17 November 2008

Do the Right Thing

In the wake of Proposition 8's passage in California, lesbian and gay people have certainly had an impact in the public arena. You've seen on the news protests, rallies, and marches staged across the country by those of us who seek to achieve equal rights so that we may enjoy the financial and emotional stability in our relationships that can only come with some form of legal recognition. Some of these protests have been directed at churches and people of faith, while others have focused on our courthouses, city halls, statehouses, and capitols. On Saturday, my partner, my sister, my nephew, and I attended a rally for equality at Salt Lake City Hall. I was proud to see so many people of our generation stand up in solidarity with us as we continue the process of seeking legal recognition for our relationships. For those of you who attended or who have supported us through all this, thank you so much, and we love you and are so grateful for your solidarity.

Our words and actions were peaceful -- sure there was anger, and we are right to be angry, but I think I speak for many of us when I say the mood was hopeful and optimistic, because I feel that justice will prevail in the end. But it will take the work of all of us to make it happen.

Some of the protests have been aimed at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. While I understand and sympathize with the anger that has been directed at them for their strident support of the proposition, and the near insistence that their members donate time and money to the cause, I do not feel the directing wrath at a religious institution is effective or appropriate. Certainly any violence aimed at a religious group undermines our message of freedom and equality. But there is something we can do -- we can undertake a constructive effort to change the law in this great State, by working in dialogue with the LDS Church. Below is a quote from a recent Equality Utah email:

"Throughout the recent election cycle, the LDS Church has demonstrated its willingness to participate in political issues by asking its members to do all they can do, including donating their means and their time, to support California's Proposition 8, which amended the state constitution and eliminated gay couples right to marry by defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

The LDS Church has articulated it is not "anti-gay" but rather pro-marriage and it "does not object to rights for same-sex couples regarding hospitalization and medical care, fair housing and employment rights, or probate rights." On November 5th, Elder L. Whitney Clayton stated the LDS Church does not oppose "civil unions or domestic partnerships." In response to these statements, Equality Utah is drafting legislation for the 2009 General Session of the Utah Legislature to address each of the issues mentioned by the LDS Church."

To me, this is the essence of the issue. Robert and I have been together for more than 9 years. In that time, we have bought a home, shared in the expense of a car, dealt with medical emergencies, invested, and experienced all the joys and agonies that any couple, gay or straight, who lives together is bound to experience over time. Yet we have none of the rights that can be obtained with a simple $50 marriage license. We can work with estate attorneys to assemble a series of legal structures that provide a thin approximation of the legal protections afforded by a marriage license, but at great expense -- in some cases $3,000 or more.

I think we need to take the LDS Church and others at their word, and pursue the recognition of equal rights in the State of Utah. Five bills will be presented in the Utah State Legislature this winter that will address the injustices we face, economic and moral. One of these bills will establish a system of civil unions in the State, so that Rob and I and others like us could gain the legal protections we deserve as a couple -- since we face all the health, financial, and legal risks currently.

The LDS Church has indicated that they will not stand in the way of civil unions, and I think the time has come to achieve this in the State of Utah. Even those of you who may be reluctant to allow same-sex marriages can appreciate the fundamental economic and social justice issues we face because we have NO legal recourse. I need your help to make this change in Utah. For those of you who live in our great State, I suggest two things:

1. Sign this on-line petition from Equality Utah:

2. Write your State Representative and Senator. I can help you find them if you don't know. Also write the incoming Speaker of the House, David Clark, the incoming Senate President Mike Waddoups, and Governor Huntsman. Tell them it's time to recognize that equal rights and equal protection under the law do not challenge anyone's values.

Here are their addresses:

Rep. David Clark: 1831 RED MOUNTAIN, SANTA CLARA, UT 84765
Sen. Mike Waddoups: 2868 West. Matterhorn Dr. West Jordan UT 84084
Governor Jon M. Huntsman, Jr.: PO Box 142220 Salt Lake City, Utah 84114-2220

Thank you for taking the time to read my letter.



03 November 2008

Thanks, Your Excellency

Today, Kansas City Bishop Robert Finn had this to say about people who vote for Obama:

"Give consideration to your eternal salvation, because to vote for a person who has expressed a fanatical determination to not only support abortion as it exists now but to remove all limitations on it through the Freedom of Choice Act and to extend it without any recourse, throwing out all the efforts of the citizens over the last thirty five years to place reasonable limits on abortion -- that you, by voting for a person who has expressed his determination to do this to Planned Parenthood, to NARAL, that we are -- you make yourself a participant in the act of abortion. That's gravely wrong, and you mustn't do it because your eternal salvation is tied up with that important choice."

