Pope Tiptoes Around Marriage


Photo Source: The Times of London

June 14, 2013; ABC News

Since being elected head of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis has raised the hopes of reformists within the church and without. By ditching the papal throne for a white chair and opting for humbler accommodations so he could be among priests and visitors, the Argentine has set plebeian hearts of aflutter. By declaring that “women have a primary, fundamental role” in the Catholic Church, he has given some women encouragement. Now, it’s the gays’ turn.

Last Friday, Francis met with Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury and titular head of the Anglican Communion. The religious heads addressed the controversial issue of civil marriage equality, which is gaining ground not only in the United States, but globally. Both men prayed, broke bread, and discussed the urgency of protecting and strengthening families—at least those headed by one man and one woman. What set the conversation apart, however, and has faithful gays and allies excited, was the tone taken.

Nicole Winfield of the Associated Press writes, “In his remarks to Welby, Francis said he hoped they could collaborate in promoting the sacredness of life ‘and the stability of families founded on marriage’…significantly, though, Francis didn’t specify that marriage should be based on a union between a man and woman, which is how Benedict XVI and John Paul II routinely defined it in a way that made clear their opposition to same-sex marriage.”

While the Pope may not have spelled out who can be married, it’s best that bubbles be burst. Before becoming pope, Francis vehemently opposed civil marriage in his native Argentina. As Cardinal Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, he called the civil rights development an “anthropological step backward.” He also wrote, “if they’re granted marriage rights and can adopt, there could be children affected. Every person needs a masculine father and a feminine mother to help them settle their identity.” Clearly, he is not up to speed with scientific studies that have proven children raised by lesbian and gay parents are doing quite all right.

Let us be clear that Pope Francis is no ally of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community, and no one should expect any changes during their lifetime. Just last week, he bemoaned the existence of a “gay lobby” in the Vatican and managed to portray gay men as responsible for the rot and corruption in Rome. Franco Gillini, president of a gay rights group, points out that just because “priests have sex with other men doesn’t authorize anyone to speak about a gay lobby, because we’re not talking about a group that represents the interests of the homosexual community but rather a group that is an integral part of a power structure—the Vatican—which is violently homophobic.”

Vatican officials did clarify that Francis was merely being diplomatic during his initial meeting with his Anglican counterpart, who is just as opposed to equal civil rights for LGBT people and their families. “We were absolutely at one on the issues,” Welby assessed after the power meeting. Without irony, he added, “and equally at one in our condemnation of homophobic behavior and our sense that the essential dignity of the human being is where you start.”

Are they so dense to realize that their official and dogmatic treatment of LGBT families as flawed and less than straight families spur and arm the very homophobia they condemn? And what about the essential dignity of human beings who happen to love someone of the same gender?

Originally posted on Nonprofit Quarterly’s Newswire.

NAACP Board Backs Gay Marriage


Featureflash / Shutterstock.com

May 21, 2012; Source: New York Times

The board of directors of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) voted in favor of a resolution supporting marriage equality on Saturday. Of the group’s 64 board members, many of which are religious leaders, 62 backed the historic decision.

The resolution reiterates the 103-year-old civil rights group’s mission of ensuring the equal treatment of all people and articulates NAACP’s opposition to “any national, state, local policy or legislative initiative that seeks to codify discrimination or hatred into the law or to remove the Constitutional rights of LGBT citizens.”

In a statement, Roslyn M. Brock, chairperson of the NAACP’s board of directors, said, “The mission of the NAACP has always been to ensure the political, social and economic equality of all people. We have and will oppose efforts to codify discrimination into law.”

Benjamin Todd Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP, said, “Civil marriage is a civil right and a matter of civil law. The NAACP’s support for marriage equality is deeply rooted in the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution and equal protection of all people.”

Julian Bond, former chairman of the NAACP, told the New York Times that President Obama’s recent endorsement of gay marriage rights was “a tipping point” for many of the board members. He added that this challenges the prevailing notion that the African American community is against same-gender marriage. “This proves that conventional wisdom is not true.”

Is the African American community at a tipping point on LGBT rights? African Americans tend to be more religious and socially conservative. The president’s—and now the NAACP’s—exhortation for the equal treatment of lesbian and gay couples may change more than a few hearts and minds, but the full impact of these developments within the African American community remains to be seen.

Originally posted on Nonprofit Quarterly Nonprofit Newswire, May 22, 2012.

