Thursday, December 4, 2008


My good friend, Don Charles has written a superb article that he has kindly allowed me to reprint here. It's also posted on his excellent blog entitled, Christ, The Gay Martyr.

The following is his article, SAVE THE COUNTRY, that hits the nail on the head when it comes to the major issue, the very foundations of our Democratic Republic and our Constitution, that circumscribes the acquisition of LGBT civil rights, and it deserves both careful reading as well as the widest possible exposure and distribution in and through as many venues as possible.

I sincerely hope that you will forward this thoughtful, incisive, and erudite article of his to as many people, blogs, and websites as possible. A large part of the psychological and political empowerment of LGBT people, and the eventual acquisition of full and equal LGBT civil rights, will ultimately hinge on taking to heart and implementing the insights he provides in this article!


This article is written by Don Charles:


For the benefit of LGBT folk who know little or nothing about Christianity (and there are quite a few of you out there), here, taken from Scripture, is a parallel between the treatment of Jesus Christ thousands of years ago and our treatment in modern times.

LUKE 23: 1-5, 13-24:
Then the assembly rose as a body and brought Jesus before Pilate (the governor). They began to accuse Him, saying: "We found this man perverting our nation . . . saying that He Himself is the Messiah, a king." Then Pilate asked Him, "Are you the King of the Jews?" He answered: "You say so." Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds: "I find no basis for an accusation against this man." But they were insistent and said: "He stirs up the people by teaching . . ."

Pilate then called together the chief priests, the leaders and the people, and said to them: "You brought me this man as one who was perverting the people, and here I have examined Him in your presence and have not found this man guilty of any of your charges against Him . . . He has done nothing to deserve death. (But) they all shouted together, "Away with this fellow! Release Barabbas for us!" (This was a man who had been put in prison . . . for murder.)

Pilate, wanting to release Jesus, addressed them again, but they kept shouting" "Crucify, crucify Him!" A third time he said to them: "Why? What evil has He done? I have found in Him no ground for the sentence of death. I will therefore have Him flogged, and then release Him." But they kept urgently demanding with loud shouts that He should be crucified, and their voices prevailed. So Pilate gave his verdict that their demand should be granted. He released the man they asked for . . . and he handed Jesus over as they wished.

Like Jesus Christ, we speak and live the truth of our lives. Like Jesus Christ, we are condemned for telling our truth. We are told that we spread perversion. We are judged for transgressions that our enemies fail to articulate convincingly. Like Jesus Christ, we are found blameless by a judiciary (state Supreme Courts). The judiciary sees no wrong in what we do (seek legal recognition of our committed relationships). Like Jesus Christ, we then stand by and watch the judiciary cave in to political cowardice. We see judges abdicate their duty as jurists and throw our fates to a hostile electorate. If nothing else, this infamous incident shows how outrageously unethical putting justice up for popular vote is. Anyone can see that Jesus Christ was railroaded. We’re being railroaded, too! And the worst part of it is, we’re helping to steer the train.

Why do we validate ballot initiatives designed to legally marginalize us? For the past decade, we've suffered the passage of "marriage protection" amendments in state after state, all bankrolled by religious denominations who are as hostile to us as the Hebrew hierarchy was to Jesus Christ. (Don't doubt that many of them would eagerly impose the death penalty on us if they could!) We decry these evil campaigns to disenfranchise us of our citizenship rights, but at the same time, we lend them credibility by launching counter-campaigns.

We decide that voting on marriage equality as if it were a proposed tax increase is a perfectly acceptable thing to do, as long as we win! We don’t win, but we still play the game. We willingly play a political crap game with our dignity that we're certain to lose. What other outcome could there be, given centuries of superstition and misinformation about Gay identity? Not to mention daily reinforcement of such ignorance by modern religious ideologues? Jesus Christ had good reason for playing a losing game: The salvation of humankind. What’s our excuse?

After these odious ballot initiatives inevitably pass (twenty-nine so far), some of us get to brag about having added another high-profile political fight to our activist resumes. That's an awfully shabby consolation prize, though! How much good have we really done? Did we stand tall and give our enemies a tooth-and-claw fight to the finish (the lily-livered "No on 8" campaign in California would not be a good example), or have we once again allowed them to trick us into wasting our money and resources? More important, have we sacrificed democratic values to a panicked, tunnel vision focus on marriage equality at the State level?

We don't seem to know what privileges American citizenship entitles us to. We beg for legal protections that are actually guaranteed to us in our country's founding documents! If you don't believe me, you don't have to take my word for it. View the evidence for yourself.

Exhibit A: Article IV, Section Two of the United States Constitution, adopted 17 September 1787:

The citizens of each State shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States.

