Update (Feb. 4, 2013, 1:10 p.m.): Be sure to head over to QNotes to read the editorial, “Critics of Boy Scout policy should follow Scouters’ lead,” published this morning.
There was much controversy this past week as news broke that the national board of the Boy Scouts of America would be considering ending their national anti-gay membership and leadership policy.
“This would mean there would no longer be any national policy regarding sexual orientation, and the chartered organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting would accept membership and select leaders consistent with each organization’s mission, principles, or religious beliefs,” Scouts spokesperson Deron Smith said in a statement. “BSA members and parents would be able to choose a local unit that best meets the needs of their families.”
Smith also promised that the Scouts’ national leaders would “not, under any circumstances, dictate a position to units, members, or parents” and that the national body “would not require any chartered organization to act in ways inconsistent with that organization’s mission, principles, or religious beliefs.”
The news of this week is stunning, reversing decades of exclusion of gay men and boys from participation in the nation’s preeminent organization for training and equipping young men with the tools, principles and values necessary for becoming good citizens.
There’s no firm deadline determined for making the decision, but it could come down as soon as this coming week’s national executive board meeting. And, in the meantime, LGBT and progressive leaders are speaking out with a variety of talking points, some helpful and others I believe ignore the reality of this small bit of forward movement, the chink in the armor of the Scouts’ long-standing discriminatory practices that will inevitably give way to extraordinary progress. Continue reading this post…
[Update (May 22, 2012, 2:03 p.m.): Hear the CBS News radio report with Matt's remarks on Pastor Charles Worley's comments.]
Just two weeks ago, voters in North Carolina approved 61 to 39 percent a discriminatory, anti-LGBT state constitutional amendment banning marriage and civil unions for same-sex couples and threatening domestic partner protections for all couples.
The primary election came on the heels of a months-long campaign — proponents and opponents airing their positions on TV, radio, in newspaper ads, at community events and at doorsteps and on sidewalks across the state. The campaign was a torturous one, with dangerous, anti-LGBT rhetoric swirling around the state and stoking the fires of hate and bigotry.And, though the LGBT community and its allies lost their campaign at the ballot box, the campaigns on Amendment One might very well provide some bit of silver lining: Now, more than ever, the pure bigotry and hate of those who would seek to discriminate against LGBT people has been exposed.
First, it was Pleasant Garden Baptist Church Pastor Michael “Nuclear Holocaust” Barrett, who claimed in a sermon claimed that legalized marriage for same-sex couples will be like a “nuclear holocaust.”
Then, it was Fayetteville, N.C. Pastor Sean “Crack a Wrist” Harris, who in a sermon encouraged fathers to crack the “limp wrists” of their gay sons and “give ‘em a good punch.”
Now, yet another Baptist pastor has been found speaking violence from the pulpit. In Maiden, N.C., Providence Road Baptist Church Pastor Charles Worley said he had “figured a way out – a way to get rid of all the lesbians and queers.”
Build a great big, large fence — 50 or a 100 miles long — and put all the lesbians in there. Fly over and drop some food. Do the same thing with the queers and the homosexuals — and have that fence electrified so they can’t get out. Feed ‘em. And you know in a few years, they’ll die out. You know why? They can’t reproduce.
The campaign over Amendment One — in which LGBT people were demonized, scapegoated and, ultimately, ostracized and legally cast aside — has emboldened those who would seek to use the holy name of God to perpetrate violence against us. And, because of those campaigns, such rhetoric is being exposed to the light, and that light will burn it out.
Religiously-motivated violence against LGBT people is nothing new. Desiring for the mass murder of all LGBT people, as shocking as it might sound to many even in our own community, is an old wish — one, as evidenced by Worley, that still exists today. I’ve known such a desire exists for a long time. As a child, my hometown pastor preached violence against LGBT people regularly. “Put all the queers on a ship,” he’d say, “Pluck a hole into the side of it and send it out to sea.” He used similar metaphors as Worley, wishing to pen in all “the queers” in two states until “they die out.” (See: “An awkward ‘homecoming’” and “An awkward ‘homecoming’ – Part Two”)
Dr. Michael Brown, one of Charlotte’s most radical anti-LGBT activists and known associate of those who encourage mass murder, has also similar violent metaphors, using inflammatory rhetoric that suggests a life-or-death struggle and conflict over gay and lesbian issues and people and calling his movement a “battle” and “holy war.” He once told me he abhorred such real violence and “would be the first” to step up to defend me or any person subject to violence. (See full special report, “On the edge: Religious militancy in the Queen City”)
Dr. Brown — and all those others who feign sympathy with LGBT people — here is your chance. Now is your time to stand up, cast aside your bigotry and hate and come to the aid of those people who are clearly under attack.
