Italy edges towards equality
October 21st, 2015
Italy is the only nation in Western Europe that does not offer some form of recognition for same-sex couples. However, that appears to be about to change. (thelocal.it)
Italy’s parliament began debating a civil union bill for gay couples on Wednesday, kicking off a hotly-awaited rights battle championed by Premier Matteo Renzi but expected to drag on for months.
While attempts by previous administrations to change the law have been thwarted by parties with deep ties to the powerful Catholic Church, this time the majority of opposition parties have said they support the bill.
The bill has significant popular support and changes in the tone of language from the Holy See suggest that opposition from the Church and her faithful will be less vehement than in the past.
NJ Archbishop denies communion to large majority of Catholics
October 13th, 2015
Despite a poorly conceived meet-up with Kim Davis, Pope Francis has tried to repackage the Catholic Church as welcoming to gays and others who have felt excluded and rejected by the Church. He has endeavored to walk the organization back from the image of arrogance and intolerance that it held under Pope Benedict the Malevolent.
But while the Holy Father is the head and spiritual leader of the Church, he is not dictator. He does not have limitless power to purge voices of dissent and there is substantial infrastructure which has not accepted and does not support a more inclusive or gentler Church. They believe that the Church is God’s sledgehammer to be wielded against political, civic, or religious institutions which reject the teaching of the church.
One such advocate for moral absolutism and conformity is Newark Archbishop John Myers who seeks to limit fellowship in the faith to those who adhere to confirm the teachings of the church. (WaPo)
Even as Pope Francis and Catholic leaders from around the world debate ways to make the Catholic Church more inclusive, Newark Archbishop John Myers has given his priests strict guidelines on refusing Communion to Catholics who, for example, support gay marriage or whose own marriage is not valid in the eyes of the church.
In the two-page memo, Myers also orders parishes and Catholic institutions not to host people or organizations that disagree with church teachings.
He says Catholics, “especially ministers and others who represent the Church, should not participate in or be present at religious events or events intended to endorse or support those who reject or ignore Church teaching and Canon Law.”
I will say this for Myers, he isn’t simply going with the winds of change in public opinion. In fact, it would be difficult to come up with a less popular position.
First, this doubles down on about one quarter of Catholics who have been divorced and the nine percent who remarried. While the church’s teaching has always been a bit touchy in this area, there has been a growing desire withing the Church to emphasize pastoral care over dogma and finding that balance is a large part of the current synod.
Standing in the door of the church with a list of the disallowed – even while the Pope is seeking greater inclusion – not only undermines the efforts of Francis, but serves to disillusion those who have divorced, along with their friends and family.
But more significant than the quarter of Catholics who have divorced and remarried is the denial of communion to Catholics who support gay marriage. In February 2012, prior to New Jersey achieving marriage equality, 52% of Catholics indicated support for same-sex marriage. By June 2013 57% indicated that they would vote for same-sex marriage if it were on the ballot.
In a September national poll of Catholics, 46% said that not only should same sex marriage be legal, it should be recognized by the Catholic Church. It is fair to assume that the numbers in socially liberal New Jersey are at least that large.
And finally, there are those who “reject or ignore Church teaching and Canon Law” on birth control. The poll found that 76% of Catholics believe the church should allow birth control.
Between those three issues alone, even assuming large overlap, any strict enforcement would drive away the vast majority of Americans who identify as Catholic. Add in those who have lived with a partner outside marriage (44%) and you can really cut down on the cost of communion wafers.
This is stupid. Truly stupid. And it’s unlikely to hold much sway.
Myers is set to offer his retirement when he turns 75 next July and the Pope isn’t going to beg him to stay on. Archbishop Bernard Hebda has already been appointed as his replacement and Hebda has a reputation for listening.
But in the meantime, please know that if you are a New Jersey Catholic and you read at BTB, you are almost certainly unwelcome to the Lord’s Table.
American hero stabbed outside gay bar
October 8th, 2015
First-class airman Spencer Stone, Oregon National Guardsman Alek Skarlatos, and student Anthony Sadler were vacationing together in Europe and on August 21st they boarded the Amsterdam to Paris train. Just past Brussels, Ayoub El-Khazzani stepped out of the bathroom with an AK-47 in what is believed to be a terrorist attack.
Stone, Skarlatos, and Sadler rushed the gunman and successfully disarmed him. They then tended to one passenger who had been shot.
