Brynn Craffey

A Novel Take on Marriage and Rick Warren

Filed By Brynn Craffey | December 23, 2008 5:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: bob Ostertag, donation plea, HIV/AIDS, homophobic behavior, inauguration, LGBT, marriage equality, money, rick warren

Bob Ostertag, over at Huffington Post, has written an excellent article arguing that elevating same-sex marriage to the forefront of the LGBT movement is ill-advised both strategically and morally. Even more thought-provoking, he writes that rather than an enemy, Rick Warren might actually be someone the LGBT community can work with.

Regarding the first point, as much as I support equal rights, I have been disturbed by the prominence that marriage has assumed in our movement, to the exclusion of all other issues, including the idea of equal rights for queers and straights who decline to marry.

"Gay marriage" turns the real issues of equal rights for sexual minorities upside down and paints us into a reactionary little corner of our own making. Yes, married people get special privileges denied to others. Denied not to just gays and lesbians, but to all others. Millions of straight people remain unmarried, and for a huge variety of reasons, from mothers whose support networks do not include their children's fathers, to hipsters who can't relate to religious institutions. We could be making common cause with them. We could be fighting for equal rights for everyone, not just gays and lesbians, but for all unmarried people. In the process we would leave religious institutions to define marriage however their members see fit.

That's how you win at politics, isn't it? You build principled coalitions that add up to a majority, and try not to hand potent mobilizing issues to your opposition in the process.

We have done the opposite. Instead of tearing down the walls of privilege enjoyed by the nuclear family, we are demanding our own place at the married couples' table (leaving all those other unmarried people out in the cold).

I know the idea of gay liberation is ancient by today's standards, but it wasn't so long ago that a lot of gay and lesbian activism began from the premise that the queer perspective was one that could offer a particular contribution to a more just society as a whole. My how times change.

Indeed. Why should people have to marry to attain immigration rights, health insurance, lower tax rates, the right to visit a loved one in the hospital, or basic recognition of their relationships? Ostertag adds that in the end, most of us won't marry even if we have the right to; and of those who do, divorce rates are already high.

It IS interesting , isn't it, that we're putting so many eggs into the basket of an institution in historical crisis?

Arguing thusly, Ostertag is far from alone in the LGBT community. Where he really deviates is when it comes to Rick Warren. Ostertag disagrees with Warren on many points, including the existence of hell and the idea that a divine being sent his only son down to Earth 2000 years ago to save humanity.

When it comes to Warren's position on lesbians and gays, however, Ostertag seems to be saying that focusing on MARRIAGE to the exclusion of everything else distorts the improvement Warren actually represents in the evangelical movement. Ostertag quotes more extensively from the interview in which Warren infamously compared gay marriage to incest and pedophilia. From that interview:

Q: Which do you think is a greater threat to the American family - divorce or gay marriage?

A: [laughs] That's a no brainer. Divorce. There's no doubt about it.

Q: So why do we hear so much more - especially from religious conservatives - about gay marriage than about divorce?

A: Oh we always love to talk about other sins more than ours. Why do we hear more about drug use than about being overweight? [Note: Warren is quite overweight.]

Q: Just to clarify, do you support civil unions or domestic partnerships?

A: I don't know if I'd use the term there but I support full equal rights for everybody in America. I don't believe we should have unequal rights depending on particular lifestyles so I fully support equal rights.

Q: What about partnership benefits in terms of insurance or hospital visitation?

A: You know, not a problem with me.

Ok. Warren uses the noxious buzzword, "lifestyles," and equates our existence with sin. Blagh. Still, considering Warren's earlier bluntness, it seems we can take him at his word when he states that if we call our legal relationships "civil unions," he will support them. "Separate but equal," in my book, IS unequal. On the other hand, Warren's position is an improvement on earlier evangelicals in that he is publicly stating he supports equal rights of a sort for gays and lesbians.

And this is the heart of Ostertag's argument. He says that Warren is the emerging face of America's evangelical movement (80 million strong and growing) and as such, is an improvement over the old face. Warren recognizes the human agency and urgent nature of global climate change--a critical issue today that, IMO, surpasses in importance same-sex marriage. Further, and this is something I didn't know, Warren "reverse tithes," giving away 90% of his income to causes like poverty and AIDS, while keeping 10%.