Charles Worley’s comments are shocking and terrifying. Calling for violence against and mass murder of minorities is inexcusable. My heart aches for any of the LGBT young people in Worley’s congregation forced to listen to this message of hate and violence. Physical, emotional, verbal and spiritual violence against any person has no place in civilized society. History has taught us that there can be a very thin line between religiously-inspired violent rhetoric and real calls to physical violence. This pastor and others propose sending LGBT people to Nazi-like concentration camps and doing real physical violence to us.
Worley owes no less than an immediate and forthright retraction of his comments and an apology to the LGBT community, and he should take steps to meet with LGBT community members to better understand and respect our human dignity.
Those who would continue to demean and threaten LGBT people should take a long, hard look at what they really believe, cast aside their hate and stand with LGBT people in our fight for the right to simply be, to be safe from harm and fear, to be recognized as full and equal members of society and law.
As for us LGBT folks, now is our time to stand up for ourselves. We’ve done it for months on end. Many of us have done it for our whole lives. But we cannot give up now. Now, more than ever, we must not let our momentum for change fade away. In nonviolence of thought, word and deed, we must stand up. We must seek equality. We must seek understanding, respect and reconciliation. We must work toward a greater world where all people — LGBT people and, yes, even folks like anti-gay pastors — are treated with equality and dignity, a world where no person is threatened with violence or death. A world where all God’s children can live in healthy, loving homes, families, churches, schools and communities.
This is our calling. This is our moment in time. This is our moral obligation. Will you stand up?
Protest: Providence Road Baptist Church – RSVP on Facebook
Sunday, May 27 at 10:00am at 3283 Providence Mill Rd, Maiden, NC 28650
But, it was his point-on observation of the marginalization of of already-oppressed voices that caught my attention, as well (emphasis added):
But there’s a place in the political sphere for direct speech and, in the past few years in the U.S., there has been a chilling effect on a certain kind of direct speech pertaining to rights. The president is wary of being seen as the “angry black man.” People of color, women, and gays — who now have greater access to the centers of influence that ever before — are under pressure to be well-behaved when talking about their struggles. There is an expectation that we can talk about sins but no one must be identified as a sinner: newspapers love to describe words or deeds as “racially charged” even in those cases when it would be more honest to say “racist”; we agree that there is rampant misogyny, but misogynists are nowhere to be found; homophobia is a problem but no one is homophobic. One cumulative effect of this policed language is that when someone dares to point out something as obvious as white privilege, it is seen as unduly provocative. Marginalized voices in America have fewer and fewer avenues to speak plainly about what they suffer; the effect of this enforced civility is that those voices are falsified or blocked entirely from the discourse.
The marginalization against those minority leaders or community members — racial, ethnic, religious, sexual, what-have-you — who dare to speak out plainly and directly about their experiences in an oppressive system designed to exploit and harm them isn’t just something that comes from the oppressors. Unfortunately, the oppressed are doing it to themselves; Cole’s observed “pressure to be well-behaved” is often self-imposed. And, it’s a shame.
I’m becoming increasingly more convinced that some of the more mainstreamed leaders among various minorities — who consistently stand up to defend their “friends” in high places instead of the rights of those people in their own communities — suffer less from the blindness of privilege and more from Stockholm syndrome.
Metro Weekly‘s Chris Geidner has the run down on Breitbart’s recent support of LGBT inclusion. The publication released an unpublished portion of a past interview:
“I just don’t get it. I go into middle America, and I don’t see people hating gay people as a part of their agenda. Are there anomalies? … Yes,” he continued. “The majority agrees on the humanity of gay people – and to treat gay people like you treat all people. It doesn’t make sense that the political polarities represent such a small percentage. It’s a two percent versus a two percent versus the rest of the 96 percent of the country that is living our lives integrated.”
Be sure to hop over to Metro Weekly to read the rest of Chris’ piece and other Breitbart comments.
Breitbart’s support of LGBT inclusion is important, especially because of his pivotal role in conservative America. But does his support on this one issue outweigh his support of measures that hurt other minorities or the poor? In other words, how much of an ally can we say Brietbart was if he remained hostile to significant portions of our community who are not wealthy, white and otherwise privileged?
The American Independent’s Andy Kopsa reports on what has been a substantial problem for years: the dispersement of federally-funded grants — some to the tune of millions of dollars — to religious organizations engaged in anti-gay political activity.