Now the Sacramento Bee is reporting that Stone was stabbed last night after leaving a gay bar in the Lavender Heights district.
Officers were called at 12:46 a.m. Thursday to the 2100 block of K Street where they found Stone with multiple stab wounds in his torso. Blood still marked the sidewalk Thursday morning near a bank parking lot and a bar.
One source with knowledge of the investigation said Stone was with two men and three women at Badlands Dance Club at 20th and K streets, then left and walked one block east, where the altercation began and Stone was stabbed. Police do not believe the attack was a hate crime.
They also think it had nothing to do with Stone’s heroism but is the result of a random alcohol fueled altercation.
Skarlatos is currently competing on Dancing with the Stars
McCarthy drops out of Speaker race
October 8th, 2015
NBC is reporting a rather surprising turn of events in the race to replace John Boehner as Speaker of the House.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy has abruptly pulled out of the race for Speaker of the House on the same day that he was widely expected to be nominated for the position.
The nominating contest in the GOP conference set for Thursday afternoon in the House has been postponed.
This is very not good for our community.
McCarthy is a conservative Republican and not an advocate for our equality. However, through his tenure as Majority Leader he has purposefully avoided social issues. His votes were against us, but he did not raise issues or go out of his way to support the more extreme measures of the far right.
The remaining candidate, on the other hand, is a nightmare.
Until today, the tea partiers had two candidates. The first, Jason Chaffetz should be well known to BTB readers. A California Jewish Democrat turned Utah Mormon Republican, Chaffetz has often led quixotic charges against the gay community. He was the frontman on the attack on marriage equality in Washington DC, seeking to impose a Federal override of the locally elected representatives. He wasn’t very successful.
He also isn’t very smart.
He is, however, dedicated to far right ideology and not afraid to let a little thing like constitutionality or the continuing functionality of government to stand in his way. As Speaker, Chaffetz would lead standoffs with the other branches of government, demand shutdowns, and advance bills that are consistent with his social agenda irrespective of whether they have support.
He would not just be bad for our community, he’d be bad for the country. And the Freedom Caucus (as the tea partiers have renamed themselves) apparently saw that and chose to have Daniel Webster, a rep from Florida, as their candidate.
I know less about Daniel Webster. He is, however, a far right conservative with strong religious ties to the more extreme end of evangelical Christianity. He is a fierce foe of equality and a supporter of a constitutional amendment to remove the rights of gay citizens.
Also, simply that he has been selected as the choice of those who see government as a means to put their theological doctrines into civil law should be enough to let us know that he’s not someone we want as Speaker of the House.
Webster is unlikely to be the first choice of establishment Republicans. He’s just too far out there.
So it’s difficult to predict what McCarthy’s move will mean.
It is possible that McCarthy is trying to shake up the party a bit and show them the possibility of one of the crazies being in charge so as to have them consolidate in support. Or he may be stepping aside to allow another establishment rep to come forward.
But if he’s clearing the road for Webster, it’s going to be an interesting, frustrating, and crazy year before the voters rush to the polls to remove the Republican majority next November.
Albert Mohler disavows secular reorientation therapy – and what that means
October 6th, 2015
Dr. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, is a fierce opponent of marriage equality or other social acceptance of gay people into civil life on an equal standing. But he is also a thoughtful opponent and has, over the years that we have been watching him, made concessions that some of his fellows were less willing to make.
As early as 2007, Mohler was able to reflect that there may be some biological basis for sexual orientation. In any case, he recognized that sexuality was not merely a behavior nor a chosen attribute which could be rejected.
In response, Mohler happily pondered a future with biological manipulation so as to “avoid sexual temptation and the inevitable effects of sin”. He did not explain what other sinful temptations should be biologically avoided or whether this conflicts with free will theology.
While recognizing that orientation was, in fact, a real matter, Mohler has never been one to believe that one should live a life consistent with the way that God made you. Rather, he believed that whatever mediatory step could ‘cure’ the homosexual should be sought.
But times have changed. And, as is the case with many churches today, the Southern Baptists are shifting from railing against The Godless Homosexuals and instead trying to find ways to include them in the flock. In fact, the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is hosting a conference titled Homosexuality: Compassion, Care and Counsel for Struggling People.
Part of Mohler’s shift involves recognizing some realities. (AP)
The Rev. R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said so-called conversion or reparative therapy doesn’t carry the redemptive power of prayer.