Obama’s Gay Marriage Stance Won’t Cost Him the Latino Vote

Gay Latinos in Queens celebrate the passage of marriage equality in New York State

Gay Latinos in Queens celebrate the passage of marriage equality in New York State. (Photo: JoeinQueens/flickr)

President Obama’s endorsement of gay marriage last week has everyone theorizing on whether it will hurt or help his re-election bid. Some argue that this move will cost the president support from Latinos, a rapidly growing population whose votes may decide the race in battleground states.

Bob Quasius, Sr., president of Café Con Leche Republicans, a group that does not take a position on gay marriage, claims the president’s comments will distance him from Latinos, who are now over 16 percent of the U.S. population.

“Sixty percent of Latinos are center-right according to Pew Hispanic,” Quasius said, “and more conservative Latinos, especially evangelical Christians, are strongly opposed to gay marriage. A majority of Latinos voted against gay marriage in California. Among Latinos who support gay marriage, many will view Obama’s recent comments as election time rhetoric,” Quasius said.

But despite a reputation of Latino social conservatism that the GOP likes to tout, in 2008, 67 percent of Hispanics voted for Obama, and Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) doubts the President’s comments will be a deal breaker.

“Most Latinos favor broader civil rights protections and inclusion in U.S. society and the issue of same-sex marriage is no exception.  A majority of Latino voters favor legalizing same-sex marriage, as a recent NCLR study showed,” Rep. Gutierrez  said.

Clarissa Martinez, Director of Civic Engagement at NCLR, the country’s largest Latino civil rights advocacy group, believes Mr. Obama’s historic stance will actually increase his appeal among Latinos.

“The President’s endorsement of same-sex marriage is historic and will resonate with the 54 percent of Latinos who support marriage equality (according to a recent report by Social Science Research Solutions, co-released with NCLR),” Martinez emailed.  “And while marriage equality has not been a top voting issue or determining factor for Latinos overall, this endorsement may be one factor voters in favor take into account.”

Pedro Julio Serrano, Communications Manager of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force attributes this to the Latino community’s strong sense of family.

“We know what ‘familia‘ is,” he said, “and when we see same-sex couples in loving and committed relationships, when we see that more that 40 percent are raising children, we want them to have the same rights and protections as the opposite-sex couples have. In any case, if it has an effect, it will be a positive one,” Serrano said.

The stereotype of Latinos as conservatives appears increasingly outdated. Indeed, the president’s marriage equality stance seems to have energized immigration activists, especially young Latino voters who have built an alliance with gay activists on pushing for immigration reform. Juan Rodriguez, who is active in the Florida Immigrant Coalition, told the Associated Press that the gay rights and immigrant rights movements are “very aligned and becoming more so every year.”

Analysts of the Latino vote also say that at the end of the day, the president’s stance on marriage equality will be overshadowed by his reputation on creating jobs and immigration reform.

“Latino voters will be looking for specific plans that address the employment needs of the hardest hit communities, create jobs, and get the economy back on track,” said Martinez, from the NCLR. “Immigration has also risen on the issue priority agenda, particularly fueled by the anti-Latino sentiment with which the immigration debate has been laced, and the impact on the civil rights of the community,” said Martinez.

“For a large segment of the Latino community, immigration issues will probably have a bigger impact on the election than Obama’s support for marriage equality,” said Andrés Duque, a Latino LGBT rights activist and blogger.  ”Fairly or unfairly, there is a lot of discontent out there about the Obama administration’s handling of the issue, particularly with the DREAM Act, and what keeps saving him is that the Romney campaign has struggled to frame the issue and aligned himself with some of the most anti-immigrant voices in his party,” Duque added.

So while bread and butter issues might be an opening for the Romney campaign to bait Latino vote, the anti-immigrant rhetoric spewed during the GOP presidential primaries and the presumptive candidate’s own hardline immigration stance might have totally slammed the opening shut.

Rep. Gutierrez stresses the fact that Romney has catered to the “loudest and least tolerant elements of the Republican base,” which he says puts the GOP presidential hopeful and Republicans “out of step with America.”

Originally posted on Feet in 2 Worlds, WNYC It’s A Free Country, and the Huffington Post.