How many gay men or lesbians do you know who give 90% of their income to fighting AIDS? Or poverty?

Ostertag ends by saying:

I am delighted that there is a new generation of evangelicals that thinks the biggest issue isn't homosexuality but global climate change, AIDS, and poverty. And who "don't believe we should have unequal rights depending on particular lifestyles." I am so ready to make common cause with them. I couldn't care less about what they think of gay marriage.


Recent Entries Filed under Politics:

Leave a comment

We want to know your opinion on this issue! While arguing about an opinion or idea is encouraged, personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please be respectful of others.

The editorial team will delete a comment that is off-topic, abusive, exceptionally incoherent, includes a slur or is soliciting and/or advertising. Repeated violations of the policy will result in revocation of your user account. Please keep in mind that this is our online home; ill-mannered house guests will be shown the door.


I think Ostertag could have done his research better; this take on Warren is hardly novel. The only thing novel about Warren is that he's been able to fool the mainstream media, who don't do a great job covering religion, into believing that he's a new type of "moderate" evangelical.

He doesn't give 90% of his income to fight poverty or AIDS. He gives 90% right back to his own church and various programs he runs, and a major part of their "poverty fighting" mission is to convert people to Christianity. Warren wants to be America's spiritual leader, and he'll do anything to get it. Donate 90% of his income to his own church? Why not? He's already well taken care of with the other 10%.

And his self-aggrandizing on that front knows no bounds. While his claim to be the only person who cares about people with HIV, to have the church that does more work on it than any other church, they were late to the game (because, as he and his wife said, they thought that anyone who got AIDS deserved it because they were gay... until they heard that children in Africa were being born with the virus and being orphaned by it. Seriously) and still do less work than many queer-friendly churches.

But Rick Warren's the greatest because he says he's the greatest.

Consider this from his PEACE project, which mostly sets up churches in other countries and converts them to evangelical christianity but which I'm sure is a major part of what he refers to when he says that he donates to poverty-related projects:

We shall help bring Christ into the lives of these people by insisting in them to form into small groups and study small group materials that would direct them to God and to growth in character. Hopefully, we can also assist in building a network of support (government and non-government) for these people from whom they can appeal for financing assistance (livelihood loans and funding) and other things that can add to the welfare of the community. This would include building a network of churches that would be ready to receive new attendees coming from the small groups we have formed.


He finds people who are down and out, destitute, and then converts them to his cause by giving them a few things. I don't blame them, this isn't about people who convert to a religion because they need the material goods that come with it, but it's hardly generosity on Warren's part.

In fact, that's his plan for Rwanda. He's said that he wants to use missionaries to turn it into a fundamentalist protestant theocracy Purpose Driven country.

His ideas on economics are also not the solution to any of our problems. He insists on lower taxes, with money coming from social programs, because then people will just donate their tax money to charities and the free market of generosity will solve all our problems. He gets way too much credit for famously denouncing the prosperity gospel folks - they're a fringe of the evangelical movement that's OK to beat up on.

While Ostertag's thoughts on marriage are interesting, and I agree with them to an extent, this controversy isn't about marriage. At least not for everyone who has a problem with Warren.

It's about the fact that he compared gay relationships to incest and pedophilia publicly. It's about how he runs a reparative therapy group in his church and doesn't let "unrepentant homosexuals" become members of his church.

It's about the fact that he's called for the head of Iranian president Ahmadinejad (how willingly would America accept an inauguration ceremony of the next Iranian president if a cleric who openly called for Obama's death were delivering the invocation?).

It's about how he called abortion a "holocaust" and campaigned for Bush in 2004 because of that issue. It's about how he has a page on his site that has a woman explaining the joys of submitting to her husband because she just gets too emotional sometimes.

And, yes, he's against same-sex marriage. But so are Obama and Biden, and no one's protesting their participation in the inauguration (haha). To reduce it to that, as Ostertag does, buy into the MSM hype around Warren, and then brush aside homophobia concerns with a little "Well, that's just a gay issue, not a real issue like poverty," is insulting to those of us who've been making the case against Warren's participation the past week, since he obviously didn't even try to educate himself on the topic.

The backlash against Warren isn't anything new. The Religious Left has been calling him out for his hypocrisy, his fundamentalism, and his massive ego for years. But the MSM ignored all that because America needs a spiritual leader, and that leader has to be a fundamentalist protestant.

