Archive for August, 2010


The recent case that resulted in the overturn (however temporary that might prove to be,) of Proposition 8 has raised some important questions for me regarding what kind of allegiance the GLBT community should have toward either the Democratic or Republican Party. (Full disclosure: I am an avid and adamant supporter of the Democratic Party.) A blogger at the Huffington Post (see the original post at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/08/05/prop-8-ruling-exposes-dem_n_671900.html) made some interesting points about the fact that the Democrats have been notoriously reluctant about overtly supporting gay rights, so I thought I would take a look at the situation and offer my thoughts about it.

There are a couple of core issues we need to consider when it comes to gay allegiance. First of all, as the HuffPo points out, why should the GLBT community support a party that has been so lukewarm in its support of those causes? Well, the reasoning typically goes, because they’re not Republicans, who have taken anti-gay sentiment and made it a core part of their platform. However, this may eventually change, as younger members of the Republican Party are much more supportive (as a rule,) than their elder counterparts, and if the GOP as a whole comes around, this could cause some soul-searching questions for those GLBT voters for whom the supposed Democratic support of gay rights trumps anything else.

Which brings me to the other important issue here. Just how prominent should their rights be in the minds of GLBT voters? Most, I think, would say that their fundamental rights trump everything else, which is why they (and other minorities,) tend to throw their support behind the Democratic Party, which has, in theory at least, been the more supportive one. For others, however, their views of economic and foreign policy are deemed more important, and so a substantial number of voters throw their support behind the GOP, even if that means sacrificing their civil rights in the process.

My own personal opinion is that GLBT voters need to protect their rights, even if that means making some concessions when it comes to foreign/economic policy. Unlike the Republican Party, which has as part of its platform the explicit denial of the rights of gay Americans, the Democrat Party has an open-door policy and has, on the whole, been more supportive. The likelihood of the Republican Party swinging in favor of GLBT rights is, in my view, a far off possibility (and, if you ask me, almost an impossibility.) Their 2008 Party Platform specifically says that they are in support of “traditional marriage,” whereas the Democratic National Committee states that it will do everything it can to eliminate discrimination based on sexual orientation. Face it, being GLBT is an essential part of who we are, and that is worth protecting. If we let Republicans take away our rights now, the end result can only be persecution.

That’s why, in my opinion, we who are GLBT must continue to support the Democratic Party. That being said, I do not think that we should just write them a blank check and assume that they are going to help us. We need to pressure them to stand up for the rights that are guaranteed us by the Constitution. All too often, “moderate” Democrats use their moderate nature as an excuse to let social and civil rights issues slide. It’s high time that we who are members of the GLBT community tell our party that we’ve had enough, and that we’re going to demand that they live up to their promises. Otherwise, why should we supper them?

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It was a great and historic day in California today, as the pernicious and oppressive Proposition 8 was overturned by the ruling of a federal judge. This is, in my opinion, the first step on a journey that will, hopefully, result in the full inclusion of gay men and women in the fabric of American life, including and especially the right to celebrate and share our lives with those we love, with the approval and rights that heterosexual couples currently enjoy. The judge has shown that, when it comes to a democracy, the opinion of the “many” (even if that term is defined by a narrow majority of approximately 52%,) should not be allowed to oppress the lives of a few.

However, although this ruling is indeed a cause for celebration among those of us in the GLBT community, we should also be cautious in our optimism. Those who are in favor of a gay marriage ban have already stated that they are going to pursue an appeal, and it will most likely be several years before the case goes before the Supreme Court, and even then there’s no guarantee that we are going to get the ruling that we might desire (although there has been some speculation, including a recent piece in the “Huffington Post, that Justice Kennedy might come down on our side, assuming the rest of the court is split into its usual liberals and conservatives.) So yes, we should celebrate this day as another step forward in the fight for gay rights, we must also be certain to be cautious. The fight is far from over.

We should also remember that, just because the court has found in our favor, doesn’t mean that there aren’t still lots of people out there dead-set against the idea of gay men and women sharing their lives together in marriage (or any other sort of legal recognition, for that matter.) Yes, we most definitely should take this issue to the highest court in the land. After all, it is only there that we can hope to get a fair and balanced ruling, one based (ostensibly, at least,) on the rules set down by the Constitution rather than on the religious zealousness of bigoted fundamentalists. However, we also have to remember that there are many people who will do whatever they can to deny those in the GLBT community their equal rights, so we must always be vigilant.

So, what can we do in light of these developments? We can bask in the euphoria for a few days, but then the work must resume. We must ensure that we apply as much pressure to as many political points as possible. The wind is blowing in our direction, so we need to make sure that we take advantage of that fact and move ahead with our movement to gain equality. We can’t let this victory slide or fade away from public consciousness. We need to keep up the momentum, and never stop fighting until this issue goes straight to the Supreme Court. And, even if they rule in their favor, we must be always vigilant to ensure that those rights are guaranteed and protected in every way. Then, and only then, can we breathe easy.