“In the case of many people struggling with this particular sin, we do not believe that some kind of superficial answer whereby they can turn a switch from being attracted to persons of the same sex to being attracted to persons of the opposite sex,” Mohler told reporters at the start of a three-day conference on homosexuality and how to offer pastoral care to gays, hosted by the Louisville seminary.
“By God’s grace, that might happen over time as a sign of God’s work within the life of that individual. But … for many, many people struggling with these patterns of sin, it will be a lifelong battle,” Mohler said.
This is a rather important statement.
First, this is a recognition of the world around him. Mohler is now accepting that sexual orientation is, for nearly everyone, a fixed attribute.
Of course there is the God-talk. Through God all things are possible. If we have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. God can divinely change one’s orientation just as easily as He can change their skin color, their sex, or their height.
But He just doesn’t seem to have any inclination towards doing so. And the recognition of this fact is of extreme importance to youth growing up in conservative Christian culture.
While being told that you will likely always “struggle with unwanted same-sex attractions” and should pray for strength to resist them is hardly the ideal emotional place for a young boy or girl, it is far preferable to being told that there’s something wrong with you and you need to go to the doctor. Or that you are willfully rejecting God and choosing sin. Or don’t let the door hit you on the way out.
But this welcome shift makes the theology of Mohler’s position much more complicated.
When the Southern Baptists were preaching against The Homosexuals who were out there living a homosexual lifestyle, it was pretty easy. Just repent of those sins, change your ways, marry a nice young Christian woman and live as God wants you to live. And the fact that no one was doing this was not a threat to doctrine so much as a confirmation of just how hedonistic and debased The Homosexuals were.
But now that Mohler accepts orientation as a descriptive of one’s innate attractions, and now that the church wants to reach out to homosexual people (and recognizing that they are likely to stay same-sex attracted even if they are in the church) what do you do with sin? In fact, how do you define sin?
Heath Lambert, executive director of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, said the conference, expected to draw about 2,000 people, would showcase how “uniquely biblical” counseling can lead to repentance. He said the organization opposes reparative therapy.
“We believe that repentant faith is the means of change,” Lambert said.
The conference’s goal, he said, is to give counselors “a growing love and care for people who struggle with sexual sin, homosexual sin. We want people to have a growing wisdom about how to come alongside them and walk with them through a process of care.”
I suspect that Lambert and Mohler think that they know what they mean. They are going to invite in The Homosexuals and show them love and prayer and work with them until the homosexuals just realize how pathetic and sinful they are. Just have repentant faith about homosexual sin and they’ll offer care.
That’s not going to happen. It just isn’t. To the extent that gay people want to join a church, there is a loud chorus of those who will not only allow you in the door but will march for your civil rights and celebrate your marriage. The Southern Baptist Church is not going to hit the top ten list for gay converts.
But while The Homosexuals are not going to trot down to the Southern Baptist church to be saved, this change in outlook will have a tremendous impact on youth growing up in the church. And on the church itself.
Because while this conference celebrates repentant faith, it doesn’t answer the key question: What the hell is homosexual sin?
That used to be easy. It was the Homosexual Lifestyle (which never needed definition). You’re gay and that is sinning. But if we are to welcome gays into the church and if we recognize that it’s a “lifelong struggle”, then being gay can’t stay a sin.
So what is this homosexual sin, exactly?
From a church perspective, we can define sexual sin – or at least for heterosexuals. Lusting privately, acting on that lust through porn or even engaging in fornication or adultery. And while everything on that list is officially off limits, it’s really only fornication, adultery, or a disruptive addiction to porn that ever rises to the level of getting attention.
Fourteen year old Johnnie masturbating to online porn is sin. But, well, let’s be real. Every fourteen year old Johnnie in the church is masturbating and everyone knows it. It’s certainly not something that is going to start a culture war or receive special attention from the pulpit.
But what if Johnnie is masturbating to gay porn. Is that different?
Theologically, that’s a toughie. Yes, all sin is the same in God’s eyes, but not all sin is the same in the eyes of the church. And if you’re Albert Mohler’s age and have spent decades fighting the homosexual agenda, you aren’t likely to see the two as the same. If Johnnie isn’t struggling against these horrible temptations and completely miserable, he’s sinning. And masturbating only encourages more of this temptation. To SIN!!!
