Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Even more on adoptions... or MORE things that make you go "WT*?"

As if Tennessee isn't coping with enough being in the limelight because of the tragic case of the pastor's wife who shot and killed her husband, they also apparently have to deal with what may well be the most ignorant state legislator ever. And that's if I'm being kind and assuming she's merely ignorant and not a mean-spirited vicious liar.

Rep. Debra Maggart, R-Hendersonville, said she still believes homosexual couples should not be allowed to adopt children. In fact, in addition to e-mail correspondence with a master’s student at Vanderbilt publicized recently, in which she said as much, she has also said homosexual couples may molest the children they adopt.

"We also have seen evidence that homosexual couples prey on young males and have, in some instances, adopted them in order to have unfretted access to subject them to a life of molestation and sexual abuse," she said.

Wow. Just wow. Where to begin on two paragraphs that could fertilize an entire forty acres?

1. Every study ever... or wait, let's make that every reputable study ever shows that the vast majority of sexual predators are straight, married, white, church-going men. If you apply Ms. Maggart's argument to real evidence, then we should not be allowing any straight, married, white, church-going men to adopt because they might prey on young people.

2. What "evidence" is she quoting? I'd love to see it. She mentions Focus on the Family, which is fond of quoting Dr. Paul Cameron, whose research has been denounced by pretty much everyone on the planet and who himself has been kicked out of both the American Psychological Association and the American Sociological Association for severely flawed methodology.

Ms. Maggart also mentions a study done by the ACLU. That finds that gay people are a threat to children. This I'd have to see to believe.

In Arizona, we have our fair share of ridiculous politicians. We are the state that voted into office (and then impeached or convicted) both Evan Mecham and Fife Symington, after all. But this woman makes ole Evan look like a genius. Or Fife look honest. Or both.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Things that make you go WT*?

Unintentional Blogger pointed me in the direction of this. I think UB's reaction of being stunned nearly speechless is probably response enough, but since I'm wordy and like to rant about things that make me go WT*?????, I had to post it here.

Yes indeedy, folks, you too can blow away non-believers for Christ! You know, virtually speaking.

Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition: Christians are finally getting a high-caliber shoot-'em-up videogame of their own. Due out on PCs in the second half of 2006, Left Behind: Eternal Forces is the first game adapted from the blockbuster books by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. Gamers familiar with the largely uninspiring and unprofitable history of Christian videogames will quickly notice two differences in Forces: the top-shelf design, which offers an eerily authentic reproduction of the game's Manhattan setting, and a level of violence reminiscent of Grand Theft Auto.

And not a moment too soon! 'Cause I was just thinking to myself, there just aren't enough top-shelf design Christian video games with Grand Theft Auto level violence.

My favorite bit is this:

Left Behind Games CEO Troy Lyndon, whose company went public in February, says the game's Christian themes will grab the audience that didn't mind gore in "The Passion of the Christ."

Right on, Troy! Clearly there is no difference whatsoever in violence done against Christ that was supposed to be deeply disturbing and virtual violence in which a gamer actively participates all in the name of Christ. Hmm. I think Fred Phelps would approve.

It just doesn't get more Christ-like than that, does it?

More on limiting adoptions

This one is more specific to pending legislation in Arizona: the Arizona Daily Star editorialized against prioritizing adoptions.

The bill "doesn't say homosexuals can't adopt. It doesn't say singles can't adopt. It's just a matter of policy that to the extent there are choices, we're going to opt for a married situation," [the bill's sponsor, Majority Leader Steve] Tully said in Thursday's Star.

The bill purports not to be exclusive, but in practice it would be.

The bill would be helpful to newborns and couples who want to adopt them, but it would be harmful to older children and the single parents who might be more willing to adopt them.

"The biggest risk in this bill is that we're going to have kids who will remain in foster care when there are qualified single parents who could adopt them," said Carol Kamin, president and CEO of the Children's Action Alliance, a Phoenix-based advocacy group. "That's horrendous and there's no excuse for it."

