Posts Tagged ‘discrimination’

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When You Can’t Prove What is Obviously True

December 31, 2008

It all started with a phone call from the new interim pastor of Paradise Christian Church* (wink and tip of the hat to preacherlady). 

“This is Reggie Dominy.  I’m the new interim pastor here at Paradise Christian.”

“Yes. Good to talk to you.”

“I’ll be selecting the hymns for the worship service from now on.  I guess you’ve been doing that for a while?”

“I’m really uncomfortable with that.”

“Why?  That’s not typically the organist’s job.”

“Well, it’s part of my job description.  I do it well and I’m not comfortable giving it up.” 

And that’s how the battle began.  That phone call lasted more than thirty minutes, and during that time, I found myself making some strong and defensive statements to a stranger who’s face I’d never seen.  I felt attacked, especially when Reggie said that he had to pick the hymns because we needed to change the way we do things since attendance at worship had decreased.  I told him that he was making it sound as if that was my fault; as if my music were the cause of people not attending worship services.  Reggie said he wasn’t saying that, but how else could I read that implication in the context of this conversation?

In the first service over which Reggie presided, there were at least five statements that sent up red flags in my mind.  From our phone conversation, it sounded like Reggie desired to create a solemn, even somber service steeped in traditional worship and laced with long moments of silence and reflection.  Nothing could have been further from the reality of what happened that very first Sunday in November. 

The humor was abundant as well as inappropriate.  Reggie set the tone in the announcements which are made before the organ prelude and the official start of the worship service.  As Thanksgiving was approaching and the Outreach committee was planning on giving food to several needy families, a plea was being made for congregants to donate canned goods.  Reggie’s pitch went like this:

“You know that can of salsa you bought seven years ago and it’s been sitting there on your shelf and you don’t know why you bought it?  Go ahead and bring that in for the food drive.”

It was then followed up with some muttered statement about buying a new can of something to go with it.  The request for food donations was being played for laughs, while the sincere request was downplayed.   Throughout the service we learned a few things.  For instance, it became clear that Reggie loves to eat deviled eggs.  And just in case someone might not have gotten that message, Reggie repeated his declaration of love for deviled eggs in the next four consecutive worship services.  We also learned that he likes to hear jokes, and that we should feel free to tell him Polish jokes and “jew” jokes.  For some reason, as Reggie made that statement, he hesitated, as though there were more kinds of jokes he enjoys, but felt it best to edit himself as this was part of his introductory sermon.  We also learned that there is a proper way to introduce onesself, which, one would know how to do “if you’ve ever been to college.”  What an effective way to discourage the “wrong” kind of people from attending church!

Most telling was the one particular family that Rev. Dr. Dominy made sure to mention in his sermon.  It was the one family in which the husband has a great job, the wife is a SAHM, and the two daughters are involved in dance lessons, baton twirling corps, and kiddie pageants.  They also happen to be the family who left the church in a huff, refusing to return until the full-time minister was either fired or resigned.  Dr. Dominy made sure to say their names, or compliment the beauty of the daughters, or involve the family in most of the services during November. 

On my last Sunday as music director, December 21st, Reggie did something that was at best unethical, and at the worst, creepy in the sense of looking too much like a child molester.  As part of his sermon, he asked the two little girls, both under the age of 12, to come forward and model their new Christmas dresses.  Embarassed, they walked to the chancel, where Reggie had them put their forefingers on their heads and do a ballerina turn for all to see the new outfits.  Then, in spite of smaller children moving back and forth between the sanctuary and the nursery, Dr. Dominy gifted the two “models” with presents, to be opened there in front of everyone. 

The weeks between that initial phone call and my final service were stressful. Communication between Dr. Dominy and myself was archaic.  He would leave handwritten notes, in the most screeching hot pink ink, on the piano.  I asked our secretary why he didn’t use email.  She replied that he wasn’t very computer savvy.  That statement that was refuted in the coming weeks when, during a sermon, Reggie mentioned looking things up on the internet.  It was countered again in a meeting of the church committees in which one member spoke of the email exchange that he and Dr. Dominy had. 

