Monday, July 26, 2010

CNN Reports on Immigration Equality

The story was actually very well done,  aside from one thing.  CCN just had to let  Maggie Gallagher,  the hateful troll from the National Organization for (some people's) Marriage  weigh in.  Since  Gallagher's marriage, (by her own admission),  is "less than perfect" she is apparently determined to wreck as many other people's lives as she can.

It is just sad that this bigoted little hate-monger claims  to be a Christian, and lives her life in complete contradiction  to the  good news of the Gospels.

An Amazing Day for the Lutheran Church

Yesterday afternoon, a packed sanctuary at St. Mark's Lutheran Church here in San Francisco witnessed an amazing event.

A group of seven Lutheran Pastors, all openly Gay or Lesbian who had been denied official recognition by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) were officially rostered, as called and ordained clergy in a "Rite of Reception" service.

In her opening remarks, St. Mark's, Pastor Elisabeth Ekdale welcomed the standing room only crowd saying; "We've been expecting you ! For about twenty years now...!" 

The special service was designed by the ELCA specifically to welcome Gay and Lesbian clergy who had been ordained under what was called the Extraordinary Candidacy Process.

The seven ministers welcomed at the ceremony on Sunday were already ordained and serving at churches or other ministries in the San Francisco Bay Area, but they had not been officially recognized on the ELCA clergy roster. Until now. (From the Extraordinary Candidacy Project website:)

"In 1990 two San Francisco Lutheran Churches, St. Francis and First United, defied the policy that prevented openly GLBT individuals from serving as pastors when they ordained a gay man and a lesbian couple. As a result the two churches were expelled from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). More than 20 years later: 18 pastors have been ordained in defiance of the church, 3 pastors were removed by trial and and countless others were denied the ability to serve openly as GLBT pastors in the Lutheran Church."

The first Pastor to be officially "received and reaffirmed" was Rev. Ross D. Merkel, the current pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Oakland, CA. Merkel was first openly Gay Pastor to be removed from the ELCA roster by ecclesiastical trial in 1994.

The event at St. Marks featured a sermon by Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber ,who is the founding pastor of House for All Sinners and Saints a Lutheran mission church in Denver Colorado. She is author of Salvation on the Small Screen? 24 Hours of Christian Television (Seabury 2008) a cultural commentary based on her experience of watching 24 consecutive hours of Trinity Broadcasting Network.   Her amazing remarks  nearly brought down the house.

The pastors were welcomed almost a year after the national assembly of the ELCA- voted to allow gay men and women, with partners, to serve as clergy members, making it the latest Protestant church to allow such ordinations. For those of us at St. Mark's it was an incredible honor to be able to host the service. Which featured clergy from all over the United States, and musical prelude featuring a wonderful performance by the Oakland Gay Men's Chorus.

There are some Lutheran churches that have decided to leave the ELCA as result of all of this. Some of the more conservative congregations feel they cannot be open and welcoming to LGBT Lutherans. While this is unfortunate, the crowd at St. Mark's didn't allow it to dampen any spirits.

The service on Sunday afternoon was a boisterous celebration of what has been a very long road for not just the seven Pastors recognized at St. Marks, but for all members of the ELCA who have worked for a more inclusive, fair and welcoming Church.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Audacity of Hope & The Reality of Fear

This past week America was privy to one of the biggest witch hunts  since the days of  colonial Salem.  A quiet  woman  named Shirley Sherrod, working at the  U.S. Department of  Agriculture  was hounded out of her job.  The reason?  A coordinated organized  group of  liars  made it happen.  Liars,  all of them.  Bald Faced Liars.

They  took video of a speech this woman gave,  chopped it up so it would look  like something  completely  the opposite to what it was.  Then used that video in  a deliberate attempt  to level a  charge of racism at  the President of the United States.  The goal?  To scare white voters ahead of this November's midterm elections.

