Saturday, June 25, 2011

The "My God Is Better Than Your God" Argument

One of my favorite pastimes as of late has been joining in on the marriage equality discussion that takes place every day on the National Organization for Marriages’ webpage. There is always a great deal of bantering back and forth on about marriage equality, with about half supporting the notion and the other half opposing.   One of the most common messages that I see from one man/one woman marriage supporters on that page is the idea that God is the one who has defined marriage and that He decided that it was to be between one man and one woman. Besides the obvious Constitutional implications that such a statement has in relation to civil marriage, I find it interesting to bring up what I deem the “other religion” argument.  This is a very important argument for me, because I am a Conservative Jew, and the majority of Judaism does not support what the one man/one women proponents say that God says.  

      
      One man/One woman marriage supporters often state that God never intended that two men or two women be married, and that he specifically forbids homosexuality in scripture. I respond…”That’s excellent, I’m glad that you have those beliefs, and maybe the God that you believe in does have these prohibitions. But in Judaism, the religion that I belong too, the majority of movements (our version of denominations) support and validate same-sex unions and LGBT individuals.” You see, for years, the Reformed, Conservative, and Reconstructionist movements of Judaism have openly welcomed their gay and lesbian members and their partners, and often times even perform same-sex weddings in those jurisdictions where they are legal.  For example, in my synagogue - a Conservative Jewish shule - my Rabbi and our community have been more than welcoming of my husband and I.
      
      The question that I ask of one man/one women marriage supporters is this – if your argument is purely based upon a religious model, why should the Government prefer your religious version of marriage to the version of marriage upheld by both my God as well as my Movement? As of yet, I have had no adequate response; for though some have been receptive to this contradiction, many have resorted to attacks against the Jewish religion instead of actually addressing the issue at hand.  But my question raises some legitimate concerns; for under a “God says so, therefore Government should make it so” model, we cannot actually make a determination on the issue one way or another, because that would require choosing one religious viewpoint over an equally valid one, something that the Government cannot and should not do.  

Now That We Have Marriage Equality In New York

     We now have marriage equality in New York; and we all deserve a pat on our backs for making this happen. From our calling state senators to aggressive letter writing campaigns, the unity that I saw over the past few weeks in New York - between the LGBT community and straight allies, between Democrats and Republicans, and between people of every creed and color - was astounding. And that type of unity is what allowed us to gain the victory that we did. As the New York Times said today, it was because we were all "on the same page" for marriage equality, that it actually happened.

      But though this unity is there, to often the activism and excitement that is unleashed by such an event as yesterdays dies off, as people return to their day to day activities. Yet all across this nation (and the world), issues of discrimination against LGBT people still remain. From Tennessee's HB600 to the successful drive to strip domestic partnership benefits in El Paso, there are hundreds of ways that LGBT people encounter entrenched social and legal discrimination on a daily basis. State organizations are fighting the good fight against what may seem an uphill battle, and we must stand behind them! We must use the unity and excitement that we have received from the New York victory as a drive to topple all of the other dominoes of discrimination. We must use the lessons from New York - about focus and working together - as models for other States.

      So this is my call to you - don't be content with your current situation...be the voice of change in your community; and take the lessons of New York to the rest of the world.

NOM Pledges To Defeat New York Republicans Who Voted For Marriage Equality

     The National Organization for Marriage, after receiving a stinging defeat in New York yesterday with the passage of marriage equality 33-29 in the Senate, has vowed to commit 2 million dollars to oust the traitorous Republicans who voted for the bill:. Jim Alesi, Mark Grisanti, Steven Saland, and Roy McDonald.

In a press release from their website they state,
“The Republican party has torn up its contract with the voters who trusted them in order to facilitate Andrew Cuomo’s bid to be president of the U.S. Selling out your principles to get elected is wrong. Selling out your principles to get the other guy elected is just plain dumb.
Gay marriage has consequences for the next generation, for parents, and for religious people, institutions and small business owners. Politicians who campaign one way on marriage, and then vote the other, need to understand: betraying and misleading voters has consequences, too. We are not giving up, we will continue to fight to protect marriage in New York, as we are actively doing in New Hampshire and Iowa.”
     First off, more power too them...waste your money in New York - a State which has no chance of repealing the marriage equality law. It comes with the added benefit of siphoning money away from Minnesota, which will be having a ballot referendum on marriage equality in 2012. Secondly, just so that these four brave Republicans know that the LGBT community does not take their support lightly, I urge all of us to contribute - whether it be financially or physically - to their reelection campaigns. As I said yesterday, these four brave men have stuck their necks out for us and have incurred the wrath of their base; they deserve our support.

     The second paragraph really gets me though; for Senators such as Mark Grisanti of Erie/Niagara/Buffalo, addressed this issue of "betraying voters". I would all encourage you to watch his floor speech, for he shows the heart of a true statesman.

Friday, June 24, 2011

New York Senate Passes Marriage Equality!!

The State of New York has legalized Marriage Equality 33-29!! Equality Reigns in New York State!!

Republican Senators Alesi, McDonald, Saland, and Grisanti supported the bill!! We must all, regardless of party affiliation, make sure that they get re-elected because of their support. They have put their necks out for us, and will be targeted by the social conservatives in their districts, and thus they deserve our support.

Senator Diaz of course made a fool of himself, by repeatedly back-talking to the President of the Senate...but in the end, his anger did not hold sway, for now in New York...our relationships are now legally EQUAL!! Onto full equality in the rest of the United States.