The hymns that Dr. Dominy chose were ancient, plodding tunes with dated language.  Although one of his stated reasons for taking the hymn selections away from me was the need to match the hymn texts to the scriptures, I seldom saw how the two aligned themselves.  Several times within those few weeks that Reggie and I worked in the same building, he repeated hymn choices.  I was left wondering if he selected hymns the way he selected the Psalms for our worship services:  numerically.  On his first Sunday in worship at Paradise Christian Church, Dr. Dominy selected Psalm One for our call to worship.  In subsequent weeks, the Psalms were used, in numerical order, regardless of the sermon topic, and regardless of the scheduled readings from the Revised Common Lectionary

The final straw came on the morning of December 19th.  I received a text message from our secretary asking me to call her asap.  I replied with a request that she email me, as I had students all day (with my teaching position at a public school) and would not have a break to make a phone call until late in the day.  The email arrived quickly, and in it, was a message from Dr. Dominy that said:

Ok  here goes.    Reggie left me a note to ask you if you got a brass ensemble for Christmas Eve.  If you did, please get the name of the group and names of their songs to me on Monday.  If you did not, please contact the band director at local school district.  She has some names of students who might be available or some other musicians in the area.  She can be contacted at local middle school xxx-xxx-xxxx  Her name is middle school music teacher her e-mail address is someteacher@someschool.

I am sending you the bulletin stuff so that you can give me the song titles by Sunday (or Monday morning at the latest)  The ones in pink he would like the brass ensemble to do  and he would like the choir and the brass ensemble to join in on the other carols as well.

Reggie said to contact him if you had any questions or suggestions.  xxx-xxx-xxxx

Thanks Dana

Interesting thing about this email:  I do not recall having a conversation with Reggie in which firm plans were ever made about the Christmas Eve service, let alone such an important detail about hiring or assembling a Brass Ensemble for the service.  At my first opportunity to call, I phoned Dr. Dominy.  In that phone call, I was verbally pushed around.  During a break from ministry, Reggie had been a car salesman, and a good one according to some accounts.  I could tell that I was being manipulated by his words.  He objected to my statements about why it would be impossible to assemble a brass ensemble just five days before the performance.  He interrupted me.  He cut me off.  He dismissed my professional musical advice.  Then I figured out what was going on.  I was being placed in a “catch 22” situation:  fail to assemble the ensemble, and Reggie could claim I’m not doing my job;  get one together in short order with no time to rehearse, no many to pay them, no music to give them, and have a disastrous performance on Christmas Eve and he could say that I didn’t do my job as well as I should have.  For me, given all that I had witnessed in the previous weeks, my only option was to resign.  My plan was to do so immediately, leave them without a musician for Sunday morning as well as Christmas Eve, but friends talked me out that plan. 

I learned that the committee charged with finding this interim pastor had failed to check his references.  They hadn’t bothered to call his former churches and talk to them about his strengths and weaknesses.  After handing in my resignation letter, and feeling crappy for about 24 hours, I decided that I’d look to see what I could find on this guy.   I did a search for “Dr. Reggie Dominy”  on Google and discovered that the guy is pretty computer savvy, contrary to previous claims. 

I also found one particular piece of information that confirms what I suspected from that very first phone conversation.  Reggie seemed to have some contempt for me from the very beginning.  It didn’t make sense that an interim pastor would walk in and start changing things before ever experiencing a worship service in the way that the members were accustomed to worshipping.  Interim pastors usually keep things going, the status quo, until the permanent pastor is hired.  This bit of information explains why he and I could never work together.

In the eight weeks in which both of us, interim pastor and music director, tried to do our duties, there was rarely a moment of kindness, of friendship, even an attempt to understand each other.  Attempts by Reggie to put up a facade of respecting and valuing me, at least in front of the congregation, fell flat.  At one service, Dr. Dominy said that he appreciated the “beautiful competency” that I brought to the services.   Competency?  Well, I must have some adequate skills when it comes to music.  It’s like saying “I love you” to someone and hearing “and I’m fond of you as well.” 

What could make us resist each other like oil and water?  The search results contained a major clue:  a letter to the editor of an online denominational magazine, written by one Dr. Reggie Dominy.   Here are some relevant excerpts:

I have no problem deleting statements from the Barman Confession (ah, another confession) that are editorial additions and weren’t originally there. Make it pure! I do have problems with ignoring cogent statements in the New Testament regarding homosexuality (Romans chapter 1 seems rather clear.) The Scriptures have to be our final authority about the actions and directions of God. What makes an action a sin at the time written but not in the present? More people lie and cheat others than participate in homosexual activity, and we all seem born with that narcissistic trait (this makes it a natural act); maybe the Church should support, or at least condone, lying and cheating.