The right wing website  Big Government dot com,  first ran the hacked up video,  which was cobbled together to make it look like  Sherrod, was admitting,  even bragging  about  not helping a white couple save their family farm  from  foreclosure,  some  twenty four years ago.    The owner of  the  Big Government blog  Andrew Breitbart saw this story has a chance to strike back against  the NAACP,  for calling out the "Tea Party" movement for its racist  elements.

FOX News  was  very eager to get  this story out and get it out loudly.   Having had  the Tea Party movement they helped create and constantly promote, exposed as having  a very  ugly racist  element to it.  Also  having  lost their most recent  "Breaking News!" story  about the   Obama  Justice Department protecting  radical  Black militants, in a  new Black Panther Party. When that story was exposed as made up nonsense.  With the Sherrod story,   Fox News was almost  giddy with  excitement.   Here FINALLY  was the "Smoking Gun" of  reverse  racism  by The Obama Administration  they had sought for so long..

The  story was a complete  lie.  Not one of the purported  facts  in the story was even remotely true.  But that didn't matter.  Just like with the supposed "Smoking Gun"  of  voter fraud by the non-profit group ACORN,   Fox News  grabbed the talking points for THIS new smoking gun and  RAN with  it at full speed.  

In response,   the  Obama Administration's Agriculture Department  quickly  fired Sherrod,  joining the  chorus  decrying  the overt racism on display in the heavily  edited video.   But not even a day and half later,   the story and Fox News/Breitbart narrative began to unravel.  As the dust  settles from this latest instance of  race baiting by the political right in this country,  a pattern has sadly emerged.

Rachel Maddow  has  the post-mortem.

It's hard to really  know who is worse,  the fools or the fools that followed them.   In this case the fools being  the  race baiting hacks  at FOX News  and  fools who followed them being,  sadly - the  Obama Administration. It is as if  the  Obama White House was  so  scared of  a right wing talking point of  Black favoritism  they accepted a completely  false, and  easily debunked story,  (all it would have taken is one phone call to the White family in question),  and took it at  face value.   

The sad truth here is  you can't  really blame FOX News.  They were just doing their  job.  They are not a  news organization  they are  a political  media arm of the  Republican Party.  It's their job to try to make President Obama look bad, even if they have to tell blatant  lies to do it.   It's  what  the talking heads on FOX are paid to do.    No,  the  real sad truth here  is how  the  Obama Administration  has  become a gutless, spineless  quivering  pile  of  political  timidity.   The audacity  of  hope has been chucked in favor of the expedience  of  whatever  will test well  with middle of the road focus groups. 

Real heath care reform. was  abandoned in hopes of  gaining one or two GOP votes, that never came  for what ended up being  mild insurance reform.   Real financial reform as been abandoned in the hope of  getting one or two  non existent GOP votes to extend unemployment benefits  to millions of Americans.    Who lost their jobs under the economic train wreck of the Bush Administration.   Real  advancement of civil rights in  America has been abandoned  out of  fear  of losing  midterm elections  by being painted as  "too pro gay" by bigots,  who are on their  third  and fourth  marriages. 

Now the latest  casualty of  cowardice  is nothing less than the truth.  Nobody in the Obama Adminstration  even thought  to  question  the accusations  against  Shirley Sherrod.  No one  in the White House thought to consider the source,  and maybe,  just maybe,  take a day,  one day  to  check and see if the story was even remotely  credible.  

There is a great scene in the movie  "The American President"  where  President  Andrew Shepherd , played  by Michael Douglas  finally  stands up to  the constant barrage of  right wing  attacks on  his  character.  Realizing  that  he had been   more focused on keeping his job as President , than doing  his job as President.  

We  truly do have  serious problems to solve, and  the  Republican Party and it's  noise machine over at FOX is not even remotely interested in solving them.   And the sad truth is they have successfully cowed  President Barack Obama into being too scared of losing his job,  to be able to effectively do his job.  The millions of Americans who voted  for hope and change  are left wondering  where the man they voted for has gone.  How many steps backward will  this administration allow itself  to be  bullied into,  before they have their  American President moment?   In tonight's  brilliant  special comment,  MNSBC's  Keith Oblermann  asks  the same question.

