Friday, October 31, 2008

What Scares Me This Halloween.... crazy rhetoric like this out of California! From a Yes on 8 rally in Sacremento, we get the ultimate insult...and signs of how truly delusional and fiendish those who oppose equal rights for LGBT people really are.

Gee, he looks so normal in this picture, but watch the video and listen to the hate that comes off his tongue and you'll realize Brad Dacus is one scary dude.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Collapse of Homophobia...or at least one building

I have been waiting for this day for many years, and it has arrived:
The Johns Building on Brounough Street is meeting its demise!

Yes, folks: this building, which once housed the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, is getting torn down to make way for a new Performing Arts Center. How perfectly ironic that the arts will replace a building named after one of Florida's most infamous homophobes.

State Senator, and one-time Governor, Charley Johns of Starke was a powerful man back in the 1950s legislature. Part of what was called "The Porkchop Gang", Johns chaired the Senate's Appropriations Committee vesting him with the ability to make-or break-budgets of state agencies and universities. And while that gave him great authority to reign supreme over bureaucrats, his real legacy rests with his chairmanship of the Florida Legislative Investigation Committee which went on a McCarthy-esque witch hunt for communists in the NAACP, and then quickly turned its focus on a much more vulnerable population: the state's gay and lesbian employees.

From 1956-1965, the "Johns Committee", as it came to be known, would work with local law enforcement to use sting operations to entrap gay men and then grill them for hours until they gave up the names of their friends. At Florida State University, which had just gone co-ed, President Doak Campbell and the FSU police chief were silent partners in this crime. Students, who fell into traps set for those seeking anonymous sex, were threatened with expulsion and exposure to their parents if they didn't rat out their friends. Faculty members at all the state universities were also suspect, and if "found out", could choose to comply with the committee...and get fired....or get put on trial and be publicly-humiliated. And, just in case the public wasn't fully aware of the dangers of homosexuality, the Committee produced what became known as "The Purple Pamphlet", a document with pictures of half-naked men in positions that today look more like a JC Penney's underwear ad.

What eventually caused this committee to collapse was the population shift in Florida, as well as the political mindset of the state. More people living in the southern end of the peninsula meant district lines needed to be re-drawn, and more seats needed to go to the delegations from Tampa and points south. North Florida's influence, including Johns, started to lessen. Add to that the fledgling campus of the University of South Florida, where Johns' threats against this new institution were not welcome, made the Starke Senator an increasingly unpopular man with the growing South Florida delegations. And then there was the really bad misstep where Johns tried to frame a newspaper reporter who had been critical of his committee's work. It backfired, and like McCarthy at the national level, his committee's work was laid to rest. But not without having done significant psychological and social damage on a number of lives.

So, to have a wrecking ball smash away at the walls of a building bearing his name is another sign of the times changing.

And I look forward to the art that will take its place!


I attended a forum recently on Florida's six constitutional amendments on the ballot. The ones from the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission were good to hear was Amendment One which the state legislature is putting before us in an effort to erase some WW II-era discriminatory language aimed at "them Japanese".

But the question that drew the most attention was the measure that seeks to add discrimination into the state Constitution: Amendment Two, with its definition of marriage "or the substantial equivalent thereof" to be for "one man and one woman". This is the current language in FOUR places in statute. So even if Amendment Two fails on November 4th, there still will be no gay marriage laws in the state of Florida.

Nothing to fear, frightened people. Right? Read on...

Fear is the biggest factor in all discussions about Amendment Two, and the forum was no exception. Our side talked about the fears of senior citizens in domestic partnerships losing their benefits. The guys on the other side spoke of fear of...well....everything. In fact, I find it hard to pinpoint anything that does not make them afraid:

They fear an infiltration of a "national" movement to make marriage available to LGBT people in Florida (I sure hope they'll let me know when the lavendar calvary arrives!);
They fear the courts in Florida some day overturning the current multiple statutes defining marriage;
They fear our side campaigning to convince the senior population to vote No;
They fear clergy getting thrown in jail for preaching against homosexuality or refusing to marry gay people;
They fear children learning that Heather can have two mommies...and that would be considered OK, too.
They fear the Dutch aren't getting married any more (seriously, they have this obsessive concern that the marriage rate in the Netherlands has been declining).