This rule invalidates the federal Defense of Marriage Act! States cannot choose which citizenship rights from other States they will or will not honor.

Exhibit B: The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, ratified 9 July 1868:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

The language of this amendment underscores the illegality of Proposition 8 and other "marriage protection" ballot initiatives! States are prohibited from cutting certain citizens off from the right to marry, file joint tax returns, adopt children, etcetera.

Exhibit C: Excerpt from the Declaration of Independence, signed 4 July 1776:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.

A long train of abuses and usurpations . . . I think 29 "marriage protection" amendments to State constitutions meet that definition, don't you? Not to mention the ban on Gay people serving openly in the US military, bans on Gay people working for church-affiliated agencies and businesses, bans on students forming Gay-themed clubs in public schools, bans on Gay people adopting or foster-parenting children, and various laws that forbid "promoting homosexuality" . . . whatever the Hell that means! At last count, forty States retained some kind of anti-Gay legislation on their books. All of it violates the Constitution.

The excerpt from the Declaration of Independence that you see here, still startling in its boldness after 230 years, gives us the right as American citizens to challenge the validity of our government if it denies us basic human rights. Take a moment to absorb the full impact of what it says. The founders placed such high value on life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness that they all but advocated government overthrow in the absence of same! Such unabashed militancy on behalf of democratic values is hard to find today, especially in LGBT circles. Do we actually need to see the words “Gay”, “Lesbian”, “bisexual” or “transgender” written down in order to realize that we're included within the scope of this paragraph?

Right now, the Gay blogosphere is filled with talk about how we should emphasize “outreach” to Straight minority voters and other culturally conservative communities. The idea is that we must do a better job of selling ourselves and our issues to the public. Oh, please! What are we supposed to be . . . ward politicians? I'm not running for office, I just want to be treated fairly! Why on Earth should we lobby Straight America for rights already guaranteed us as citizens? Why do we beg their permission to live as equals? Why don’t we simply demand our constitutional rights, as did the bus boycotters, sit-in students and racial equality marchers whose mantle we claim to have taken up? African-American Civil Rights activists didn’t win the support of White southern racists. They earned their respect! Do we honestly think we can earn the respect of bigots by presenting a shamefaced response to their bigotry?

A lot of people criticized San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom for sounding too defiant in a “No on 8” campaign commercial. He told California voters that, whether they liked it or not, the time had come for marriage equality. Too defiant? Compared to what? Would that most of us could be even half as defiant as he was! If conservatives get offended by strident denunciation of discriminatory public policy, tough t*tty! Lord knows, they've offended us often enough. Mayor Newsom's righteous indignation inspires me and reminds me of Rosa Parks. When she refused to give up her bus seat to a White man in 1955, she demanded of the policemen who arrested her: “Why do you push us around?” She put herself at risk of a beating, but she was too angry to care.

Years later, she reflected: “It’s not that I was fed up (that day). I was fed up all my life, as far back as I can remember, with being treated as less than a free person . . . as long as we continued to comply with these rules and regulations that kept us crushed down as a people, then the power structure would always say: ‘Well, they are not complaining, and they accept this, so they are satisfied with it.” Mrs. Parks wasn’t satisfied! Mrs. Parks was cheesed off! Mrs. Parks felt entitled to equal treatment as an American citizen, and she wasn't shy about saying so.

Neither are the Black, Latino and Asian advocacy groups who have filed Friend Of The Court briefs on behalf of Lambda Legal, the ACLU and others who are challenging the legality of Proposition 8. Per Reuters News Agency reporter Pete Henderson, one of those briefs reads as follows: "The entire purpose behind the constitutional principle of equal protection would be subverted if the constitutional protection of unpopular minorities were subject to simple majority rule. This case is not simply about Gay and Lesbian equality. The history of California demonstrates with sobering clarity the potential for disfavored minorities to be subjected to oppression by hostile majorities." Indeed, it does; the mass internment of Japanese Americans during World War II immediately springs to mind. (Wouldn't it be ironic if the same groups some Lesbians and Gay men are blaming for Prop 8's passage end up supplying the legal arguments that convince California's Supreme Court to reverse it?)

Let me clear up a misconception here, one that has been given currency by a host of misguided Gay bloggers and op-ed writers: It is not necessary for a majority of Americans to approve of equal rights for LesBiGay citizens in order for us to exercise those rights! When women won the right to vote in 1920, did the majority of men approve? I seriously doubt it! And I know for a fact most White people weren’t thrilled when the Civil Rights Act passed Congress in July of 1964; White backlash against that legislation partially explains why the Republican Party took control of our southern States in subsequent decades. As long as Pat Robertson and his ilk are allowed to ply their Bible-based heterosexism openly, we will continue being vilified by a sizable number of our fellow citizens. This doesn’t mean that their hatred will always be reflected in the laws that govern us. As proof, just look at current realities for women, Latinos and African-Americans. Social progress can and does occur despite lingering prejudice.