Senator Lanza To Vote NO On Marriage Equality Bill

Republican Senator Lanza, once a potential yes vote, now is saying that he will be voting NO on the marriage equality bill. In a statement released to the press he says,

After exhaustive consideration of the issue of same-sex marriage during which I have listened to thousands of good and decent people on both sides of the issue, consulted numerous writings, done considerable soul searching and perhaps, most importantly, listened to the people I represent on Staten Island, I have decided to vote no.
Government can, and should, confer all the rights and benefits associated with marriage to same-sex couples while still reserving the word marriage to describe a union between a man and a woman. Government's power to validate or approve of anything is accomplished by conveying government benefits to those who engage in the government favored activity, and not by the name.
Calling a union between a man and a woman a marriage, and one between a man and man a civil union, does not invalidate one or the other.
I am grateful for the many discussions I have had with so many Staten Islanders as well as for the prayers which have been extended by those on each side. As always, my determination is based upon representing the best interests of the people of Staten Island.
Though this is disappointing, we still have Senators Saland and Grisanti as undecided. You can reach them here to show your support of marriage equality!


Stephen Saland (saland@nysenate.gov) 
Mark Grisanti (grisanti@nysenate.gov)

Senator Skelos' Statement On Marriage Equality Vote

      New York Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos has released a statement on the marriage equality bill as amended. He states,

After many hours of deliberation and discussion over the past several weeks among the members, it has been decided that same sex marriage legislation will be brought to the full Senate for an up or down vote.

The entire Senate Republican Conference was insistent that amendments be made to the Governor’s original bill in order to protect the rights of religious institutions and not-for-profits  with religious affiliations.  I appreciate the Governor’s cooperation in working with us to address these important issues and concerns.

As I have said many times, this is a very difficult issue and it will be a vote of conscience for every member of the Senate.
      So we DO get a vote!! That is awesome! My question is, don't the Republicans know that this issue has made a mockery of the state of New York - not because of the issue of marriage equality, but because of how the Republicans have handled it? And I wonder, how will this affect them electorally in the next election?

Religious Wording Agreed Upon: Non-Severability Clause Attached

      Both sides of the marriage equality issue in New York State have come to an agreement on the religious exemptions to be included in the bill. To those who have not been following this bill, the "lack of religious exemptions" is what has supposedly caused the vote on the bill to be delayed for so long. The text of the religious exemption amendments can be found here.


     But there is one caveat to this issue; the bill contains a non-severability clause. This clause means that the legislation must be taken together as a whole, and that one part of it cannot be struck down by the judiciary while leaving the rest of the bill intact. This has many equality activists worried, as they say that some of the exemptions may be "unconstitutional" in their scope. The non-severability clause reads as such...

5-A. THIS ACT IS TO BE CONSTRUED AS A WHOLE, AND ALL PARTS OF IT ARE
TO  BE  READ  AND CONSTRUED TOGETHER.   IF ANY PART OF THIS ACT SHALL  BE ADJUDGED BY ANY COURT OF  COMPETENT  JURISDICTION  TO  BE  INVALID,  THE REMAINDER OF  THIS  ACT SHALL BE INVALIDATED.   NOTHING HEREIN     SHALL BE CONSTRUED TO AFFECT TE PARTIES' RIGHT TO APPEAL THE MATTER

Another Consequence Of Gay Marriage - Cartoon

       Following up from the cartoon I posted yesterday, here is another "threat" to heterosexual marriage if we allow gays and lesbians to get married. :)


Religious Groups Cry Victim On Marriage Equality - Again

     I always find it amusing that whenever the LGBT community is on the cusp of a major victory, religious organizations and groups always claim that they are being harassed and vilified by the LGBT community. Today, both Focus On The Families "Citizen Link" and the National Organization for Marriage, are using this familiar line. As posted on the Citizen Link site,
On the eve of a contentious same-sex marriage vote in the New York state Senate, the online world has turned into a virtual battlefield. Archbishop Timothy Dolan and state Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos are just two of the high-profile marriage defenders who have had to block comments on their website, and Facebook and Twitter accounts.
     Am I going to defend the comments made on these sites? Not at all...for I think that when our community lashes out at "traditional marriage defenders" in hate, that it is a bad thing. But, what Focus and NOM don't tell you is that this is a minority of individuals. This is not what the LGBT movement is about, nor is it the official policy of the organizations that represent our interests to act in such a hateful manner. It is a small number of individuals taking their own time to exercise their own hatred and animosity towards people like Timothy Dolan and Senator Skelos.

     But there is a fundamental difference between the two sides. Because though the "hate" that comes from individuals in the marriage equality camp is wrong, it is much different than the institutionalized "hate" coming from groups such as Focus On The Family, Family Research Council, American Family Association, National Organization for Marriage etc. These are groups that represent the very movement that is "defending traditional marriage". These groups constantly use unscientific data, false information, and inflammatory comments to demean and slander our community.

      That is why my friends, we have the higher ground. For though there may be some within our ranks that are angry, bitter, and use hateful words...the vast majority of us just want to be able to live our lives without being told that we are inferior. Their hate, on the other hand, flows from the very top of their movement, and thus permeates the entire discussion.

     Moral of the story...keep the discussion classy, and win the discussion with logic and reason. We have that on our side!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Gay Marriage Under "Cover Of Darkness"

       New Yorkers For Constitutional Freedoms has released a press release decrying the "lack of debate" on the marriage equality issue. They state,
Advocates and opponents are both bracing for a vote between 1:00 - 2:00 AM.

This really wouldn't be surprising. Last week when the New York State Assembly passed gay "marriage" legislation, it occurred with a "message of necessity". The only reason a message of necessity was used in this process was to avoid the three-day aging process required for most legislation. The message of necessity was wrongfully used to allow a rapid vote on a very divisive issue, denying the people of New York the appropriate opportunity to respond to this controversial issue.

Now the New York State Senate Republicans are being urged to put same-sex "marriage" legislation up for an up or down vote. Advocates argue that this is part of an open and transparent process and that this is how democracy works.  An open and transparent government, however, would allow for a proper three-day aging process that the public might see and consider the ramifications of whatever religious freedoms language is to be included in the legislation.

