All posts by Terence

21 May: Frank Kameny, Gay Pioneer

 b. May 21, 1925
d. Oct 12, 2011

The momentum is there, and that’s not going to be stopped. It’s moved from hopes of a grass-roots movement, to the actuality of a grass-roots movement. And it’s taken 40 years to do it.


In 1957, the Army Map Service in Washington, D.C. dismissed astronomer Frank Kameny. Though a WWII veteran with an M.A. and Ph.D. in astronomy from Harvard University, Kameny was discharged because he was gay. Rather than accept a common practice of the times, Kameny fought for his rights. He successfully challenged anti-gay policies of the American Psychiatric Association (APA), the US Department of Defense and the US Civil Service Commission.



Kameny sued the Army Map Service and lost his case. On appeal he lost again, and after the Supreme Court denied his petition to direct the case to be reconsidered, Kameny realized his objectives would require a broader movement. In 1961, Kameny co-founded the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C with Gay Pioneer Jack Nichols.

Kameny was the first to bring open activism to the gay rights movement. The D.C. Mattachine Society contacted public officials to attempt to change policy. They published a newsletter, The Gazette, and campaigned to overturn security clearance denials, employment restrictions and dismissals of gay men from the Federal workforce. In 1963, Kameny began a movement to repeal sodomy laws and challenge the APA‘s classification of homosexuality as a mental disorder.
On April 17, 1965, Kameny led the first public picket for gay rights at the White House. With support from the Daughters of Bilitis, the Mattachine Society extended its protest to the Pentagon and the Civil Service Commission. He helped launch the first organized gay and lesbian demonstrations for equality. These seminal demonstrations by activists from New York, Philadelphia and Washingon D.C. were held annually each July 4th at Independence Hall from 1965 to 1969 and were called annual reminders. They paved the way for t
he Stonewall Riots in 1969.

Inspired by Stokely Carmichael’s “Black is Beautiful,” Kameny dubbed the phrase “Gay is Good” as a slogan for the movement. He led the fight for gay rights into the 1970s and ran for Congress in 1971 on an equal rights platform. The APA removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders in 1973 and the Civil Service Commission lifted its ban on homosexuality in 1975, an action President Bill Clinton formalized many years later.

In 2000, Equality Forum with WHYY/PBS produced the documentary film “Gay Pioneers” about Frank Kameny and other early activists. In 2006, the Library of Congress incorporated over 70,000 letters, documents and memorabilia from Frank Kameny into its permanent collection. The Washington, D.C. City Council honored Frank Kameny in 2007, hailing him as a “true freedom fighter.”


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Traditional Marriage: One Man, Many Women, Some Girls, Some Slaves

Well, it’s been quite a whirlwind week for same-sex marriage, from North Carolina to Obama to Colorado—and, of course, to the many outraged conservatives concerned with preserving traditional marriage, i.e., the time-honored sacred bond between one man and one woman. Why, just last week, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council said that marriage has meant just that for over five thousand years.

Huh?

Time to break out your Bible, Mr. Perkins! Abraham had two wives, Sarah and her handmaiden Hagar. King Solomon had 700 wives, plus 300 concubines and slaves. Jacob, the patriarch who gives Israel its name, had two wives and two concubines. In a humanist vein, Exodus 21:10 warns that when men take additional wives, they must still provide for their previous one. (Exodus 21:16 adds that if a man seduces a virgin and has sex with her, he has to marry her, too.)

But that’s not all. In biblical society, when you conquered another city, tribe, or nation, the victorious men would “win” their defeated foes’ wives as part of the spoils. It also commanded levirate marriage, the system wherein, if a man died, his younger brother would have to marry his widow and produce heirs with her who would be considered the older brother’s descendants. Now that’s traditional marriage!

– full post at Jay Michaelson,  Religion Dispatches.

 

Catholics engaged in gay marriage battle

With more than 1 million members, Catholics comprise the single largest religious denomination in Minnesota.

Their numbers, and their financial contributions, make them a powerful force in the debate over a constitutional amendment that would only allow marriage between men and women. If approved by voters this fall, the amendment would effectively write a ban on gay marriage into the state constitution.

Minnesota law already prohibits gay marriage. But Catholic bishops have made passage of the amendment a top political priority this year, so much so that the Catholic Church is putting a lot of money and prayers into the effort to pass the marriage amendment.

– full report at Winona Daily News

Nancy Pelosi: My Catholic faith ‘compels me’ to support gay marriage

 

“My religion compels me–and I love it for it–to be against discrimination of any kind in our country, and I consider [the ban on gay marriage] a form of discrimination. I think it’s unconstitutional on top of that. So I think that yesterday was a great day for America because the president in a very personal, as well as presidential way, made history, and hopefully this will bring people together on the issue.

Washington Post

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Biden's support for gay marriage matches most Catholics' views

Apparent White House division over gay marriage – with Vice President Joe Biden saying Sunday that he is “absolutely comfortable” with the idea, going further than President Obama has on the issue – mirrors a nation that is evenly divided on the matter. Recent polls show that about half of Americans favor legalized gay marriage, while half oppose it, with support for the idea gaining significant ground over the past 15 years.