Pastors Respond to Obama’s Gay Marriage Evolution

May 13, 2012; Source: Washington Post

Many ministers around the country responded to President Obama’s endorsement of same-gender marriage last Sunday, a day ordinarily reserved to celebrate mothers—or, in some faith communities, at least heterosexual, married mothers. In the president’s own backyard, pastors preached on both the good and evil in Obama’s full evolution on same-sex marriage rights.

The Rev. John K. Jenkins, Jr., pastor of the First Baptist Church of Glenarden in Maryland, told his congregation that he was “deeply, deeply troubled” and labeled the president’s call for the equal treatment of lesbian and gay couples as a “strike at the core foundation” of society. “I hate to bring it up on Mother’s Day,” Jenkins said, “but two men can’t be a mother…It’s not healthy for children, and it is not God’s design.”

In contrast, the Rev. Delman Coates, pastor of Mount Ennon Baptist Church, also in Maryland, commended Obama’s “bold and courageous stance in support of civil marriage protection for gays and lesbians.” Coates, one of a group of African American ministers asked by the White House to promote its position, said in an e-mail to the Washington Post that the president’s stance “underscores the fundamental difference between the State and the role of the Church.”

The Rev. Clement Aapengnu, a priest at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Virginia’s Arlington County, suggested during an interview that marriage is a “human phenomenon” rather than a religious one. “Who has the authority to define what marriage is?” he asked. “We in the church must respect its traditions. But marriage is a gift and a covenant of love that should be respected.” Aapengnu added that Obama must act as “president of all Americans, not just of Catholics. The beauty of America is that it is a melting pot.” He stressed that, “We live with multiplicity. Once we lose that perspective, we’re in trouble.”

A recent Gallup poll shows that a majority (54 percent) of Americans believe that same-gender relationships are moral. Jenkins is naturally free to speak his mind and espouse his faith tradition’s teachings. But as far as we’re concerned, Coates and Aapengnu are right in pointing out that Church and State are and should be separate, and that the president is the leader of all Americans, gay and straight, liberal and conservative, nonbeliever and believer.

Originally posted on Nonprofit Quarterly Nonprofit Newswire, May 15, 2012.

N.C. Catholic Parish Fires Music Director for Gay Marriage

February 12, 2011; Source: The Charlotte Observer | Steav Bates-Congdon, the popular music director at St. Gabriel Catholic Church in Charlotte was fired last month for getting married.

Bates-Congdon is gay and had been out to the pastor and his congregation. He gave Rev. Frank O’Rourke a heads up that he and his long-time partner were going to New York to wed. He said the good pastor even congratulated him.

In a reaffirmation of the Catholic Church’s condemnation of gay marriage,  the pope recently proclaimed that legalizing and recognizing committed gay relationships  threatens “the future of humanity itself.” And U.S. Catholic bishops have been vociferous opponents of marriage equality, calling for a constitutional amendment to define marriage as between one man and one woman.

Moreover, North Carolina, where Bates-Congdon and his husband reside, does not recognize gay marriage and in May the state’s voters will decide whether to add a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

Finally, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously last January that, due to “ministerial exception,” churches can pretty much hire and fire whomever they please.

So should Bates-Congdon be surprised?

Originally posted on Nonprofit Quarterly Nonprofit Newswire, February 14, 2012.

Gay Marriage Advocates Reframe the Debate

November 7, 2011; Source: USA Today | Lesbian and gay couples want the freedom to marry out of love and commitment, just like their straight counterparts. And same-gender couples, many of whom have been together for decades, want the 1,138 federal rights and benefits afforded different-gender couples such as social security and veteran benefits for spouses as well as the right to sponsor their foreign-born spouses.

Advocates for same-gender marriage have been arguing that it is a matter of equal rights, but now a bipartisan group is urging proponents to frame the debate as a matter of love and commitment.

The centrist group Third Way launched the “Commitment Campaign” on Monday and is reported to have already won support from Democrats, Republicans, and Independents such as Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, and former chair of the Republican National Committee, Ken Mehlman.

Those behind the initiative believe that the focus on equality may give the false impression that lesbians and gays want to marry for different reasons than their straight counterparts.

Charles Moran, chairman of the California Log Cabin Republicans, told USA Today that the old way of framing the issue has led to 31 straight defeats in ballot initiatives across the country. “This is a real radical way of changing the approach in communicating why gay marriage equality is important.”

O’Malley added that “in this fast-evolving issue, we’re all searching for common ground and the way to have a conversation with those who would be inclined not to support marriage equality is to search for those common values that we share.”

