Marriage Equality: About Damn Time

The Court may go this way or that, but finally, the country seems to be on the right path. 

As many of you may have noticed this week, Facebook was flooded by a wave of digitized Rothkoesque profile pictures in support of marriage equality as two pivotal cases make their way through the Supreme Court, challenging the governments’ ban (California – Prop 8) and non-recognition (federal – DOMA) of same sex marriages.

The hater inside of me initially thought about the silliness of reducing a civil rights issue to a social media profile image. What difference would it make? I doubt I was alone in dismissing the value of the trend. In spite of my own cynicism, I changed my profile and was hit with a feeling I had not felt since November 2008 – another instance in which I scoffed at (yet publicly supported) a national campaign that was unforeseeable just a few years earlier.

SC Supreme Court Facebook

Nearly five years later, Continue reading “Marriage Equality: About Damn Time”

Catholic Clergy, Catholic Laity – Part 3

This is the third and final post in the Catholic series. In the first post we profiled a few individuals who were standing up to the Vatican. Then we took a look at a couple of organizations whose mission it is to reform the Catholic Church. Today we delve into the most general of categories – the whole of the 80 million or so Catholics in the United States.

“Let’s just agree to disagree and sit politely for the photo”.

For the past week, I have argued that there is a disconnect between mainstream Catholic America and the Church’s leaders, but it’s easy to claim that Catholics are liberal, conservative or whatever else.  Today I back it up with some evidence. I’ll try not to be so dry in my language but that’s the nature of such data. Here’s the disconnect on several contentious issues.

Abortion

The Church is clear on its position that life begins at conception and that abortion is always evil. On abortion, American Catholics are divided, much like non-Catholic America. Whereas only 40% of Catholics find abortion to be morally acceptable (2009 Gallup), about half wish to keep it legal in all or most cases (2008 Pew). Both figures mirror the feelings of non-Catholic Americans. Abortion is probably the only major issue where even half of American Catholics are in line with Vatican teachings – this still means that half are opposed to it. The Gallup poll mentioned above also found that an overwhelming majority of Catholics supported medical research using human embryonic stem cells, which the Vatican categorically opposes.

Contraception  Continue reading “Catholic Clergy, Catholic Laity – Part 3”

99 Problems, but Gay Marriage Ain’t One

The ham-fisted view that African Americans oppose gay marriage is narrow-minded and fails to capture a dynamic cultural evolution.

For the longest time we have been told that the Black community strongly opposes marriage equality, aka “gay marriage”. Since President Obama’s announcement  of his support nearly three weeks ago, a surprising number of prominent members of the Black community have come forward with similar sentiments.

On May 19, the NAACP (perhaps the most prominent civil rights organization in the country) endorsed marriage equality. On May 23rd, Colin Powell did the same. But the most powerful and bravest (by far) comments came from the hip-hop world, in which homophobia and blatant anti-gay hatred is rampant and often celebrated. Here’s the biggest man in the industry.

This fits into Jay-Z’s effort to clean up his image following his marriage to the nontarnishable Beyoncé and the birth of their daughter Blue Ivy. The following, I did not see coming. 

50’s views on the issue aren’t perfect (like many straight men, he is afraid of the legions of gay men that desire him), but hey, it’s a sign of progress and a testament to how far the country has come. So how did we get to our current view of the Black community and gay rights anyway? Surely, the polls contain at least a grain of truth, but it misses the larger picture.

A major reason is that so many of the country’s Black leaders are members of the clergy, who are disproportionately against same sex marriage. Until the President’s feelings were made public, there has been a great deal of silence on the issue, except among the pastors – and we assumed that the rest of the community felt the same way. Consider the Catholic Church for instance – whereas the clergy are among the most vocal opponents, the laity are, among Christians at least, among the most tolerant and supportive. Just wait until more prominent Blacks come out in support, just as Catholics have.

The Black community, like the President, will evolve its stance on LGBT rights and acceptance. Until now, no one has had an honest discussion with them about it.

Obama Endorses Marriage Equality

After years of evolving his position on the issue, Obama has become the first sitting President to support same-sex marriage.