But Sarah Posner and other liberal journalists have been trying to dispel the myth of the "new" Religious Right for years. And finally it's getting some attention, which is a happy byproduct of this controversy.

OK, I just went all Bill Perdue here, so I'll back off for a while. But this issue of picking Warren to be the next Billy Graham really gets to me, since it's a symbol for so many things that are wrong with the Democrats!

Alex;
Wonderful job detailing most of the many issues concerning Warren, skippping only his unholy alliance with Peter Akinola and other African Anglicnas, currently enslaving gays and Lesbians under criminal charges like two or more gays being in the same public place and sentencing them to 5 to 15 years hard labour...

Gays and Lesbians sent into slavery for being gay or Lesbian...yes, they will ultimately be manumitted if they do not die, but still it is slavery and Warren is in alliance with these people, writing defences of Akinola, in addition to his unholy alliance that brought forth the violent "Left Behind" video game...

Another commenter on another web site made the following observations with which I fully agree:

"One thing I've found distressing about this whole Rick Warren mess, though, is that all of the attention has been placed on Warren' abhorant views of sexuality and equal rights, and that mostly gays and gay advocates are standing up to Obama-Warren. Where is everybody else?

"Warrenthink is a threat to every American because it is an inherent attack on rational thinking, ideals of equality, other (or no) religions, and the future of our educational system. By promoting Warren's antediluvian beliefs, Obama is saying, "Okay, kids, it's all right to denegrate gays, women, Jews and your godless science teacher."

"This country is full of normal ministers with normal understandings of the physical sciences and normal empathy toward people of other faiths and people with whatever sexual orientation and of whichever gender. To choose a bigot to introduce one's presidency is more than curious. It's scary."

Don Sherfick Don Sherfick | December 23, 2008 6:50 PM

The question of whether or not marriage equality has gotten us far afield from where the basic premise of LGBT equality should be is an important one to be considering. We do have some competing things here. On the one hand, as you rightly observe, same-sex couples as we think of them ought not to have a monopoly on rights and benefits that other relationships (the proverbial grandmother taking care of orphaned grandson, etc.) can lay a valid claim of equality to. And these folks can and do form an essential ingredient in coalition building.

On the other hand, that special "thing" that the 18,000 California couples who currently find themselves in legal limbo feel they experience can't readily be dismissed as somehow being selfish as against the broader relationships. Putting aside the bullshit rhetoric the fundamentalists put forth concerning the unique and special procreative links that justify putting heterosexual couples on an elevated legal pedistal, the fact remains that many, if not most same-sex couples find themselves in almost identical situations as their opposite-sex counterparts, and equal protection principles insist that such situations require legal equality.

Sorting all of that out is well beyond most of our respective pay grades, but it does occur to me that the term "domestic partnership" need not, nor realistically cannot, be a "one size fits all" situation for all purposes. For example, substituting "domestic partner" for "spouse" in an intestate sucession statute involves different sets of rights and benefits than, say, using the term with regard to hospital visitation.

Ostertag says that the marriage issue works against what the LBGBT civil rights movement was and should be. While I don't agree with the breath of that statement, I do believe that the dynamic that came in as marriage equality victories began to accumulate, then set back by state constitutional amendments, then boosted by a seminal decision by the California Supreme Court. What happened may have masked and created a too optimistic picture of changing American attitudes. Thus when Proposition 8 passed, the reaction was one of returning to some realities of public mindset rather than anything beyond. Better have a dose unpleasant reality now than a more catastrophic and less reversable fall later on.

Rick Warren is quoted as saying: "I don't know if I'd use the term [civil union/domestic partnership] there but I support full equal rights for everybody in America. I don't believe we should have unequal rights depending on particular lifestyles so I fully support equal rights."

Therein lies a problem, of course. Since heterosexual coupling is somehow outside his definition of "lifestyle", Warren can ignore the obvious: that marriage brings with it the very same kind of "special rights" that the old "No special rights" chants of the Righteous Right use when opposing all LGBT civil rights legislation. The media should keep on him to cross his T's and dot his I's when he talks like this, because it will expose whatever duplicity he may be engaged in, and maybe even cause him to start thinking about the contradictions inherent in his stated positions.


Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | December 23, 2008 7:10 PM

Don, I can't speak for Ostertag, but as a radical progressive I believe single people, LGBT people, married people, the proverbial grandmother, the single mother--all of us, regardless of sex, gender, sexual orientation, age, race, religion, citizenship, etc. deserve equal rights.

The radical progressive position, I believe, is that civil and economic rights such as health care, immigration, shelter, education, due-process, childcare, and so forth should not be dependent on conditions like marriage. Lest you think that impossible, I do believe certain socialist Scandinavian countries have approached the agenda, which is one of the reasons marriage rates have fallen there. WHICH also might be the real reason the Religious Right would like to keep marriage to themselves and linked to these rights.

Don Sherfick Don Sherfick | December 23, 2008 8:29 PM

"...civil and economic rights such as health care, immigration, shelter, education, due-process, childcare, and so forth should not be dependent on conditions like marriage."

It's difficult not to agree with that general premise, and I suppose that I do. I suspect that where we may depart is my saying that so long as some categorization/status is used as a criteria upon which to recognize/bestow certain rights, benefits, and obligations, it has to be on an equal basis for those in the same or sufficiently similar position. I think you are saying "yeah, but we ought to be working to get beyond such a narrow categorization in the first place."

We may or may not ever get to the latter point at least in this American culture. In some ways, I'm reminded of the arguments concerning a Christian group sponsoring a nativity scene in an Indiana courthouse lobby, a minority sect wanting to do the same thing, and the "solution" becoming one of not letting anyone display anything at all.

In our quest for equality, marriage or otherwisewe need to remember that discrimmination does not mean treating folks differently under the law, because that's done all the time and is perfectly legal and even desireable if rational distinctions can be made. We would get ridiculous results, for example, if we let infants as well as mature adults drive on our highways. We generally don't resolve the situation by saying either the highways are open to all or by tearing up the concrete. We do so by determining rational connections between status and rights. That's what's frustrating to me about the Religious Right's insistance that, for example, I have to pay an inheritance tax on property that passes on my partner's demise while similar property passing between married spouses goes tax free. The reason....not because of the supposed "procreation" aspects of taxation, because there aren't any....but simply because of the status.

Now you've done it, smartie.....you're pulling me into your way of thinking here and it's getting too late for me to mount a further counterpoint!


Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | December 23, 2008 8:57 PM

so long as some categorization/status is used as a criteria upon which to recognize/bestow certain rights, benefits, and obligations, it has to be on an equal basis for those in the same or sufficiently similar position. I think you are saying "yeah, but we ought to be working to get beyond such a narrow categorization in the first place."

Exactly!

And I agree wholeheartedly that there are practical reasons to sometimes set limits--infants NOT driving is a good example!

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | December 23, 2008 6:55 PM

The Religious Left has been calling him out for his hypocrisy, his fundamentalism, and his massive ego for years. But the MSM ignored all that because America needs a spiritual leader, and that leader has to be a fundamentalist protestant....But this issue of picking Warren to be the next Billy Graham really gets to me, since it's a symbol for so many things that are wrong with the Democrats!

Fair enough, Alex. I agree with you! I didn't do the research you've done. I was going by what Ostertag wrote. Of that, what struck me the most strongly was that Warren tithes 90% of his income. I suppose I should have wondered if he wasn't somehow funneling that back to himself and his own causes. (Can you provide some links about that specific issue? Not that I don't trust you: I'd just like to read more.)

Still, I do think Warren represents a slight improvement over the old-style evangelicals, like Falwell, even IF it's only on the global climate change issue. That issue looms SO LARGE. If a majority of the world's population starts to starve due to droughts and other climate-related agricultural failures, same-sex marriage will not be very high on people's lists of important political causes.

Thus I stand squarely by Ostertag's questioning of the strategy of focusing all our political energy and spending so much political capital on marriage. The inauguration has put us in the limelight, and the issue we're shining the light on is this one?

What will happen to the gays and lesbians taking to the street now, once marriage equality is achieved? Will they stay on to fight for the rights of immigrants unfairly deported? Will they protest if Obama does not close Guantanamo? Will they fight for a woman's right to chose? Against the imprisonment of people without due process? To stop the next war our government insists we must enter? For shelter for the homeless?

The way I see it, the LGBTQ movement is about social justice for EVERYONE, not just for queers or same-sex married couples. Being FtM and queer was simply the doorway I entered by into this movement. This outlook separates me from lesbians and gays who view marriage as the end-all-and-be-all, and who plan to put away their banners and retire once they achieve the right to marry.