            I hurt for gays and lesbians who have in the past been wrongly excluded from the Church. I also hurt for those devout Christians who believe the Presbyterian Church has abandoned them in this decision. They feel NO peace, NO unity, NO purity in the General Assembly decisions. Our voted inclusivity feels like exclusivity for many devout Presbyterians. They feel the Scriptures have been ignored. Many will leave the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Whole churches will leave. We do not now exclude homosexuals from church membership; but our ushering in their ability to be church officers and ministers will usher out other true believers from the whole church.

          There were times in the past when portions of our Presbyterian Church supported slavery. There were times when we excluded folks from the Lord’s Table because they weren’t of our ilk. There were times when we Presbyterians haughtily looked down on those who were not like us in faith and practice. There were times when women could not be ordained. We overcame and grew through those parochial sins.

There’s so much there that I could write about, and perhaps I will examine more of this letter on this blog at some point.  The important thing to notice is that while attempting to sound compassionate, even loving toward the “homosexuals”  it is clear that Dr. Dominy does not like gay and lesbian people.  Nothing else explains his immediate dislike for me, nothing else explains why he felt the need to change my job description, nothing else explains why he created a situation with the purpose to tarnish my integrity with a congregation who felt I was doing a fine job for them. 

Dr. Dominy believes that my orientation is a choice, and as such, is a sin, much like lying and cheating.  For him, the scripture about such things is clear, although, he’s managed to find some grace in the Bible for himself, being a divorced man.  There are many more scriptures concerning divorce, than there are homosexuality.  Reggie hurts for gays and lesbians who feel excluded from the church, but then goes on to reinforce that exclusion.  Homosexuals are welcome to be members in the church, but if they are given positions of authority, church officers and ministers, then true believers will leave the church.  Did you catch that?  Whether Reggie admits it or not, whether he would claim his words as his own or deny them, it’s stated clearly in that letter, gays and lesbians are not true christians. 

My mind goes back to that phone call.  I recall Dr. Reggie’s claim that if he had known I was going to be so opposed to his removal of my job duties, that the phone conversation was going to go so poorly, he would have come to my house and visited with me and my…friend.  He choked on the word “friend.”  I didn’t correct him and say “husband” because I felt like I had said so much that was in direct confrontation that I didn’t need to add to the tension of that phone call.  I can never file charges of discrimination because I resigned voluntarily.  Even if I had been fired, the situation created by Reggie would have appeared to be a legitimate reason to do so.  Discrimination, prejudice, and bigotry is seldom blatant, but at church it is couched in the language of love and compassion, making it all the more painful. 

A final word to my friends at Paradise Christian Church:  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said  “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

*all the names have been changed

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McDonald’s is All About “teh gays” So Don’t Eat There!

July 9, 2008

That’s right folks, the American Family Association is highly insulted that McDonalds would make a donation to the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.  So miffed that they are asking all good christians, and anyone else they can strong-arm, into boycotting the fast food restaurant chain.  They’ve even mounted a website for this very purpose. 

McDonalds’ exact sin, according to the AFA’s inflammatory website, is that they donated an amount of money to the NGLCC which may have qualified them to be listed as a corporate partner.  Recently, an executive from McDonald’s corporation was elected to the NGLCC’s board of directors.  The amount of the donation, from some reports, appears to be $20,000, which considering the billions of dollars generated by McD’s, is chump change. 

McD’s has been clear about their support for diversity, and for their commitment to fighting discrimination.  The following is an excerpt of the letter sent to Donald Wildmon and the AFA, by Pat Harris, the Global Chief Diversity Officer for McDonalds.

“We treat our employees and our customers with respect and dignity, regardless of their ethnicity, religious beliefs, sexual orientation or other factors.  We support our employees’ personal involvement in organizations of their choice.” 

“McDonald’s is associated with countless local and national affinity groups here in the United States.  We have a well-established and proud heritage of associating with individuals and organizations that share the belief that every person has the right to live and work in a community free of discrimination.”

