Saturday, November 29, 2008

Promises, Promises

From today's online edition of The New York Times :

N.Y. Democrats May Skip Gay Marriage Vote

Published: November 28, 2008
ALBANY — After a pledge from New York Democratic leaders that their party would legalize same-sex marriage if they won control of the State Senate this year, money from gay rights supporters poured in from across the country, helping cinch a Democratic victory.
But now, party leaders have sent strong signals that they may not take up the issue during the 2009 legislative session. Some of them suggest it may be wise to wait until 2011 before considering it, in hopes that Democrats can pick up more Senate seats and Gov. David A. Paterson, a strong backer of gay rights, would then be safely into a second term.

The full article can be accessed here.

Just a word of warning to the New York State Democratic Party: if you do this, you will guarantee your certain destruction in the next election. Do not underestimate the ire that has been raised in the LGBT community post-November 4th. If you made a pledge to our community that you would fight for this right, you need to do as you said, particularly if you courted our votes and counted our cash in your campaign coffers. Lip service isn't going to cut it any more.
A similar circumstance occurred with the African-American community in Florida. Democrats, who had long taken the black vote for granted, were denying black leaders within the party a place at the top of the ladder in the state legislature. And the Republicans, crafty bunch that they are, seized the opportunity. They gained control through the redistricting process, and set about passing legislation that had long been stalled under good ol' boy Democrats, and did much to woo blacks into supporting Jeb! Bush. In 2002, the Democratic candidate for Governor was scheduled to be on several black radio talk shows on Election Day. But Bill McBride decided he wanted to sleep in rather than make one final push to persuade blacks to vote for him. And we had Jeb! for another four years!
So yeah, go ahead: break your campaign promise. I'm sure all the anti-gay bigots will be ready to fund your campaigns next time....NOT.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

I have to say, in the past week or two, I have found much to be thankful for in the world.
That sight from the old State Capitol steps at the Join the Impact rally was amazing. Word that another homophobe and femaphobe, Jack Iker of Fort Worth, is going to join the ranks of deposed despots of the Episcopal Church makes me say, "Finally!" I offer prayers for those Texans remaining with the ECUSA. And now, Chief Schismatic Gregory Venables of the Southern Coneheads has finally pissed off others in the Anglican Communion and he, as well as the other schismatics, may face exclusion from the Anglican Consultative Council meeting that takes place next spring. One wonders why it took this long for others to see that the schismatics haven't stopped their power-grabbing efforts in the USA. Perhaps next the Archbishop of Canterbury will actually have a conversation with +Gene Robinson of New Hampshire? OK....maybe that's wishful thinking...
And I am still smiling as I think about what happened at the Diocesan Convention in Missouri. What a sign of hope, and evidence that the spirit of God is still at work in the world. As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever, Amen!
I am also reflecting on the place of privilege that I have as a homeowner, and a businesswoman with the breath of life still in me. This is a privilege, and as one who has...I believe it only right to share some of what I have with those who have not. My partner and I will be doing a little bit of that this holiday weekend.
But above all, I want to give a shout of gratitude for my animal buddies: my beautiful, four-legged, furry daughter Valkyrie "Kyrie TeKittyCat" Gage...and my niece, Sammy the Dog Queral.

They bring so much love and joy into my life. Looking into their eyes reminds me of the good that is out there in the world...even when the world doesn't seem that great. Because they always look back at me with eyes that are expectant, or joyous, or just filled with love. A look that I often believe is the look of God when we take the time to stop thinking about ourselves and reflect instead on what is before us: Abundance. Life. Love.
A Collect For stewardship of creation
O merciful Creator, your hand is open wide to satisfy the needs of every living creature: Make us always thankful for your loving providence; and grant that we, remembering the account that we must one day give, may be faithful stewards of your good gifts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
I give thanks to God. And pass the sweet potatoes this way, please!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Step Toward Forward-Thinking in Florida

The Associated Press reports that a judge in Miami has ruled in favor of letting a gay couple adopt the two brothers they've been caring for as foster parents. Florida is the only state that specifically says adoption by gay or lesbian couples is verboten. Ja, wohl! This ban was enacted by the 1977 state legislature under heavy influences of orange juice spiked by Anita Bryant's hatred of homosexuality.