But Johnnie, and his friends, are not likely to see his sin any different from a straight boy’s sin. If masterbating is wrong for one, why is it extra-wrong for the other? After all, you said orientation isn’t chosen. So why is one worse than the other?
And what’s more, the younger generation of Baptists are likely to call out their elders on the disparity. Without the presumption that gay people are inherently bad, it’s hard to make much of a case.
And if attractions are biologically based – ie. how God made you – then attractions in their own right cannot be sin. If being attracted to the Disney starlet and putting her poster on your wall is acceptable to Baptist parents, how can they find it wrong when it’s the latest boy band? Can little Susie find Nick Jonas cute, but not little Johnnie?
And is dating sin? Good Christian dating with no kissing, much less anything approaching second base?
Once The Homosexual is no longer the sinner out there but welcome in the church, pat answers can’t go unchallenged. And presumptions seem less convincing when you’re no longer in an echo chamber. If the Big Sex Sin is sex outside marriage for straight kids, then why have special rules on gay kids? That’s not welcoming. That’s not pastoral care.
For a while the Baptists will declare homosexual temptations lead to sin and should be avoided. And that heterosexual dating is in line with God’s plan but that gay dating leads to sin and is itself sinful. But how can one repent for being tempted – that isn’t Christian doctrine? And “dating” is hard to define in the mind of teenagers.
Mohler and the Baptists are going to find it increasingly difficult to draw a line with any consistency. Once you love people and let them in the door, all your inconsistencies tend to be glaring.
I suspect it will eventually come down to, “Just like we tell the straight kids, you can’t have sex before marriage. Ever. Period. Except you can never get married.”
And that’s when it will all fall apart. Because that logic is so arbitrary and cruel that it cannot withstand the inspection of Christian compassion. Once you accept someone’s humanity, once they are no longer the hedonist living some lifestyle, then they become real. And that is when the Baptists will find that the teachings of the Presbyterians and the Methodists down the street have some merit and will decide that same-sex marriage can reflect God. It will be some time, but this is the eventual conclusion.
Now, I’m happy that the Southern Baptists are moving towards more inclusion. But I think it will mean something very different from what they are expecting. And it will be amusing to watch.
Kim and Francis
October 2nd, 2015
Kim Davis and her attorneys have been making quite a big deal about her meeting Pope Francis. (Washington Times)
“I was humbled to meet Pope Francis. Of all people, why me?” Mrs. Davis said in the written statement. “I never thought I would meet the Pope. Who am I to have this rare opportunity? I am just a County Clerk who loves Jesus and desires with all my heart to serve him.”
She continued: “Pope Francis was kind, genuinely caring, and very personable. He even asked me to pray for him. Pope Francis thanked me for my courage and told me to ‘stay strong.’ “
From the descriptions given by Davis and Mat Staver, her counsel, you’d think this was an intimate and meaningful meeting in which the two shared their souls and pledged to fight together for their cause. Clearly the pontiff endorses Davis and her actions and encouraged her to fight on.
But knowing Staver’s history of less-than-factual statements and Davis’ gift for histrionics, something felt a bit contrived about their reporting.
We’ve all been in a receiving line of some sort or gone to a book signing or met for a moment with our Congressman. And while in the thrall of the experience we may think, ‘ohmigod, Taylor Swift was so nice to me’, by the time we got home we realized that she has no clue who we are, doesn’t recall the 10 seconds she gave, and has no opinion about us at all.
This felt like that. I certainly didn’t think it was some special audience with the Pope or any endorsement of Davis and her recalcitrance. That didn’t seem realistic.
Charles Pierce, writing in Esquire, looked further and speculated that the meeting was a set up contrived by Staver and Archbishop Carlo Vigano to play up Davis’ drama and tarnish Francis’ image, a position which was echoed by sources close to the Vatican.
In April, in a move that was unprecedented, Vigano got involved with an anti-marriage equality march in Washington sponsored by the National Association For Marriage. (And, mirabile dictu, as we say around Castel Gandolfo at happy hour, one of the speakers at this rally was Mat Staver, who happens now to be Kim Davis’s lawyer.) In short, Vigano, a Ratzinger loyalist, who has been conspicuous and publicly involved in the same cause as Kim Davis and her legal team, arranges a meeting with Davis that the legal team uses to its great public advantage.