I abhor abortion, and I want desperately to inhabit a society where abortion is seen as unnecessary. I consider myself pro-life, although I distance myself from the abortion debate in this country, because is geared more toward cynically driving elections than actually reducing abortions and improving the lives of women in difficult circumstances.

But what Bishop Finn is saying is beyond the pale: I am a concerned voter in America, who is too young to vote on a single issue. The issues at play in this election effect the health, economic well-being, and security of millions of Americans...myself, my friends and family, my nieces and nephews.

In the past seven years, America has been beset by one catastrophe after another. In this time, our President has fought a war in Iraq, killing and displacing millions and engendering a deep hatred in a new generation of Muslims, while the real fight needed to be fought in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Worse, the war was planned and prosecuted in the shadows of the executive branch, without appropriate oversight from Congress. We allowed the executive branch to torture, to incarcerate indefinitely without charge, and to wiretap on citizens. We've condoned the politicization of U.S. Attorneys and the Department of Justice. We made a mockery of FEMA, and the Gulf Coast was permanently scarred in the process. While we were careening toward economic collapse, our President sent us checks in the mail and encouraged us to shop more. That, Your Excellency, is sin.

I want a change, a profound and dramatic change for the better. From the outset, I believe Barack Obama has made a sounder case for better change than has McCain. I totally respect those who believe differently, and I even respect and sympathize with those who vote on the single issue of abortion. They are making a choice based upon the deepest of convictions, although they have been cynically manipulated by their party to turnout in elections because of it. Nevertheless, after what we've gone through in the last several years, to suggest I am teetering on the edge of damnation because I'm voting for a party and a president that supports Roe v. Wade is galling and unconscionable. A Catholic of a bygone era might call Bishop Finn's statement a "reductio ad absurdum."

For a Catholic prelate to instruct his flock to ignore the massive and categorical errors that have taken place in our public life in the past seven years in order to attain salvation is irresponsible, and it tethers the Church too closely to cynical, partisan politics. Shame on him.

I am a Catholic. I am also an American. I am asked to step into a voting booth and make a decision. These decisions never come easily to me, because I take this process seriously and reverently. My decision is made, on balance, because I think it's what's best for the country (not just for me, or for Joe the Plumber, or unborn babies). I will not have my faith and my salvation challenged on those grounds by a bishop in a battleground state.

I love my Church, and I've been in a lovers' quarrel with my Church. I feel marginalized. I can do or say little, publicly, in my Church community for fear that I will be perpetrating "public scandal." I have abided for a decade in hopes that the Church could move to a place where I could have a reasonable conversation about grace, faith, love, sin and redemption. Instead of moving forward, my Church is regressing. A Catholic priest in California, presumably celibate, was relieved of his ministries for speaking out against Proposition 8 and sharing with his congregation that he is gay. How am I, a devout gay Christian, supposed to react? I've asked this question hundreds of times, and I've gotten hundreds of different answers, none of which are sufficient.

A common thread in many of those answers is "sit down, shut up, and pray." Yet I also know the unique blessings and burdens that God has endowed me with, and I know that I need to use them to bring light and peace into the world. That's my job. And while I do pray, I will not sit down and I will not shut up. That is not what God wants of me.

OK so that was quite a tangent, but the point is this: I've spent over a decade trying to understand my unique role in the Body of Christ as a gay Christian. I've also tried to discern my place in the Roman Catholic Church. As if that wasn't enough, some Bishop decides that if I vote for Obama, I'm going to Hell.

Your Excellency, you're NOT helping.

01 November 2008

The Vox Civitatis Election Projection - Update

My prediction: voter turnout will exceed 130 million, with Barack Obama getting 52 percent (at least 67 million votes), and McCain getting 47 percent. It will be somewhere between a blowout and a nail-biter. Virginia will turn, North Carolina won't. Obama will get in the neighborhood of 311 electoral votes

One thing we have to remember is that voters turned out in extraordinary numbers to vote in the contested primary. There's absolutely no evidence to suggest that McCain will sluice off signifgant numbers of disgruntled democrats, except in idiosyncratic West Virginia. On the contrary, Obama (and Wall Street and Palin) brought the Hillary democrats home. Given the enthusiasm in the primaries, Obama's extant ground game (*because* of those primaries, in many cases), and the general partisan ID/voter registration advantages the democrats have, I'm assured of an Obama victory. It would have been a total rout, but one thing Sarah Palin did was ensure at least the standard GOP turnout.

credit: Pollster.com

A friend shared this graph with me earlier today, that essentially explains why Obama is in a better position than either Kerry in 2004 or Gore in 2000. Is a McCain win still possible? Sure, but only barely. McCain will have to count on Obama's turnout machine to fail...and, having been tested more than 50 times during the primaries, I'm sure it will not fail.