But mostly I heard these two guys for the Yes on Two side saying, "I live in fear of unknowns, and I must control those unknowns."

Perfect illustration: Rev. Larry Perry of Freedom Church, an Assembly of God congregation, was speaking for the amendment. At least, I think he was trying to do that. He spent several minutes, talking in circles, until he finally looked out into the room, and made a bold pronouncement:

"I'm white. I can not be black. But I was born in iniquity. I am a murderer. I am an adulterer. I am a fornicator. But I do not choose to act on that evil."

His point was that homosexuality is a "choice" (it's least not for me) and that gay people can choose not to "act" on their "sin".

Let me say it again: my sexual orientation as a lesbian is not a sin. It is how God made me, and God has reasons only God knows for why some of us will be gay and some of us straight and some of us bisexual and some of us transgendered or intersexed or any other variation in the sexuality scheme of life. But whatever the reason, I'm a lesbian and it's OK and I'm part of the plan. Period.

But I wonder why Rev. Perry is saying of himself: "I am a sinner who does not act on my sin." Good, 'cuz murder is bad. But what I never heard him say was that all those "sins" that seem to plague him have been redeemed by the death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I don't know enough about the Assembly of God faith to understand why such a beautiful event as Easter is not internalized and believed. To quote my mentor, Mtr. Lee Shafer, "It is Good News!" The Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John contains messages that say over and over, "I like you! Heck, I luv ya! I really, really luv ya!" Even in scriptural passages where it sounds as if Jesus is condemning and judging, the condemnation is not punitive. The constant invite is to be in relationship with God.

Is there no hope in Rev. Perry's view of himself in relation to God? Is there no love? Does the "good shepherd" wield a big stick of judgment, ready to smack it across the head of anyone who doesn't "do right"? Somehow, I think a shepherd knows better than to smack his sheep over the head, when a gentle nudging of the rod in one direction or another suffices to keep the flock moving.

How very sad to live life in that much fear. I much prefer the God who is merciful and slow to anger when we do stupid stuff because at least there's a chance for me to not be an idiot. I hope Rev. Perry discovers the God of infinite love. Probably won't happen in time for him to have an epiphany about Amendment Two.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Let's here it for the Diocese of SE Florida!

As some of my readers know, I have been waiting patiently for the Episcopal Church here in Florida to say that Amendment Two is a really bad idea.

And prayer has been answered by Bishop Frade of the Diocese of SE Florida...which includes Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade Counties...and, of course, Monroe County with Key West. Here's his statement:

October 27, 2008
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
After prayerful consideration, I have decided that it is my duty as a Christian, and as your bishop, to urge the defeat of the proposed Amendment 2 to our Florida Constitution, which would define marriage as only between a man and a woman. It seems to me that if we are to be faithful to our Lord's commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves, we should not be enshrining in our state's constitution this discriminatory and potentially harmful language.
Not only would the passage of Amendment 2 infringe upon our religious liberty by imposing a single religious definition of marriage on all Floridians, regardless of their beliefs; but because of its wording, this amendment could also deny many important benefits to all unmarried Floridians.
While the amendment is clearly aimed at same-sex relationships, we know that among our state's large population of retired persons there are also heterosexual couples who have not married for fear of losing a portion of their individual Social Security or pension benefits. In recent years these persons, as well as partners in committed same-sex relationships, have been able to receive protection for their rights under domestic partnership laws.I cannot see how we can say we love our neighbors if we pass an amendment that could put at risk for these couples such rights as the ability to visitor to participate in medical choices for each other in illness or at the point of death.
Faithful people have a wide range of opinions on the matter of same-sex unions. Like our own Episcopal Church and the worldwide Anglican Communion,many other branches of Christianity, as well other faiths, are currently engaged in challenging conversations about their own doctrines and policies concerning marriage.
Despite this ongoing disagreement among people of good conscience, Florida has already passed a law that defines marriage as the proposed amendment would. However, some supporters of Amendment 2 have argued that a constitutional amendment is necessary to protect clergy from being forced to perform or recognize marriages that are contrary to their doctrine. I believe this fear is unfounded: Because of the religious freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment to the US Constitution, no religious group can be forced to recognize all forms of marriage sanctioned by the civil authorities. (For example, the State allows for and recognizes marriage after divorce; the Roman Catholic Church does not. No Roman Catholic priestis obligated by law to officiate at the marriage of any divorced person.)
Along with clergy from a broad spectrum of religious traditions, with diverse views regarding marriage, I have added my signature to a statement opposing Amendment 2. This statement can be found at
I believe that Amendment 2 is unnecessary, potentially hurtful, and a threat to our cherished freedom of religion, and I urge you to vote against it on November 4.
+Leo Frade
Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Southeast Florida