Pew’s latest polling on the issue, conducted late last year, found that 46% of Americans support favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally, while 44% are opposed. Support for gay civil unions is substantially higher, with a clear majority of Americans supporting such arrangements.

http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2012/05/07/bidens-support-for-gay-marriage-matches-most-catholics-views/

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Canon Derrick Sherwin Bailey, Pioneering gay theologian (1910-1984)

Bailey was the first Christian scholar to re-evaluate the traditional understanding of the Biblical prohibitions regarding homosexuality. He was an Anglican clergyman and Canon Residentiary of Wells Cathedral. Although not a full-time academic theologian or biblical scholar, after World War II he led a small group of Anglican clergymen and physicians to study homosexuality. Their findings were published in a 1954 Report entitled The Problem of Homosexuality produced for the Church of England, and were influential in moderating the church’s subsequent stance on the moral issues raised by homosexuality. The work of Bailey and his colleagues also paved the way for the progressive Wolfenden Report (1957), which was followed a decade later by the decriminalization of homo­sexual conduct between consenting adults in England and Wales.

As an additional project arising from this work, he undertook a separate historical study, which led to the publication of his groundbreaking book, Homosexuality and the Western Christian Tradition. Although this monograph has been criti­cized, it was a landmark in the history of the subject, combining scrutiny of the Biblical evidence with a survey of subsequent history. Bailey’s book drew attention to a number of neglected subjects, including the intertestamental literature, the legislation of the Christian emperors, the penitentials, and the link between heresy and sodomy. Since then, his work has been overtaken by more extensive analyses by specialist biblical scholars, but it was an important influence on the early work that followed by historians (for example, John Boswell’s “Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality“, and Mark D Jordan’s “The Invention of Sodomy in Christian Theology “) and by biblical scholars (William Countryman’s “Dirt, Greed, and Sex“).
It was also important for influencing the findings of the British Wolfenden Report, which led to the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the UK, and on the later deliberations of the Anglican Church on the subject.
Bailey died in Wells in Somerset.

 


Jack Denton Reese, Mormon Suicide

Jack Denton Reese, a gay teen of LDS background committed suicide on April 22 in Mountain Green, Utah. He was 17 years old.

According to Jack’s boyfriend, Alex Smith, Jack was bullied at school. On April 23, Alex, who didn’t know yet that his boyfriend had taken his life, spoke at a panel about the bullying Jack experienced. The panel was held in connection with the screening of the documentary film, “Bullied.”

Jack attended Morgan and Weber High schools. On April 27, Weber High students attended class in their Sunday best in Jack’s honor. “You’ll always be remembered,” wrote a close friend on the mortuary’s guestbook. “I know you’re looking down on us all right now, telling us all to be ourselves no matter what people say or how harshly they judge. I know it because that’s all you wanted. I love you, Jack. Love forever in our hearts. You’re amazing just the way you are.”

“I remember Jack when he was in our ward and when he would pass the sacrament,” reads another entry. “What a handsome and dedicated young man!”

“How is it possible that on the same day on one side of the country we are being affirmed as gay and Mormon [at the Circling the Wagons Conference] while on the other side another gay Mormon is taking his life?” wrote Randall Thacker, senior vice president with Affirmation: Gay & Lesbian Mormons. “How will this suffering ever come to an end?”

read more at Affirmation, Suicide Memorials

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Hildegonde of Neuss 20/04

(Also spelt Hildegund) She was born at Neuss, near Cologne. After the death of her mother, at age 12, she went with her father, a knight, on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. For her safety, during the trip, she was dressed as a boy and called “Joseph” for her protection.
While returning from the Holy Land Hildegund’s father died, but she was able to make her own way home and maintained her disguise first as a boy and then as a man. Later, she made a pilgrimage to Rome, during which she had several adventures.
On one of them, she was condemned to be hanged as a robber and escaped only when a friend of the real robber cut her down from the gallows.
After that, she returned to Germany and was accepted into the Cistercian monastery at Shönau, near Heidelberg, concealing her gender, and to her death she was believed to be a man. Her true sex went undiscovered until her death in 1188.
A few years later, abbot Engelhartof Langheim wrote her biography. She is considered saint, even though her cult is not approved by the Roman Catholic Church.

Episcopalians release same-sex marriage rites

While Catholic bishops in the UK and the US are digging in their heels against marriage equality, the American Episcopal church is (very sensibly) looking ahead, to the inevitable day when they will recognize the need to do away with marriage discrimination in their own church (as some local jurisdictions have already done).  
After several years of study, the Episcopal Church has released a draft of what same-sex marriage rites would look like. An important caveat: these are just drafts, and it will likely be years before any final liturgy is approved for official use across the church.
Episcopalians in states that allow same-sex civil marriage (Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland and others) already have the option to bless same-sex marriages but there is no formal churchwide liturgy. Same-sex commitment ceremonies are permitted elsewhere in the church at the discretion of the local bishop.
From the church’s Office of Public Affairs:
The report’s theological reflection notes that the SCLM [Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music] has reviewed more than 30 years of General Convention’s deliberation on same-gender couples, especially [a] resolution approved in 2000, that identified characteristics the Church expects of couples living in marriage and other lifelong committed relationships: “fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God.”
“Such covenantal relationships can reflect God‘s own gracious covenant with us in Christ, manifest the fruits of the Spirit in holiness of life, and model for the whole community the love of neighbor in the practice of forgiveness and reconciliation,”  the report states.
– Religion News Service
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The Problem of Heterosexuality.

