Author of Adam and Steve, a novel about reexamining your prejudices

Posts tagged ‘homosexuality’

Pope Francis – the future of the Catholic Church

pope-francis-852-4182703

Pope Francis
Image courtesy of: http://bit.ly/163k4lm

These are amazing times for the Catholic Church. Pope Benedict XVI resigned due to his advanced age and declining health, making him the first pope to relinquish the papacy on his own accord since 1294.  He left the Church reeling in scandal, with pedophile priests molesting young parishioners, money laundering through the Vatican Bank, and a widening gap between the Church’s teachings and its parishioners’ beliefs on issues such as homosexuality, abortion and a female’s place in the hierarchy of the church. Benedict apparently believed that another Pope could better lead the Church through these scandalous and difficult times. Benedict was right.

On March 13, 2013, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the 76-year-old Jesuit Archbishop of Buenos Aires and first Pope hailing from the Americas, was elected Supreme Pontiff. See, http://bit.ly/16VIYIs. His election was a bold move toward a new perspective as evidenced by the Pope’s extraordinary actions taken during his young papacy.

To combat the long-standing accusations that the Vatican bank engaged in tax evasion and money laundering, Pope Francis created a commission of inquiry to reform the bank, better harmonize the bank with the Church’s calling and eradicate the appearance of favor. The commission, which includes a female Harvard Law professor, reports directly to Pope Francis and has the power to obtain information without regard to the secrecy of the offices from which the information comes. See, http://bit.ly/18jrmqW.

In an attempt to align Church policy with international legal standards, Pope Francis dramatically changed Vatican law by issuing a decree making sexual violence against minors, including child molestation by priests and child pornography, a crime punishable by up to 12 years in prison.  Importantly, the Pope extended the reach of the new law outside the Vatican, making it possible for both the Vatican and the country in which the crime occurred to indict the alleged child abuser. See, http://bit.ly/10P09HS; and  http://worldnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/07/11/19420382-pope-francis-targets-child-abuse-leaks-in-vatican-legal-reform?lite.

The Pope’s recognition that the Church was “obsessed” with homosexuality, abortion and contraception, that it “marginalized” gays, and that it needed “to find a new balance [or] the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards” was also extraordinary. Http://nyti.ms/18dJO0s.  It was not necessarily a change in theology, but rather an unprecedented transformation of the discourse. We understood that a new day of inclusion and mercy had dawned when the Pope asked, “if someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” Http://news.yahoo.com/pope-says-gays-must-not-judged-marginalized-110838664.html and http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/455215/who-am-i-to-judge-pope-says-of-gay-priests.

We now have a Pope who will criticize his Church for putting dogma before love, who believes that his “Church …should be…the home of all, not a small chapel that can hold only a small group of selected people,” and who believes his Church has a mandate to serve the poor and oppressed. Pope Francis has washed the feet of prisoners, hugged disabled pilgrims and visited a refugee center. It is this Pope’s vision of the Catholic Church as a church of tolerance that is truly profound.  See, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/20/world/europe/pope-bluntly-faults-churchs-focus-on-gays-and-abortion.html?pagewanted=all.

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A lesson of tolerance from the Girl Scouts

Girl Scouts of the United States of America

Girl Scouts of the United States of America (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Over a decade of statistics evidencing sexual violence against females in America tell a sobering story that, if we are truthful, comes as no surprise.

  • In 1995, of the 126,000 children who were victims of sexual abuse, 75% were girls.
  • In 1997, girls 16-19 were four times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault.
  • In 1998, one of every six or 17.7 million American women were the victim of an attempted or completed rape.
  • In 2003, nine of every 10 rape victims were female.
  • In 2006, 232,960 women or 600 women everyday were raped or sexually assaulted. *

Females are overwhelmingly the victims of sexual violence perpetrated by heterosexual men.  Nonetheless, to their credit, women, for the most part, do not condemn the entire heterosexual male population for the epidemic of violence against them in this country. If they did, society as we know it would cease to exist. Few women would endanger themselves or their daughters by living under the same roof with a man whose heterosexual orientation was the root cause of female sexual abuse.