Amen, and thank you +Leo!!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

But Think of the Clergy!

Among the many fallacies about Amendment Two is that if it fails, then church pastors, ministers, priests…or rabbis or imams…will be forced to marry gay and lesbian couples.

I don’t know how that can be possible when marriage between two people of the same gender is already illegal in Florida. But again, that seems to be that nagging factoid that just gets in the way of a good red herring fishing story such as this amendment.

What one might ponder is what makes any of the clergy who support Amendment Two think that a gay or lesbian couple would come to them for any sort of spiritual direction…let alone a blessing of their union? Do they really believe we’re that stupid?

Another question one might want to ask is: how does this Amendment, and the discriminatory laws it seeks to enshrine in our state constitution, hamper the ministerial duties or desires of clergy members who support full equality for gay and lesbian people? Most mainline religious groups tend to conform to state laws when it comes to the sacrament of marriage. This makes sense since the actual legality of the marriage is through the state, not the church or synagogue. The religious institution’s primary role in marriage is the blessing bestowed by God on this union. And, for some couples, that is a very important and meaningful moment. But two people need not seek out a priest or rabbi to get married when a Justice of the Peace will suffice for the purposes of getting a marriage certificate signed, dated and witnessed.

But let’s say that a gay man or a lesbian has grown up in a particular church, has been baptized and maybe confirmed and has a connection to this church community. And let’s say there is a clergy person at this church who is inclined, and believes that it is OK, for this gay or lesbian to marry their partner. In Florida today, that is prohibited by law. And Amendment Two would only make it “Super Duper Illegal”.

What’s that clergy person to do when faced with this situation? Right now, some agree to go with a couple to a jurisdiction where marriage IS legal for LGBT couples. But many others have to shrug their shoulders, offer sympathy, and hope for a day when such prohibitions are lifted…not only in the state laws but in their own church governing statutes.

Interesting to note that in Canada, a country where gay marriage is legal, the Anglican Church is in a struggle over how to deal with marrying gay people. There are those who do not want to do it, fearing this will continue to strain relations with other parts of the Anglican Communion. But the Bishop of Ottawa recently released a statement, where he is asking his brothers and sisters in Christ to consider approving the practice of gay marriage in the church. Bishop Chapman says:

"It is my intention to place before the Canadian House of Bishops, next week, my prayerful hope regarding the issue of 'blessings'. It is important that I honour the collegiality of the Canadian House; we are, after all, an episcopally led and synodically governed church. It is my intention at this meeting to discuss my hope which includes my desire to make the following statement: 'That we, in Ottawa, begin to explore experientially, the blessing of duly solemnized and registered civil marriages between same-sex couples, where at least one party is baptized; to charge the Doctrine and Worship Committee with the responsibility to develop an appropriate rite for this blessing. Upon the authorization of a rite, I will give my permission for one parish within the Diocese to offer the blessing of civil marriages between same-sex couples. Discernment continues!'

The closing line, “Discernment continues” is an important period to that proposal. As is the case in the Episcopal Church, nothing will happen overnight, and yet the desire remains to keep all doors open so that everyone may come in to make their feelings known. Keep talking, keep exploring, and move at a pace that will allow people to process and respond. But keep moving!

