominous threat” to society.

___

By VERENA DOBNIK

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Published: 12:59 p.m. Monday, April 9, 2012

 

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

 

The Washington Post On Faith – by David Gibson, Jan 12th 2012

A coalition of nearly 40 religious leaders has published an open letter that seeks to recast the battle against same-sex marriage as a fight on behalf of religious freedom.

The religious leaders, predominantly from conservative Christian churches and Orthodox Judaism, say their concern is not that legalizing gay marriage will force their ministers to perform same-sex weddings; they say they doubt that will happen.

Rather, they wrote Thursday (Jan. 12), allowing same-sex couples to marry would wind up “forcing or pressuring both individuals and religious organizations — throughout their operations, well beyond religious ceremonies — to treat same-sex sexual conduct as the moral equivalent of marital sexual conduct.”

“There is no doubt that the many people and groups whose moral and religious convictions forbid same-sex sexual conduct will resist the compulsion of the law, and church-state conflicts will result,” they warn in the letter, titled “Marriage and Religious Freedom: Fundamental Goods That Stand or Fall Together.”

The leaders include Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals; New York Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; and H. David Burton, presiding bishop of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The signers note that religious adoption agencies already have been required to place children with same-sex couples and religious institutions are being told to provide insurance benefits to gay partners.

The signatories also argue that their opposition to same-sex marriage has “marked them and their members as bigots, subjecting them to the full arsenal of government punishments and pressures reserved for racists.”

The thrust of the letter is to frame opposition to gay marriage in terms of a battle for religious freedom, an argument that many religious groups believe has a possibility of gaining some traction with an American public, even as Americans increasingly — and perhaps inexorably — grow more accepting of same-sex relationships.

The letter also represents an effort by diverse religious bodies to present a united front in opposition to gay marriage. Other signers include Pentecostal church officials and leaders of conservative Baptist, Lutheran and Anglican denominations.

Think Progress – By Igor Volsky, Jan 13, 2012

Paolo Urso, a Catholic bishop of the Sicilian city of Ragusa, is breaking with the Vatican “to declare that the Italian government should recognize same-sex unions,” UPI is reporting. “When people, even if they’re the same sex, decide to live together, it’s important for the State to recognize this fact,” he was quoted as saying. “But it must be called something different from marriage.” Italy does not currently recognize same-sex unions and last summer Italy’s parliament voted down a bill that would have extended discrimination protections to LGBT people.

Washington’s Legislature is on the verge of having enough support to approve gay marriage, with votes continuing to realign in the state Senate.

Associated Press, By RACHEL LA CORTE and MIKE BAKER

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington’s Legislature is on the verge of having enough support to approve gay marriage, with votes continuing to realign in the state Senate.

In contacts with all 49 senators over the past week, The Associated Press found that more lawmakers are now firmly supporting gay marriage than opposing it. That margin currently stands at 22-18, and the measure needs 25 votes to pass the Senate.

Four other Democrats say they are considering whether to support it, including one who is leaning in favor. A pair of Republicans are among those supporting the proposal, and two first-term members of the GOP say they are still discussing the issue with constituents.

The state House is widely expected to have enough support to pass gay marriage, and Gov. Chris Gregoire publicly endorsed gay marriage for the first time last week.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

The Washington state Legislature is on the verge of having enough support to approve gay marriage, with votes continuing to realign in the state Senate, according to a tally by The Associated Press.

The AP has reached out to all 49 state senators over the past week and found that more lawmakers are firmly supporting gay marriage than opposing it, by a margin of 21-18. The measure needs 25 votes to pass the Senate.

Five Democrats say they are considering whether to support it, including two who are leaning in favor. A pair of Republicans is among those supporting the proposal, and two first-term GOP members said they were discussing the issue with constituents.

The House is widely expected to have enough support, and Gov. Chris Gregoire publicly endorsed gay marriage for the first time last week.

Democratic Sen. Ed Murray, a gay lawmaker from Seattle who has for years led efforts to approve same-sex marriage, said that he’s “50 percent optimistic” it will pass. He noted that he saw a gay civil rights measure he spearheaded lose by one vote in 2005 before it passed by a single vote the following year.