The state says it will appeal the ruling. I wonder if the state plans to bring back their cracker jack crackpot "experts" to help them build their case on appeal?

Food for Thought

So, in this post-election world in which one form of bigotry is still alive and well in the United States, a few notable things have happened.

1.David Caton, aka my favorite homophobe, of the American Family Association of Florida seems to be the first one out-of-the-box to say he’s ready to challenge a municipal domestic partnership policy in light of the passage of Amendment Two. Only took ‘em two weeks, folks!
2. Dan Wentzel of the Washington Post reported a city bus driver in Los Angeles boldly, proudly, and out loudly called those rallying at the Join the Impact rally in LA “Sodomites!” Wentzel responded with telling the driver, “I’m one of those sodomites!” And he reported the driver to the transit authority.
3. Sodom and Gomorrah has been a popular theme in the past for homophobes, but has seemingly regained usage in the wake of all the anti-gay votes. According to the blog “Stone of Witness”, the ill-fated biblical cities came up on the floor of the Diocesan Convention in central New York state. And not to discuss the proper way to treat a stranger, but to vilify the LGBT community.

This photo is one I took circa 1992 Tallahassee, FL. I guess they considered themselves the UNwelcoming party for our gay pride celebration that year!

Still…I marvel at the amazing story out of the Diocesan Convention in Missouri. As one who lived in Columbia, MO, for four years to attend college and was a congregant at Calvary Episcopal Church, I am so grateful that the DC is on record as supportive of full-inclusion of LGBT people. And to have such an overwhelming vote even after so much apparent negative venting about gays says something to me about the power of God. It kind of reminds me of the story of Balak and Balaam, in which Balak wants Balaam to curse the Israelites…and instead of a curse, the words that come out of Balaam’s mouth are a blessing.
I have been quite amazed with the haughtiness of the homophobes, the boldness of their speech. For people who claim to have Christ on their side, they aren’t paying close attention to what happens to those who persecute another. Hint: it isn’t pretty. Think about it the next time you want to call me “Sodomite” or “Bulldyke” or any other countless names I’ve been called over the years. Your words will come back on you.

“For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with great compassion I will gather you. In overflowing wrath for a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you, says the Lord, your Redeemer.” –Isaiah 54: 7-8

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sheeps and Goats and Gays and Votes

I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord GOD. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with justice.
As for you, my flock, thus says the Lord GOD: I shall judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and goats.
Therefore, thus says the Lord GOD to them: I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. Because you pushed with flank and shoulder, and butted at all the weak animals with your horns until you scattered them far and wide, I will save my flock, and they shall no longer be ravaged; and I will judge between sheep and sheep. --Ezekiel 34: 15-17; 20-22

I was heartened this morning when I woke up and read the news that was coming from Lisa Fox in the Diocese of Missouri. At their convention this weekend, the Show-Me staters approved all the resolutions that affect the LGBT faithful and will (hopefully) lead to the undoing of the church resolutions that bar the blessing of same-sex unions and allowing LGBT persons to be elected as bishops. Please go over to My Manner of Life and read her account of this major shift in the Missouri mindset. And to me, it seems to say that God is continuing to unfold the plan, and God will see that all those who seek him will be allowed to come into his courts...and his church!

All the readings assigned for today in the Episcopal Church seem to me to point back to one simple idea: God's the shepherd, and God alone knows who is the sheep and who is the goat; who has been seeing the Divine in the eyes of their neighbor, the stranger, the opponent, and moved from a place of love toward that person rather than judgement. Look at what's said in Matthew 25:

Then the king will say to those at his right hand, "Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.' Then the righteous will answer him, "Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?' And the king will answer them, "Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.' Then he will say to those at his left hand, "You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' Then they also will answer, "Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?' Then he will answer them, "Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.'