Rev. Jason J. McGuire, Executive Director, New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms (NYCF), said, "No Republican senator should think that allowing a vote under the cover of darkness is a good thing for the State of New York. Specific legislative language should be vetted by the parties most directly affected, in this case the religious communities. Passing this bill, aids Democrats, not the democratic process."

      This claim of "rushing" the bill is obviously true, because there has been no discussion on marriage equality in New York in any way, shape, or form over the past few months. Also, people have not debated the issues of both marriage equality and religious exemptions, since they haven't had time. Additionally, I love Reverend McGuires insistence that the religious exemption language be analyzed by religious organizations - most of which have shown no opposition at all to the very concept of marriage equality.

     And cover of night? Might sound rhetorically pleasing, but remember, if it was not for the Republicans stalling on this issue, it would have been voted on days ago and in full daylight.

Greg Ball To Vote NO On Marriage Equality Bill

     New York State Senator Greg Ball has decided that he is a NO vote on Governor Cuomo's Marriage Equality Bill...from twitter...
RNN & FiOS 1 exclusive: NYS Senator Greg Ball announced to us he is voting NO on gay marriage but believes it WILL PASS
      As I have said all along, Senator Ball was never concerned about his LGBT constituents, and was never "undecided". Anyone could see that in the way that he conducted his media interviews. He played the LGBT community as well as the media so that he could get his 15 minutes of fame...a fame that, I predict, will define his career.

The "reason for his decision" can be found here.

The Real Consequences Of Marriage - Cartoon Version

To lighten the mood a bit while we wait for the vote in New York State. Thanks so much to 4marriage on twitter for this cartoon!! It is awesome!

David Tyree: Homosexuality Should Not Be Taught As Normal

Yes friends, David Tyree keeps putting his foot in his mouth when it comes to the issue of marriage equality in New York. First, he said that same-sex marriage would lead to anarchy, second, he said that Christians will lose their religious freedom if marriage equality passes, and now he does not want children to be taught that homosexuality is normal (which scientifically it is) - because that is against his religious beliefs. The end of the clip - starting around the 4:30 mark is where this statement is made.

Senator Ball Wants To Protect Those "Believers" In His Base Who Don't Like Gays

     If anyone still thinks that New York Senator Ball is on our side/undecided, they are way to optimistic. Not only has he been the driving force behind the legislative stall, he will also not state whether or not he supports giving same-sex couples the same rights as heterosexual couples; instead claiming that he has no problem with gay people (he served with them).

    To me it seems that Senator Ball cares more about the political ramifications of his vote than he does about the impact that inequality has on gay and lesbian couples around New York State, and for that he should be ashamed.

Gay Marriage Will Lead To An HIV Epidemic

      According to one Clinton County legislator, if gays and lesbians are allowed to wed, an HIV epidemic will overtake the City of New York. Sam Trombly (R-Area 2, Ellenburg) stated that, 
"I'm surprised the health department has not come out against this because we are going to have an HIV epidemic if this passes...They (health department) are always complaining about tobacco and smoking, I'm surprised they didn't say anything about this."
      So encouraging gays and lesbians to form monogamous committed relationships is going to increase the HIV rate? Any person with half a brain would know that by encouraging monogamy, we would decrease the rate of STD's, but this mans obvious homophobia has blinded him to this logic.  


       He then goes on to say that we know that homosexuality is immoral, because we don't see "two male dogs sleeping in the same dog house together". Actually, Mr. Trombly, homosexuality is a natural variant of sexuality that is found in almost all animal species; so your argument about "morality" based upon nature is flat out specious. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

More Citizen Link Fear-mongering About Marriage Equality In New York: Christians Will Be Persecuted

      Watch the below video that Citizen Link - the political arm of Focus On The Family - has put out about the marriage equality bill in New York. First they praise David Tyree, because of his absurd claim that by somehow allowing same-sex couples to marry Christians wont be able to be free to practice their religion. Then they praise Archbishop Timothy Dolan of "New York is becoming like China and North Korea" fame. He states, and the "reporters" swoon over the fact that they think that marriage is not supposed to be about financial benefits etc. but is instead about family structures and children. Maybe in their religious view it is, but civil marriage is ONLY about financial benefits and social acceptance.

       Then they say that marriage is what it is (one man, one woman), because "it is what it is". No logical fallacies there. They then state that God's definition is going to stand no matter what society says, so even if the State validates same-sex marriages, they really wouldn't be marriages. Ok, you can have that sentiment, but my God states that marriage can be between same-sex couples, so why is your view better? Plus, this is a civil issue, not a religious one, and that line may work on your listeners, but they don't work in the real world.

      Then they continue with the whole "Christians are being persecuted, waahh waaahh waahh" in regards to the whole religious exemption issue. Once again the misrepresent the facts and issues to suit their purpose, bringing up the issue of adoption agencies having to shut down, and hospitals being forced to acknowledge same-sex partners, issues that have been debunked numerous times, both on this blog and others.

       What gets me though, is that they leave us with the feeling that they don't want any recognition for same-sex couples, in any way shape or form, because their current - in my opinion, too broad - religious protections will be threatened. Though they didn't say this, they would rather a same-sex couple be separated in the hospital, because that hospital doesn't like gay people etc. Remember this...the debate currently taking place in society is not over marriage equality, but it is over the validity of our relationships and our families.

