Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Some celibacies are more equal than others

I'm a little confused by this news from the Vatican.

The new Pope faces his first controversy over the direction of the Catholic church after it was revealed that the Vatican has drawn up a religious instruction preventing gay men from being priests.

The controversial document, produced by the Congregation for Catholic Education and Seminaries, the body overseeing the church's training of the priesthood, is being scrutinised by Benedict XVI.

Huh? Uh, last time I checked, all Catholic priests were required to be celibate. So what possible difference could it make if a priest is attracted to men or women if he isn't supposed to be having sex with anyone?

The typical conservative protestant position is that it's the act that's a sin. Most protestant churches that have rules against ordained GLBT people specify that they cannot be in relationships or sexually active. I don't agree with that, but at least it makes sense. If you view the act as sin, then it's only the act that should be judged.

But what this recommendation to the Vatican is saying is that the gay man himself is unworthy, regardless of whether or not he abstains from the "sinful" act.

Wow. So much for love the sinner, hate the sin. Here's hoping the Pope nixes this ridiculous proposal.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

So much for caring about the children

I'm not a huge fan of Steve Chapman, but this column really hits the nail on the head.

Critics of gay rights insist that in opposing same-sex marriage, they are trying to protect children. But when the California Supreme Court said last week that lesbian partners have the same responsibilities to their children as other parents, conservatives took a different line: If what's good for the kids is also good for gay rights, it must be bad.

This ruling really shows the true agenda of anti-gay groups. It isn't about the children at all. It's about denying rights to same-sex couples. Period.

So called "pro-family" groups like Focus on the Family like to say that "studies show" kids do better with two opposite-sex parents than same sex parents. In reality, there are no such studies. The studies referenced actually show that kids do better with two parents rather than one. Kind of a no-brainer. So now we have a ruling that makes sure that children of same-sex couples will still get at the very minimum monetary support from both parents, and that's bad to "pro-family" groups. They'd rather see kids with only one parent than let any acknowledgement of same-sex parenting exist.

Chapman, no supporter of same-sex marriage, goes on to point out:

Groups rejecting gay rights argue that kids do best in stable homes with married heterosexual parents. But even if that is true, it's no excuse for shortchanging children in homes headed by cohabiting homosexual partners.

Exactly. If it's really all about the children as the "pro-family" groups claim, they would support a decision that protects children. But they don't. Because being "pro-family" is really all about "only families that look like mine," and that's about as discriminatory and anti-family as you can get.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Rights and responsibilities

The fight for equal marriage rights is also one for equal marriage responsibilities. They're two sides of the same coin; you can't have one without the other. That's why I was pleased to see this news brief from California (scroll down to the third article.)

The justices ruled for the first time that custody and child support laws that hold absent fathers accountable also apply to estranged gay and lesbian couples who used reproductive science to conceive.

Parents have obligations toward their children, and those don't end when the marriage/partnership does. Kudos to the court for affirming that same-sex couples are no different from straight couples in their responsibilities to their children.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

What can happen if we invalidate domestic partnerships

This editorial about what could happen if the so-called "Protect Marriage" ballot initiative passes is really chilling. It was written by someone in California, but the initiative here in Arizona would have the same effect: no domestic partnership rights. Period. Nothing that "approximates marriage" will be recognized by the state or local governments, and that means hospitals cannot grant next of kin status to any domestic partners who don't have thousands of dollars worth of legal papers to back them up.

If this initiative qualifies and passes, this is how it will go down for tens of thousands of couples who failed, forgot or couldn't afford the considerable expense to draft medical decision-making documents. (At the time of Rick's stroke, there was not yet a law giving domestic partners an automatic right to make medical decisions for one another. We spent thousands of dollars to have legal documents drawn up spelling out our wishes about that and other decisions.) It's nonsensical and heartless. The real-world consequences might well be tragic, not to mention wrenchingly unfair....

The proposed initiative declares that only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in our state — an issue clearly worthy of its own up-or-down vote. But its sponsors don't want you to have one. They have had success around the country hiding repeal of domestic partnership rights within a "protect marriage" campaign. Many people who voted no on marriage most likely did not intend to say no to medical, visitation and other partnership rights too.

People could die if this passes. People will suffer irreparable harm. Remind me again, how is this something Jesus would do?

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

How vs. Who

I don't often agree with local political cartoonist David "Fitz" Fitzsimmons, but I thought today's comic makes a really good point. Teach science in school. Teach theology in Sunday School. What could be simpler than that?