In that regard, as much as I disagree and detest Rick Warren and his homophobic, misogynistic, and superstitious views, I share a commonality with him that I don't with the marriage-only crowd. He and I both view this as a lifetime struggle for social justice and a better world. Where we differ--and this is, of course, HUGE--is in how we define those terms.

I've been writing about how the LGBT movement often loses sight of non-marriage issues since TBP started. And I definitely see the point in pursuing non-marriage strategies when it comes to relationship recognition. I personally don't ever plan on getting married (I declared that at age 8 and I've stuck with it!), and think that the choice to do so should be exactly that, a choice, which means that any material incentives to getting married needs to be opened up to all people and all couples, depending on what it is.

Still, I do think Warren represents a slight improvement over the old-style evangelicals, like Falwell, even IF it's only on the global climate change issue. That issue looms SO LARGE. If a majority of the world's population starts to starve due to droughts and other climate-related agricultural failures, same-sex marriage will not be very high on people's lists of important political causes.

I agree that believing that global warming is happening is better than not believing it's happening, and I'll try to find what he's actually done about it, or what he supports doing about it. Even GWB and McCain acknowledge that it's happening, so I don't really give all too many points for that.

As for his reverse tithing, I don't think he's funneling it back into himself, or I haven't read anything making such a claim. The point I was making, though, is that he can't claim that it's going into poverty and AIDS work when it's mostly going into converting people, building churches, and self-aggrandizement (his church actually has a PR flak!). From what I've seen of this guy, I wouldn't doubt that he thinks 90% of his income is a good price for fame and power.

But here's more information about how his money gets used:

http://firedoglake.com/2008/12/21/rick-warren-pays-himself-first/

And more info about his HIV/AIDS politics, which are detrimental to the people they're meant to help:

http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/blog/2008/12/19/untold-consequences-rick-warrens-aids-activism

And one thing I forgot to mention. He supports the Iraq War:

http://firedoglake.com/2008/12/18/rick-warren-obamas-new-bff-still-supports-iraq-war-gave-w-peace-award/

What will happen to the gays and lesbians taking to the street now, once marriage equality is achieved? Will they stay on to fight for the rights of immigrants unfairly deported? Will they protest if Obama does not close Guantanamo? Will they fight for a woman's right to chose? Against the imprisonment of people without due process? To stop the next war our government insists we must enter? For shelter for the homeless?

I do think that most care about other issues to a greater extent than non-queer people do. Or at least I'd like to have faith that we do! I'm thinking that the movement's leadership, though, does have problems with seeing outside the marriage box, and that fund- and awareness-raising will become next to impossible should marriage for every queer happen tomorrow.

Nerissa Belcher | December 25, 2008 2:25 AM

I agree with Brynn Craffey. We should fight for equal rights for everyone. The LGBT... groups are as guilty of preferential treatment by category as are other groups. For example, in Atlanta one of the TS support groups only helps poor Black TS street prostitutes and not White ones. Meanwhile the HRC is mostly run by and for rich, White gay guys who appear straight. Also, a fair number of gays prefer not to give ENDA protections to trans people. Stop the insanity folks! People should not have less rights OR more rights due to being White, Black, gay, trans, married, straight acting, etc.

I'd like to add that I'm sick of this argument being framed as "marriage only."

I think that is a masturbatory way to say "we have lost a few battles and maybe we should rethink this...let's see...what else should we have done..."

Sure, the idea of marriage is what is being used to either show how the country will or won't accommodate LGBTs, but the underlying importance has much more going on that simply the institution of matrimony. If we want to change anything - that should be what is changed. In fact, that is hopefully the main result of the fallout from Prop 8.

A court was petitioned in California four years ago and after contradictory decisions, the highest court took the case and determined that there was a legitimate claim by LGBT citizens that they are being deprived of status because of discriminatory law. Five months later, the electorate decides they are going to trump the courts (the story isn't over) and now the dilemma is about identified, interpreted, historically significant rights being stripped from an entire class of citizens.

As far as I'm concerned, this argument could also have been presented over the past 5 years as 27 states amended against us without even recognizing the privilege, but maybe it took Prop 8 to get the proper attention to be paid and for the focus to be redirected.