Religious Freedom and LGBT Rights: Part One - Parental Notification

        Religious Freedom has been one of the “untouchables” in American thinking for our almost three century existence as a nation. Because of this revered status, Americans are prone to hear the words “it will violate my religious freedom” and feel sympathy and anger for those whose “freedom” is being impacted in a negative way.  Thus, when organizations such as the National Organization for Marriage or the Catholic Conference start caterwauling that their religious freedom is being violated by allowing same-sex couples to marry, people listen up.  Also, as I reported yesterday, parents are increasingly feeling that their religious freedom is being violated by school systems around the world who teach that gays and lesbians are normal and should be welcomed into mainstream society with open arms.  But how far should the concept of “religious freedom” go in today’s society, and it is a carte blanch for any opposition to anything?

     Just to give a little background on what informs my thinking here…I am a huge fan of John Stuart Mill – the great 19th century Utilitarian philosopher. In fact, because I reject the notion of governmental enforcement of religious doctrines, I feel that Utilitarianism is the best secular alternative.  In essence, Mill believed that my freedom and liberty to do what I wish only goes so far; that this freedom stops when the freedom of others is threatened, or when others are harmed by your exercise of freedom. Though Utilitarianism and this philosophy of Freedom/Harm does have its flaws, I feel that it is an acceptable method of dealing with the concept of religious freedom in a pluralistic society.  There are three main areas in regards to LGBT people and religious freedom that has caused the most controversy over the years: Parental opposition to children learning about homosexuality,  state-funded agencies given exemptions in serving LGBT individuals because of religious reasons, and the more philosophical concept of societies condoning same-sex relationships.  The first part I will deal with in this post, and the second and third I will deal with in the next few days.

      First, parental opposition to children learning about homosexuality and LGBT peoples contributions to society.  As reported yesterday, religious parents claim that their religious freedoms are being violated because the school is teaching a reality that is at odds with their religious beliefs. They view homosexuality as a sin; and thus their children should not be forced to learn that it is natural and normal. This issue has always been a sticky one for me, for I do understand where the parents are coming from; because the State is in essence telling their children that the views that their parents hold are backward and bigoted.  But what these parents don’t realize, is that by telling the State that they should not teach about LGBT people or issues, they are in fact telling LGBT families and individuals that their views (and existance) are wrong and immoral. So therefore, which one should win? 

      This controversy can be quelled if we have a discussion on  classes of individuals whose characteristics are “immutable”, such as race and gender. Now I recognize that many on the Right will argue that sexual orientation is not “immutable” and can be changed, something that is difficult to do with race and gender. Though most scientific organizations have dispelled this myth that the religious right attempts to pan, the Supreme Court of Canada (for those who object to me using a foreign Court, read Alexander Hamilton’s approval of this practice in Federalist 82), addressed this issue in the famous Egan v. Canada decision where Justice La Forest wrote,
I have no difficulty accepting the appellants' contention that whether or not sexual orientation is based on biological or physiological factors, which may be a matter of some controversy, it is a deeply personal characteristic that is either unchangeable or changeable only at unacceptable personal costs, and so falls within the ambit of s. 15 protection as being analogous to the enumerated grounds
     What was Justice La Forest saying here? In this decision, the SCC decided that sexual orientation is just as immutable as race and gender because it is “either unchangeable or changeable only at unacceptable persona costs”. What Justice La Forest was saying is that it is not acceptable for the Government to ask someone to change something so personal and such a part of their very being in order to gain rights or acceptance by society.

      So how does this relate to the issue of teaching LGBT issues and sexuality in school and the freedom of religion? Above, I asked  whether sexual orientation or religion freedom should be preferred in school systems. I think the above quote from Justice La Forest shows where I stand. The belief that homosexuality is wrong and must not be taught should fall to the wayside when it comes to a trait that the government has no right to ask you to change – even if such change is possible. By teaching respect and acceptance for LGBT people, the government is not asking individuals to change their religious beliefs, but is instead asking them to respect others and recognize that such people exist. This is an acceptable balancing of rights, for neither freedom is necessarily harmed in its exercise. On the other hand, religious groups and organizations want to see LGBT peoples existence not even mentioned, directly causing both societal and psychological harm to those individuals who both identify as LGBT and who exist in such families. By refusing to even acknowledge their presence, schools that adopt the policies of “Pro-Family” organizations like Focus On The Family are sending the message that LGBT families and people are inferior to their “normal” heterosexual counterparts. Thus, in the end, the lack of true harm to those advocating on the religious freedom side, should give way to the real harm that exists in ignoring and treating LGBT families as inferior.  

     

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Prepare For An Anti-Gay Hissy Fit: Toronto School Board Rejects Parental Opt Out

     Prepare for anti-gay organizations such as the National Organization for Marriage to use the following news report from Canada in their arsenal against the legalization of same sex marriage. The Toronto Star reports,

Christian parents wanting to opt-out of the Toronto Public School Board's curriculum-wide inclusion of gay, lesbian, transgender and queer issues are being told to like it or lump it.
“We cannot accommodate discrimination,” said Ken Jeffers, coordinator of gender-based violence prevention with the board. “If a parent says 'We don't like gays and lesbians and we don't want our child to learn anything about them,' that would be, under our policies, and under Ontario Human Rights legislation, discriminatory.”
The resource guide for teachers of students in kindergarten through grade 12, titled Challenging Homophobia & Heterosexism, is meant to help educators integrate teaching moments concerning GLTQ issues into everyday discussions in the classrooms.
“As a blunt example, if we had parents who were members of the Church of the Creator, which is a white supremacist church, wishing to be exempted from anti-racism education, we wouldn't allow that either,” Jeffers said.
     Many religious parents have issue over what they deem the "indoctrination" of their children on the acceptability of a lifestyle that they and their religion this is morally wrong. They claim that they should be able to opt their children out of these programs if they so choose - religious freedom and all. As I have stated numerous times on this blog, if religious parents have an issue with their children learning that all humans are equal and normal, then they can put their money where their mouth is and homeschool their child. Secular education is just that, secular, and must take into account the fact that people of all different races, sexual orientations, and religions are being taught. They must take into account that hatred towards any of these groups, even if it is veiled in the form of religion freedom, is unacceptable and must be something that must be taught against.