For many this is an announcement that has been years in the making. When Obama stated during the 2008 campaign that he believed in traditional marriage, but that gay and lesbian couples should be treated fairly and equally, most of his supporters thought of it as a wink wink campaign tactic to win over those Americans who were opposed to or unsure about gay marriage. At the same time, his detractors thought of this as a wink wink campaign tactic to win over those Americans who were opposed to or unsure about gay marriage.

Almost four years later, the expectations of his supporters and the fears of his detractors have been actualized. Last night’s announcement came on the heels of Vice President Biden’s blunt (as always) statement supporting gay marriage last Sunday.

Many were quick to attribute the Veep’s comments as yet another gaffe. Now, however, it seems as if it was all part of some tactical plan to publicize the matter in advance of the big announcement. Well, here it is.

2012 has seen the issue of same-sex marriage rise to the forefront of political discourse and legislation. In February, Washington and Maryland became the 7th and 8th state, respectively, (in addition to D.C.) to legally recognize marriage equality. And yet, earlier this week, North Carolina became the 30th state in the country to explicitly ban gay marriage. It might seem like a losing battle for marriage equality supporters, but a slew of polls (here, here, here, here and here) have shown that, for the first time in history, more Americans support same-sex marriages than oppose it.

I give no major props to the President because I think he feigned confusion and adopted his evolving position to avoid taking a firm position earlier. But then again, had he taken a stand in 2008, he might not have been here to make this one in 2012.

Sex and Politics around the World

Owing to positive feedback from the previous article review post, I decided to do it again. This week’s article, The Bedroom State, was published in Foreign Policy in the May/June 2012 issue. The article provides examples of governments all over the world that are actively trying to promote, prevent and influence various types of sexual activity. The examples are far from exhaustive and has an air of Western condescension, but is interesting nonetheless. If you have any other examples of your own, feel free to share them in the comments section below.

Selective-sex abortions

Across Asia, a combination of social policy, modern technology, prejudice and economic incentives are compelling parents to abort millions of unwanted female fetuses. The problem is most notable in India, where the use of ultrasound to determine sex is technically illegal, and China, where decades of the one-child policy have encouraged families to keep aborting until they get a son. Hundreds of millions of bachelors unable to find a suitable partner spells disaster.

Sex-change operations

I never would have guessed that Iran is home to the second highest number of sex-change operations in the world. More than two decades ago, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa authorizing the practice for “diagnosed transsexuals”. Since then, many young gay men have resorted to such surgeries in order to legally have relations with men – keep in mind that homosexuality is punishable by death in Iran. According to Hojatol Islam Muhammad Mehdi Kariminia, the cleric responsible for sex reassignment, a sex change is no more sinful than “changing wheat to flour to bread.” This would be funny if it weren’t so tragic.

Paying people to stop AIDS

In Malawi, where more than one in ten people are HIV positive, people were paid to get tested.  The cash incentives increased the number of people getting tested. “This makes a significant difference because sexually active, HIV-positive people who know their status are three times more likely to purchase condoms and thus prevent the further spread of the disease.” Another study posits that young women, who were randomly selected to receive between $1 and $5 per month, were more likely to attend school and avoid sex with older men. Throwing money at a problem may help after all.

How driving destroys virginity

The Saudi government famously bans women from driving, arguing that permitting such mobility would constitute an “end of virginity”. Women drivers would apparently “provoke a surge in prostitution, pornography, homosexuality, and divorce” and lead to a serious shortage of virgins in the kingdom – Allah forbid.

Cash (and refrigerators) for babies

Russia, which is experiencing one of the most dramatic population declines in the world, has opted to pay people to have kids. For a while, the government was paying women almost $10,000 to have a second child and President/Prime Minister/President again Putin has pledged over $53 billion to boost birthrates. In one province, the government encouraged all employers to give a “family communication” holiday to facilitate the baby making, 9 months before Russia Day. Those lucky women who were able to deliver on Russia Day were awarded various prizes including fridges, washing machines and…a new car!!!