Again, Florida is still years away from having a discussion akin to the one in Canada. But Amendment Two attempts to end the discussion before it has even had a chance to begin. And that just doesn’t seem like something God would do.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Protecting Marriage...with a Holy Howitzer

Mat Staver of the far-to-the-right-wing legal rights group, the Liberty Counsel, was encouraging Florida Baptist preachers to climb into their pulpits last Sunday and impress upon their captive Christian audience to Vote Yes on Amendment Two. This was the fearful's big push to convince large gatherings of people that those "scary queers" are about to come parading down the aisle and demanding a Baptist wedding...right now! The only way to stop this abomination would be to get to the polls for early voting, and hurl that first stone at those uppity gays and lesbians.

Hearing that this was the clarion call to all Florida Baptist Convention churches, I inquired with my neighbor if her preacher had said anything that Sunday.

"Oh, no! And he wouldn't. He doesn't do that sort of thing."

Whew! OK, so at least First Baptist Church in Tallahassee remained officially neutral on the question...although parishoners are greeted with those "Yes On Two" signs outside the Florida Catholic Conference offices across the street from their house of worship. And while Dr. Doug Dortsch choose not to speak on the issue, it's likely that at some of the other mega-Baptist churches in town, there was all kinds of fire and brimstone gnashing and wailing at the thought of a wedding with a man and a man or woman and a woman.

Oddly, and annoyingly, the proponents of Amendment Two are failing to tell their fearful constituency that Florida law not once, not twice...but in FOUR places in statute defines marriage as "One man and One woman". So, if Amendment Two fails, there won't be a mad rush for marriage licenses by members of the gay community.

Another bizarre notion is that somehow by amending the state constitution, and putting it there that marriage "or the substantial equivalent thereof" should be for one man and one woman, straight marriages will suddenly be protected. How? What are they being protected from? How in the world does defining marriage address the problems plaguing relationships right now? Y'know...things like drug and alcohol abuse, lying to your partner, domestic violence, a rotten economy that strains purse strings? Or what about those people who are so invested in this institution that they get married on a whim, and then call it off days later? How does that relationship build a strong married community?

Finally, there is this idea of quoting the Genesis creation stories of how God made male and female to procreate and populate the world and have dominion over the other creations. Nowhere in those stories do either the "P" or the "J" writer talk about marriage. And, really folks, if you start reading I're going to uncover some stuff that would test the whole "Family Values" crowd: Sarah telling her husband Abraham to sleep with Hagar and getting angry when Hagar and Abraham have a son...Isaac's son, Jacob, steals his brother's blessing and is having sex with two sisters...Judah is sleeping with his daughter-in-law because he mistakes her for a temple prostitute...and Dinah gets raped by a man who desires's actually a pretty good read! But woe on the fundementalist Christian who would actually talk about "those" parts of the Bible. Perhaps they forgot that these stories also all happened under God's watch!

My Baptist neighbor noted something important, and immediately apparent, to her in the Amendment Two debate. She could not help wondering how Amendment Two would have prevented one of the straight couples in our neighborhood from getting divorced. And then there's me and Isabelle...and our friends, Terry and Donna: lesbians in relationships for 17 and 23 years.

Perhaps what is really needed to protect marriage is to honor the ones currently left outside the legal gates. Amendment Two won't do that. And we are still a sea change in Supreme Court membership from seeing such recognition in the Sunshine State.

Monday, October 20, 2008

It's About Fairness and Equality. Period.

Watch for the opportune time, and beware of evil, and do not be ashamed to be yourself. For there is a shame that leads to sin, and there is a shame that is glory and favour. Do not show partiality, to your own harm, or deference, to your downfall. Do not refrain from speaking at the proper moment,* and do not hide your wisdom.*
For wisdom becomes known through speech, and education through the words of the tongue.
Do not subject yourself to a fool, or show partiality to a ruler. Fight to the death for truth, and the Lord God will fight for you.
--Sirach 4: 20-24, 27-28

These were the words of the reading assigned today in the Episcopal Daily Lectionary and how perfect they are for what I have to say.

Florida voters, listen to me: Vote NO on Amendment Two. It is unfair, it will enshrine discrimination into our state constitution, and it is totally unnecessary and unneeded.