     In Canada, with the Supreme Courts Egan decision, sexual orientation was labeled an analogous ground to race and gender, among others. Thus it should be treated as such, and not given any special exemptions because of religious reasons that race and gender are not given; for sexual orientation is just as normal and healthy as being a black man or being a woman.

NOM Poll States New Yorkers Are Against Marriage Equality 57%-32%

     The National Organization for Marriage commissioned a poll this past week, in which they decided to ask registered voters in the State of New York about the concept of marriage equality. They released their "findings" today, and claim that it is clear, conclusive proof that the majority of New Yorkers (57-32 percent) do not want marriage opened up to include loving and committed same-sex couples. Maybe so, maybe not...lets take a look at the survey. 


     Though many individuals will have a problem with the methodology of the survey, I being one of them, it is sometimes important that we not directly attack the methodology and instead show why the results - even if the methodology skewed them in the surveying organizations favor - are not what the polling organization is trying to make them out to be. In this particular survey, the National Organization for Marriage asked two basic questions. First, should the issue of marriage equality be voted on by the people, and second, what is that persons belief about marriage.

       They first asked whether or not marriage equality should be voted upon by the people; with 26% saying no, 59% saying yes, and 16% saying I don't know. This seems to suggest that the majority of people in New York would want a say in the decision on marriage equality. So? Most people, if they were given the option of whether or not they - or their legislators - should vote on an issue will naturally say themselves, because they think that they know better. But that is not how the American system of Government works. We don't go to "the people" for legislative decisions, and instead we depend upon legislators that we elect, to make the decisions for our State and our Nation. Having the "people vote" on legislative issues is fundamentally against the very system of government that our Founders set up in our respective State and National Constitutions.

       Second, they asked for an individuals feeling about marriage equality, whether they thought it should be only between a man and a woman, or if it should be opened up to same-sex couples.  In a 57% to 32% split, the people said that they believe that marriage is a purely heterosexual institution. But this number is deceiving, for this is based upon personal beliefs, not necessarily about what they think the Government should recognize. I think that the National Organization for Marriage purposefully worded this question so as to give them an edge in numbers. Instead of actually asking a political question on whether or not same-sex marriages should be recognized and legal in New York State, they instead asked about individuals personal beliefs.
NOM NY 2011 Survey on Marriage

Senator Ball Does Not Want To See Marriage Equality In New York A Reality

At least that was the feeling that I got when I watched this interview with him on CNN. The host pointedly asked him not just once, but twice, that if the religious exemptions that he was proposing were included in the bill, if he would be in favor of marriage equality. Senator Ball dodged the question on both occasions.

Personally, I think that he does not want marriage equality to pass, but knows that if it does and his religious exemptions are included, he will be given kudos by the social conservatives in his district. Once again, he is playing politics with our lives....if only he was more like Senator Roy McDonald.

Here is the interview, where he makes a complete fool out of himself.

A Great Big Thank You To My Readers

    I just wanted to say thank you to all of my readers, both here, on twitter, and on facebook for the encouragement that you all gave me in regards to my story. It was a hard story to tell, but one that needed to be told. It is only by telling our stories - no matter how insignificant they may seem - can we truly make a world that is supportive of ALL people, regardless of their race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, etc. So I encourage all of you...tell your stories as well, be a light in your community, and encourage others to do the same. That is how we will win the fight!

     Feel free to share my story with anyone who you think needs encouragement; for if just one person is helped because of my life experiences, then it was worth it.

"The Pain of Reparative Therapy: My Story" Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Conclusion

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Pain Of Reparative Therapy: My Story - Part Five/Conclusion

Pain. Depression. Anger. Despondency. Fear.

     Those words express those months of my life where I tried to live for others and when I thought that God wanted me to be straight; and those months were hell. I am still surprised that I survived. But that survival I can directly attribute to one person, and for her I am forever grateful.
       
     One of my managers at work– Kathy – saw the pain and depression that was slowly taking over my life, and took me under her wing. She loved me unconditionally and made an sort of “intervention” if you will.  She made sure that I knew that it was ok to be gay, that I was slowly destroying myself by living the lie of heterosexuality, and that I needed to be honest with myself and my family about my sexuality. She told me that God loves me for who I am, and that he created me special…that there was nothing wrong with me. I remember long nights at work talking with her about what was going on in my life and trying to work through my issues…and she was there at all times. No matter what I did or said, no matter what actions I took, she was there as a pillar to lean upon. Kathy literally saved my life,both emotionally and physically, and for her I am forever grateful. Without her influence and direction, I would still be living a lie and trying to please other people, that is to say, if I would even be alive.
    
      During the time when I was coming to terms with my sexuality, I enrolled at the University of Memphis, where I also encountered people who appreciated me and cared about me regardless of my sexual orientation. My English professor, Leslie Terrell, encouraged me to be who I was meant to be. Another one of my Professors, Stephanie Blaisdell, went out of her way to ensure that I was on the path to recovery from my experience.  You see I had written to her about my experience at Love In Action in an “About Me” paper for an introductory university class, and after she read it, she asked me to stay after class and talk with her about what had happened in my life. She was sincerely concerned about my well being and has kept in contact with me over the past few years. 
     