The Tea Party racists like  to say they "want their country back".   I'd settle for getting back the President I voted for.  

Sunday, July 18, 2010

NOM's Tour Bus for Bigotry Hits Snags Along its Way...

The "impressive clergyman" in the movie "The Princess Bride" put it best when he said "Marwiage is what bwings us togewer ... today!" The irony is, that in the early days of the twenty-first century, marriage and all the issues that surround it, are exactly what is tearing many of us apart.    

The self-proclaimed "National Organization for Marriage" (NOM) is a group founded by evangelical nutjob Maggie Gallagher.

Her partner in bigotry, Brian Brown has embarked an a "National Tour" taking the NOM-mobile to various cities to rally "tens of thousands" in support of  "traditional marriage."

The tour has managed in fact, to attract  tens of  people, not quite thousands. Our good friends over at JoeMyGod have been covering the massive non-crowds that have greeted the hate-mobile at its various stops.  Most recently the folks over at NOM, have been somewhat distressed that at most every stop they make, protesters in favor of marriage equality outnumber the NOM supporters by nearly 2 to 1. As a result they have been tweeting furiously about how militant gays are trying to deny them their first amendment rights.

This past week in Rhode Island,  the good people of Providence decided they were tired of hearing Brown attack their lives, their loves and their families. So the people there in Providence exercised their own first amemendment rights in telling NOM to pack up their hate and get it out of their state. Brian Brown at NOM apparently thinks the first Amendment only applies to him,  and is still stomping his widdle feet about it on twitter, facebook and on NOM's own website. Apparently NOM isn't happy that freedom of speech goes both ways.

In their fundraising email blasts leading up to this Tour-de-Farce, NOM pleaded for money citing the need to "Defend Traditional Marriage". First, let's debunk the idea that banning same sex marriage is "defending marriage." How is the fact that two people are allowed to live in a stable, monogamous legally protected and, I might add, legally binding relationship in ANY way a threat to society? How is anyone's marriage harmed or even threatened by this?

It isn't. You know that, I know that, everyone knows that. 

Saying that letting two people of the same gender get married would in anyway "redefine" the marriages of heterosexuals, is the same thing as saying that equal rights for racial minorities would "redefine" being white. That argument is a smoke screen and a scare tactic and not even the real issue.

Second, the idea that "activist judges" are rewriting our laws circumventing the democratic process. This also is nonsense, very easily packaged nonsense, soundbyte-ready nonsense, but still nonsense. If in 1860 you had put emancipation to a popular vote, it would have failed. If in 1960 you had but integration to a popular vote it would have failed. For that matter if in 1776 you had but independence to a popular vote it would have failed.

The reason we have a judicial branch is balance of powers, remember that one from social studies? It's funny how those who are so upset about judicial usurping of democracy, don't consider someone who wants to bring religion in the courtroom with the Ten Commandments to be an "activist judge." 

And as far as these judges being "un-elected" who appointed them? Elected officials did. So the idea that judges striking down discrimination is undemocratic just doesn't wash. But this also is not really the issue. So what is the real issue here? It's truth. Or more the lack of it, in this debate over marriage.

First we need to say to those who claim we need to "defend marriage." Fine, let's talk about divorce then. Let's talk about adultery, let's talk about illegitimacy. Any group that claims to be defending marriage that doesn't address these issues is a sham,  they are bigots solely interested in denying equal rights to gay and lesbian Americans. Nothing more.

If opponents to gay marriage are serious about defending this sacred institution, then Divorce, a far greater threat to marriage needs to be much harder to get and easier to prevent. Adultery, a far greater threat to marriage needs to punishable by criminal prosecution. Fines and perhaps even jail time. Anyone who has a child out of wedlock should then by law be forced to marry the other parent. Or if they are already married legally adopt the child. (Strom Thurmond has never been so lucky to be dead.)

It is time that we call the self-proclaimed defenders of marriage what they are.