When I think about the events of the past few weeks following this election, I am struck by how important this message really is for all of us, and how hopeful it is for those of us who are the "others". Because us of the "others" category have felt judged. Here in Florida, where our community hadn't raised a ruckus to overturn the marriage ban already in the state statutes, the vote on Amendment Two was just a nasty, mean, and bullying judgement. An attempt to drive a wedge between those in the majority and those in the minority. And one of the saddest parts of the vote was the number of churches or religious institutions that were financial contributors to the Florida For Marriage group, leaving the appearance that this Amendment was done in the name of Jesus Christ.
But appearances aren't everything.
And again the readings this Sunday leave me with the inescapable truth of what Matthew and others were capturing for audiences long ago....and today. There is one shepherd, one king, one judge. And that judge is not me, and it's not you. It's God. And he is the only one with the authority to decide who comes to the eternal kingdom party, and he doesn't require a popular vote to figure that out. If you want an invite, just say so. It will be there for you. Once you've believed in the truth of that invitation, you will start seeing how many others also have a place with God, some who are like you, and some who are different than you. And once you recognize the Divine in others, you have a choice: will you clothe the naked, feed the hungry, take time for the prisoner (both the actually incarcerated or those living in a prison of their own design)? Or will you ignore the needy, crossing the street to avoid the homeless person, and cling to all that you have and refuse to share?
In other words, will we be "people of faith" or "people of fear"? Maybe this was on the minds of those at the Diocesean Convention in Missouri!
God's call is for us to live into the life he has given us together in unity, constancy and peace. I'm willing to give it a go. As the apostle Paul notes in Romans: "If God is for us who can be against us?" All of us.

Friday, November 21, 2008

And the Beat Goes On...

So, among the many distinctions Florida holds is the one that is a throw-back to the Orange Juice Lady's days in 1977: the Sunshine State won't allow gays and lesbians to adopt children. Mind you, many other people are allowed to be adoptive parents. Murderers, for example, or drug dealers, I suppose, could provide a more stable and loving home environment than a gay couple.

People who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender can be foster parents. But when they prove to be the right match for a kid in need of a permanent home...well, their crack-addicted in-laws are really more appropriate, doncha think? There have been lackluster challenges to this discriminatory law in the state legislature. A state representative or senator will file a bill, and it will either get lost somewhere in the committee paperwork (buried somewhere under some resolutions proclaiming March "Florida Loves Flowers" month or something) or a committee will hear the bill on condition that the sponsor agree to "table the bill" (a.k.a kill it) after a discussion in which supporters will plea to stop the madness, and opponents will spew forth with hateful homophobic vitriol into the public record.

There is a case in Miami challenging this law which you can read about here. Note that the two experts the state brought in to testify both want to mix their brand of Christianity into social policy. And one went so far as to say that not only are gay people unfit to be adoptive parents, so are Native Americans!

What a world we live in...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Incarnational Encounters

What will it take to change this world and to make it a place where all can live in peace, in love, and in happiness?

This is one of those nagging questions that run through my head in the course of an average day. That, and a couple of hymns, or fractional anthems. My mind travels down such strange pathways that I often wonder if "My thoughts are not my thoughts, but somebody's idea of an ironic wordplay to keep my head spinning."

Back to my reflexive question. The phrase that comes back to me as the answer is one that I heard Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori use during one of her webcasts. She spoke of the importance of "incarnational encounters." Of course, this is in reference to gay and lesbian people...and that's where I'm headed with this. If people who are LGBT would come out, in a simple and matter-of-fact way, I think hateful legislation such as the anti-marriage amendments, and the Arkansas adoption law, would go down in defeat. If more people understood...through knowing somebody who is gay or knowing a gay couple...that the amendments on the ballots were meant to do harm to the gay community, I am about 80-percent sure they'd have voted against it. I'm leaving the 20-percent for those who are the hard-core opponents, the ones who know a lesbian, like their lesbian friend, might even have her over for dinner, drinks and football....and would have still voted "Yes" because of a strange attachment to the word "marriage". There's no way to have a dialogue with the hard-core because they are so certain of how right they are.