      Fast forward to today. I met the love of my life and married him in British Columbia. He has been a rock in my life, and has encouraged me time and time again on my path to recovery from my experience at Love In Action.  I am not on the road to “death” by living the homosexual “lifestyle” like Tommy tried to tell me, for I am instead in a committed marriage. I have come out to my parents, and after a time of not, talking they have grudgingly accepted me and my husband into the family - though still not recognizing our marriage. Since coming out, other members of my extended family – who had been silent during my Love In Action days – have come out and said that they accept me and that it is ok to be gay (thanks Abby, Aunt Amy, and Grandma). That is not to say that all of my family has been accepting, for a few members of my family have basically cut me completely out of their lives.  But living in honesty and openness is worth these small losses.  
      
      Many will ask me why I decided to tell my story; what was my purpose? As I said at the beginning, this issue has been getting a lot of media attention of late and governments around the world are taking a look into this type of therapy. But what pushed me over the edge, and "forced my hand" if you will, was when I watched the “Sissy Boy” segment on Anderson Cooper. They interviewed George Rekers and Joseph Nicolosi – two proponents of "reparative therapy”, who were adamant that their therapy does not lead to suicide and depression. I am here to say that as one who has gone through this therapy, it does! Reparative therapy makes those who are subjected to it feel worthless, abnormal, and evil. You can only tell someone these things for so long before they begin to internalize it and think that that they are true. Thankfully I survived, but only because there were people in my life who recognized the harm that such “therapy” has on an individual, and reached out to save me from self-destruction.
     
      I also write this as encouragement to others who have gone through something similar. People will try to tell you that you are evil, that you are abnormal, and that you are sick. That you can only find true fulfillment with a woman (or a man for a lesbian), that God rejects you if you are gay, and that you must live against your very nature to be accepted by Him. That if you only fix what is wrong with you, you will be happy. That is NOT true;  for I am living proof of it!! Some may say that I am living in “rebellion”, and that I am living a lie; that the “devil has deceived me into the homosexual lifestyle”. But I reject this notion, and instead can say that I am truly free. I am not living for others and what they expect of me; I am living in honesty and openness and you can too! You can be free of the shame, depression, and despondency that plague those living lies and can have true freedom and happiness. And you can know the true love of God…not a love based upon the “condition” of you being a heterosexual, but the unconditional love from God that isn't based upon your sexual orientation. That is the message of my story and the reason why I wrote it.  Thank you for reading. 

The Pain Of Reparative Therapy: My Story - Part Four

      After three months in the Love In Action program, I moved into what was known as “phase two”, a time where clients started to apply what they learned in the program in the outside world.  I was allowed to get a job, but still had to go to the LIA campus at least twice/three times a week for counseling sessions and lectures on homosexuality – just to make sure that I would stay on the “right path”. My first test came when I met Michael – one of my managers. He was the first openly gay man that I had ever met. Once I met Michael, the walls of “trust” in the Love In Action program started to slowly fall. Please don’t misunderstand me, I was never attracted to him, I just began to realize that there were people who were gay, were happy and comfortable with their sexuality, and who were not on the road to death. Sadly, this realization was overshadowed by another experience that I had…my first kiss.  It spun me into even more confusion, for though I enjoyed it, I felt dirty and wrong. I felt as though I had betrayed my family, my God, and my “sobriety” from homosexuality. I went running back to Love In Action and ran into Tommy’s office…I was so scared.  He reassured me that a relapse was normal, and that I just needed to resist the “devil” and his temptations.  But I didn’t feel like this was normal, I had never experienced this before, and I was afraid that this was a tell tale sign of my decent into the "homosexual lifestyle". 
     
      After the kiss fiasco, I continued to go through the program, even more and more confused. On one hand I saw Michael and how happy him and his partner were; yet at the same time, I was constantly told by Love In Action that Michael was living a lie, that he could never have a fulfilling relationship with his partner because only a woman could provide that fulfillment, and that he had made the choice to engage in the homosexual lifestyle. I didn’t know what to think. I continued to diligently write my Moral Inventory’s, yet they didn’t seem to help. I continued to talk with Tommy, but our sessions seemed to go nowhere. I would often go into a private room in the house that I lived in to cry and pray to God.  Why couldn’t I overcome this? Why was I so confused? The months slowly passed; I went to my job, I went to Love In Action, I struggled, I cried, I relapsed, and I felt hopeless – my family and my God would forever be ashamed of me.
    
      I graduated from the Love In Action program after six months, and for the next year lived a confused  and despondent existence. Tommy agreed to give free counseling, as I made my way into the "real world". My family thought that I was on the path to “recovery”,and I let them think that, for I didn’t want for my one emotional safety net to be gone. Another six months passed, and I was still confused. I threw myself into religion, thinking that it would help me with my “struggle” – that if I could get closer to God, I would be able to get better. I attended the “Love Won Out” conference sponsored by Exodus International and Focus on the Family, and was shown others who had “come out” of the “lifestyle”. “What are they doing right?" I asked myself, "Why have I not gotten to where they are? They are happy and "heterosexual"". As much as a tried, I was still attracted to men, and I still “relapsed" almost daily into homosexuality.  My life was in shambles, I was depressed and didn't want to live anymore, it was too hard to constantly fight this demon. Above all, I was living a lie.

The Conclusion to "The Pain of Reparative Therapy" can be found here.