There is no difference between those who say marriage is sacred and must be defended agains "gay attack", and those who said racial integration was a threat to America . Wearing a cross necklace and going on TV to say Gays and Lesbians are unfit to raise children is no different from wearing a white hood, and standing in front of a burning cross and saying "the darkies are coming for your daughters."

Saying America must be defended against a radical gay agenda, saying books and movies that portray gay and lesbians in a positive light are dangerous, saying the media is controlled by a "gay Mafia". This is no different from those who 70 years ago posted signs saying "Deutshe! Wach Auf! Kauf nicht bei Juden!" (Germans wake up! Don't buy from Jews!)

Government saying an entire group of people are a threat to our families, government saying who can and cannot get married or raise children. This is no different from a Senator's list of names of people who couldn't teach, or make movies or write books, or work in science, medicine or law. 

Attempts to legally create a second class citizen are not new. We have seem them before. They had different names though. The inquisition, Jim Crow, States Rights, Reich Racial Purity Laws, the blacklist.

It is time we call the people who are trying to do  this again, but to gays and lesbians what they really are. They are the inquisitors, they are the nazi brownshirts of Krystalnacht, they are the Klansmen of Mississippi burning, they are the dogs on the Edmund Pettus Bridge , they are Joe Mcarthy's committee.

They are an affront to everything our nation has ever stood for. They are completely un-American.

The the 'crusaders' of NOM are the modern day elders of Salem. This small group of people who would seek to take their religious beliefs and codify them into civil law, then force them on the rest of us.

They are the American Taliban.

And it is long past time we said so.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Monday, July 05, 2010

Independence Day Thoughts from London....

This is the second year in a row that I have celebrated the Fourth of July from the other side of the Atlantic Ocean in London. The city doesn't do much to mark the occasion. A few pubs will hang American flags out front in hopes of attracting wandering tourists. 

The American Military Memorial Chapel in Westminster Abbey gets a slightly larger number of visitors than usual. Other than that, it was just another Summer Sunday here in London.   

The day before on other hand was a different story, there were tens of thousands of people massed on the streets of central London Trafalgar Square was standing room only as various music acts and celebrities appeared on a stage and huge video monitors. As Eric and I made our way through the crowd I overheard one elderly American tourist ask her companion; "is all this for the Fourth of July?" Her friend replied she thought it must be. I didn't have the heart to tell them they had wandered into the middle of London's LGBT (Lesbian, Gay Bi-Sexual and Trans-gender) Pride celebration.

I will confess a certain ambivalence toward Pride celebrations in the U.S. this year. Part of it stems from the fact that I am in London partially by choice, and mostly by necessity. As travelling to the UK is far easier for me, than travelling to the US is for Eric. When I get asked at Heathrow Airport; "What is the purpose of your visit the UK?" I smile and say I am here to visit my Fiancé who is a UK Permanent Resident. At this point the UK Immigration officer invariably smiles and says; "that's nice, how long have you been engaged to her or him?"

Yes you read that correctly, they say "her or him". I smile and say how long I have known Eric and how long I will be staying in the UK on this visit. Often times I will get "congratulations", and once the immigration official who actually remembered me from my numerous other trips through Heathrow Passport Control, said; "tell Eric hello from us!"

It's amazing how the addition of that one little word "him", didn't cause the sky to fall on to the United Kingdom. Frogs didn't fall from the sky, the Earth didn't open up and spew lava all over Central London. At UK Border & Customs control, recognition of the dignity and equality of same sex couples is as ordinary as asking if you have any taxable good to declare.

Meanwhile over on the other side of the Atlantic the very idea that Same Sex couples might deserve the same BASIC civil rights and protections as everyone else is a subject of more debate than proposal to declare independence from Great Britain provoked back in 1776.

Fast forward to 2010, for the Republican Party and the "Tea Party Movement" they have manufactured,  the idea that Gay and Lesbian Americans (who pay the same taxes as everyone else yet are denied the same basic civil rights) might be allowed to get married, is tantamount to the world coming to an end.

So the GOP demands that the United States continue to cling to a law that prevents any recognition of Same Sex couples by the Federal Government. Of course I am talking about the ridiculously mis-named "Defense of Marriage Act." (DOMA) It provides the legal excuse for the United States to discriminate against us and over 40,000 bi-national same sex couples just like us.

