26 July 2006

Goin' To The Chapel

"Washington Supreme Court Upholds
Same-Sex Marriage Ban"
On a five-to-four vote, the Washington State Supreme Court upheld the state's ban on same-sex marriage. It was revealed Wednesday morning. The majority ruled that the Defense of Marriage act restricting marriage to a man and a woman, which the legislature enacted in 1998, does not violate the state's constitution, adding that any change to the law must be made by the legislature.

The long-awaited decision in the case (oral arguments were first heard in March 2005) was a crushing blow to the Gay Rights movement, which weathered a similar ruling by New York's highest court earlier this month as well as a defeat in Georgia's highest court regarding a ballot measure banning same-sex marriage.

With the Washington court's decision, Massachusetts remains the only state in the country to offer full marriage rights to its Gay and Lesbian citizens.
(Associated Press: July 26, 2006)

The two best methods humans have of regulating their sexuality are celibacy and marriage. Neither method is foolproof, of course. Humans are human, after all! Still, these methods can be highly effective when we seriously commit ourselves to using them. They work just as well for homosexual folk as they do for heterosexual folk. It's hard to believe one group should have the right to deny either or both of these options to the other group, but that's what court decisions like the aforementioned ones are trying to make us believe.

As matters stand right now, Straight people have universal access to both celibacy and marriage. Gay people only have universal access to celibacy. This state of affairs surely can't be pleasing to God.  Vatican policies notwithstanding, you can't force people into a choice of living in sin or living celibate! Marriage validates, encourages and nurtures stable, loving adult relationships. Human beings benefit from having such relationships; it's good for their long term health. There's scientific research that proves it!  Is the health of LGBT individuals less important to God than the health of everyone else? Of course not!

Why has this string of hostile court rulings come down? Obviously, the answer is bigotry. The legal arguments used to justify these outrageous rulings read like they could've been written by the heterosexist Family Research Council. And who knows? Maybe they were!

Could there be a more profound meaning in them, though? Should we interpret them to mean God is opposed to Lesbians and Gay men legalizing their relationships? No, I don't think we should. However, I do think they amount to a message from God. I think He is testing us! Clearly, He's not going to give us LesBiGay folk what we want on a silver platter. He wants us to engage in a righteous struggle, one that's at least as long and as hard as equality struggles have been in the past. He wants to know if we're willing to do what must be done to secure equality: The praying, the marching, the rallying, the picketing, the civil disobedience.

If we are willing, then He can use our crusade as a tool to teach humanity valuable lessons about love and justice. That's what I think. In light of the high-profile Gay divorces (if that's the proper word) that have already occurred, I think He may also want us to prove ourselves ready for marriage. I doubt that He will allow us to enjoy this right if we intend to treat it with as much disrespect as Straight people do.

I'm not a street activist or a political organizer, but there's one thing I feel certain about. The template we should be using in the pursuit of marriage and other rights due us is the same template Dr. Martin Luther King and his courageous wife Coretta Scott used in the 1950s and '60s. Their movement was powered by faith, and it stressed the dignity of the people it advocated for. When we compare race relations then to race relations now, there can be no question that their methods were effective.

Civil Rights veterans like Mrs. King, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, Julian Bond and the Reverend CT Vivian have reached out to Gay Rights strategists in recent years, offering advice and the benefit of their hard-won experience. Basically, they were rebuffed. Our arrogant "leadership" decided to reject the proven methods of Civil Rights crusading and strike out on a radical new path. The Gay Rights movement would be secular rather than spiritual. Our marches and rallies would feature Disco-singing "drag queens" and foul-mouthed comedians. We'd sanction nudity and open display of sexual fetishes. We'd call ourselves d*kes, f*ggots and queers in public. We'd basically undermine any kind of dignified presentation of LesBiGay issues.

No wonder we still can't serve openly in the military! No wonder we still don't have federal job discrimination legislation! No wonder we still can't get married! Frankly, I'm surprised that we've made as much progress as we have. I don't think we've given mainstream society much reason at all to take our Civil Rights movement seriously.