The Pain Of Reparative Therapy: My Story - Part Three

      After my graduation in December 2006 from the Love In Action program, my life felt like the song “Disturbia” by Rhianna. The beginning lines from that song always make me think about my experience there. It goes,
“Whats wrong with me? Why do I feel like this? I’m going crazy now…nothing heard, nothing said,  can’t even speak about it. On my life, on my head, don’t wanna think about it. Feels like I’m going insane. It’s a theif in the night to come and grab you…a disease of the mind, it can control you. I feel like a monster.”
      Unfortunately, my time there was not finished, as I was soon to find out.  When I left the program, I was informed that I was going to do counseling sessions over the phone with Tommy once a week. Once again, because I didn’t want to hurt my family, and truthfully thought that something was horribly wrong with me, I agreed to do these sessions. But over the next few months, these sessions did not help me at all…as I continually “relapsed” into my homosexual fantasies. One of these "relapses" has stayed with me to this day. I went to a local bookstore and bought a gay magazine, but when I got home, I immediately felt guilty and threw it away. That was when I made a huge mistake. I told Tommy about what happened, thinking that I had had a significant “victory” in my struggle against homosexuality, since I threw the magazine away.  Little was I to know that he had been communicating with my parents regularly and informing them on my progress. When he told my parents about the magazine they decided that drastic action needed to be taken and I was grounded from my car. As a homeschooled boy, the only outlet to the outside world was my car and my part-time job at a local bowling alley.  That independence was taken away, and for the next two months I was required to be accompanied at all times by my parents and/or brother, in case I was going to “relapse” into my sin again. During this time, my parents also informed me that I was to go back to Love In Action on my 18th birthday, on May 5th, 2007. But once again, I was not given much of a “choice” in the matter. They informed me that I would either go into the Love In Action program, or be kicked out of the house, because they could not have an unrepentant homosexual living under their roof. But this time there was a twist in their threat - they told all of my extended family,  from my grandparents to my aunts and uncles – to not take me in if I decided against going into the program.
     
      With what seemed like no other choice, I entered the program for a second time on May 7th, 2007. Again, I was scared, but at the same time determined that I would not disappoint my family, conquer this “demon” ,and finally make God happy.  Yet though I had this determination, small doubts began to form in my mind on whether Love In Action was telling me the truth. As before, I was told by counselors and guest speakers, that God did not want me to be gay, that homosexuality was an affront to God, and that I needed to get back to heterosexuality – because that was how He created me to be.  I was again told that my lack of healthy male relationships was what led me to this struggle, that if I could find good straight male friends, my feelings for men would start to dissipate.  I again took moral inventory’s, met at least once a week - sometimes more - with Tommy, and went on things known as “trigger trips” – a “special” event that I had not been able to do when in the Refuge program.  On a “trigger trip”, all of us clients at Love In Action would be taken to some place in the "outside world", eg.the mall, where we would identify “triggers” that led us to want to “act out in our homosexuality”, eg. the Abercrombie and Fitch store.  We would then identify these triggers and determine how we would overcome the temptation to think homosexual thoughts when we were released from the program.
     
      Some may ask me why I didn’t leave, for I was “technically” able to – since I was over 18. I have often asked myself the same question…and I know that my answer will not satisfy many people. As stated previously, I was scared– for I had been taught and drilled into me that gays were not going to heaven. I was scared of losing the approval of my parents and family, for being a homeschooled kid, they were the only thing constant in my life. All of these factors,were compounded by an ever present "fear for my life".  Every time that I expressed to Tommy that I wanted to leave, he said that he would not stop me, but that if I did, I would most likely end up with horrible diseases and that I would die within a few years because of my embracing of the "homosexual lifestyle". Since I did not know any better, and because I trusted him - since he claimed to want what was best for me -I relented and stayed in the program. 


Part Four of "The Pain Of Reparative Therapy" can be found here

The Pain Of Reparative Therapy: My Story - Part Two

       That October day is one that will forever be etched in my memory. I remember going into the Love In Action office, waiting to be checked into the program. I remember my first meeting with my counselor Tommy. And I remember meeting with the other guys who were in the program.  I was scared, not only because I thought something was wrong with me, but because I felt that I had let my family down because of my “struggle”. Growing up in a religious home, I had always been taught that homosexuality was sinful and against what God wanted, and with the reality of it staring me in the face, I knew that I didn’t want God to be angry at me. I also wanted to keep my parents approval, for my worst fear was letting them down (something I knew they felt and which they had said on one or more occasion).  My heart-attack surviving grandfather told me that the day that he found out about my “struggle”, he was so hurt that he started to have chest pains. His wife, my grandmother, probably my closest family member, expressed that when she found out, she felt deep pain that I was going through this “struggle”.  I literally had no idea of what to do; but I knew that in order to keep those who I loved in my life, I would have to go into Love In Action and try to turn straight.
      
      Those two months were probably the worst two months of my life, even though I went back in May of 2007 for an additional 6 months (which will be explained in more detail).  I went to the Love In Action campus every day from 8:30-5 for those two months, and when I was not on the campus, I was secluded at a home my parents had rented.  I wasn’t allowed to go anywhere without my parents accompanying me, and even then, I had to get Tommy’s approval for anything that I did. I could not even go running – one of my favorite things to do - outside in the neighborhood where we were staying because the “temptation” to act out on my homosexual urges would be too strong.
           
     During these two months, as well as when I was sent back in May, a part of my “therapy” was writing what was known as a “moral inventory” or MI. In these MI’s, I was told to write about any a homosexual temptation that I could remember – or situation that caused me to want to “act out on my homosexuality or homosexual fantasies”. After writing these MI's, I would have to either discuss theme with the group of guys (and gals) who were also going through the program or my counselor.  in these "sessions", my MI's would be analyzed to figure out why I felt the way that I did, and how, if I encountered a similar situation in the future, I should respond. The cause of my “attempted acting out” in these MI’s was also analyzed to see if anything in my emotional past had caused me to desire the sexual and emotional fulfillment of a man.  Every day I had to listen to lectures by the “counselors” at Love In Action who detailed why I felt the way that I did. They said that I had a “passive” father and a domineering mother, that my masculinity had been stripped away from me by my mother, and that I needed to have some positive and healthy same-sex friendships. This, they said, would assist me in overcoming my “same-sex attraction”.  
        