But the 80-percent...and I do think it's that many...are the reachable ones. The ones who have the ability to see the humanity of another. And who are able to recognize that a person who has a different sexual orientation than their own is first and foremost a person, not simply a sex act. I wonder how many of that 80-percent are aware of the consequences of the votes taken on "same-sex marriage" in Florida, California and Arizona? My guess is that many of them didn't think about it. And it's not because they hate gay people. It's because this isn't an issue that rises to the top of their consciousness because it doesn't effect them personally. But what if they had been made to see the inherent wrongness of voting to limit the rights of Bill, or Karen, or Tanya who was Tony?

And the only way I can see to make the majority more aware is for us "others" to claim our identity as LGBT people and be out. If we live our lives openly with the grace and love that is within us, minds and hearts will start to change. If we make contributions to our communities, be it the neighborhoods where we live, the religious institution we attend, or the shelters that are housing "the least and the lowest" among us and we do so not hiding our orientation, we will start to shed some light onto the dark descriptions our opponents put out there about who we are. Baby steps such as this will lead to greater distances gained in the long run. If fear of the unknown is what motivates people to vote "Yes" on a Prop. 8 or Amendment 2...then let them know who that "unknown" is!

Get involved. And don't hide your rainbow light under a bushel, but instead let it burn bright. Perhaps its brightness may pierce through the fog in which the majority seem to wander and make them see that this world HAS to change.

Captions Sought For Rally Photo

OK, this photo captures the one lone protestor who showed up to spit in the faces (figuratively) of the some 350-400 people assembled for the Join the Impact rally in Tallahassee.
Please note: he doesn't know how to spell "marriage".
I mean, how can we let people like this protect this "sacred institution" if they don't even know how to spell the word?! So, what caption would you give this photo...hmmm? I yield the virtual floor to you! Have a blast! (photo by Lisa Liveny Comingore)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Look At All These Equal People!

Amazing! I mean, really, truly amazing! On November 4th, I had the horrible experience of being surrounded by a nation of joyful people, and feeling like I was some kind of party-pooper because I just couldn't be happy. The state of Florida had done the unthinkable. It had voted to write discrimination against the LGBT community into the state constitution. And I felt terribly, painfully alone.
Today, November 15th, I looked out from the steps of the old State Capitol Building and saw what I never thought I'd ever see in Tallahassee: lots of gay people, and our allies, marching and chanting, and crying out for justice, and demanding that we right a wrong.

The "Join the Impact Tallahassee" rally started out in front of Florida State University's Westcott Building, where we "others" were interspersed amidst all the happy Homecoming Seminole fans. It was quite fun watching the football junkies observing this gathering of...ummm....people holding signs that don't exactly say, "Go 'Noles". In the photo to the left, a heterosexual couple is posing in front of the Westcott the queer couples mingle to talk politics....and in some cases greet friends they hadn't seen in years, and meet folks who traveled from outlining counties and south Georgia.

The members of the Mickee Faust Club turned out in force, both straight and gay. Give us a chance to be loud and colorful and we're not going to shy away. Give us a chance to make a political statement, damn right we'll do it!