Whether or not Pierce’s speculation has any merit, the result was embarrassment for the Pope and disappointment for Catholics who had hoped that Francis’ visit would usher in a less politically antagonistic relationship between the Church and the LGBT community. Taken together with a vague answer to questions about matters of conscience, it appeared that the Pope was endorsing Davis’ behavior.
Fut finally the Vatican has released a statement responding to the Davis’ self-aggrandizement and the answer is, more or less, “Kim who?”.
The brief meeting between Mrs. Kim Davis and Pope Francis at the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington, DC has continued to provoke comments and discussion. In order to contribute to an objective understanding of what transpired I am able to clarify the following points:
Pope Francis met with several dozen persons who had been invited by the Nunciature to greet him as he prepared to leave Washington for New York City. Such brief greetings occur on all papal visits and are due to the Pope’s characteristic kindness and availability. The only real audience granted by the Pope at the Nunciature was with one of his former students and his family.
The Pope did not enter into the details of the situation of Mrs. Davis and his meeting with her should not be considered a form of support of her position in all of its particular and complex aspects.
So there it is. Davis was part of a receiving line and got a rosary and a few moments of Pope Francis’ time. She, and her legal team, decided to spin that meeting into something that it was not.
As for the Pope’s only official audience? At present, it appears that it was with someone who does not share Davis’ position at all. (CNN)
Yayo Grassi, an openly gay man, brought his partner, Iwan, as well several other friends to the Vatican Embassy on September 23 for a brief visit with the Pope. A video of the meeting shows Grassi and Francis greeting each other with a warm hug.
Liberty Counsel is now claiming that the Vatican is lying
Despite a statement this morning by a Vatican official, the Pope’s own words about conscientious objection being a human right and his private meeting with Kim Davis indicate support for the universal right of conscientious objection, even for government officials. The meeting with Kim Davis was initiated by the Vatican, and the private meeting occurred at the Vatican Embassy in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, September 24. This meeting was a private meeting without any other members of the public present.
In short, Staver and Davis are asking you not to take the Vatican’s word for what the Pope supports but to take the word of two Protestants who have a history of stretching the story. I’ll let you decide who to believe.
Alan Chambers supports same-sex marriage
September 29th, 2015
Over the past few years, Alan Chambers, the former head of ex-gay umbrella group Exodus International, has made significant changes in the way in which he sees the world and his own spirituality. In his new book My Exodus: From Fear to Grace, he discusses how letting go of fear-based theology allowed him to see the image of God in places he once was afraid to see and in his book he encourages other Christians to do the same.
Although they are but a part of Alan’s transformation, the change in his views about sexuality are the most notable due to his past. Alan has not rejected his faith and it remains the center of his focus. But he has definitely changed the way in which he sees God and what is holy.
From Eliel Cruz’ interview with Alan in Religious News Service:
Where do you stand on same-sex relationships? Are you affirming of them?
I do believe that same-sex relationship can be holy. As a Christian, I think marriage is best. That is why I’m supportive of the Supreme Court decision for the legal recognition of same-sex marriage. I think same-sex marriages can reflect, and often do, God’s image. Many people in the church either do not know of Christ-centered same-sex relationships or refuse to see them. Leslie and I have met so many individuals who have awesome stories and are doing amazing work. Their marriages absolutely reflect the image of God.
Catholic student sent home after following rules
September 28th, 2015
On the one hand, most Catholics are supportive of gay people and wish for inclusion and respect. And this Pope, those opposing legal equality, speaks the language of compassion and conciliation.
On the other hand the American Bishops are, by and large, pedophile-defending, gay hating, sanctimonious royalty with less compassion than the 17th Century French royalty. And within every parish there are self-righteous zealots standing at the ready to raise a hue and stink if a school tries to find some approach other than sin, Sin, SIN AND ABOMINATION!!!
But though it must be tough, sometimes they just make it a lot harder on themselves than they have to. Sometimes they are their own worst enemy.
Take, for example, the story of Lance Sanderson.
Lance attends Christian Brothers High School, an all-boys Catholic High School in Memphis Tennessee with an emphasis on human dignity and a commitment to social justice. And when he told an administrator last year that he wanted to bring a male date to the Homecoming Dance, he was told that the school didn’t discriminate and suggested that it would be allowed.