The Rick Warrens of the world ARE the enemy. They cannot be trusted to put forth honest positions that determine which citizens are worthy of rights (and what kind of rights). The problem is not the Warrens so much as it is the the people that want to squirm away from the issue - gay people, straight allies, any person that discusses this issue like it is about a social institution and not as a matter of equal protection guarantees.

The religionists will always fight us. It is our friends that still need to be convinced (ahem Mr Ostertag) that fighting to protect our status as American citizens is what this struggle is all about. We have the right to demand the same treatment that heterosexual Americans receive, whether it is in terms of health care, federal benefits, job protections or protection from hate crimes.

Marriage is the volleyball being used by politicians and the dumbed down media. It has been framed as an issue about marriage for at least 20 years at this point. It's not going away. Learn to live with it and remember that even if you do not intend to ever get married you will still be regarded as eligible to be stripped of other rights considered under the equal protection clause if Prop 8 stands.

This is about a hell of alot more than just marriage.

Rick Warren clearifed his thoughts on civil unions.

"No American should ever be discriminated against because of their beliefs. Period. But a civil union is not a civil right. Nowhere in the constitution can you find the "right" to claim that any loving relationship identical to marriage."

beachcomberT | December 24, 2008 6:11 AM

Thanks for the clarification of Rev. Warren's jaundiced view of civil unions. A historical footnote: in George W. Bush's first campaign, he, too, like Obama and McCain, said he had nothing against civil unions. But did he ever do anything to promote them or give them status equal to marriage? No, he was content to leave the Clinton administration's disastrous Defense of Marriage Act on the books and let the GLBTs fume.

Gay marriage is the third rail that has materialized in some people's imagination. Jennifer Gale was unemployed and she isn't here to spend Christmas with us. My friend Alice was also unemployed in 2002 and she is also no longer with us. Not being able to get married hasn't killed anybody. Not having work has. (Sympathy level = zero.)

Thank you, Monica, for finally bringing up the issue of employment. When I began reading this article, I though, good, someone is finally going to point out that, as important as marriage is, as a symbol or otherwise, to the movement to ensure equal rights for all LGBT people, to make that issue the central focus of our movement is ridiculous. Why aren't people on the streets protesting the denial of the basic right to a job, a roof over our heads and freedom from violence, issues that affect so many more of us more directly and at the basic level of survival?

Maura (in a comment that I assume will appear right below this one) points out how devastating the lack of marital benefits can be to one of our partners when we pass on and they are denied succession to our property and to survivor benefits available to married couples. Such events are truly a tragedy that needs to be changed. But if I am denied a job because I am trans and/or because I am a lesbian, then my partner (hopefully, I will have one some day) and I won't have to wait to die to be devastated by the lack of protection against the denial of this basic right. To put it bluntly, succession to property or benefits upon my death won't be an issue because there simply won't be any property or benefits to fight over.

I care about marriage equality and continue to work to convince the trans community that it is just as important to us as it is to gays and lesbians, which, of course, includes many of us. But, for me, protection of the basic right of survival through legal protections against discrimination in employment, housing, health care and other public accommodations, and against physical violence, because of our gender identity or expression, or our sexual orientation, will and must remain my focus.

Ms Helms;
It is a benchmark, a formalisation into law stating that we are equal. As such, lethal or not, marital status and marital equality mattters.

To the couples who are dependent upon one or the other partners benefits, who may lose their homes and property if a partner dies, your remark will come across as hasty and insensitive.

Two of my friends went through legal nightmares when their partners died, as family members long out of the picture crawled live vermin out of the woodwork.

It is not the third rail, it is the benchmark of LGBT equality, for you too, Ms Helms, as I've seen you bandy about your identity as Lesbian amongst other things from time to time.

This was really insensitive of you to say, I am sorry, but it was. And I was infuriated by Jennifer Gale's passing in such circumstances as well, and wept and have stated that LGB's who block T rights as had occured in Texas need to be held accountable by us all..

Please, tell this to the familes of Jennifer Gale and all of the other LGBT people who lost their jobs for being who they are and lost their lives because of it. When it comes to this, the insensitivity comes from all of those who put marriage in from of employment, and it doesn't matter what their sexual orientation is or what religion they believe.

This will be the seventh Christmas I haven't been able to spend with Alice. I'm not in the mood for this.