It appears that Donald Wildmon and his christian friends don’t appreciate that McD’s would be nice to “teh gays.”   He doesn’t like the corporation throwing its coins to an organization that is committed to helping businesses owned by the members of the lgbt community.  Wildmon, by past boycotts, appears to want to tell businesses to whom they should market their products, and it is always the gay and lesbian community that Wildmon believes should be ignored. 

The McDonald’s Boycott website has a page for comments.  Jeremy of G-A-Y was trying to make some neutral statements, but evidently, the site is being moderated and only the anti-gay, anti-McD’s comments get published.  I decided to give it a shot.  I made a vaguely anti-McD’s comment, but tried to insert a cryptic message.  It got in.  Here’s the screen shot:

 

 

I know you can’t see that picture very well.  My message included sentences that started with letters in G,A,Y and made sort of an anagram.  I wasn’t too clever with my statements, which come across as anti-McD’s, but I did manage to sneak in the word “GAY” by separating the first letter from the rest of the word as I began each sentence. 

“G ood thing I saw this. I took my kids there often when they were younger. A ny thinking person would know to eat elsewhere. Y esterday I vowed not to return.”

So, Game On!  Can you slip in a cryptic message to the AFA’s comment section at Boycott McDonald’s?

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Spiritually Deaf and Blind: 2 out of 3 Ain’t Bad

June 23, 2008

I’ve had the pleasure of engaging in somewhat of a dialog with a Southern Baptist Minister for the past day or so.  I thought the discussion was pleasant until this morning when the minister voiced his concern that he was being targeted for his anti-gay speech.  Very quickly, he shut down his church’s blog to comments from the general public.  Note to bloggers:  if you put it out there in the public realm, you can be sure someone will see it, comment, and perhaps disagree with you. 

Pastor Rick’s blog announced that he would be preaching against gay marriage this Sunday morning (June 22) and gave the scripture reference.  I suspected that this would be prooftexting so I made a comment that asked Pastor Rick to go beyond Romans 1: 18-32, and include Romans 2, which demonstrates what Paul was trying to teach the christians in Rome at that time.  Many believe that Paul was condemning homosexuality with this scripture, but careful reading reveals that this is just not the case.  It is hard for some christians to accept this, and this appears to be the case with Pastor Rick. 

By Sunday afternoon, we get a sense of the direction this is going to take.  Pastor Rick feels targeted by myself and the one other person out of six that I messaged about this blog. I brought it to their attention with the purpose of reading my response, not to engage in an attack against Pastor Rick.  We very quickly hear the slippery slope arguments of allowing gay marriage will mean that polygamy, child prostitution, and all forms and expressions of sexuality would become legal.  In a later response to my friend, Matt, Pastor Rick distances himself from comparing homosexuality to child rape, yet it’s clear by listing them together, even in an order meant to show levels of depravity, that P. Rick does not think very highly of gay people. 

I downloaded the sermon and listened to what the good pastor had to say.  I took some notes.  There was a carefully planned introduction that made sure the audience knew that this week’s news story about gay marriage came from a sinful place: California. He now refers to it as the “left coast” because it has “left” America’s morality; it’s left sensibility. There you go, let’s get started with the sweeping generalizations.  P. Rick is in favor of a theocracy as evidenced by his statement that “What is not legal in God’s eyes should not be legal in man’s eyes.”  Human dignity regarding LGBT people is disregarded throughout the sermon as the vocal inflections imply sarcasm: “People who say they are gay” and an elongation of the word “ho-mo-sex-u-al” with a drawl.  Keep in mind, Californians, because of you, “we’re going down the toilet.”

Outside of Matt and myself, Pastor Rick knows all he knows about gay people from his 2, count them, 2 college friends who are gay.  Here’s what Pastor Rick knows:  gay people are not happy, they are afraid of disease, and afraid that their partner will leave them because “that’s the nature of this kind of relationship”; they live in fear.  When Matt pointed out that these were “sweeping generalizations” P. Rick pointed to his 2 college friends as evidence that this was not a generalization.  Hint, P. Rick: drawing a conclusion about an entire group of people based on your experience with just 2 of them is generalizing.  Perhaps these college friends are just losers. 