There are so many reasons this bill is a horrible idea. Most importantly, it's bad for kids in the foster system. But it's also unfair to prospective parents.

I'll repeat it again: determining whether someone would make a fit adoptive parent should be based on that person's ability to parent, not on his or her marital status.

Friday, March 24, 2006

In the best interest of children

I'm not a huge fan of Ellen Goodman, but I liked her editorial today on gay adoption. It comes at a good time, not only because of national headlines like the Vatican calling gay adoptions "gravely immoral" or the Catholic Bishops in Massachusetts ending the Catholic Church's role in adoptions in that state. Here in Arizona, the state legislature is working on a bill that would give priority to married couples over singles. The fine print, of course, is that "singles" includes gay couples because they cannot be legally married.

I like the personal aspect of Goodman's column: she has a toddler cousin, Ruthie, who is being raised by two daddies. It's a lot harder to castigate gay people in general as "immoral" and "bad parents" when you know people personally who contradict that.

Ruthie is why I take it personally when the Vatican calls gay adoptions "gravely immoral" or says that such adoptions "mean doing violence to these children." Ruthie is why I grimace when Russell Johnson, chairman of the Ohio Restoration Project, says, "experimenting on children through gay adoption is a problem." Ruthie and her parents are not an experiment. They are a family. Part of my family.

I also like that she mentions that studies support her position.

A comprehensive review of [studies] coming out next week from the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute shows again that children of gay parents do fine.

I read a lot from groups like The Center for Arizona Policy (CAP) and others on the far right that "gay parenting is an untested social experiment" or that "studies show children do better in a home with one mother and one father." Neither is true. No studies say that children do better with one mother and one father than with two same-sex parents. No studies show that children are harmed in any way when raised by gay parents. On the contrary, almost every major health and non-sectarian child welfare organization including the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychological Association, and the Child Welfare League of America, all agree that a parent's sexual orientation is irrelevant to the welfare of the child. On the other hand, whenever CAP tries to back up its claims about the unsuitability of gay parents, they cite a study that has been discredited by researchers and that was the product of someone who has been censured by both the American Psychological Association and the American Sociological Association.

What I like best about Goodman's editorial, however, is how she sums up what makes a good parent:

We all talk about "the best interest of the child." What makes up that interest? On my list are attention, love, security, humor and a besotted family racing to keep one step ahead of a toddler. Of course, a little bias on that child's behalf never hurts.

Gay parents, like straight parents, can have these in abundance. So can single parents, by the way. Or any of these can fall short as parents. Either way, parenting skills have nothing to do with sexual orientation so sexual orientation shouldn't be relevant when placing a child for adoption. Period.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Daily Star calls marriage amendment "redundant and divisive"

The Arizona Daily Star just editorialized against the marriage amendment. This is from their own editorial board, not a guest opinion.

While it only hits a few of the problems with the amendment, what it did hit it hit well. Namely that the amendment is redundant and divisive and that the real reasons behind the amendment push don't hold any water.

Because existing law is so clear, and the alleged threat of action by "activist judges" so vague, we must look further for an explanation of this febrile preoccupation with overstating the obvious. We believe the push for a constitutional amendment is based on three conditions.

The first is that the Legislature may eventually feel pressured to rewrite or nullify existing law and legitimize same-sex marriage. The second is that the religious convictions of some should be applied to all of society. The third condition is the emotional revulsion that afflicts some heterosexual citizens when they encounter or even imagine homosexual behavior.

To the first of these conditions, we respond by noting that in a democracy Legislatures are elected for the express purpose of creating the laws that govern society....

In the rare event that Arizona did make same-sex marriages legal, that would not compel anyone who disagrees with that position to change his or her religious beliefs or practices.

To the second of these conditions, we note the well-established case law that supports a separation of church and state. The First Amendment gives us freedom to worship as we please. It does not give us freedom to create laws that impose our religious values on others.