That’s the short version. To be in keeping with my Biblical quotation, let me give you a few more details that I hope will educate you on my position.

First, Amendment Two has been called the “Marriage Protection Amendment”. However, I refer to it as the “Anti-gay marriage amendment”. This is an attempt to crucify gay people through the state constitution. And I believe the majority of people in Florida do not want that.

I am a lesbian who has been with my partner for 17 years. We own our home. We have chosen not to have children and have instead opted for raising a cat who, for the record, is extremely heterosexual as she adores flirting with our male friends. In the eyes of our friends and loved ones, we are a family. However, in the eyes of the state, we are merely roommates cohabitating in our home. Under current Florida law, we are not allowed to get married (thanks Sen. John Grant…and the late Gov. Lawton Chiles for that Defense of Marriage Act!) Could that law be overturned? Well, maybe. But then, somebody please show me where we have a majority of justices on our state Supreme Court that would be willing to take such a political risk?!

For reasons I don’t really understand, our side has tried to wage a campaign to defeat this amendment by telling everyone it will hurt the senior citizens, some of whom have opted for domestic partnerships instead of marriage. Supporters of this amendment have claimed that it is necessary to protect the children.

I guess one could argue that gay people are both seniors and children….as well as teen-agers, and adults. But let’s get real here: the amendment’s target is the state’s LGBT population. And this is an attempt to give the majority the right to vote on the lives of the minority. Where is the fairness in that? And what about respecting the dignity of every human being?

Taken from the perspective of a Christian, this amendment flies in the face of the words of the apostle Paul in Romans:

Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written,
“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
and every tongue shall give praise to God.”
So then, each of us will be accountable to God.
Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another.

—Romans 14: 10-13

Amendments such as this, promoted by “Christians”, create animosity, and serve to place a barrier between gay and lesbian people, and the people of faith who do NOT despise them. It also creates the real problem of making it harder for LGBT couples to establish the transfer of benefits and inheritance in the case of the death of a partner. Or then there's the stumbling block created for legally-married LGBT couples with biological or adopted children ...and then once this family moves to Florida and (God forbid) breaks up....the child and parents are left in legal limbo as they try to figure out custody. Furthermore, Paul in the next chapter of Romans discusses the need for the strong to “put up with the failings of the weak”, so that both can live in harmony with one another. I take that statement to mean that we are bound to each other to support one another, whether we are gay or straight, in our strengths and weaknesses. We have a responsibility to each other as members of the human race to keep each other on a path toward the love and the light rather than darkness and eternal death. Lies, such as claiming this amendment will have no effect on state and municipal entities that have adopted domestic partnership benefits for their unmarried employees, are shameful and deceptive.

And as for my side, please quit trying to hide the gay people. It’s time for Florida to show its true colors: is it a state for fairness and equality for all people, or is it a place where “certain people” are considered “lesser than”?

Here endeth the posting. I anticipate I’ll have more to say on this topic between now and Election Day.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


These ads in opposition to the "Hate that is Eight" in California are pretty good, and certainly make the point concisely for why Californians should oppose the attempt to outlaw marriage for LGBT couples.

Hello, I'm No on 8 com/watch? v=b9T7ux8M4Go

And She's the California Constitution com/watch? v=yU4udzEbcdQ&feature=related

Don't Worry Everyone, You're Safe com/watch? v=HVRPdQB5BCs

Early voting begins tomorrow in Florida, and we have our own hateful amendment on the ballot (Amendment Two). You'll be hearing more from me on that later. For now...check out the California message, and know that it is a universal one for any state in this country!

Thursday, October 16, 2008


And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea….And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain, for the former things are passed away.
—Revelation 21: 1, 4

I have been thinking for a few weeks about the notion of things falling away, or giving way, creating room for new “things” to come into place. I have had a lot to consider along that vane: the year-anniversary of my dad’s death, the sudden passing of a client, the retirement of the St. John’s organist who had been one of the “friendly faces” I’d been accustomed to seeing, and bigger still, the departure of my mentor for a new calling as an interim rector in Alabama. In many ways, I have seen this transitory period as having similarities to my experiences as a teen-ager when I announced before a congregation of people that I wanted to be confirmed, and then seemingly the bottom fell out of my life and I was absorbed in death and doubt and loneliness.