There is much more in the sermon, but I want to take a look at the interaction that took place today, in P. Rick’s blog.  In the comments section of his blog, I pointed out the inconsistency regarding his “sweeping generalizations” as well as the religious and political conservative’s opinion that LGBT people should be denied Civil marriage.  I asked how he can deny gay and lesbian people the opportunity to commit to each other in a monogamous relationship, then turn around and ridicule them for being promiscuous.  It’s clear to me that people, gay and straight, have looked to their religious leaders for guidance and received bad advice.  When your pastor stands in the pulpit and says that gay men have sex with hundreds of other men in their life time, the young gay man sitting in the pew hears this is what is expected of him because of the way God created him.  Gay people hear that their relationships are worthless, not valid to be considered for marriage, and often fulfill that expectation. 

At this point, something seems to snap.  Pastor Rick is suddenly complaining that we’ve taken the time to respond and engage in discussion.  In what appears to be anger, he states “You guys knocked on MY door. YOU initiated this. You are the ones that conspired together to make comments on my church website.”  I apologized and assured Pastor Rick that he had not been “targeted” and that there was no conspiracy.  Here’s the final paragraph of my last comment:

You, Bro. Rick, have a degree in psychology. You are probably aware that not only the American Psychological Association, but other professional organizations believe that a homosexual orientation is naturally occurring and unchangeable. How is it justifiable to deny people CIVIL rights based on your religious beliefs when the science says this is natural for some people?

Perhaps that is what ended the discussion.  However, I noticed something about all of my comments; most of them were ignored. There was no acknowledgement that he did indeed make generalizations based on stereotypes or limited exposure to LGBTpeople.  There was no response to my appeal to his psychology degree and the scientific evidence of which, as a psych major, he would surely be aware of.  There was no hint that he understands a marriage license issued by the state government is not the same as a religious ceremony conducted by a minister in a church.  Instead, we get a mantra of “it’s a sin” because God says it is, and a list of buzzwords typically used by fundamentalists to degrade LGBT people:  lifestyle, alternative choice, and claims that orientation is changeable, yet groups like Exodus can not provide valid and reliable studies to demonstrate this. 

Finally, Pastor Rick explodes with this:

You are using a common intimidation argument by GLBTgroups. Civil rights are reserved for groups of people based on race, gender, disabilities & age, but not sexual orientation. While there have been some gains by GLBTgroups in this arena, you aren’t guaranteed civil rights based on your sexual preferences. So don’t go there.

Matt,

 

To all, since this is my website, I get the last word. Comments are now turned off on this post.

 

 

 

My thanks to Wendy at bridgeout for the idea of using the church sign generator to create this pic. 

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Holiday Clean Up

March 21, 2008

I’ve been meaning to post here as I like to have some consistency to this blog.  Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened for the past month or so.  There are several entries I want to write, but I want to do them justice, so I’ll take the time to work on them before I post.  Let’s just use this entry as a catch-all, general update.

 The musical:  Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods went rather well.  We performed the show March 13-16.  The music is difficult, but I had strong singers for most of the parts, and I also had a talented pit orchestra.  The show is a big reason I didn’t get to update as regularly as I’d like.  Rehearsals were up to 4 hours every evening, and more intense as opening night approached.  It’s rewarding to work with a talented group of singers/actors to produce a fine piece of entertainment;  rewarding, in the sense of gratifying emotionally, not monetarily.  Not many community theater productions exist for their ability to generate a profit.

The situation at church:  Things have improved.  I’ve made peace with “C” and while we may disagree on things, I think we both understand each other a little better.  I’ve also given some information to another person who holds the opinion that a person cannot be gay and christian.  He was receptive to the brochure I gave him, and came to me last night to say that he found it interesting, is continuing to study it and looking up scriptures.  He is looking forward to meeting with me for a discussion of the information.  Ah, another chance for me to hone my debating skills! 

I’ve still got a pet peeve about the discussion that took place at an Elders’ meeting.  You may recall that this is what brought about the stress I’ve had at church.  Last evening, for our Maundy Thursday service, half of our Elders and even fewer of our Deacons attended.  This really bothers me, given that they felt they needed to discuss whether my partner should be attending church with me.  At least we’re there!