To condemn an entire group for the acts of a few is a hallmark of intolerance and prejudice. The Girl Scouts of the United States of America, an organization devoted to the well-being of America’s girls and young women, has refused to so broadly blame heterosexual men. Accordingly, membership in the organization as adult volunteers is open to both women and men 18 years and over. The organization uses screenings and reference checks conducted by independent, third-party agencies to protect girls and young women from potential volunteers and staff who might cause them harm. See, http://www.girlscouts.org/for_adults/volunteering/volunteer_faq.asp.   This approach seems to have worked.  We have not heard stories of sexual abuse within the Girl Scouts or of its supporters demanding the prohibition of heterosexual males from serving as volunteers.

On the other hand, by refusing to accept gay scouts or permit gay volunteers, the Boy Scouts of America has condemned the entire gay population for sexual violence against boys. In a change of policy, the organization now allows gay youth as scouts, but continues its prohibition against gay volunteers. Some view this change as a step in the right direction. Others view it with fear and trembling. In actuality, the new policy is morally inconsistent and perpetuates the BSA’s blanket condemnation of gay men. The BSA and many of its supporters use their homophobia as a shield against a simple and, perhaps, inconvenient truth. Sexual orientation is not what makes either a heterosexual or a homosexual man a predator. The BSA’s new policy is only an expression of the organization’s continuing prejudice and intolerance, both of which the BSA has no right to teach our children.

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* Http://www.rainn.org/get-information/statistics/sexual-assault-victims, and http://.now.org/issuew/violence/stats.html.  See, National Institute of Justice & Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, Prevalence, Incidence and Consequences of Violence Against Women Survey, 1998; U.S. Department of Justice, 2003 National Crime Victimization Survey, 2003; U.S. Department of Health $ Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, 1995 Child Maltreatment Survey, 1995.

Homophobia and discrimination have no place in scouting

In 1948, Alfred Kinsey sent shock waves through the heterosexual world when he proclaimed that one in every ten men is gay. See, http://www.gallup.com/poll/6961/what-percentage-population-gay.aspx. The percentage may be off, but the concept is not. Heterosexual and homosexual adults and children walk together through life, inexorably intertwined in school, work and social activities. We mix and mingle and yet, for the most part, we are unaware of sexual orientation. For the homophobic, rather than scare, this reality should console.

No doubt, there are evil homosexuals and heterosexuals who populate our lives and the lives of our children. As parents (both homosexual and heterosexual), we must be vigilant to keep our children safe from them. However, the “them” are not evil because of their sexual orientation. Unfortunately, the Boy Scouts of America’s latest proposal to change its discriminatory rules on gay participation suggests the opposite. The proposal would allow openly gay youth to participate in scouting and would prohibit openly gay adults from participating as scout leaders. At best, the proposal evidences BSA’s lack of confidence in its own programs. At worst, the proposal is blatantly homophobic, discriminatory and inconsistent in its moral teaching.

The new policy is based on the bizarre notion that when gay boys enter adulthood they suddenly become predators and abusers merely because of their sexual orientation. What is even more bizarre if possible is that the Boy Scouts of America, whose mission is to instill “lifetime values”, develop “ethical character” and teach “citizenship, service and leadership”, is making the proposal. Http://www.scouting.org/. The organization apparently believes that gay scouts will mature into predators and abusers notwithstanding years of immersion in the BSA’s character-building programs.

Since no credible evidence exists to support the theory that gay adults are predators as a result of their sexual orientation, the policy is blatantly homophobic and discriminatory. The BSA’s own experience provides some proof of the inaccuracy of this theory. As Kinsey told us, from the founding of the BSA on February 8, 1910, some percentage of youth participants (now over 2.7 million) and adult volunteers (now over 1 million) were and are gay whether or not the BSA permitted their participation. Consequently, for over a century the BSA’s gay adult volunteers at the very least have met the organization’s requirements and functioned in accordance with its stated policies.

By requiring tolerance with respect to only a portion of the gay population, BSA takes a morally incoherent position that cannot withstand logic. Such an indefensible position, however, is not new to the BSA. Until the late 1940’s, rather than prohibiting racial segregation in scouting, the BSA required segregation for those African American boys living in states having segregated schools. As a result, in those jurisdictions the BSA mandated “colored only” troops having facilities and programs inferior to those of their white counterparts and whose African American boys were often not allowed to wear scout uniforms.  Http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Boy_Scouts_of_America and http://www.aaregistry.org/historic_events/view/african-americans-boy-scout-movement.

Intolerance and discrimination are not “ethical” or a “lifetime value” in America. It is time for the BSA leadership to get in step with the reality of their organization. Homosexual and heterosexual men have been teaching and training homosexual and heterosexual boys since the day the BSA was founded, and will continue to do so whether or not its leadership finally does what is right.