In other words, Maura, marriage equality for gays and lesbians should be our first priority because it's a "formalisation" or "benchmark of LGBT equality, in other words, a symbol. Well, I'm much more concerned that my sisters and brothers have a job so they can put food on the table and have a place to sleep other than the streets, that they have the right to buy or rent that place to sleep and that they have the right to adequate health care, so they have a life to live. When those things are no longer issues for any of us in the LGBT community, then I'll start to worry about symbols.

Don Sherfick Don Sherfick | December 24, 2008 8:35 AM

"I personally don't ever plan on getting married (I declared that at age 8 and I've stuck with it!), and think that the choice to do so should be exactly that, a choice, which means that any material incentives to getting married needs to be opened up to all people and all couples, depending on what it is."

Alex, if it gets into something uncomfortable or you choose not to reply, please don't, but I'm curious: When you early formed your resolution not to marry, did you think yourself "different" and that you didn't see other "different" (at least openly declared) people getting married?

Someone else, Brynn I think, commented that even if same-sex marriage were totally legal, only a small portion of same-sex couples would marry. Do you think that had same-sex marriage been accepted in your earlier days, you attitude would be different? Or if not yours, a significantly greater number?

I ask because although I agree with the arguments that we can't ignore the needs of others besides same sex couples, I preceive a bit of negativism toward their desires and think that may be just as bad as going the other way.

Don,
Just to clarify something. I may sound negative toward gay marriage, but that is far from the truth. My track record proves it. What I don't like is taking an issue that is important to a much smaller part of the LGBT community and elevating it above issues that affect a larger part of the LGBT community. That is insensitivity at its highest form. Excuses for supporting this issue above the bigger issues is mindboggling. I guess if you have everything you need and are not worried about losing your job or your life, then you can afford to be insensitive.

To my friends in Austin, I send my prayers go out to the family of Jennifer Gale and your community through these hard times.

Don Sherfick Don Sherfick | December 24, 2008 9:57 AM

Monica: Believe me, in dealing with both marriage equality issues (namely fighting off a repressive state constitutional amendment) and others in Indiana I'm well aware of the argument, coming more from areas outside the major metropolitan communities, that it does not good for one to have marriage/civil union rights if they will lose their job if they tell their employer finds out about it. Those concerns are very real and do enter into my thinking concerning priorities. And I know many folks who are engaged in a similar thought process.

If I were to summarize a great quantity of posts and comments on this blog and others concerning this and related matters, it would be: "You are unduly pushing your own agenda at the expense of mine out of insensitivity. Furthermore, by definition, your own insitivity is many times that of any negligible sensitivity I might have toward your situation." And on and on ad infinitum ad nauseam.

I would suggest that invariably, because no two human beings share precisely the same life experiences, each is going to give a bit more emphasis to the particular negative/oppressive situation that he/she is familiar with, and that advocacy for remedy is naturally going to at least begin there. Elsewhere on this blog I've decried excessive use of the term "hate", and although to a lesser extent, I think we may tend to throw around "insensitive" in it's perjorative context to a degree that it's counterproductive.

There are no easy answers to this one. Platitudes like "walk first in my shoes" are nice, but the devil is in the nuts and bolts in applying that to concrete situations. Here's my own, admitting that it suffers greatly from the same lack of specificity:

I know that you are hurting because of the way you are viewed or treated because of something about who you are. I cannot now, and may never be able to feel exactly what you feel and the intensity of how you feel it....because I am not you. But I am not your enemy because I am not in exactly the same place as you are. I can only look at my own situation and try to extrapolate as best I can and say sincerely that I understand.

Don,
You have been more sensitive to me in recent days then all but a few gay men I have come in contact with. I have always looked to you for a reasonable viewpoint that isn't clouded with a "me first" attitude. This has been a horendous two weeks for me in so many ways, and the fact that I will be alone on the two holidays hasn't helped. Jennifer's death, six years to the very day when my friend Alice took her life for being turned away from homeless shelters also hasn't helped. You are a wonderful man and I wish all the best to you in the coming year.

Defending to principle of equal protections for all citizens (regardless of race, sex, religion or gender) does not diminish the need to fight for employment rights for all citizens.

No one should be killed, beaten, raped (see recent horrifying news from the sf bay area), or marginalized through the legitimization of bigotry (thanks Obama!) or the re-framing of bigoted thought as being "inclusive."