“I can’t declare victory,” he said. “I don’t think we’ll know we have the votes until we actually vote.”

Of the undecided Democrats, two of them – Sens. Karen Fraser of Olympia and Rosemary McAuliffe of Bothell – signaled they would likely support the measure but were not yet willing to commit.

Three members who opposed domestic partnerships just a few years ago – Sens. Brian Hatfield of Raymond, Jim Kastama of Puyallup and Paull Shin of Edmonds – said they were considering supporting gay marriage.

Hatfield said it was an issue he was grappling with because he understands the opinions on both sides. He has become a devoted Christian in recent years but also talks with liberal groups. He said that he was simply “torn” by the debate and the backlash sure to come no matter what his decision is.

“The supporters of the bill determine you’re a `hateful bigot’ if you vote no, while the opponents question your faith and say you’re `turning your back on God’ if you vote yes,” Hatfield said.

Hatfield and Shin both opposed a domestic partnership law in 2009. Kastama supported the law and said he is now exploring what has happened in states that have approved gay marriage and is hearing arguments from both sides.

The two Republican senators who are now supporting gay marriage – Steve Litzow of Mercer Island and Cheryl Pflug of Maple Valley – said the issue was a matter of equality.

“I don’t feel diminished when another human being is allowed to exercise the same rights that I enjoy,” Pflug said. “I would feel diminished if I voted to deny others the right to exercise those same rights and freedoms.”

Two first-term Republicans representing suburban districts – Sens. Joe Fain of Auburn and Andy Hill of Redmond – also left open the possibility of supporting the bill, saying they want to discuss the issue with constituents. They declined to say whether they were leaning in any direction.

Democratic Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen of Camano Island said she wasn’t willing to support anything that didn’t allow a vote of the people.

Murray said that each undecided lawmaker he has talked with on the issue “has a very difficult personal struggle.”

“This isn’t a policy debate, or something you can trade a vote for,” he said. “It’s such a personal decision.”

Two Democrats are among the 18 declared “no” votes on the gay marriage proposal. Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima, previously supported domestic partnerships but said he wasn’t willing to go further.

“I would not support changing the definition of marriage,” he said.

The increased collection of support, mirroring shifts in public opinion on gay marriage, is coming 15 years after lawmakers overrode a governor’s veto to pass a law defining marriage as between one man and one woman. Since then, lawmakers have expanded gay rights, including the state’s initial domestic partnership law passed in 2007 and the final expansion of that law – so-called “everything but marriage” – in 2009 that was later upheld by voters. Murray said the same-sex marriage bill would be introduced by the end of this week.

Gay marriage is legal in six states.

Some Democratic supporters of gay marriage said they felt a sense of urgency to get gay marriage through the Legislature this year, in case Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna wins in November. McKenna has said he opposes same-sex marriage.

“This is a window of opportunity,” Kline said. “For that very reason, it’s going to be an all-out push.”

 

In recent news Rick Santorum visited Concord, New Hampshire and spoke before a college campus. Santorum was asked about Gay marriage, his response was “if anyone can marry anybody else, then everyone can marry several people, is that ok?”, in addition, “what about three men?” The responses from the audience were, “no, that is not what we are asking” and “that is irrelevant to the question”.

As a result of his “logical” mathematical word equation, a great number of existing anti-gay marriage Americans have stood by his comments and believe it to be a valid reason for opposition. Some have also tried to turn the tables with accusations of bigotry by stating, “If your going to make the argument that everyone has the right to peruse happiness and change the definition of marriage between a man and a women, then it should be relevant that polygamy be validated  in the same light. If this is the case and you disagree with polygamy, then you are bigoting polygamist!”

GNP would like to know your opinions in response to Santorum’s comparison to Gay marriage and Polygamy!  In addition to voting on our POLL, Do you think the audience members who responded are “bigots” towards Polygamist by not responding with a profound YES!? Leave us a comment!

GAYNEWSPULSE is ready and open for productive dialogue from either points of view!

VOTE NOW!