See, http://wapo.st/14z1rdn and http://www.kansascity.com/2013/04/22/4196737/boy-scouts-latest-misstep.html

Photo courtesy of: http://www.glaad.org/blog/president-obama-announces-opposition-boy-scouts-ban-gay-scouts-and-scout-leaders

“No one is free until everyone is free.”

Photograph of Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni ...

Photograph of Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni being prepared for the execution by hanging. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Although we have made great strides recently, America still has a long way to go before gays and lesbians have full civil rights. Yet, we are one of the more tolerant countries in the world. While we debate whether gays and lesbians should have the right to marry, in over 70 countries homosexuality is a crime. It’s a capital offense in seven of those 70. Mauritania, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Iran, United Arab Emirates, and Somalia all punish homosexuality by death. One’s life is an extreme price to pay for one’s sexuality.

  • In 2005, Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni, two gay, Irani teenagers, were executed by hanging because of their sexuality.
  • In 2008, Gambian President Yahya Jammeh warned homosexuals to leave Gambia, “a country of believers,” within 24 hours or else suffer decapitation.
  • In 2005, Saudi Arabia sentenced more than 100 men to prison or flogging for “gay conduct.”
  • In 2005, a 50-year-old Nigerian man was stoned to death after admitting he had committed a homosexual act.
  • In Kabul, Afghanistan, the Taliban, using a tank, buried an 84-year-old man under a stone wall for engaging in homosexual acts and did the same for the same reason to three men in Kandahar.
  • In 2000, the Saudi Arabian government sentenced over 100 men to prison and floggings for attending parties with same-sex couples.
  •  In the Sudan, lesbian women have been flogged and buried to their necks and then stoned.
  • In 2011, gay activist David Kato was beaten to death in Uganda.

Http://www.ranker.com/list/7-worst-capital-punishments-for-being-_illegally_-gay/joanne, and http://www.answering-islam.org/Authors/Arlandson/homosexual.htm

The 7 sited countries are located either in Africa or the Middle East where the Quran and the hadith (Muhammad’s words and actions) are used, many say wrongly, to support the ultimate persecution of gays and lesbians, as the will of Allah. So strong is this religious belief that it permeates the culture in each of these 7 countries as well as in other countries in the region that criminalize homosexuality, making it near impossible to change attitudes. Liberia’s President and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, admitted as much, when responding to a Liberian newspaper’s demand that she uphold African values and her “African womanhood” by ceasing to seek justice for gays and lesbians. She said that to decriminalize homosexuality would be counter to cultural tradition. Http://www.dallasvoice.com/countries-homosexuality-illegal-punishable-death-10107063.html.

Government-approved atrocities against the LGBT world community are vicious and widespread, but the numbers are dwarfed by the personal, ad hoc, rampant acts of hatred against the community. Yes, America has come a long way, but America’s journey is only a miniscule part of the whole story. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. recognized, “No one is free until everyone is free.” Americans must remain vigilant against intolerance and inequality until the LGBT community is treated fairly not only in America, but in every other country on earth. See, http://caraobrien.tumblr.com/post/409268731/homosexuality-punishable-by-death-in-7-countries, and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT_rights_by_country_or_territory.

Dr. Carson – you know better.

“Marriage is between a man and a woman. No group, be they gays, be they NAMBLA [North American Man/Boy Love Association], be they people who believe in bestiality, it doesn’t matter what they are, they don’t get to change the definition [of marriage]”, so said Baltimore’s renowned neurosurgeon, Benjamin Carson on Fox News. Dr. Carson apologized for his “not the best choice of words,” by explaining what he meant. He said, “no group of individuals, whoever they are, whatever their belief systems, gets to change traditional definitions.” The doctor was wrong on two counts.

First, far too many people unfairly and indefensibly equate homosexuality with pedophilia or bestiality, and then use that equation as a scare tactic to limit the rights of homosexuals. Homosexuality, like heterosexuality, has nothing to do with sexual predatory behavior. Sexual predators, whether towards children or animals, can be either homosexual or heterosexual. As we are all too well aware, a sexual predator may even have taken a vow of celibacy. There is simply no statistic that evidences sexual predatory behavior as being more prevalent in homosexuals. In fact, the statistics prove otherwise. In 1995 when homophobia was far more rampant than it is today, local child protection service agencies identified 126,000 children who were victims of either substantiated or indicated sexual abuse, of whom, 75% were girls. http://www.rainn.org/get-information/statistics/sexual-assault-victims.