Kopsa, who has significantly covered this topic before, reports:
The anti-gay, politically influential Christian organization the Indiana Family Institute (IFI) has been endorsed by the State of Indiana as “collaborative partner” in administering the state’s federally funded Healthy Marriage program since 2008. This arrangement provides IFI with federal support through the Indiana Department of Child Services through 2013.
The group, a state affiliate of Colorado-based Focus on the Family that has been the leading political force behind the anti-same sex marriage amendment –- House Joint Resolution 6 (HJR6) — that passed the Indiana Senate this week, got a $50,000 grant from a subsidiary of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services called the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) in 2005.
Kopsa notes that the Indiana Family Institute program is funded through 2013.
Other groups have also received funds:
In South Carolina, the Palmetto Family Council was awarded $1.2 million through Healthy Marriage and Abstinence Only grants from 2004 to 2009. According to its blog, the “top priority” for the group in 2006 was South Carolina’s anti-gay marriage amendment. Palmetto’s president, Oran Smith, condemned public funding of a gay and lesbian group’s annual statewide festival, citing concerns about using “public funds for a festival that is political or indecent or both.”
The Iowa Family Policy Center (IFPC) received more than $3 million in federal funds to pay for a marriage-mentoring program. The program, called Marriage Matters, was found not to be a third-party contractor but rather a trademark of the outspoken anti-gay group. IFPC has garnered headlines for its opposition to same-sex marriage, including public allegations that homosexuality poses a greater public health risk than second-hand smoke. IFPC recently changed its name to The Family Leader and is now a major player in Iowa politics.
A 2008 release on the South Carolina Palmetto Family Council website says the group received $3 million, to be funded over a period of five years.
Other groups have also, at one time or another, had their hands on federal grants. The Oklahoma Family Policy Council, for example, writes:
OFPC’s funding for KEEP [Kids Eagerly Endorsing Purity] comes through a combination of privately donated funds, substantial in-kind contributions from caring Oklahomans, and via the federal government through either a SPRANS Community-Based Abstinence Education implementation grant or a §510 grant, both authorized under Title V of the Social Security Act.
On her personal blog, Kopsa also records other organizations receiving federal funding:
Rocky Mountain Family Policy Council received at least $55,000 for services through federally funded abstinence education program WAIT Training in Colorado. WAIT recently changed its name to The Center for Relationship Education. WAIT had its share of problems when it became known they had endorsed and assisted Ugandan Pastor Martin Ssempa of the disgusting “Kill The Gays” bill – here and here.
The Georgia Family Council is listed as recipient of the Georgia Department of Human Resources $960,000 Healthy Marriage waiver. However, when I called the state of Georgia they claim to have no record of this.
Such federal funds have also been administered to North Carolina government, though a quick scan of available financial documents revealed no immediately apparent connection with the North Carolina Family Policy Council.
That’s exactly what anti-LGBT organizers and activists are. They honestly believe that they, and only they, can claim the role of moral arbiter of right and wrong. Their opinions. Their religion. Their interpretation of Scripture.
Have a different point of view? Too bad. Actually think all people — including gays — should be treated equally (as in, the dictionary’s definition of “equal”)? Tough luck.
Charlotte Hays of Independent Women’s Forum takes issue with the White House’s recent anti-bullying summit. She writes:
Okay, bullying is wrong. But this isn’t entirely about bullying, is it?
This is partly about promoting acceptance of alternative lifestyles. Most of us today are pretty accepting of these lifestyles, and all decent people know that it would be wrong to be unkind to anybody because of sexual orientation. Decent people don’t bully. But a kid who is a Christian is more likely to face censure in some schools. Why aren’t Christian kids on the president’s no-bullying list?
My problems with the no bullying campaign are twofold: it is ideologically driven, second, this really isn’t what government should do. This is an issue for a family. Families teach children to behave decently-or they don’t. Stable families instill civility, but ideological anti-bullying campaigns instill ideology.
As if Hays’ idea of an anti-bullying program wouldn’t be any less ideological. Ha.
There was a time — and for many LGBT kids, that time is still now — when schools’ anti-bullying campaigns or policies were designed specifically to exclude them. That’s the kind of anti-bullying campaign I can see Hays supporting. Why shouldn’t Christian kids be able to torment gay kids day-in and day-out, telling them they are going to hell and excluding them from dodge ball games. After all, we all know that gay kid is condemned anyway. We might as well let the Christian kid tell him so.
Concord’s Michael Brown, leader of the anti-gay Coalition of Conscience and FIRE Church and School of Ministry, released this week his new book, “A Queer Thing Happened to America: And What a Long, Strange Trip It’s Been.”
I haven’t yet had the chance to read the book, though I know Brown cites/references/mentions me and/or some of my writings (unless something’s changed since the last time he and I chatted).
