Last month, self-proclaimed prophet and progressive Christian "leader" Jim Wallis, head of the allegedly progressive social justice group Sojourners, tepidly came out -- sort of -- for marriage equality (just in time to hawk his new book!). Many writers, myself included, criticized Wallis for opportunistically jumping onto the marriage equality bandwagon after it's already become, for all intents and purposes, a settled issue. But at the end of the day, my inner pragmatist won out: while I certainly wouldn't nominate Wallis for a Profile in Courage Award, I'd rather have him with us than against us.
Apparently, though, Wallis's "support" for the freedom to marry doesn't extend to binational same-sex couples torn apart or at very real risk of forcible separation, arrest, and deportation thanks to DOMA: speaking this week about Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy's proposed amendment that would provide equal treatment to same-sex couples under immigration law, Wallis threw LGBT people under the bus. From the Washington Post:
Added Jim Wallis, head of the Christian social justice group Sojourners: "This is the wrong place at the wrong time" to deal with the issue of gay marriage.
Of course, the immigration equality issue is related to marriage equality in that DOMA prevents gay and lesbian U.S. citizens from sponsoring their same-sex spouses for permanent status in the United States, even when they're legally married. But immigration equality isn't about condoning same-sex marriage, it's about stopping the government from tearing families apart on the basis of sexual orientation. It's about making sure children don't have to have a parent ripped from their arms and shipped across an ocean. It's about making sure nobody's family dissolves at the border.
But to Wallis, those are all just inconvenient truths. As far as he's concerned, this is "the wrong place at the wrong time" to even consider treating binational same-sex couples and families with dignity.
Perhaps even more shocking than Wallis's heartless dismissal of binational LGBT families is the fact that his remarks came on a conference call where he appeared alongside notorious homophobes like Richard Land, leader of the Southern Baptist Convention, and Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals. The entire purpose of the call was to hammer home the same point made earlier this year by the U.S. Catholic bishops: we will throw eleven million undocumented immigrants under the bus unless Congress and the Obama administration agrees to degrade and exclude binational LGBT families.
The anti-gay right undoubtedly wanted Wallis present on the call so they could exploit him -- because Wallis's (undeserved) progressive reputation lends a veneer of bipartisan, ecumenical credibility to their ugly anti-gay demands. He gave them what they wanted.
Shame on Jim Wallis -- for letting himself be duped, for tacitly endorsing hatred, and for standing with bigots instead of with the marginalized, the way a true Christian progressive would do.