Politics

Sadness

Like everyone else, I've been watching the Democratic primaries with special interest.  For the first time in history we have a credible African American candidate and a credible woman candidate, both running for president of the United States.  (I don't mean that Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are not credible as people; just that they never really had a chance to be nominated.)  We should take the time to rejoice in this.  Whoever wins it will be historical.  And it won't be due to political grand-standing was was Geraldine Feraro's nomination to VP in 1984.  

While I would be happy with either Obama or Clinton as president, I ultimately favor Obama.  For years now I've been saying that instead of the uninspiring candidates that we are forced to settle for, what I want is another Kennedy.  No, not a Catholic or even a man.  What I want is leader who will call us to our noblest natures, not prey on our basest fears.  Obama is that candidate.  

So I support Obama and have been watching with interest as the polls show him catching up with Clinton.  This week however was the first time where I saw him leading, beating Clinton.  And for the first time, the consequences of an Obama victory hit me.

As I said, we have for the first time in our history a credible woman candidate for president of the United States.  A woman of impressive accomplishments - graduate of Yale law, the first female partner at Rose Law Firm, listed as one of the one hundred most influential lawyers in America in 1988 and 1991, twice elected Senator of New York - and she is going to lose.  (Ok, I'm jumping the gun a little here, but for the first time I realized that she very well could lose.)  The realization filled me with a deep sadness. 

That doesn't mean I've changed my mind.  I still support Obama.  And of course if Hillary did win the nomination, I'd be sad about the first credible African American candidate losing.  And I wouldn't vote for anyone based on just identity.  Nevertheless I am sad that someone has to lose.

So I have to remind myself, that if someone loses that means someone has won.  No matter what happens we are going to make history.  And it will be with a credible candidate.  That is something to be happy about.

excluded from ENDA

Today, the House passed their version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). It should be a time of rejoicing but it's not. The act passed without transgender inclusion, meaning that even if this bill becomes law, transgender people will not be protected from discrimination in the workplace. The people who are most marginalized, most at risk are not protected. The UUA is one of the only non-BGLT exclusive groups that opposed a non transgender inclusive bill, and for that I am very proud of us.

But I am baffled by our partners who did support non-inclusivity, particularly groups such as the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) whose stated mission it is to advocate on behalf of LGB and T. The bill is unlikely to move in the Senate this year and President Bush has already promised veto it. There was no real hope of getting it signed into law. I could understand the temptation to sell-out one group in order to move others ahead. I don't approve of such tactics, mind you, but I can understand them. But in this particular case what's happened is that transgender people have been hurt and betrayed by the people who are supposed to represent them. And for nothing. For a symbolic gain.

Disowning Senator Craig

The party of family values strikes again.  To the list of Foley, Haggard, Gannon..., add Larry Craig.  It's like a moral implosion. As the Buddha said, if you wind the bow string too tight, it will snap.

The Senator from Idaho, was arrested in June at the Minneapolis Airport for trying to solicit sex from an undercover officer in a men's toilet. Craig had two months to think about it before he copped a guilty plea to disorderly conduct earlier this month. He probably thought pleading guilty to the misdemeanor would be less conspicuous than a trial. But he didn't take into account that certain indie rag would start digging into the circumstances of his arrest. Now he says it was all a misunderstanding and he didn't do anything wrong at all. I dunno. I read the cop's testimony and find it hard to believe it was a misunderstanding. Would you plead guilty to a sex offense if you felt the officer was making things up? At any rate, the judge is not letting him recant his plea.  He's guilty.

Despite the fact that he thinks being gay is "despicable" the assertion that Craig is gay is not new.  There have been rumours of him hooking up with guys in DC restrooms for years.  And DC gay-activist blogger, <a href="http://www.blogactive.com/" target="_blank">Michael Rogers</a>, outed Craig last year because he was pissed off by his hypocrisy. The mainstream media didn't believe it at the time and "outing" someone is a controversial tactic in the GBLT community, even if the guy being outed is an anti-gay rights law-maker.

At any rate, this last incident finally convinced the GOP leadership that Craig is gay, which is why they dropped him like the homophobes that they are.  The party of family values maintains that same-sex couples must be barred from marriage for the sake of preserving the sanctity of marriage. Yet fornicating with prostitutes seems to be perfectly ok if we are to judge by who gets stays within the graces of the GOP.  Otoh, it could just be that Idaho is a firmly red state and they feel that Craig is expendable while Vitter of Louisiana is not.  

Despite the hypocrisy, I feel sorry for the guy, just as I felt sorry for Ted Haggard when he fell. Yes, I realize that these guys are out there preaching intolerance, making the lives of millions of good people miserable for no good reason, and being total hypocrites about it. But just think of how conflicted these men must be. They're gay and they can't admit it, even to themselves. They live their lives in secrecy, always afraid of getting caught.  And the reaction of the Republican Party confirms these fears as valid.  To me that is a living hell. I really wish they could have a little more compassion for their true selves. And then maybe they could have more compassion for others as well.