Pennsylvania Government:  HB1400 which amends the PA Human Relations Act to include sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, is still as far as I know, in committee.  This should be a no-brainer, and as I pointed out in an earlier post, my own State Representative, Deberah Kula, has promised her support of the bill.    

Unfortunately, SB1250 has been voted into the Appropriations Committee, which means this amendment to our state constitution has cleared another hurdle on its way to becoming law.  PA already has a DOMA law on the books.  This amendment would not only prevent same-sex marriages, but would also permanently prevent same-sex couples from participating in civil unions.  Read more at Equality Advocates Pennsylvania

Finally, it is time to wish you, my faithful handful of readers, a Blessed Resurrection Day!  In spite of all the teachings I’ve heard about Christ being all about “love”, it has taken some time to sink in, at least for me.  I believe that Jesus came to teach us a radical new way to love each other, and because his message was such an affront to the religious leaders of his day, the only logical outcome for him was death.  I have great trouble with the idea of substitutionary atonement theories.  I’ve discovered that others do too.  Want to take your head for a spin?  Read this article by S. Mark Heim.  As I write this, on Good Friday (one could ask good for whom?  certainly not Jesus) I am filled with thoughts about the use of the word “Easter” in connection with this celebration.  The word itself has pagan connections, and while I hold nothing against the pagans, I’m not sure Christians should be borrowing so heavily when presenting what is to be the most important event of the church year.  So, once more, let me wish you a Blessed Resurrection Day!

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My Visit to my State Representative’s Office

March 1, 2008

Sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression are about to become protected by law in the state of Pennsylvania.  HB1400 is a bill intended to amend our current Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA) to prohibit discrimination of these minorities, in addition to race, color, religion, ancestry, age, national origin, handicap or disability, education and the use of a guide dog.  I fall into one of those minorities since I am a gay man, but I suppose I could claim another group that has been the target of discrimination.  I do have Irish ancestry, after all. 

So I got my Irish up, (oops, is that perpetuating the stereotype of the Irish being quick to anger?) and made an appointment to visit my State Representative, Deberah Kula, to ask her to support this amendment to the existing PHRA.  I was prepared.  I had my talking points printed up.  I did more research on those points that were provided to me by Equality Advocates PA.  I walked into her office with my head held high, ready to engage in some lively conversation. 

I barely got through the greetings and small talk, when I realized this was not going to be a problem.  When I mentioned the particular bill and its purpose, she replied with “not a problem.”  She indicated to me that everyone should have access to housing and employment.  I was disappointed that I didn’t get to demonstrate my knowledge of the statistics, but I was happy to have a common entry point for the conversation that followed. 

I brought up the bill that has been introduced into our state senate, that would amend our state constitution to define marriage as one man and one woman.  It was at this point that the conversation became more intense.  Rep. Kula explained to me that she just could not see this amendment passing.  It is difficult to amend the state constitution, and this just did not seem like a bill that could pass, in her opinion.  A quick search for a copy of the state constitution, followed by a swift perusal of same, leads me to believe that the last amendment to this document was in 1978.  It is encouraging that Pennsylvania has not seen fit to alter this constitution in the past 30 years.  I would also add here how much I appreciate her willingness to discuss this “Marriage Protection Amendment” when, as a representative, this bill has not been introduced in the House. 

Our conversation continued, and Rep. Kula stated that she would be honest with me, that her personal convictions did not allow her to support same-sex marriages.  I smiled and thanked her for being upfront with me, and decided to dive in and explore those convictions.  She told me that her religious beliefs just did not permit her to support us in acquiring the right to marry.  I countered with my own, rather strong religious beliefs.  I explained how I struggled to reconcile my faith with my orientation, as I was coming out.  Then I engaged her in a discussion of how a person comes to be gay or lesbian.  We talked about genetics, environment, and the complex interaction of both that medical science and psychological research believes to be responsible for sexual orientation.  I talked about choice, and how, knowing that discrimination and violence is a real possibility for gays and lesbians, no one would willingly choose to be homosexual.  Then I asked the question, somewhat rhetorically, “knowing that this isn’t a choice, what is the appropriate behavior for committed, loving, same-sex couples?”  Of course, I went on to answer my own question by stating that it is in the best interest of society that individuals pair up to care for each other so as not to be a burden on extended family or the government.  I spoke of health care, inheritance benefits, as well as hospital visitation, all of which are granted to straight couples within a few minutes at the local courthouse, yet denied to gay and lesbian couples.  My desire to care for my partner, and his wishes to care for me, as any married couple would and should, was also mentioned. 