The book’s title and imagery are eye-catching. It’s also a bit deceptive. And, unsurprisingly, devoid of all understanding. I don’t know many trans folks or gay men who wear black socks and pink pumps. All joking aside: I expect Brown’s book, if anything like its cover, to paint a wholly inaccurate and woefully biased and prejudiced picture of LGBT people in this country.
From Brown’s blog, Voice of Revolution, a summary of the book:
Forty years ago, most Americans said they didn’t know anyone who was homosexual and claimed to know little or nothing about homosexuality. Today, there’s hardly a sitcom without a prominent gay character, movies like Milk and Brokeback Mountain have won Oscars, and even People Magazine celebrated the marriage of Ellen Degeneres and Portia DeRossi. Forty years ago, the word “queer” was considered to be an extremely insulting, ugly slur. Today, we have books like Queering Elementary Education and The Queer Bible Commentary, while Queer Eye for the Straight Guy was a cable TV sensation and even school children are learning the meaning of “Gender Queer.” Forty years ago, people were fired from their jobs for being gay. Today, college professors have been fired for taking issue with same-sex practice, counselors have been dismissed for refusing to affirm gay and lesbian relationships, and even pastors have been arrested for saying that homosexual behavior was sinful.
A Queer Thing Happened to America chronicles the amazing transformation of America over the last forty years, literally, from Stonewall Inn to the White House, and addresses the question head-on: Is there really a gay agenda, or is it a fiction of the religious right? Written in a lively and compelling style, but backed with massive research and extensive interaction with the GLBT community, this forthright and yet compassionate book looks at the extraordinary impact gay activism has had on American society – from nursery school to college, from the pulpit to Hollywood, and from science to semantics – also analyzing the foundational arguments of the gay civil rights movement and exposing the extreme intolerance of those calling for tolerance. This could easily be the most controversial book of the decade. Read it and find out why the publishing world was afraid to touch it.
And, Voice of Revolution Editor Marcus French touts the book’s number slot in Amazon.com’s Gay & Lesbian Nonfiction list. French writes:
The screenshot below, taken at 12:15 PM ET on March 17th, shows the Amazon Bestsellers Rank for ‘A Queer Thing Happened to America.’ As you can see, it is now #1 on Amazon’s ‘Gay & Lesbian Nonfiction’ chart! (A chart, by the way, I would not recommend navigating to, as it contains all sorts of sexually explicit material.) If you would like to help it stay at that position in the ‘Gay & Lesbian Nonfiction’ chart as a redemptive witness, and climb higher on the overall chart, you can help by purchasing the book on Amazon here.
I hadn’t long been a member of Fab.com, the relatively new Facebook-connected social networking site for gay men. I liked it. Sleek, clean and cool, the network was easy to navigate and understand. I just wish it had caught on steam, especially in the Carolinas.
But now, the site is changing. Fab.com writes:
We’ve had a lot of fun building toward that vision and we’ve met some incredible people along the way. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed and appreciated your experience with us. Your participation and contribution to fab.com has been the core of our popularity.
This past year has been a monumental year for gay rights and acceptance. From the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, to court victories over Prop 8, “Born This Way,” the President walking away from the Defense of Marriage Act, and the impact of the It Gets Better Project, this has been an incredible year of progress.
As we reflected on these developments, we realized that all of this progress has diminished the need for a gay-specific social network. We don’t need a gay Facebook or a gay Yelp or a gay Foursquare or a gay Groupon. The original versions are fantastic, and we are becoming more and more integrated into the mainstream.
At the same time, we recognized that one of the aspects of fab that we enjoy the most and that our users are getting great value from — providing great deals on amazing products and services — has little to do with sexual orientation. A great find is a great find and a great deal is a great deal, regardless of who you are.
No need for a gay-specific social network? It’s an interesting thought, and the same concept could be thrown into any scenario: Gay newspapers? Gay TV networks? Gay community centers? Gay bars?
It’s true that LGBT folks are “mainstreaming” more and more. I hate the term, by the way. “Mainstreaming,” urgh — it reminds me of Showtime’s “True Blood” and seems to compare us to vampires. Regardless, I can’t ignore the reality. Though there’s still an awful lot of queer folks who live in places where “mainstreaming” isn’t an option, it’s happening. The trend can be found even in places like Charlotte. While the Queen City isn’t a friend politically or religiously to LGBT people, our Uptown bars, clubs and restaurants are mostly gay and straight, mixed crowds and many openly welcome gay business.
