Friday, July 8, 2011

Not a bad day for news, all things considered

Yesterday morning the papers were full of gay related news items, one quite ridiculous, and the rest positively sublime. Just got around to catching up with it all.

To start with the ridiculous, there is the sad tale of the good intentions of New York State Assemblyman Joseph Lentol. Assemblyman Lentol, who represents Brooklyn’s 5th District, decided to give fifty bucks to his church. To Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish School, to be precise. The money was returned. Not that the school is rolling in dough, mind you. Even though Lentol is a parishoner at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel parish, he is also is one of the guys who voted for same-sex marriage rights in New York this past month, and Brooklyn’s Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio says he doesn’t want his money.

You’ve got to wonder where the line is on this sort of thing. Pepsi-Cola rots the teeth and guts of millions of children around the world each year. But you can bet your bippy when they gave five million bucks to Save the Children last year, Save the Children didn’t send the check back.

Maybe if Bishop DiMarzio were running Save the Children he would have.

What an image we get of the catholic church these days. Maggie Gallagher and Brian Brown of the catholic front organization, the grossly misnamed National Organization for Marriage (NOM) are on their way to jail, if there is any justice. And a bishop punishing one of his parishoners for following his conscience and making a decision the majority of American Catholics would agree is the right one. Oh, and by the way, not only is Lentol’s money no longer welcome in the parish, Lentol isn’t either.

Fortunately, the likes of Bishop DiMarzio are losing their grip on the church, as an editorial in the National Catholic Reporter two days ago reveals. And the NCR is hardly a lone voice, as a marvelously articulate Catholic theologian I’ve been following has demonstrated.

And now for the sublime.

I’ll just list them as I found them. They’re all so good there’s no point in trying to rank them.

First off, Alan Colmes is spreading the good news of the work of that heroic Republican, Fred Karger, who is running for president. Never mind the oxymoron you get when heroic is followed by Republican. Have a look at what Karger is up to.

It’s not surprising to find a Republican with money. What is very satisfying, though, is to find one putting it to such good use in fighting for dignity and equality, and against the goals of NOM. More on Fred Karger in a minute.

The loss of Proposition 8 in California was heavy and some of us have been down in the dumps about it the past couple of years. Now, it turns out, there may be an unexpected silver lining and a delicious irony here. Apparently, the failure of gays to hold on to their rights in a public referendum, even though the courts, the legislature and the majority of Californians were behind them, demonstrated to the court that there was just cause to see gays as a group without a lot of power – and that helped weigh the legal argument in favor of treating gay rights cases at the level of “strict scrutiny,” which made it easier to demonstrate discrimination.

This didn’t slow down the folks at NOM, of course. They went right to work fronting once again for the Official Catholic Church – in Maine this time – to sponsor another misinformation campaign, and once again, they were successful. Maine gays and lesbians lost their opportunity to marry.

And this is where Fred Karger comes in. Fred fired up an effort to reveal the money laundering practices of NOM which led to an active investigation by the state’s Attorney General and the Maine Ethics Commission. If these folks make the case against NOM, Maggie Gallagher and Brian Brown of NOM could actually end up in prison. Not a shoo-in case, unfortunately, because the state would have to demonstrate their intent to break the law when they decided not to report where they got the $1.9 million they used to fight marriage equality in Maine in November 2009. Maine still has an election law which requires donors reveal themselves, you see. Maggie and Brian work better in the dark and have sued the state of Maine to let their donors remain anonymous. I haven't read the catechism cover to cover, but I can't find lack of transparency in the index.

Maggie and Brian have also sued 23 states to invalidate all of their election laws requiring transparency in donations to causes, and are now threatening to spend $2 million to defeat the four Republican State Senators in New York who voted for gay marriage just now. Assemblyman Lentol, if these sharks have their way, may have been just an appetizer.

They are on thin ground, actually. Fred Karger filed complaints in California after Prop. 8 went through and that led to the Mormon Church being slapped with 13 counts of election fraud. Apparently some 70% of the money to decide the fate of Californians came directly from Mormon church folk in Utah at the behest of their church leaders. And it gets better. Today it appears they have been shot down again, this time in Minnesota.

As Fred says, look at it this way. If Maggie and Brian lose on gay marriage, they can always turn their attention to the growing divorce rate, something famously missing from their “save marriage” efforts to keep people from marrying.

Next, I caught PBS’s Talk of the Nation in progress while I made a quick run to the post office. Moderator Neal Conan was interviewing New York Times writer, David Coleman, about his new book on "coming out." I missed the intro, so I assumed he was talking about being gay. After a minute or two, I realized they were talking about a book he had just written about coming out as a member of AA.

The problem is that he broke the rule that members of AA adhere to strict anonymity, and Coleman was defending his actions by making the point that a) he wasn't outing anybody else - just himself, and b) this rule made sense when the shame of being labeled an alcoholic was severe. Now, increasingly, it's being considered a medical problem, as is mental illness, and "coming out" actually improves the chance of success in overcoming alcoholism, because you get community support when you do.

“This is a little like gay was, not so long ago,” says Coleman. “I’m a gay man too, and I’m very out about that.”

While being an alcoholic is a negative, being a recovering alcoholic is a very positive thing in the culture these days, and the interesting part of this whole thing is that coming out as gay is now the model that is taken for granted as a plus, a nice example of how “gay = OK” has arrived in the culture and found a safe home.

Then, back at the computer, I came across the happy fact that the Justice Department may actually have meant what they said when they agreed to act on the assumption that DOMA was unconstitutional. They just filed a brief in San Francisco federal court on behalf of a woman demanding insurance benefits for her wife. DOMA says no. The Justice Department says DOMA shows “animus” toward gays – there is no other federal benefit to anti-gay legislation – and thus it should go. And don’t forget that judiciary hearing coming up of “S.598, The Respect for Marriage Act: Assessing the Impact of DOMA on American Families." introduced by Dianne Feinstein in March. It already has 25 Senate co-sponsors.

There’s more. Next came the news that a federal court issued the order we’ve all been waiting for for years, that Don't Ask/Don't Tell law should now be fully rescinded and there must be no more expulsions from the military on the grounds of homosexuality. Even though Congress rescinded the law last year, it has taken this long to get the courts on board, apparently. But the time has come. Maybe. It turns out there’s another appeal possible. But it would have to be pursued by the Pentagon, and that is not considered likely, since the Defense Department has already announced it will not pursue DADT cases. Once the Pentagon says it’s time, then the military still has 60 more days to implement it and it’s done done done. Twenty years ago already, retired Colonel Margarete Cammermeyer came out. Come September, we should be in line with the 90% of the military who, when polled, avowed they couldn’t care less.

Not a bad day, all things considered.


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