But this time, there is a difference. Because this time, the confirmation of my faith that has taken place over this past year has roots that are deeper and better cared for and aren’t likely to get washed away in the storms of change. This time, my focus is not on the people and placing my faith in people, but maintaining my faith in a God who continues to pursue a relationship with me, and has the one desire that I (and all of humanity) will stay in that relationship.

So it seemed fitting that last Sunday during a Choral Evensong at St. John’s, the final service led by Mtr. Lee Shafer at our church, that the choir sang the above words from the Book of Revelation. Now, normally when I think of Revelation, I laugh and joke that I think its author, John Somebody, must have dropped acid and was tripping when he wrote all this stuff down. But, in the context of the music, and the moment, these words resonated in me, and brought tears to my eyes as I took in the message. Yes, God will wipe away these tears. The former world, as I knew it, is passed away…and a new world has emerged. In fact, the reshaping of the world as I see it has changed in so many ways at this point that I sometimes scarcely recognize the many years in which I lived in eternal death. And, for me, this new way of being in which I strive to stay in eternal life has so reworked me that I perceive and experience life with the freeing knowledge that even in moments when I think I’m alone, I’m not. Having chosen to accept the invitation to live, I have chosen all that comes with that. And that means going through the up and down cycles of living. And even when things are on a down swing, I have also accepted that as the temporal will change, so the eternal will remain constant. How cool is that? I’ll tell you: very!

And so my tears were sorrowful and joyful, both the sadness of seeing things change and go away, and the joy of knowing that I am still loved with a depth and breadth that can not be fully articulated. As Mother Lee might say, “It’s the both/and”.

My journey continues with the promise that the boat in which I find myself floating has not overturned. And when the time comes to step out onto the water, I will be able to do it by always remembering where to fix my gaze. As long as I keep my eyes focused, my ears alert, and my heart open to the light and the love, I will be fine.

O Trinity of love and power,
Thy children shield in danger’s hour;
From rock and tempest, fire and foe,
protect them wheresoe’er they go;
thus evermore shall rise to thee

glad hymns of praise from land and sea.
--Eternal Father Strong to Save, Hymn 608

Saturday, October 11, 2008

A Collect for Coming Out

At some point I hope in the not-too-distant future, I will get around to finishing my thoughts on the power of the Collects of the Day...some of which ping me right between the eyes and make me choke up. But on this, the annual National Coming Out Day, I offer just a short prayer of my own to those of you reading who have taken that first brave step toward acceptance of yourself.

Almighty God, whose love for us knows no boundaries and envelopes us fully into your grace and mercy, guide us into that place of loving ourselves as you love us-- as we are and not where we've believed we ought to be. And grant us the strength and courage that allows us to be at peace with ourselves, and in turn, bring such peace into the world; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit be all honor and glory, now and forever. Amen.

Of course, any of you reading who are not Christian, or do not believe in the Trinitarian God, well, you are welcome to opt out of that last bit. :-)

Happy Coming Out Day! May this be the start of a new and beautiful relationship...with yourself!

Friday, October 10, 2008

A Tale of Two States

Florida and California. Both are big. Both have sunshine and beaches and “beautiful people” and lots and lots of transplants from other parts of the country.

And both states have a proposed Constitutional amendment on their ballot to define marriage. Or, more accurately, to exclude a group of people (namely LGBT people) from the institution of marriage and prevent them from receiving the piece of paper from the state that recognizes their union to their beloved.

You may remember that California’s ballot initiative became a reality after the state Supreme Court found no grounds for denying marriage licenses to LGBT couples.

In Florida, Amendment Two has been a long brewing scheme of collecting signatures to place this question before the voters. Initially, we thought it would be on the ballot in 2006, but then the proponents decided to take their time…and made sure it was ready in time for the 2008 election. Funny how it happens to also be a presidential election year. What a coincidence!

And what a scary proposition for its potential passage!