One of the things I find most objectionable in the CDF document on same sex relationships is its title: “Homosexualitatis Problema” (The Problem of Homosexuality).  I have a double objection here – there is no problem in homoerotic sexuality, but only in the religious based discrimination and the violence it engenders, and the  systematic use of the pseudo-scientific, medical term “homosexual” and its associated terms. This word was originally coined in a late nineteenth century medical usage to denote same sex attraction as a pathological condition, and its continued use serves similarly to locate an entirely natural orientation as somehow problematic.

There is a simple remedy, however. Like “homosexual”, its counterpart “heterosexual” was also originally coined as a medical term, to denote a pathological obsession with the opposite sex. Now, there is obviously nothing pathological about opposite-sex attraction, any more than there is in a same-sex attraction. I suggest however, that there is most certainly something pathological about an obsession with viewing the world around us, as well as history, scripture and religious teaching, through an exclusively opposite-sex perspective. This obsession is more simply described as “heterosexism”, and is the sense in which I suggest there is indeed a “problem” with heterosexuality.

It is this pathological obsession that persists in describing a nineteenth and twentieth century version of Western marriage as “traditional”, completely ignoring the many ways it had previously undergone fundamental change over many periods of history; which persists in describing minority sexual behaviours as “unnatural”, in total disregard for the evidence from history, anthropology, medicine or zoology; and which promotes the view that same gender genital activities are “plainly” condemned by Scripture, even though the meaning of the half-dozen texts of terror is far from plain, and are easily outnumbered by many more sympathetic passages, and others condemning behaviours which are widely accepted in the modern world.

Yet when people, gay or straight, attempt to approach Scripture or the history of the Church from a gay or lesbian perspective, it is we who are dismissed as “twisting” the truth to suit our purposes.

In fact, there is nothing in Christianity, Judaism or other major religions that is inherently opposed to same sex relationships, except where religious texts are distorted by heterosexual distortions. So it is that Christians have appropriated the “sin of Sodom” for a pejorative term for “homosexuality”, even though the story itself was about attempted rape and a failure of hospitality.

Not all religions have approached sexuality with this heteronormative perspective. Many polytheistic religions recognized gods and goddesses with same gender or polysexual erotic interests, or even identified divine patrons of homoerotic love. Many societies see same sex attraction or cross-dressing behaviour as associated specifically with pronounced spiritual gifts, or with religious occupations. Some observers even suggest that modern Christianity is unique among world religions for having spread homophobia around the world, through its colonial missionary activities.

Other faiths, though, have also been guilty of some modern distortion of their authentic messages with pandering to the heterosexual agenda. At The Wild Reed, Michael Bayley has a stimulating discussion of a new book, Heterosexism in Contemporary World Religions: Problem and Prospect, which shows who heterosexism has distorted the modern presentations of several world religions, as well as Christianity, and how homophobia is in fact incompatible with them.

Heterosexism in Contemporary World Religion: Problem and Prospect, notes Daniel, is a much-needed invitation to exit that terrible, damaging and corrupting closet of fear that heterosexism forces us into. The scope of the book’s content provides the guiding light for this exodus journey. Co-editor Judith Plaskow, for instance, explores the dismantling of the gender binary within Judaism; Ann-Marie Hsiung examines gender and same-sex relations in Confucianism and Taoism; Yu-Chen Li reconstructs Buddhist perspectives on homosexuality; Mary E. Hunt shares insights and advice on eradicating the sin of heterosexism; Ghazala Anwar offers a defense of same-sex marriage based on the Qur’an and other Muslim sources; Kelly Brown Douglas examines heterosexism and the Black American Church community; Anantanand Rambachan highlights the irreconcilability of Hinduism and homophobia; and co-editor Marvin Ellison defends same-sex marriage on Christian grounds.

Without doubt it’s an essential book in the ongoing quest to banish heterosexism from our lives and from our religious and cultural institutions.

At the Wild Reed, Michael also includes an extract from the introduction to the book by Catholic theologian, Dan Maguire.  and an extract from the contribution by Catholic theologian Dan Maguire. (Read Michael’s post in full.)

Recommended Books

Crompton, Louis: Homosexuality and Civilization

Katz, Jonathan: The Invention of Heterosexuality

Naphy, William: Born to be Gay: A History of Homosexuality (Revealing History)

Stuart, Elisabeth: Gay & Lesbian Theologies: Repetitions With Critical Difference

Ellison, M M and Plaskow, Judith: Heterosexism in Contemporary World Religion: Problem and Prospect

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