      But none of this worked, I still felt attracted to men, and no matter how hard I tried, I wasn’t getting “better”. I was told that homosexuality was not the way that God wanted me to be and that it was “abnormal”.  I didn’t want to be abnormal, so every day I faithfully wrote my MI’s, sometimes even two or three a day, in order to understand why I "struggled with homosexuality". But nothing seemed to work.  “You must not be taking it seriously” my counselors told me, “You must not be submitting yourself fully to God”.  Finally, after two months – the full length of the Refuge program – I “graduated” from Love In Action, still just as confused and still just as scared that I was abnormal and that I would hurt and lose those that I loved.

Part Three of "The Pain Of Reparative Therapy" can be found here

The Pain Of Reparative Therapy: My Story - Part One

       I have been wanting to write this post for a while, but have held off on it because I’m naturally a very private person, and don’t like to put my personal story out for others to read. But over the past week or so, as I have seen the “Sissy Boy” segment on Anderson Cooper 360, the article in the New York Times highlighting the issue of reparative therapy, and the government of Hong Kong’s recent decision to support a “gay cure” expert, I feel that it is time to tell my own experience with reparative therapy.
        
      My story starts in 2003, when I was 14 years old. Though I knew that I was sexually attracted to guys, I had never done anything to give any indication of it. But in 2003 that all changed. During that year, my family was remodeling our house in Illinois and were living at my grandparents. About twice a week, my dad and I would drive over to our house to take care of the lawn, whether it be mowing the grass, weed whacking etc. One particular day, while my father was outside mowing, my curiosity about guys got the best of me and I decided to go onto some gay-themed websites.  In order to make a long story short, my dad checked the history on the computer, found out about me going on these sites, and told my mother. I remember vividly her sitting outside on my grandparents deck, telling me that if I ever did anything like that again that I would be kicked out of the house and onto the streets. Naturally for a 14 year old, this was devastating news and was a threat that I remembered for the years to come. As I struggled to come to terms with my sexuality, I was constantly afraid that if I told anyone in my religiously conservative family, I would be ostracized and thrown out into the cold.
        
       In late August of 2005, only a few days before Hurricane Katrina made landfall in Louisiana, my parents found out that I was still “struggling with same-sex attraction”. Thankfully not going through with their threat to kick me out of the house, they decided instead to take me to a counselor, who would help me understand why I “struggled” this way, and what I could do to become more "normal". My first session with Mr. Phillps – the counselor – was on August 30th, 2005 – a date that I will never forget because I remember watching the coverage of Katrina on the news in the lobby of his office.  I was forced to undergo counseling on my sexuality with him for about six months – till about May of 2006. At the end of May, my parents thought that my sexual confusion was just a phase I had gone through, that I was now heterosexual, and that they would never have to deal with it again.
        
       In early October of that same year – when I was just 17 – my parents once again found gay-themed websites in the history of the family computer. Realizing that it was not just a “phase” that I was going through, they decided that more drastic action needed to be taken. They proceeded to contact Mr. Phillips, and took his advice to send me to the “Refuge” program, a program run by the ex-gay ministry Love In Action in Memphis, Tennessee. My parents told me that I had no option but to go, considering that I was underage and still under their authority. Thus, we packed our bags and moved to Memphis for two months, and on October 28, 2006  I was enrolled at Love In Action.

Part Two of "The Pain Of Reparative Therapy" can be found here

Update On Hong Kong "Gay Cure" Controversy

        Since this blog reported on the Government of Hong Kong's move to hire "gay conversion" expert Hong Kwai-wah of the New Creation Association, the Goverment has since defended their action to the international press and human rights activists in the city. As Inquirer News reported, the government says,
"It had invited scholars and gay rights activists to speak previously and social workers need “knowledge from multiple perspectives” to make assessment."
         Does the Government of Hong Kong not realize that almost every major medical association around the world has decried such "therapy" as both harmful and ineffective in changing ones sexual orientation. The Human Rights Campaign has compiled a list of these organizations and statements that they have made on so called "reparative therapy". For the Government of Hong Kong to assert that social workers need "knowledge from multiple perspectives" about changing sexual orientation is like saying that the Government would need to invite a scientist who believes that the sun revolves around the earth to speak to State astronomers, because they need to hear "multiple perspectives" on a scientific fact. There is no more scientific "debate" on the validity of "reparative therapy" - as much as the Religious Right wants to think their is. Thus, there does not need to be any "multiple perspective" given.

      Hong Kwai-wah also defends his therapy by stating that,
“I did mention about the possibility to change which is an option. We need to respect the client’s choice, whether they want to remain status quo or they want to live a heterosexual life...We should not ban people from therapy if they want to change. We should respect their right."
       Yes, Hong Kwai-wah is right on this point...to an extent. As harmful as such therapy is...if individuals want to go through it, more power too them, no one is wanting to deny them such a personal choice.  But he overlooks two very important caveats that exist in this situtation. First, as he is quoted in the article, the main point of his therapy is,
"...how to pay attention and give guidance to same-sex attracted youths and their parents, to understand their struggle and their needs"
      Did you see that...are these adults that are being "treated" for their gayness? No, these are children and teenagers who are being treated. Are these children going into this "therapy" willingly? Some maybe...but I would venture a guess that most are not. The personal choice to go into such therapy is only valid when you make that decision yourself, not with the pressure and urging of your parents. It may seem "willing", but whenever you have someone in authority basically twisting your arm to "voluntarily" place yourself into a program, it is not truly voluntary. Any move by parents to force their children into this type of "therapy", which has proven detrimental psychological and physical effects on an individual, should necessarily be considered child abuse.

       Secondly, this therapy is being given a platform by the Government of Hong Kong. There is a fundamental difference in allowing an individual to make the choice to enter himself into such a program; but when you give state sanction to such scientific nonsense, it can only be deemed an affront to all gays and lesbians in the city and a devaluing of their place within their society.

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