I know I spoke at length about the Cordoba House (the mosque/community center being constructed near Ground Zero,) the other day, but recently both Slate and Salon ran interesting articles on it, so I thought I’d revisit the topic again, though my focus this time will be a little different. One of the posters on the Slate article stated that anyone saying that Islam is a religion of peace is totally misunderstanding its purpose, that it is, at its heart a violent religion intended to bring people under the umbrella of its faith by the sword. I’d like to take a moment and unpack this post, to see what kinds of issues it raises.

First of all, I find it incredibly irritating when people, especially laypersons, take it upon themselves to make grave and potent pronouncements about the nature of a given religion. They often make sweeping statements that are, ostensibly, meant to clear the waters and make it absolutely clear what a particular religion stands for. My question is, who gives them this authority? I’m not saying that clerical folk should have more authority on religious matters than others, but I do think that they often have the sort of training that allows them to wrestle with these questions in a way that most laypeople cannot or do not (hence their positions as laypeople.) Even more importantly, making broad statements about any religion, be it Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, or what have you, is folly, as they are almost all constituted by many different denominations and branches that inter pet things incredibly differently, thus making any generalization an out-right falsehood, and a dangerous one at that.

Second of all, I would like to just point out the foolishness of putting Islam into a contradictory position with Christianity. Yes, that faith has some bloodspots on its rap sheet, but so does Christianity. The Crusades, the Reformation (and the Counter-Reformation,) to say nothing of the conflicts in Northern Ireland and elsewhere between Christians. How many thousands, nay millions, of Christians have been cruelly and brutally murdered by other Christians? One need look no further than the Bible to see examples of violence. Although Christ once said turn the other cheek, he also said that he brought not peace but a sword. Which one are we to believe? Is Christianity a religion of peace or one of war? Should Christians go to war to ensure that everyone falls under their faith? Obviously those in the past have thought so (and not the not-so distant past, either,) and there are still some who do so today. Clearly, Islam is not the only religion whose foundations were splashed with the blood of “innocents.”

My point is, basically, that saying that Islam is a religion based on violence is yet another gross over-statement, designed to make everyone believe that Islam is somehow antithetical to American civilization and culture, which is supposedly so evolved and enlightened. Tell that to the Tea Partiers and the religions fanatics on the Right, who constantly advocate for the oppression of those who don’t fit into their notion of “values” or “holiness.” I’ll close with a brief paraphrase of one of Jesus’ most famous sayings: “Before you remove the splinter from your brother’s eye, remove the log from your own.” Those on the Right would do well to consider that.

The recent cover of “Time” magazine, which shows a young Afgahni woman who was brutally punished by her husband and his family, has ignited a firestorm as various commentators argue about what purpose the magazine cover serves (whether as exploitation or awareness-raising,) and about the role of the United States in the ongoing fight for the rights of women in Afghanistan. As always, I am here to provide my take on the situation, such as it is.

Although I would argue that the magazine’s cover was intended to raise awareness of the plight of women in Afghanistan, and about what might happen to them should the Taliban be allowed to return to power (or at the very least be allowed to re-enter mainstream Afghan society,) I would also say that their choice of title obscures this in favor of, basically, justifying the war in Afghanistan and making it appear that we went there in order to liberate Afghani women. As we all know, this is most certainly not the case. We went there to topple a government that was hiding a terrorist group that perpetrated a horrendous act of terrorism. The plight of the women was, as always, secondary, and was only brought up later as a means of justifying our presence there and of ensuring that we stay there. The women are victims, the belief goes, and we should stay there in order to help them.

This cover also obscures the fact that this attack happened, not when there were no American soldiers in Afghanistan, but when there thousands of soldiers on the ground. This, to me, says that the military solution is clearly not working, or at least not in terms of human rights abuses. Although some military presence will no doubt be necessary, I firmly believe that they should be in charge of the UN, and that they should be used in conjunction with NGOs, who are often much more able to help with social issues than the military, who are generally there with the purpose of quelling armed resistance. The United Nations should most definitely take a stronger hand in the policing of countries regarding human rights abuses, and this would ensure that we are not the only country bearing the economic burden of supporting this seemingly interminable war in Afghanistan.

Perhaps most importantly, this magazine cover makes it sound as if only the United States Army stands between Afghan women and a precipice leading down into oppression, mutilation, and death. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but merely having a military presence in the country is not going to change this system of beliefs. If we truly want to prevent these sorts of abuses from happening to women, we would have to stay there for an enormous amount of time, basically reshaping Afghanistan in America’s image. Of course, there are those who would say that this is a good idea, but it’s dangerous in the extreme, a modern-day version of colonialism (which is far from dead, in any case.) However, not all is lost. We can, and we must, help to fund NGOs and other organizations that will be able to educate the citizens of Afghanistan–not just the tribal leaders, but families of every stripe–about the perils of oppressing women and the terrible toll this takes on individuals and on the society as a whole. As always, education is the key to change and improvement for the future.

Of course, the situation in Afghanistan is enormously complicated and, as with all such complicated stations, there is no easy solution. That fact, however, should not discourage us from trying to improve the world and, if possible, ensure a more peaceful and prosperous world for everyone. This will not be easy, and it will no doubt take several more years of investment in order to come to fruition. There is no question or problem, no matter how complicated, that does not have an answer or a solution. We just have to be willing to look past the obvious.