By constantly harping on the defense of marriage equality, you overlook the importance of constitutional citizenship.

IF we can be denied equal protections from a majority of citizens at the ballot box, what makes you think there will be any consideration of any of us having a right to employment? or housing?

Employment rights are not diminished in the least by the need to defend our citizenship. They must go hand in hand. ENDA (in various incarnations) has been tossed back and forth for 30 years - far longer than the marriage battle has taken center stage (approximately 18 years ago).

Injustice is injustice. Its bad enough LGBT people have to have this argument with the hetero liberal/left wing/moderate Democraps - we certainly don't benefit in the least from creating hierarchies within our own movement.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | December 24, 2008 1:04 PM

Monica, Abby, Maura, Patrick, and others in this thread: Please stop playing, "Top my Oppression" on my thread!!!

All LGBTQ folks are oppressed, albeit to varying degrees.

My main point in writing this entry was to ask people who are up in arms about Prop 8: Are you going to stop marching, put away your banners, and go home after marriage equality is achieved, or will you keep fighting for other important causes? Poverty. AIDS. Homelessness. A woman's right to choose. Peace. Global climate change.

Same-sex marriage is a given. Mark my words, it WILL be achieved. The people opposing same-sex marriage are standing against history. CATHOLIC SPAIN has same-sex marriage. So, too, will California, one day, and eventually the US.

My criticism is that the marriage fight should be conducted within a progressive context of equal rights for all. Being oppressed because of your sexual orientation, IMO, should be the doorway through which you understand the oppression of others! African-Americans, Mexican immigrants, transsexual prostitutes, low-income single moms, Iraqis, whose country has been destroyed for a lie, and so on and so forth. NO, I am not equating nor trying to measure the relative suffering of those oppressions!

I am saying that, as a progressive, I am committed to fighting for everyone's civil rights, for as long as it takes. Moreover, when I am fighting for marriage equality, I will do so in a manner that respects others who are also oppressed. For example, I will not yell racial epithets at African-American LGBTQ protesters, as was reported by some after Prop 8 was passed. I will not trash trans commenters when they point out, as happened on a thread at Bilerico, that the disappointment lesbians and gays were feeling after Prop 8 reminded her of what trans folks felt after ENDA. Both those incidents represent the tip of the ice-berg of what has been happening within the fight for marriage equality since Prop 8 passed.

The divisiveness and infighting going on in this comment thread is a mild version of the same thing. I want folks to respect one another, try to put yourselves in others' shoes to understand what they are feeling, and make common cause to fight their oppressors even when you yourself are not directly subjected to their oppression.

IMO, that's what being a progressive is about.

I'm hardly playing "top my oppression" either, Brynn. I am simply pointing out the reality that each of us, and our community as a whole, only has so much time, energy and money, and that we need to make reasoned choices on how we are going to use those resources. To focus the vast majority of those resources on the fight for marriage equality, as is going on now, is, in my opinion, a serious mistake when there are more immediate, more life-threatening problems that need to be addressed.

I agree wholeheartedly that the drive for LGBT equality should help us to see how much in common we have with those struggling with other human rights issues, and I will work on those issues, as I have on the issue of marriage equality, so long as doing so does not detract from my ability to work on issues that I feel must be of higher priority.

I am in no way trying to play "Top my oppression," my own point is that these issues are not mutually exclusive as far as pursuing them.

Monica, I am sorry about your friend Alice, I went to your blog and read it. But marriage remains important, whether or not we exercise it, because it is in a very real sense the final benchmark of equality.

I would recommend Monica's blog entry to everyone here....though I disagree with her assigning blame the way that she did...

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | December 24, 2008 4:11 PM

Sorry, Maura, that I misunderstood your tone. I just want us all to get along and fight against the oppression of our real enemies.

Maura,
Yes, we do disagree on occasions. However, I know where your heart is. I have seen its beauty in the word you write. You and your wife have a wonderful holiday.

ditto!

i have no desire to ever wed...

but i refuse to allow anyone to tell me that rick warren and his ilk can ever be allies.

chocolate coated feced is still waste.

only fools befriend such arch enemies.

and the friends of my enemies are also my enemies.

i will never again trust barack obama or rick warren in any gay matters...

fyi
alicia banks
OUTLOOK
http://aliciabanks.blogapot.com