Second, although many states have defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman, their definition isn’t sacrosanct. Contrary to Dr. Carson’s belief, the Supreme Court is one group of individuals who can and did change the traditional definition of marriage. Not long ago a significant number of states in these United States defined marriage as the union between a man and a woman of the same race. In Loving v. Virginia, the Supreme Court found unconstitutional all  laws barring interracial marriage. In the time it took to write its opinion, the Court changed the traditional definition of marriage forever.

The Supreme Court based its expanded definition of marriage on the legal principle that “marriage is one of the ‘basic civil rights of man,’ fundamental to our very existence and survival.” The Court used the word “man” to identify the beneficiary of the right of marriage. If the Court meant to limit the right to males only, then gays are surely within the benefitted group. Of course, the Court meant no such thing. Rather, the Court assured that the civil right to marry benefitted all mankind. The Court could have confirmed Dr. Carson’s traditional definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman, albeit without regard to race, but chose not to.

Dr. Carson is too smart and too old not to understand that our traditional definition of marriage was born of injustice. Over time, we change definitions to include the rights of the disenfranchised, whether, for example, they be women or African-Americans.  Our willingness to expand those benefitting from our civil rights is what makes America great and unique among the countries of the world.

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Dr. Benjamin Solomon Carson. Photo courtesy of: http://www.biography.com/people/ben-carson-475422

Commitment – does it curb promiscuity?

I know you’ve heard the old stereotype that gays are promiscuous? It’s been around for a long time, and it’s been used to justify the denial of basic human and civil rights.  In fact, I was just reading a blog written by the son of a gay man. Because of his experiences being raised by his father, he wondered if gays should be permitted to raise children.  As he tells it, his upbringing was one of serial abuse – a horror show of his father’s numerous lovers and overt sexual activity in which he was made a party.  It must have been traumatic growing up under those circumstances to say the least. But, I wondered why he thought a significant portion of gay fathers abused their children – such a significant portion as to warrant forbidding gays from parenthood.

The abusive behavior this young man experienced is not confined to gay men. Heterosexual men have been known to abuse their children too. Children suffer from the sexual behavior of their parents not because of their parents’ sexual orientation, but rather because their parents can be sexual predators or their behavior can range from criminally abusive to immature idiocy. Gay fathers come in all types, just as their counterparts in the heterosexual community. Stupidity is an equal opportunity trait affecting both the gay and heterosexual communities. There are good and bad parents, caring and uncaring parents, smart and stupid parents. Sexual orientation is not the deciding factor.

Nevertheless, there are many out there that might still argue the existence of a greater percentage of overt promiscuity in the gay community than in the heterosexual community. I don’t know the percentages. What I do know is that our society has provided no incentive to the gay community to build committed relationships, because it has for so long denied the community the right to marry. Marriage, the commitment made between two people to each other and to their resultant family, strikes me as society’s attempt to, among other things, curb promiscuity. If not at the heart of the commitment, it’s pretty damn central to it. If you believe the stereotype, then you should support same-sex marriage for no other reason then the marital commitment is in the best interest of the children. How can you say, “no”?

Image Courtesy of: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-12-07/gay-marriage-gets-supreme-court-review-for-the-first-time.html

Adam and Steve

Kate is apprehensive about meeting her son Joey for the first time in thirteen years-the first time Adam&Stevesince she gave birth to him and relinquished custody to the father, Michael Shaw. She’s invited to Michael’s home where he lives with his husband, Stuart Shaw, a restaurant manager. Kate feels a bit uncomfortable, and this turns to shock when she discovers naked pictures of Joey on Stuart’s phone.

Thinking her son is in danger from a pedophile stepfather, she and her husband, Larry, sue for custody of Joey. For Stuart, the possible loss of his stepson culminates a lifetime of victimization by homophobes, whether it be his mother, classmate, employer, the average man in a bar letting loose after a hard day’s work, or the judge who decides his family’s fate. Michael and Stuart must discover who took the pictures in order to prove Stuart didn’t do anything to endanger his stepson and to regain custody of Joey. Stuart refuses to be a victim and demands to be heard, but that could change his destiny.

A novel of legal intrigue, Adam and Steve explores the timely subjects of marriage equality, child custody, prejudice against homosexuality, and gay marriage laws as Michael and Stuart face a difficult struggle to maintain their family.

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