If you follow blogs such as SisterFriends-Together or An Inch At A Time, you will see how active the campaign is in California to defeat their Proposition Eight. Why in California, not just individual churches, but the Bishops of several dioceses of the Episcopal Church have been on the forefront speaking out against this amendment and noting its bigotry toward LGBT people. There are those in the Episcopal Church who have countered that the “institution” of marriage is one that comes through the state, and the role of the church is a “blessing” of that union. Proponents of “one-man, one-woman” marriage cite Genesis and the creation of Adam and Eve to promote their ideology as being given to us directly from God. I counter that in that creation story in Genesis, there is no altar, no priest, no paperwork, no bridesmaids, no groomsmen….in other words…Adam and Eve weren’t “married”.

But back to the tale of the two states. As noted, churches in California from the accounts that I am reading have taken an active role in opposing marital bigotry. In Florida, the church remains silent. In fact, lots of groups have remained silent. And when they do speak up, as is the case of the League of Women Voters, they oppose Amendment Two not on the grounds that it will put into the constitution language that currently exists in statute defining marriage and denying it to gay people, but they look for the “how this hurts straight people like the elderly” as their argument. And I can only presume they are attacking Amendment Two on this premise because they figure that’s an easier sell then telling the public it’s wrong to discriminate against gay people.

How sad. How very sad that we can’t acknowledge who is really the target because if we did, it might-what-backfire?

Worse yet, there is a serious chance this amendment will pass in Florida because of the presidential election. There’s the obvious vote of McCain-Palin gun-toting, NASCAR-watching, Joe Six-Packs who supported those in the legislature that voted for the Defense of Marriage Act in the late 90s. And there is an additional issue with Barack Obama, an African-American, on the ballot. In Florida, predominantly black churches are very homophobic. And the black church is one of the biggest political machines in their community. So it appears the proponents of Amendment Two really were smart to hold-off and place the question on the ballot this year.

Obama has also enthused the college-aged voting block, and younger generations appear to be less-inclined to see marriage as something just for straight couples. But will enough of them go to vote to cancel out their parents and grandparents?

In California, the straight Republican Governor has said he doesn’t support Proposition Eight. In Florida, our Republican Governor Charlie Crist has kept a low profile on Amendment Two.

Can we count on Democrats to oppose bigotry? Well, the Democratic Mayor of Fort Lauderdale recently announced his support for Amendment Two. Supposedly, there is Florida Red and Blue, a bipartisan effort to fight the constitutional amendment, but besides one lame mail-out which again kept the “why you should vote NO” message very vague, I have not seen nor heard anything from this group. Fairness for All Families has called our house hundreds of times to ask for money, but not to mobilize against the amendment.

The only glimmer of hope we seem to have in Florida is that Amendment Two will need at least 60-percent approval to pass. Right now, they’re polling at about 55-58 percent in favor.

Perhaps we need a little California chutzpah in the Sunshine State. Or at least the courage to name the bigotry inherent in Amendment Two, and appeal to people’s better selves when they go to vote on November 4th.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

"No Fear and No Regrets"

The other day, I was sitting on the deck of the Black Dog Café enjoying one of those perfect Tallahassee days where the sun is out, but it’s not so humid that you feel like you’re living in a greenhouse. The café sits by Lake Ella, a man-made storm water run-off pond that the city has made into a downtown lake, where people jog, walk their dogs, and feed the ducks.

As I sat, sipping my Italian soda, I noticed a man who I guesstimated was in his early 30s, pushing an older man in a wheelchair. Some paces behind this pair was a woman, also in that 20-30 year-old age bracket, walking behind a baby stroller, her child looking out in the direction of the lake with its ducks and turtles. The image, for me, spoke of generations all in one place, and the cycle of life, from infancy to old age, and the many of us in that middle stage where we care for our young…as well as the elderly in our families.