But that administrator left over the summer and now the school is taking a less favorable view. (Memphis Flyer)
“I was sitting down talking to one of the current administrators over the summer, and at the end of our conversation, I mentioned it, expecting him to say the same thing. And he had a very different response,” Sanderson said. “He mentioned a [gay] couple in Texas and said I was a lot like this one person and said that the guy’s boyfriend murdered him. It was a little rough.”
I suppose that it goes without saying that “you shouldn’t date because of this one drunken fight in Texas” is phenominally bad advice, however well intended. Surely by 2015 we don’t have to rely on wild anecdotal evidence to know “what gay people are like”.
But considering that he is being taught to stand for social justice, no one should be surprised that Lance decided not to just accept that administrator’s response. He started a change.org petition requesting the school to change it’s mind, and received support from about 24,000 signatories. And a couple dozen alumni marched with him at pride.
The school did not back down. Which is their right. But the way they went about is just plain stupid.
The school could have issued a statement along the lines of “We support Lance and respect diversity, but we are a Catholic School and same-sex dating is contrary to Catholic teaching, so we cannot allow that at official school functions.” Not a great outcome, but not likely to cause many waves.
Instead, the school compiled a committee that came up with a policy:
CBHS students may attend the dance by themselves, with other CBHS students, or with a girl from another school. For logistical reasons, boys from other schools may not attend.
Logistical Reasons. Because, you know, boys get into interschool rivalries and cause fights, especially those gay boys who are going to murder you later. And we just don’t have the logistics to deal with that.
Then they announced that the Homecoming Dance is no longer a date dance.
No, no, there won’t be anyone at the Homecoming Dance on a date. It will just be the students hanging out with their buddies (but not buddies from other schools) and with some random girls who somehow wandered there for no apparent reason but which are definitely not on dates. So, you see, we aren’t discriminating against gay students who want to bring a date, because no one is on a date. At the Homecoming Dance.
Just a note of advice to Catholic school administrators: If you’re going to say something stupid, even colossally stupid, try to come up with something that at least has some semblance of believability.
So Lance didn’t go to his Senior Year Non-Date Homecoming Dance on Saturday. Because while other students were there with their not-dates, Lance wasn’t allowed to bring a not-date, so as to avoid fights over interschool rivalries and later being murdered.
And the story should have ended there on that note of silliness.
But Christian Brothers’ administration wasn’t quite through with truly stupid blunders. Today they pulled Lance out of school and told him to stay home for the week. Even though he didn’t bring a date to the Non-Date Homecoming Dance. (Logo)
Today I arrived at school around 6:30am. I sat down to complete my assignments for the classes I planned on attending today. At 7:30am, I was speaking to a teacher when an administrator walked into the room and told me to gather my books and come to the office.
When I arrived at the office I was told that the administration “had 890 other students to worry about” and could not deal with me. I was told to go home for the week. I said goodbye to a few teachers and students, then drove home.
And so now this matter of committee policy is now a story for the mainstream media. Congratulations Christian Brothers, you make the Three Stooges look like policy wonks.
Though the school is not telling anyone why they sent Lance home, in their letter the CBHS Community, they suggest that Lance was wrong to use social media to stand up for himself. They are embarrassed and have yet to realize that their embarrassment has everything to do with themselves and nothing to do with Lance. So Lance must be punished.
I guess at Christian Brothers in Memphis, social justice means standing up for inclusion and speaking truth to power… except when you are the power.
Clearly, this is not going to end well for the administration at Christian Brothers High School.
September 25th, 2015
John Boehner, the Speaker of the House, has announced his resignation. (Tribune)
With Congress in turmoil, House Speaker John Boehner abruptly informed fellow Republicans on Friday that he would resign from Congress at the end of October, stepping aside in the face of hardline conservative opposition that threatens an institutional crisis.
Boehner has faced increasing criticism from the more conservative elements within the Republican Party caused by his reluctance to shut down the government over Planned Parenthood funding. Boehner is seen as the quintessential establishment Republican by the Tea Party elements and an impediment to their wild west style of politics.
A constant focus of conservatives’ complaints, Boehner was facing the threat of a floor vote on whether he could stay on as speaker, a formal challenge that hasn’t happened in over 100 years. That was being pushed by tea partyers convinced Boehner wasn’t fighting hard enough to strip Planned Parenthood of government funds, even though doing so risked a government shutdown next week.