I’m excited to see exactly what Fab.com operators have in mind. After all, I like design as much as I like meeting other gay people. It’ll be interesting see just how they handle going from a gay social network to a “love of design”-driven site. I hope they surprise me.
What to sign up for an early launch/invite, too? Click here: http://fab.com/uo7fdf
(Disclosure: Fab.com will count each person who signs up for an invite through this link. The more people I invite, the earlier I get access to the site, plus some other benefits. The same goes for you once you sign up.)
As the oldest brother to four siblings — three brothers and a little sister — I find this ad very touching. I paused several times as I read it.
It’s running today in the Union-Leader, New Hampshire’s widely read (and conservative) newspaper.
An Open Letter to the New Hampshire Legislature
As a former Marine, I take freedom and liberty very seriously. And as a conservative, I find the effort to take away marriage from loving gay and lesbian couples not only to be wrong, but completely off task.
This is not why we sent you to Concord. There’s a lot of work to do to fix our economy, create jobs and manage the state budget.
After completing my tour of duty in Iraq, I came home to New Hampshire to marry the woman of my dreams. Family means everything to us – as you can see from this picture of my brothers and me. I’m on the far left; the tall guy is my brother and best man, Calvin. He is gay. I hope he will one day ask me to be his best man when he decides to marry.
Limited government is not one that takes rights away from our family members, neighbors and co-workers. No real conservative believes government should be managing the personal lives of any decent law- abiding citizen of New Hampshire.
My brother is finally happy and comfortable with who he is. I am so proud of the man he has become, and no one has the right to take away his freedom to marry.
Yesterday evening I posted briefly about activist Robin Tyler’s desires to organize another national LGBT march on Washington, this time in 2012. I pointed to the five alternatives I suggested when activists in San Francisco called for a similar march in 2009, ultimately leading to the National Equality March in October of that year.
I have a few more thoughts to add…
Back in 2006 (0r sometime around then, I’m not entirely sure), Robin Tyler ramped up efforts to organize a national march in 2008. (On a side note: What’s up with organizing these things in huge election years?) I was recruited to start building support for the march in the Greensboro/Triad area of North Carolina. I started a little website, tried to get others involved in the planning processes, spoke to student groups and community members and… the idea went no where. No one I knew then was interested in helping to organize a national march when there was so much work to do on the ground in their schools, communities and in our own home state. The time, money and other resources spent on getting people to Washington, D.C., for a one-day, feel-good, accomplish-nothing rally was better spent organizing locally, lobbying locally and creating change locally.
It’s been nearly a year-and-a-half now since the 2009 National Equality March, and despite big promises of after-march action in all 435 congressional districts across the nation, march organizers (many of whom are now involved in GetEqual) have done nothing to move their mobilized hundreds of thousands toward that goal. Small GetEqual chapters have started up here and there, but nothing has come close to the master plan march organizers had in mind.
Similarly, no one so far has pointed out any single direct benefit gained from any of our community’s past national marches on Washington. I’m willing to listen and weigh the evidence, but as it stands I know of no victories, successes or changes that came as a direct result of encouraging thousands or even hundreds of thousands to blow hundreds or thousands of dollars in traveling for to the national mall for one day’s worth of chanting and holding signs.
Yet, according to the Washington Blade, Robin Tyler is pushing that same old, tired meme that bringing thousands to D.C. will somehow create massive waves of change across the country:
Tyler said the process of organizing a national march would trigger more activity in the states than what is currently taking place under the leadership of both state and national LGBT groups.
“[L]arge national marches on Washington, which take over a year to do on that scale, produce activists and activity from every state,” she said.
National marches do create activists and activity in every state, but the activity is focused on getting people to Washington and money raised for the event. Never in any significant way is the activity focused on creating change at home. This “trickle down” theory to activism is just as flawed as Reaganomics.
National marches on Washington are not effective. They are not effective at creating change in the Capitol. They are not effective at creating change in the states. They certainly aren’t effective at creating change in the thousands of small cities and towns scattered across our country.
If activists like Robin Tyler are truly interested in creating change in this nation, then they would seriously consider giving more support to equality initiatives focused on the state and local levels. Our movement has made significant progress at state and local levels and we stand to make more, if given the resources that is. If you want to have a national gathering, try going to a Creating Change conference. There you’ll at least learn something, meet new and valuable friends and allies and have the real resources to start doing the work of equality at home.
But if education and true motivation to create change is not want you’re really after, then go ahead and plan a national march on Washington. You’ll just spend a day walking and marching and chanting and holding signs. When you go home, you’ll feel really, really good. But you’ll have exactly the same amount of resources you left home with: zero.
(Photo credit: J. Morton Scott, via flickr.)