I reflect on this image as I approach Sunday, October 5th, which is the one-year anniversary of my dad’s death. I saw in that young man a representation of how I might have looked to people out on the deck of the Black Dog as I pushed my dad in his chair around the lake, one of the “field trips” that he was able to take in the final years of his life. My mom would wait at one of the picnic tables for us and when I would arrive after having taken dad on .6 mile walk, I’d park his chair at the table, go into the Black Dog and buy all three of us some coffee. This would be another pleasure for my dad as he missed his cup of coffee every day. And even though we’d have to thicken his drink to keep him from choking on the liquid, his appreciation for a simple cup o’ joe was apparent in the way he’d look at mom and me and, on occasion, exclaim, “Oh, boy!” after taking a sip from his cup.

I was with my father a lot the last week of his life, reading to him, cracking jokes, combing his hair, and promising that I would be back again when I’d have to leave for work. The night before he died, I bowed out of an executive committee meeting for my theatre troupe, and instead went to my dad’s assisted living facility. I arranged with my brother, Tom, to call my cell so he could speak to dad. By this time, my father was no longer talking, and he could barely keep his eyes open. However, I watched his face during the phone call. I could hear my brother weeping as he told his father how important he’d been to him and how much he loved him. My father’s forehead wrinkled and his chin trembled as he listened to Tom. And I had the sense that if he could have spoken, he probably would have been crying out his love for my brother. The hospice nurse and I changed my dad into his “Happiness is a Black Labrador” shirt, one of his favorites, and I sat holding his hand. He would give it a squeeze, and then I would return the favor to let him know I was still there and with him. I have no idea how long this handshake lasted, but it seemed to be an hours-long experience of gripping and letting go, holding and releasing.

At some point, I had a sense that it was time for me to go and leave him in the care of hospice. A voice in my head told me, “No fear and no regrets.” I don’t know whose voice it was, I just know it wasn’t mine and it wasn’t dad’s. And I couldn’t tell if this message was one meant for me, for him…or maybe both of us. Regardless, I had a feeling that this was a message that I was to share with him. As I said my good night to him, through words and another long hand squeeze, I put my mouth by his left ear and whispered, “No fear and no regrets.” If nothing else, I thought, I wanted him to know that the message had been received and I was confirming the information.

Could this have been God’s intervention in this moment between father and daughter? I have thought about that. It may well have been. Certainly, the consistent message of the gospels, and even in passages of the Old Testament, is a mantra of “Do not be afraid.” The promise Jesus makes to Christians is that he will be with us always to the end of the age, and that includes the end of our age in this realm. For those left in mourning, we have hope in the resurrected life which occurs again and again...not just in the yearly celebration of Easter, but in our own lives as we experience changes and “growing pains”. How much more life is there when our souls depart to become joined with communion of saints? I wouldn’t have clue. But my sense is that whatever it is in “the great beyond”, it is good. It is right. It is holy. And it’s nothing to fear.

No fear and no regrets. No, I have none. And I can celebrate the life my father had, and what it has meant to the life I am now living. One in which God can be the centerpiece and the constant checkpoint for how I live and move and have my being. And for that I can say, “Thank you, dad, and thanks be to God”.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

We'll Be Back After A Short Break

Greetings one and all in the blogosphere. Yes, I have remained rather quiet lately. Not because I am not thinking. Not because I am not musing. Not because I am not awake and alive.

I'm just overrun with "things to do". Most notably, a cabaret show which opens this Friday. (Insert shameless plug here):

Happy days are here again?

The Mickee Faust Club presents:

Tallahassee--Undaunted by a gubernatorial campaign in 2002 where he only received 23 write-in votes, Mickee Faust, the ratty twin of another famous Florida rodent, is again declaring, “Vote Vermin!” with a fall cabaret show, “A Faust You Can Believe In”. The performance dates are October 3-4, 10-11 and 17-18 at 8pm at the Mickee Faust Clubhouse, 623 McDonnell Drive in Railroad Square .

“I may not be on the ballot,” notes Faust, the alter ego of performer Terry Galloway. “But I know what the people want! They want a real rat! A rat who knows what it means to eek out a living while watching some cartoon character get millions and a Magic Kingdom ! It’s time for change. Real change. Like dimes and quarters. Something most of us are more familiar with than a wad of 7-billion Ben Franklins!”

Once this show is up, I will spill forth with other observations of the world from the "purple pew" perspective. Until then....stay tuned.