“It’s become clear to me that this prolonged leadership turmoil would do irreparable harm to the institution,” Boehner told a news conference several hours after making the announcement to his rank and file. “There was never any doubt I could survive the vote, but I didn’t want my members to go through this, I didn’t want this institution to go through this.”
In all likelihood, Boehner could withstand a floor vote. But I suspect that to do so he would require not only the support of less extreme Republicans, but that of Democrats who have nothing to gain from Boehner’s replacement.
This resignation is not good news for our community. While the Speaker has been portrayed as The Enemy by many gay writers, in reality his language and tone have been civil and respectful and have signalled that one can be opposed to our objectives without engaging in hateful diatribe or invective.
Probably Boehner’s most notorious behavior was hiring and funding counsel to bolster the Defense of Marriage Act. But, as I said at the time, defense of a law by Congress is not an unreasonable action, irrespective of what one believes about that law.
And it should be noted that during the defense of DOMA, Boehner did not attack gay couples or wail about the sanctity of the time honored definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman, choosing instead to say that “The constitutionality of this law should be determined by the courts.”
Interestingly, in the middle of the battle, federal bankruptcy judges in the Central District of California declared DOMA to be a violation of the US Constitution. Boehner decided not to appeal the decision as it was unlikely to be a vehicle through which the Supreme Court could rule on DOMA’s constitutionality in a broad sense.
Upon the Supreme Court ruling in Windsor that DOMA was a violation of the US Constitution, Boehner announced his disappointment but immediately ceased defense of any federal laws or measures that discriminated against same-sex couples. Nor did he or the House involve themselves in the Obergefell or other state marriage cases.
This is not to say that Boehner was an ally to the community nor that as Speaker he advanced our goals. That is not the case. Boehner supported DADT and continues to express his beliefs that marriage should be limited to heterosexuals.
But he has also not been a derisive opponent. And while he did not encourage the GOP to adopt equality, he expressed that the party should be inclusive of gay people and in the last election cycle he traveled to support gay Republican candidates – even though they disagreed with him about marriage and other issues.
It will be interesting to see who will replace the Speaker. Though it is possible that maverik moderates may refuse to vote for an extremist, it is more likely that the next Speaker of the House will be a Tea Party activist. And should that be the case, we may be subjected to a season in which the House of Representatives debates – or perhaps even supports – efforts to change the Constitution to institute bigotry. Almost certainly religious preference laws will be proposed so as to encourage and protect discrimination.
It’s likely to get nasty.
Kim Davis’ faith trumps courtesy and civility
September 24th, 2015
I’m sure you are all weary of Kim Davis. But I couldn’t let this pass without comment.
In her self-congratulatory Holy Martyr interview with Megyn Kelly, Davis said this:
She said while behind bars she “talked to the Lord” and “sang praises to Him, at the top of my lungs. They probably thought I was insane in there.”
To me this exemplifies exactly what kind of person is Kim Davis.
There were guards and likely other prisoners in jail, none of whom wanted to hear her shrieking and wailing at the top of her lungs. But that is immaterial to Davis. It’s all about her and what she wants to do. And because of “her faith”, she doesn’t have to be considerate of others or follow the rules that apply to everyone else.
Marriage equality comes to Jersey
September 23rd, 2015
Jersey is a possession of the British Crown, but is autonomous and self governing. Although the United Kingdom is responsible for Jersey’s defense and international relationships, it is not part of the UK.
Earlier this week, the unicameral State of Jersey Assembly voted 37 to 4 to include same-sex couples in the island’s marriage and divorce laws.
Where are Kim Davis’ gay friends?
September 23rd, 2015
Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis took to the talk circuit today to defend her decision to force her county to live according to what Kim Davis thinks that God wants. And, as anti-gays so often do, she trotted out the old “my gay friends” statement.
I have friends who are gay and lesbians. They know where I stand. And we don’t agree on this issue, and we’re OK because we respect each other.
This tired old tactic is an attempt to tell the audience that they should not listen to all those radical militant homosexuals because real gay people understand and respect Davis. It is designed to discredit her critics and show that her actions aren’t so bad because reasonable people, including reasonable gay people, respect her actions.
But this cannard relies on two old premises, neither of which remain true.
First, Davis assumes that her audience doesn’t have any gay friends of their own. Even the most casual conversation with a gay person would quickly disprove that notion.