Whether we like it or not, Gay Rights is considered a moral issue by most people, regardless of where they stand on the political spectrum. How can you win a moral battle using secular weapons? You can't do it, and it shouldn't be done. Gay Rights is a moral issue! There is no way to exclude Lesbians, Gay men, Bisexual and Transsexual persons from what is moral, religious and spiritual. We are spiritual beings! You don't have to be Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist or an adherent of any faith to know that.

Most of us understand that our sexuality is part of something inherent within us, something that's bound up with our very existence. Personally, I believe that it's the blending of male and female essences, the state of being that Native Americans wisely call "two-spiritedness." Knowing oneself to be Gay is knowledge of the spirit; in certain Gnostic gospels, Jesus Christ teaches that humankind should strive for this kind of knowledge.

I would go so far as to say knowledge of one's LesBiGay sexuality falls under the category of religious belief. Isn't it time we recognized that persecution of "two-spirited" people is just like religious persecution? Isn't it time we had religious women and men for our leaders? Where are they? We need them. They must come forward and assume the mantle of leadership. The struggle for Gay Rights must be a moral and spiritual struggle, and it must have dignity. Just as African-Americans of all sexual orientations did, we must present ourselves as deserving of the freedoms we seek, deserving both in the eyes of society and in the eyes of God.

I'm not suggesting that we should "act Straight." God forbid! Our natural unisex aesthetic is nothing to be ashamed of. Yes, sometimes we are effeminate men. Sometimes, we are butch/femme couples. Yes, sometimes we ignore binary gender traditions when it comes to clothing, demeanor, personal habits, etcetera; and sometimes, we even "act Straight!"  It pleases the Lord that we are as we are. We should never present ourselves as anything but the androgynous creations He meant us to be. I'm merely saying that when we do something as serious as turn out to demand equality, we need to be totally focused on our goal.

We need to treat our issues with more respect! We need to stop presenting ourselves as sex objects. We need to make our marches and rallies welcoming to children, the elderly, and people of faith. We need to clean up our filthy language, especially when we talk to and about each other!  We need to chill with the raunchy comedians and the Disco glitter. We've got to learn not to confuse a Civil Rights event with a Fire Island White Party! No drugs! No alcohol! No flashing of breasts and genitalia! Take that stuff somewhere else.

We need inspirational speakers who can rouse a crowd like Billy Graham can. We need inspirational singers like Mahalia Jackson, Pete Seeger and Joan Baez, artist/activists who know the old freedom songs and can adapt them to our reality. We've got to hew much more closely to the trail Reverend and Mrs. King blazed for us . . . and regardless of how objectionable some folk may think it is, we should evoke the name of Coretta Scott King forcefully and often! She advocated strongly for Gay Rights, and she would want us to do that. She is one of our spiritual mentors.

However, we should never forget that our primary spiritual mentor is God, the One who in His wisdom created us. If we acknowledge Him, He will acknowledge us and bless us. Please don't misunderstand what I'm trying to say: Even if we do transform our movement from secular to spiritual, I don't know that God will grant us our wish to marry legally. That may not be His will. I only know that it's right for us to wish for and fight for legal marriage; and I know that advocates for legal marriage have gone about as far as they can go using secular arguments. Divorcing Gay Rights from religious considerations actually reinforces what Bible fundamentalists believe: That homosexuality falls outside the realm of God's love. That repugnant belief is the very root of anti-Gay bigotry, and we must declare all-out war on it!

There are lots of people who get married in places other than church, but most folks who marry in this world do so in a chapel of some kind. As long as we are forbidden to walk into the chapel with our loved ones, moral objections will be employed to condemn our relationships. My reading of ancient Christian texts indicates that no human beings belong inside the House of God more than those who are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual. Our "two-spirited" orientation connects us to Heaven in a most unique and amazing way!

Our challenge . . . one that the Lord has given us in the form of these odious court rulings . . . is to convince the rest of humanity of that fact. First, though, we have a greater challenge. We must convince ourselves!