Lesbian and gay couples want to marry for the same reasons as straight couples: they want to express their love and commitment through a public and social compact. But they also want to do so in order to secure the legal recognition, protection, and stability that come with the right that straight couples take as a matter of course but that is denied to Americans who happen to be gay.—Erwin de Leon

Originally posted on Nonprofit Quarterly Nonprofit Newswire, November 7, 2011.

























Compensating Gay Public Servants Equally – Good Business Practice?

This month, Cambridge, Massachusetts becomes the first US city to give married gay employees a stipend to help defray federal tax on health insurance.  The quarterly rebate to nearly two dozen workers covers taxes paid by these public servants on the value of health benefits their spouses receive from the municipality.

Cambridge city councilors made this move with equality in mind. Lesbian and gay employees get the same health insurance as their straight colleagues but have to live with a federal tax penalty for gay unions (which have been legal in Massachusetts since 2004). On average, gay employees with domestic partners or spouses pay $1,070 per year more in taxes on health insurance benefits than married straight workers with the same coverage.

Some private companies have been offering partner benefits, including health insurance to employees in gay domestic partnerships or unions.  At least a third of employers in all and half of employers with 5,000 or more workers extend benefits to employees’ gay partners. That includes such Fortune 500 giants as Bank of America, Coca-Cola, Dow Chemical, General Electric, Lockheed Martin, Microsoft, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, UPS, Walt Disney Co. and 276 others.

Some corporations also now compensate gay employees for federal tax on health coverage. Cisco Systems and Google and 19 other firms have sought ways to address the tax burden on lesbian and gay workers. Their main goals are strictly practical–worker recruitment and retention.

The UCLA-based Williams Institute estimates that at least 50,000 lesbian and gay couples have legally wed in California, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and the District of Columbia. Another 85,000 lesbian and gay couples have entered civil unions or domestic partnerships in California, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont, New Hampshire, Washington, and Nevada. These numbers will rise as more enter civil unions in Rhode Island and marriages in New York beginning this month.

As more states legalize gay unions, both public and private employers will have to find ways in this “altered” environment to attract, keep, and compensate lesbian and gay workers. The federal tax penalty for gay couples is steep enough to drive some potential new hires or trusted old hands to look for work elsewhere.

Originally posted on the Urban Institute’s MetroTrends Blog, July 15, 2011.

The Michael Eric Dyson Show Interview: Immigrants and Gay Marriage

New York’s Gay Pride Parade last weekend was a bit more festive than usual, as participants also celebrated the legalization of same-sex marriage. The reaction was a bit more muted, however, for gay immigrants, who will still face some of the same hurdles when it comes to getting permanent residency for their partners. Erwin de Leon, columnist on immigrant and LGBT issues for Feet in 2 Worlds, an immigration news website, discusses the passage of same-sex marriage in New York and what it means for gay immigrants.

Click here to listen to the audio.

New York, Marriage Equality and Immigrants

When Governor Andrew Cuomo called for “justice for all” through the passage of a marriage equality bill earlier this year, I asked whether gay marriage was a priority for New York immigrants. Some queer activists did not think so, arguing that many immigrants, gay or straight, are far more concerned about bread and butter issues.

The momentous passage of New York’s Marriage Equality Act late Friday night is nonetheless being celebrated by the LGBT community, its advocates and allies, including those who might have expressed skepticism. The law expands civil rights within the state and codifies the fundamental dignity of LGBT individuals and their families, some of whom are immigrants.

The Marriage Equality Act will not help lesbian and gay immigrants who hope to gain permanent residency by wedding their American partners, since immigration is under federal purview and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) bars the U.S. government from recognizing gay marriages. Among permanent residents and naturalized citizens however, the new law establishes one more jurisdiction where lesbian and gay couples will be treated equally within its boundaries. All couples have the freedom to marry in Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Washington, D.C. and now, New York.

Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry, one of the organizations that led the effort to pass gay marriage in the state, told Fi2W back in January that “the denial of the freedom to marry with all its tangible and intangible protections, consequences, and meaning hurts everyone—not least because it is state-sponsored discrimination based on who we are and who we love, which is intolerable.”

New Yorkers – gay or straight, immigrant or native-born – have great cause to celebrate. They have taken a big step in the long of arc justice and freedom for all.

Originally posted on Feet in 2 Worlds,  June 26, 2011.