The community may not be unanimous on cake bakers or florists, but when it comes to Davis’ denial of state services and refusal to allow her deputies to offer them, gays across the political spectrum see this as not OK and not deserving of respect. The only way to not know this is to not know any gay people.
But though Davis and her counsel may live under the impression that homosexuality is a dark secret kept in a closet, most Americans have gay people in their lives. Nearly 90% of Americans know a gay person and more than half have a relative or close friend who is gay.
The second presumption on Davis’ part is that sexual orientation is a very private matter and no one will violate the privacy of her acquaintances and say, “who are these gay friends of yours?” Thus she can just toss out this patently absurd statement and no one will call her on it.
But fewer and fewer people feel shame or any need to hide their orientation. And I think we can assume that anyone who is out to Kim Davis is not particularly selective in deciding to whom they will reveal their orientation.
So the Kentucky Equality Federation is asking just who are these friends who are OK with Davis and respect her? What are their names? Do they really support her? Do they even exist?
The Daily Beast took up the quest, interviewing her former husband, her employees, and her neighbors. But no one seems to be aware of any gay people in Davis’ social circle.
I think that eventually someone will turn up who knows Kim Davis. Maybe a grocery clerk or the son of a neighbor or a distant cousin. And when they do, they will say that they love Kim and respect her… but that what she is doing is wrong and they are not OK with it. And that will be that.
I am sympathetic towards that as yet unidentified person who may not want to be dragged into the story or risk alienating people in their town. But I am glad that finally, after years of politicians and preachers and pundits playing the “my gay friends” card to deflect criticism, finally someone is being called on it.
California GOP softens platform on gay issues
September 22nd, 2015
From the San Diego Gay and Lesbian News
On Sunday September 20, the California Republican Party in a near-unanimous vote removed anti-gay communications from its platform and added language in support of the LGBT community.
The CA GOP’s platform continues to oppose marriage equality, but language about “special rights” and other trigger terms were removed. This follows the recent inclusion of Log Cabin Republicans as a recognized party organization and reflects the realization that anti-gay policies no longer have widespread support.
The state party also softened positions on immigration.
ACLU asks judge to reverse Kim Davis’ meddling
September 21st, 2015
After being released from jail under orders not to interfere with the issuance of marriage licenses by deputy clerks, Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis immediately did just that.
She denied the deputy clerks access to Kentucky marriage licenses and instructed them to issue altered licenses in which Davis had struck out words, filled in blanks inappropriately, and restricted the deputies from acting as deputy clerks and requiring them to only act as a notary public. Having removed the authorization that comes from being issued by deputy clerks, Davis declared the forms “unauthorized”.
A few days ago, Deputy Clerk Brian Mason filed his fortnightly report with Judge Bunning in which he detailed Davis’ behavior. The alteration of the forms was also confirmed in the report of Deputy Clerk Kristy Plank.
Now the ACLU is requesting that Judge Bunning order the Deputy Clerks to issue valid marriage licenses that have not been altered by Kim Davis. They are requesting that they be identical to those licenses issued while Davis was in jail, which do not include Davis’ name, replacing it with the words “Rowan County”.
Specifically, with regard to this Court’s September 3 Order, Plaintiffs request that the Court direct the Rowan County Deputy Clerks to (1) issue marriage licenses in the same form and manner as those that were issued on or before September 8, 2015; (2) disregard any instruction or order from Defendant Kim Davis that would require them to issue any marriage license in a form or manner other than the form and manner of licenses that were issued on or before September 8, 2015; (3) continue to file status reports that address their compliance with the Court’s Orders and detail any attempt by Davis to interfere with their issuance of marriage licenses in the same form or manner as those that were issued on or before September 8, 2015; and (4) re-issue, nunc pro tunc, any marriage licenses that have been issued since September 14, 2015, in the same form or manner as those that were issued on or before September 8, 2015.
Should Davis continue to meddle and seek to block the issuance of valid marriage licenses, the ACLU request that Bunning fine Davis and put the County Clerk’s Office into receivership.
Meanwhile Davis is on the talk circuit wailing about how people called her names just because she decided to impose her personal beliefs on the citizens of Rowan County.
Greece Had an Election
September 21st, 2015
And with every election, everybody talks about who they think will win. As far as the politicians are concerned, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his Syriza party scored a solid win. But if you ask me, any time a citizenry takes part in the democratic process, we all win.