To the third condition, we point out that laws must be an extension of a rational premise, not an emotional reaction. It is irrational — as Tucson and many other cities have concluded — to deny equal rights and benefits to partners in a same-sex relationship.

No one requires us to condone or like such relationships. We simply point out that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is often an emotional reaction and always an illegal one.

Eugene H. Peterson on Luke

I'm reading The Message by Eugene H. Peterson for my Bible reading. It's a really great and theologically sound (so says my pastor anyway) paraphrase that really distills the complex language down to something very understandable.

Today I started Luke, which is by far my favorite book in the Bible. And Peterson pretty much nailed why in his intro to the book:

[R]eligion has a long history...of reducing the huge mysteries of God to the respectability of club rules, of shrinking the vast human community to a "membership." But with God there are no outsiders.

Luke is a most vigorous champion of the outsider. An outsider himself, the only Gentile in an all-Jewish cast of the New Testament writers, he shows how Jesus includes those who typically were treated as outsiders by the religious establishment of the day: women, common laborers (sheepherders), the racially different (Samaritans), the poor. He will not countenance religion as a club. As Luke tells the story, all of us who have found ourselves on the outside looking in on life with no hope of gaining entrance (and who of us hasn't felt it?) now find the doors wide open, found and welcomed by God in Jesus.

YES. Looking forward to the next month or so reading Luke.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

AZ Catholic bishops got it wrong

Today's big headline in the Arizona Daily Star was "GAY UNION BAN GAINS CATHOLIC BACKING." Not surprisingly, I have a lot to say about this.

First of all, the headline is misleading. This amendment is much broader than merely a "gay union ban." We already have a Defense of Marriage Act on the books banning gay marriage. What this amendment does is so much more, taking protections and rights away from ALL families that don't happen to have a married couple at the head.

Second, the bishops got it wrong. I'm not talking theologically; while I disagree with their theology on this issue, I think theology is a squishy enough area it's hard to define "right" and "wrong." But facts, those can definitely be right or wrong, and the bishops got the facts wrong. In their pastoral statement on marriage, the Bishops Donald E. Pelotte of Gallup NM, Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, and Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix write:

It should be noted that the initiative permits the creation of “reciprocal benefits” whereby employees are able to select any other household member to receive benefits in addition to themselves. The creation of such a benefits program is positive for all people. Many elderly family members living with relatives could also find this beneficial.

Uh, no it doesn't. On the contrary, it specifically would make such "reciprocal benefits" arrangements unconstitutional. Let's look at the initiative text once more, shall we?

To preserve and protect marriage in this state, only a union between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage by this state or its political subdivisions and no legal status for unmarried persons shall be created or recognized by this state or its political subdivisions that is similar to that of marriage.

As much as Protect Marriage Arizona would like us to believe that second part (in boldface) doesn't exist, it does. It's on the petitions, which means that's what will be on the ballot if it gets that far. And "reciprocal benefits," at least for couples, would be precisely the state recognizing "legal status for unmarried persons... that is similar to that of marriage." So I fail to see how the bishops can argue that the amendment allows for something it quite specifically precludes. One needs only turn to the Center for Arizona Policy (major backers of this amendment) and its own statement about benefits for domestic partners in Alaska to see what the real goal is:

Alaska, like most states, promotes marriage by offering employee benefits to married couples and financially dependent children. Now the Alaska Supreme Court has agreed with legal arguments by the ACLU that the state must provide marriage benefits to same sex domestic partners. This decision is yet another example of why the Protect Marriage Arizona Amendment is needed. The Alaska Constitution clearly defines marriage as between a man and a woman, but that didn’t stop the courts from forcing a marriage counterfeit on the state.

Did you read that carefully? The reason the Protect Marriage Arizona Amendment is "needed" is to keep "marriage counterfeit[s]" such as domestic partner benefits out of the state.

Bishops, do your research. Get your facts right before you issue a statement because this amendment is much more insidious than you're leading your parishioners to believe. What was that commandment about bearing false witness again?