Boobs? No thanks

The only country experiencing a more dramatic population implosion than Russia is Japan where a new term, herbivore, has come to denote the sexually indifferent young men who are more concerned with fashion and hobbies than women and career. And given that the Japanese hate immigration more than the Tea Party, the population decline is more pronounced there than probably anywhere else.

Catholicism, machismo and marriage equality

In 2010, Argentina became the first Latin American Country to recognize and perform same-sex marriages. Since then there has been a competition among the region’s tourist hubs to attract LGBT clientele. Mexico City has also legalized same-sex marriages but Rio de Janeiro can boast that a quarter of all its tourists are gay.

State sponsored matchmaking

If you would have guessed that the uptight government of Singapore would be a bad facilitator of institutional romance, you would be correct. The government’s efforts to promote marriage and families through dances, wine tastings, cooking courses, cruises, and romantic movie screenings have failed. According to the CIA World Fact Book, Singapore has the lowest fertility rate in the world.

The great firewall

We already know that the Chinese government is active in blocking Facebook, Youtube, Google Maps and so many other sites on the internet, but they are also active in preventing online pornography. So much so that the state offers cash rewards to informants who rat out agents of online pornographic material. Interestingly, on the anniversary of the Tienanmen protests of 1989, tens of thousands of porn sites were unblocked. I suppose a lot of frustrated young men stayed indoors that day.

A Muslim King of England or Female Pope?

Both the Papacy and Monarchy are outdated and have a rich history of absurdity. Vote on which one will take that next big step. 

So I was making fun of the British royal family as I normally do when I started playing devil’s advocate with myself. As a Catholic, I too am a member of an ancient institution that has a knack for alienating its own subjects/adherents.

I am a republican. Not in the sense of the American party, but in that I am an anti-royalist. The idea that a certain group of people, by accident of history and bloodline can formally and legally hold themselves in a higher authority than others is absurd. Such practices are fundamentally at odds with our modern principles of humanity. But then why do I keep receiving communion and bowing my head to priests when I know they are also part of and exclusive club that needs to open up? I suppose tradition and heritage do matter. I’ll go so far as to say that I will tolerate any person’s fondness for the Monarchy in their country – the rest of you fans are just silly.

How can the King or Queen possibly have legitimacy in a Britain that is increasingly non-white and non-Christian? What will happen if whites or Christians should ever become the minority? How can the Catholic Church even claim to be universal (that’s actually the definition of the word catholic) when more than half of its adherents are automatically second class citizens at birth? I thought it most prudent to push this to the hypothetical extreme:

Leave your comments ↓below↓

Washington Achieves Marriage Equality

Washington becomes the 7th state to recognize same-sex marriages. All eyes now turn to New Jersey, which may soon become the 8th.

On Monday, Washington Governor, Chris Gregoire, signed into law, the bill to recognize same-sex marriages, making the state the 7th in the country to achieve marriage equality. Opponents of the new law have already vowed to collect signatures to initiate a referendum that would seek to overturn it. As was the case in New York, the passing of the bill in the state assembly required the support of several Republican legislators who expressed their own personal and impassioned reasons for supporting the bill.

On the same day, the New Jersey State Senate passed a bill legalizing same-sex marriages. Republican Governor Chris Christie has already vowed to veto any such bill that comes to his desk because he feels that such an important decision should be made directly by the people via referendum. Basically, Christie is saying that he knows his party is on the wrong side of history, but that he does not want to take the blame when schmoozing with other Republicans nationally – especially if he is considering a run for national office in 2016 or beyond. Depending on how you look at it, he’s either playing it safe (for the sake of the wrong and increasingly irrelevant audience), or being a coward.

Chris Christie’s real reason for opposing marriage equality.

In 2006, the New Jersey State Supreme Court ruled that gay couples must be granted the same legal rights as heterosexual couples (minus the term, marriage). In the five years since that ruling, none of the apocalyptic scenarios popularized by marriage equality opponents have materialized. There is clearly momentum building on a broad and historic set of changes that now seem inevitable in many, if not most, parts of the country. Years from now, we will hopefully look back on this and marvel at how such an obvious matter of human dignity and civil rights remained unfulfilled for so long.