Addendum (08/31/2007):

Yeah, I feel sorry for the guy but I still thought this cover was hillarious.

(So, I'm not always a good UU.)

REAL Sex Ed

We've had some cool victories in the area of comprehensive sex ed recently.  In addition to Obama bringing national attention to it, the House recently reauthorized funding for the part of the Title V Social Security Act that provides states with funding for abstinence-only programs.  

Why is this a victory?  Because while it  did so, it also modified the language to require that the programs be medically/scientifically accurate and proven effective at reducing teen pregnancy and STI/HIV transmission, and to grant state flexibility in using the monies as they best see fit.   This effectively means that this funding is no longer "abstinence only" and can be used for more comprehensive programs.  

Congress is recognizing the states'  needs to provide medically accurate information about both abstinence and contraception to our youth so that they can make informed decisions.  It's recognizing that the health and futures of our youth should come before religious ideals of a small but vocal group.  This change is of life-saving importance.

Call your reps and thank them. And those who think we should do even more might want to suggest to their reps that they support the REAL Act (Responsible Education About Life).

Obama at Planned Parenthood

Planned Parenthood threw a party for the Democratic presidential candidates to talk about women's health and only Barak Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Elizabeth Edwards came.

Perhaps you heard: it's where Obama supposedly advocated teaching kindergarteners about sex. Not. What has the conservative media in apoplectic fits and UUs and UCC cheering is Obama's unequivocal support for teaching age-appropriate comprehensive sexuality education in schools.

What he really said was: "SIECUS [the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S.] believes that comprehensive school-based sexuality education should be part of the education program at every grade. Such programs should be appropriate to the age, developmental level, and cultural background of students and respect the diversity of values and beliefs represented in the community. Comprehensive school-based sexuality education complements and augments the sexuality education children receive from their families, religious and community groups, and health care professionals".

This is exactly what is currently being taught in UU and UCC churches. (Obama is UCC - United Church of Christ.)

Our Whole Lives, or OWL as those of us in the know refer to it, is a comprehensive sexuality education program developed jointly between the UCC and the UUA. The story goes that a UU and a UCC were friends, and both lamenting the dearth of sex education taught in schools ("Just Say No.") and realized that if kids weren't going to be taught what they needed to make healthy, informed choices in school then it was up to the churches to do it. Hence began a seven year collaboration between the two denominations, culminating in OWL.

Why is OWL so important? Is it just because liberals like to talk about sex? No, it's about justice. The reason why is important is because proper sex ed is not being taught in schools, and kids are getting STDs and unplanned pregnancies, and BLGT kids are confused and ostracized - all as a result of kids being left in the dark about sexuality. Ignorance is not bliss; the "abstinence-only" approach kills. From our point of view, when lives are being destroyed due to kids not being given the necessary knowledge to make informed decisions, that's IMMORAL. So if govt won't do what's necessary to save lives, then it's up to the churches to step in.

But if every now and then a politician has the balls to say that govt should be involved in saving lives, more power to Obama! Smile

When Men Decide What Women Can Do

On Wednesday, April 18, 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court ignored three decades worth of precedent, overturned the rulings of three appeals courts, and for the first time since Roe v. Wade, upheld an abortion restriction that makes no exception for a woman’s health.

The ruling once again underscores the need to have women present in positions of power, specifically in institutions that are making decisions that affect women.  During the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings in 1991, as a panel of all-male Congressmen demonstrated an inability to take the issue of sexual harassment seriously, the lack of a female perspective was made obvious, and the next elections in 1992 brought an unprecedented 29 women to Congress.  The same glaring lack is now obvious on the Supreme Court.

Just a week before the Court’s ruling, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, the former Lieutenant Governor of Maryland and a lifelong devout Catholic, spoke at Georgetown University.  When speaking of the Catholic church's stance against abortion, she observed that for as long as only men are making the decision about whether or not something that only women can do is a sin, the Church will have no credibility on the issue of abortion.  A week later, her words seem all the more prophetic.

The Supreme Court was not ruling on sin, but rather on our constitutional rights.   We also recognize that within Catholicism there is a range of views on the issue.  Yet it is hard not to notice that there are five male judges who share the same religious affiliation now sitting on the Court (Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, Roberts, and Alito), and that it was their five votes that upheld the ban.

For anyone in doubt as to the significance of this, bear in mind that a similar law came before the Court seven years ago and was struck down.  The difference between this 5-to-4 decision and the 5-to-4 decision that went the other way is that Samuel Alito has replaced Sandra Day O'Connor on the bench.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, one of the dissenting votes and the lone remaining woman on the Court, noted that the court's reasoning "recalls ancient notions about women's place in society."

At stake here is not just a matter of legal rights, but who gets to decide what is right and wrong.  We cannot pretend that nine individuals can rule objectively, without influence from their own beliefs and perspectives.  What Kennedy Townsend was saying is that an institution can only speak with moral authority to those whose voices are represented.  As long as mainly men get to decide what women can and cannot do, this ruling may have legal standing, unfortunately, but it has no moral credibility.

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