The line between theology and science should be crystal clear. Science looks at "how." Theology looks at "Who." Creationism and its step-brother "Intelligent Design" cross the line from science to theology because they address the Who, which science cannot and should not address. To be fair, evolutionary theory crosses the line when Darwinians like Richard Dawkins try to say that the hows of evolution prove there is no "Who" at all. Such a thing can't be proven; it simply is outside of the realm of science. (Incidentally, there are some interesting books out there about how Darwinism and Christianity dovetail nicely, notably Can a Darwinian be a Christian? by Michael Ruse. But such a study belongs in a philosophy class, not a science class. Same with Dawkins.)

Can we please just leave science classes to teach how and Sunday School to teach Who and not try and confuse the two? Both our education and our faith will suffer if we don't distinguish between them.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Who gets to decide?

There's an interesting editorial in today's Arizona Daily Star about bigotry against GLBT people. The writer made some interesting points about her own (straight) orientation not having been a choice but something she's always known. She also made a point about defining marriage as between one man and one woman that I haven't seen discussed in a lot of places: the difficulties of defining gender.

Now there's a movement to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman. If we can't trust people to identify correctly whom they should love, we certainly can't trust them to identify correctly their own genders.

So just exactly how will we define male and female? What criteria will we use? Chromosomes? Our Xs and Ys don't always pair up like biology textbook diagrams.

External features? Some babies have characteristics of both genders, and no one, at least so far, has accused these infants of choosing to be born outside the norms.

Interesting point. I'll admit that until I joined Arizona Together, I hadn't given a lot of thought to the "T" part of "GLBT" or the issues surrounding intersexed people. Since then, I've heard that one of every five hundred people is born intersexed, meaning they have ambiguous genetalia or some of both. This number can be higher or lower depending on how you break down the various types of intersexed conditions. But for the sake of argument, let's go with the one in five hundred number. When expressed in percentages (.2%) it seems very small, but when I think of a city like Tucson with around 500,000 people, that's one thousand intersexed people here. A surprisingly large amount. I remember when my triplets were infants and a woman asked me "How many are boys," and I answered "one" and she then asked "And are the other two girls?" She was embarrassed as soon as it popped out of her mouth an we both had a good laugh over the seemingly stupid question, but now it doesn't seem so stupid anymore.

So what about the "T"? If we're going to define marriage (or anything) by gender, what do we do with the people who don't fall into easy gender classifications? Who do they get to marry and who gets to decide?

There are other things about this editorial that interest me. I don't know that I buy the idea that because the writer didn't choose to be attracted to men, that means sexual orientation is not a choice. I don't believe it is myself, but I also think it's irrelevant to the debate on whether or not GLBT people should have equal rights and whether or not the government should be in the business of deciding which relationships are okay and which aren't. Some things about me I didn't choose: my race, my gender, the culture, class, and nation into which I was born. Some things I did choose, like my faith and where I live and whom I married. I don't want to be discriminated against based on any of these things, chosen or not. Whether or not sexual orientation is biological or a choice, one person shouldn't decide for another what is right for them.

Like me, the writer is a Christian and like me is appalled that bigotry is being advanced in the name of our God and our faith. I do want to say for the record, however, that I don't think believing same-sex relationships are inherently sinful necessarily makes one a bigot. We're all sinners and we can recognize that without looking down on each other. Where I think we do cross the line into bigotry, however, is when we try to make our own idea of sin a legal barrier for others. God said it, I believe it, that settles it. That settles it for you, but does that settle it for everyone? The question is, whose God? And whose interpretation of that God? Why should anyone get to decide for another whether their lifestyle is approved or denounced by God? That is between each of us and our Creator and simply can't be imposed from outside. I can argue with others about what I believe. I can try to change their hearts. But I can't force them to live my concept of a sinless life (impossible to do anyway) through the government and I don't want anyone else forcing their concept of sin onto me. The church can and should decide what is acceptable in God's eyes, but the government cannot and should not. That is the very essence of freedom of religion and the First Amendment. By denying the rights and benefits of marriage to same-sex couples without any compelling civil reason (and for all CAP's claims that studies show that children are better off with parents of separate genders, there really is no such study), we are putting one group's religious beliefs over others, denying those of us who believe differently from fully practicing our faith.

What this whole issue boils down to for me is "who gets to decide?" Who gets to decide whether an intersexed person is male or female or whether they're some of both? Who gets to decide whether someone loves and wants to spend their life with a man or a woman? Shouldn't that be up to the individual and no one else? Certainly not the government.