At one point, she tried to explain her position, and found herself in a spot where she did not want to be.  Rep. Kula started to speak of natural inclinations, like mass murder.  She caught herself, and said, “and I don’t mean to compare you to mass murderers, perhaps I could have found a better comparison.”  To which I replied with a laugh “good, I was going to have to go after you on that one.”

One final, somewhat melancholy exchange came when Rep. Kula told me that she didn’t know how she would vote for such an amendment if she were forced to do so tomorrow.  She said that she would have a difficult time deciding, but most likely would vote against same-sex marriage.  She apologized to me, saying that she knew it was not what I wanted to hear.  I was gracious, replied politely, and again thanked her for her honesty.  I genuinely valued her candor, as I felt no malicious intent from her.  I believe she holds her convictions because of misinformation, a lack of understanding about what it means to be gay or lesbian in our society. 

As I got up to leave, we shook hands and looked intently at each other.  It was at that point she said  “beautiful blue eyes.”  Perhaps I made the connection that I was attempting.  Something that I said at some point in that half hour may have stayed with her, and caused her to think.  I was pleased that I was able to leave her without experiencing “violence of the fist, the tongue, or the heart” as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. taught. 

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It’s Time to Get Married

January 31, 2008

With one small action, I took a big step today.  As a matter of fact, it felt like stepping into the breach.  It was simple, just 2 phone calls.  I’ve used the phone before so making these calls should not have caused the anxiety that it did.  I hesitated to dial the numbers, which surprised me, because I’ve had experience in facing the fears and taking the necessary steps to combat the big things in life. 

I called the local offices of my state Senator and state Representative.  I’ve requested an appointment to meet with them and discuss a few bills that have been introduced into the State House and Senate.  House Bill 1400 is the topic of conversation I have planned when I meet with my Representative, Deberah Kula.  This bill would amend the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission law to add sexual orientation as well as gender identity and expression to the list of protected minority groups, which already includes the following:  race, color, familial status, religious creed, ancestry, age, sex, national origin, handicap or disability, use of guide or support animals because of the blindness, deafness or physical handicap of the user or because the user is a handler or trainer of support or guide animals. 

Do I feel oppression based on my orientation?  Generally, no, I do not.  However, I have been subject to discrimination, harassment, and have been served poorly by cashiers or wait-persons which I suspect has been based on my being gay.  Would I like to see some state-wide uniform policy about that kind of discrimination?  You bet I would. 

Of greater importance is my meeting with Senator Kasunic.  He is the only democratic sponsor of Senate Bill 1250, which is a proposed amendment to the state constitution.  This amendment is the so-called  “Protection of Marriage” amendment.  I’m not sure why marriage needs protection, but a fair number of extremely conservative and fundamentally religious types seem convinced that if gays are allowed to marry, the institution itself will suffer irreparable harm.  Pennsylvania already has laws denying marriage to homosexual couples.  I see no reason to write discrimination into the state constitution. 

I also wonder why some people are so concerned about allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry. Increasing the number of eligible participants seems to make sense.  There is  obviously a significant number of gays and lesbians who wish to purchase a marriage license.  Marriage discourages promiscuity, enforces certain social standards, and allows couples to care for each other in a way that no other relationship can provide.  My relationship with my partner is very much like a marriage.  We don’t have the license, and we don’t have the financial benefits, nor do we have the more than 1200 benefits granted to straight married couples, but we do live our lives as spouses to each other.  None of the straight couples in the neighborhood seem to be suffering because of our presence.  I doubt that a legal document, and the attending benefits, if we could ever secure that license, would affect the quality of the straight marriages here on our street.

We’ve decided that we cannot wait.  We will continue to fight for our right to marry, which is why I made that phone call to my state Senator.  We’ve also made plans to get married.  That’s right, we’re having a wedding.  We will declare our love and allegiance to each other in front of God and family and friends on a bright summer Saturday in August 2008.  It won’t matter that our home state won’t give us the license.  Our love will be the same.  Perhaps you’d better call a marriage counselor, just in case our vows make yours null and void.