The Republican "tea baggers" have a problem with me wanting to get married. It is the fact that the person I love has the audacity to be the same gender as I am. Now if Eric was female then Uncle Sam would give us his blessing no questions asked. I would be able to sponsor my fiancé for permanent residency in the U.S. and my government ( that I support through my taxes), would beam it's approval down upon us both. But the fact that Eric is a man just as I am, means that as far as my government is concerned , our relationship doesn't even exist.

All this despite the clear promises my President has made to the contrary.

So on this  Independence  Day  weekend,  as I  look back  across the Atlantic, I see an  irrational  fixation  by  Conservatives  to deny me and  millions of Americans  like me  the same basic  right  to  the  "pursuit  of happiness " they  claim to hold so  dear.  

Here in London I see  the  Armed Forces  of  Great Britain marching  proudly in London's  LBGT Pride parade  and instead of  the hysterical cries of  lunatic  homophobes,  I heard the  boisterous  cheers of  pride and support from tens of  thousands of  Londoners.

Now,  I really don't  want to leave my country.   Unlike  Sarah Palin and the scared gullible bigots that  hang on her every sad pathetic twitter posting,  I  really do  believe  that the  greatness of  the Unites States lies in our diversity.  "E Pluribus  Unum" - Out of Many , One.    Yet  for me to do something as basic as get married to the person I love,  I have to do just that.   Leave my country.

So I am moving to the United Kingdom.  Because unlike in 1776, in 2010 it is the people of Great Britain who have more civil rights and greater freedom than Americans do.  Unlike in 1776, in 2010 it is the American Government, not the British Crown,  that subjects its people to unfair taxation without representation.  Unlike in 1776, it is The United States of America that has politicians  seeking to preserve a status quo of inequality and treats groups of its own citizens unfairly.

In 2010,  the only quote by Thomas Jefferson  the  Republicans like to remember is the one about  'watering  the tree of liberty with the blood of tyrants.'  Everything else Jefferson said on human rights, and the innate dignity of every person,  they like to forget.

In 2010  the  Republican Party and  "tea bagger" monster it has created  have abandoned John Adams' vision of America  as  the beacon of freedom for the world.  Instead,  they have a  scared, narrow vision of  America as  a place of freedom  only for some.  Everyone else, (especially if your skin happens to be a darker hue,  or worse, you  don't worship their idea of God in the way they prescribe ),  is suspect and therefore "un-American".

I look across the Atlantic  and I see  a country  which remains  determined  to treat me and the person I love  as something less than equal.   A country  that  gives credence to lunatics who claim that granting me the same basic civil rights as everyone else would bring about  nothing less than the destruction of the country and possibly even the world.  

How do you respond to that kind of  irrational hatred?

I can't help but wonder  what  John Adams would now think of  the nation he helped start .  He probably  would still be asking the question he asked back in  1776.  The same question I am asking as I look across the Atlantic and see  the Republican Party, a  party I once supported, allow itself  to become the standard bearer for  hatred, racism, xenophobia  and  bigotry;  Is anybody there?   Does  anybody care?.  Does anybody see,  what  I see?

When I hear clueless ignorant wingnuts, in their opposition to marriage equality say; "Same sex couples can draft contracts that give them the same rights as everybody else. We don't need to repeal DOMA, it's hard not to throw things at the t.v. Same sex couples in the U.S. are anything BUT equal.

So unless President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party suddenly grow a spine and decide to keep all those wonderful promises about equality they made back in 2008, I am am stuck choosing between love or country. After years of a trying to make a long distance relationship work, the choice has been made very clear.   So  as I waved my American Flag in Central London yesterday,  I  was all the while  acutely  aware  of  what  I must do to have those inalienable rights to  "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness."   Country must lose.

Happy Independence Day everyone.

Dave & Eric.

Sunday, July 04, 2010


Or as they refer to  here in London  "Good Riddance Day"