It’s not group popularity that wins struggles like ours. It’s perseverance! If you really believe your cause is just, then you won’t let legal or political setbacks stifle your activism. You use the courts whenever possible, civil disobedience whenever necessary, and you press your issue constantly until you achieve your goal or something close to it. The incremental victories of the anti-abortion movement ought to teach us that much; three decades ago, the odds were stacked against "pro-life" activists, too! The level of tenacity they've demonstrated is something we should strive to match. Too many of us act as if LGBT equality isn’t worth having unless we can get it with relative ease. Duh! If it were easy to get, then it wouldn’t be worth having! Freedom is never easy to get. We can't lobby ourselves into full equality, and political candidates can't deliver it to us on a silver platter. We need to get serious, and get real! A successful civil rights crusade requires an awful lot of time and effort and courage.

Courage is what we’ll need most when the next batch of “marriage protection” ballot measures come down the pipe. We must have the courage not to respond as we have in the past. We must have the courage not to mount another no-on-whatever campaign. We must resist the urge to join the political crap shoot that’s stacked against us. We must boycott the vote on principle! What principle? The one that the aforementioned Black, Latino and Asian organizations articulated in their legal brief: Citizenship rights cannot be voted up or down! This is something that, theoretically, even those who oppose marriage equality can relate to. I'm not saying we should sit at home on our butts and veg out in front of the TV while hetero-bigots target us. Not at all! We must make withholding our votes a cause celèbre, complete with media blitzes, press conferences and protest rallies. Not only that, we must urge our Straight allies to withhold their votes, too (especially our Straight allies of faith). What will happen? No doubt the ballot measures will pass, but that was likely to happen in any event. This time, we won’t have squandered our resources in vain. Instead, we can put those resources behind ballot initiatives of our own design (tax rebates for disenfranchised minority groups, perhaps?) and the very necessary court challenges to these exclusionary amendments.

Right Wing hissy fits over “activist judges” notwithstanding, the courts are exactly where this fight should be waged. That’s where the odds are more in our favor. It’s high time that we viewed marriage equality as the federal, constitutional issue it always has been. I know some Gay Rights attorneys are apprehensive about doing that, but even they acknowledge that this issue will inevitably end up at the federal level. We can’t be afraid to go there! To be sure, Supreme Courts don't always live up to their mandate of dispensing justice; it's painfully obvious that the constitutional protections I cited earlier haven't been fully enforced. Given the partisan justices two George Bushes have seated, we could very well come out on the losing end of an important lawsuit.

However, American history shows how a loss at the federal level doesn't necessarily spell defeat; such a loss can be turned to a movement’s advantage. The Dred Scott vs. Sanford decision (1857) was a devastating setback for the anti-slavery movement. It defined Black slaves as chattel instead of human beings. Yet the outrage it sparked among Northern abolitionists lit a white-hot flame under their crusade. That flame raged into a horrible Civil War, and a President was assassinated, but America emerged from the carnage a more just nation; the Thirteenth Amendment, passed in 1865, finally outlawed the American slave trade. Sometimes, it takes an injustice most glaring, like a Dred Scott decision or a Prop 8 passage, to set the stage for positive change. Good can eventually come from bad, provided the bad is bad enough!

"This case is not simply about Gay and Lesbian equality." So true! What's more, marriage rights for Gay people aren’t the most important concern here. We should be far more concerned about our democracy, and the way these unconstitutional ballot initiatives eat away at its inclusive definition. That doesn't mean LesBiGay issues aren't central to this matter; they absolutely are. Homosexual love is no longer a criminal offense, yet those of us who practice it are still being punished! Punished, I hasten to add, in the absence of indictment or jury trial, which violates yet another constitutional protection. Therein lies the core injustice of anti-Gay ballot questions: They are a means of skirting the judicial branch of government, of re-criminalizing people who've been exonerated. In other words, we’re getting the same kind of "justice" Jesus Christ got prior to being crucified! It's hard to imagine a more appalling abuse of the electoral process, and of the United States Constitution.

As my excerpts from our nation's founding documents prove, the Constitution is where Gay Rights protections lie. This fight isn’t about adding them, but affirming them, and mandating their enforcement. Any attempt to weaken our Constitution threatens those inherent protections. Such attempts deserve the vigorous and concerted opposition of every patriotic American, regardless of ethnic background, religious affiliation, political persuasion, sexual orientation or gender identity. Let's face it: When polling places are used to express animosity between groups of citizens in the form of punitive laws, it's not just unpopular minorities that need saving from society's worst impulses. It's the whole country that needs saving!
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