Sam, the Second Class Citizen, was with me in the shepherding role (I knew there was a reason I insisted on being a shepherd in the Christmas pageants as a child!) Our job as marshalls was to keep people moving along on the sidewalks and helping to get folks safely across intersections. We had a help for some of the parade route from an FSU police officer on a motorcycle. Without us asking, without any expectation of kindness from this man, he rode his motorcycle, with his flashing lights on, into some of the streets where crossing would be a little more difficult to help us get across. Once we reached the edge of the "campus jurisdiction", he told us, "You're on your own from here!" Many thumbs up to that man. Only fifty years the days of the Johns FSU officer would have been calling in back ups to have us all arrested!
We had fantastic speakers at the Capitol. Rev. Brant Copeland of First Presbyterian Church not only led the crowd in an ecumenical opening prayer, he made the point that he knew the face of Christianity that has been shown to the gay community hasn't been pretty. "Because I have 'Rev.' before my name, I get a lot of mail!" he said. And some of the mail was making the assumption that he agreed with the thieves and the liars who are posing as Christians when they send him letters and videos that condemn the LGBT community. But Copeland, like some other clergy members in Tallahassee, prefer the God that says, "Love thy neighbor" and that includes neighbors of all races, political persuasions and sexual orientations!
Cantor Tanya Tamarkin from Temple Israel not only offered her personal family story of having a transgendered sibling, she also offered that Amendment Two took away from her, as a clergy person, the opportunity to bless same-sex couples. Regardless...she offered us a blessing and a song! Also moving was a moment of silence, taken at 1:30pm Eastern time, to allow each of us a chance to send out our collective prayers and energies to our brothers and sisters rallying in other parts of the country. Anita, did ya feel it?!
There were so many people who spoke out with passion, sometimes pushing through their tears, as they voiced a desire to create a world that is more loving, more accepting, and more willing to live and let live. And there was a desire to not let today be the end of the line. We must continue to work with each other, and take interest in the things that affect other minority groups who may not think that their struggle for equality, and ours, is one in the same. The United States has elected an African-American president, and while that is one barrier we seem to be moving past, there are still many others that remain standing that must be knocked down.
Many congratulations to Tom Bendle, my sweet partner, Isabelle and all the rest of us who helped to make this march and rally a peaceful, and forceful, demonstration of our community's spirit. Now, let's make it soar toward some real change and return the sunshine to the Partly Cloudy State.
"You do well if you really fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself....So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. For judgement will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgement." James 2: 8; 12-13.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Come March with Me

This is it, friends. Don't let this moment pass you by. Stand up for your family, your friends...YOU!

Do I have to be gay to care about this issue? No! Absolutely not. And I don't want to be rude, but that's like asking if you need to be a dog to care about animal rights. And if you are straight, and marching with us, you deserve much love and praise because you are standing with the marginalized. And if you are a person of faith, you are amazing because certain "faith communities" have made it their mission to put up stumbling blocks on the path to God to convince the LGBT community that they are hated.

Of course, today those same liars and thieves of Christianity say they don't "hate" gay people; the same way they don't "hate" murderers, adulterers, and robbers.

Gee, thanks!

If you come to the rally, be sure to pick up after yourself, and treat everyone and everything with respect. Our fight isn't with the flower beds in front of the old state capitol. Our struggle is to get the four million plus Floridians who voted "Yes" on 2 to consider the human consequences of their action, and to start the ball rolling toward a better day for ALL people in the state of Florida. See ya there!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Thank God for the Reformation!


COLUMBIA, S.C. – A South Carolina Roman Catholic priest has told his parishioners that they should refrain from receiving Holy Communion if they voted for Barack Obama because the Democratic president-elect supports abortion, and supporting him "constitutes material cooperation with intrinsic evil."
The Rev. Jay Scott Newman said in a letter distributed Sunday to parishioners at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Greenville that they are putting their souls at risk if they take Holy Communion before doing penance for their vote.
"Our nation has chosen for its chief executive the most radical pro-abortion politician ever to serve in the United States Senate or to run for president," Newman wrote, referring to Obama by his full name, including his middle name of Hussein.
"Voting for a pro-abortion politician when a plausible pro-life alternative exists constitutes material cooperation with intrinsic evil, and those Catholics who do so place themselves outside of the full communion of Christ's Church and under the judgment of divine law. Persons in this condition should not receive Holy Communion until and unless they are reconciled to God in the Sacrament of Penance, lest they eat and drink their own condemnation."
During the 2008 presidential campaign, many bishops spoke out on abortion more boldly than four years earlier, telling Catholic politicians and voters that the issue should be the most important consideration in setting policy and deciding which candidate to back. A few church leaders said parishioners risked their immortal soul by voting for candidates who support abortion rights.
But bishops differ on whether Catholic lawmakers — and voters — should refrain from receiving Communion if they diverge from church teaching on abortion. Each bishop sets policy in his own diocese. In their annual fall meeting, the nation's Catholic bishops vowed Tuesday to forcefully confront the Obama administration over its support for abortion rights.
According to national exit polls, 54 percent of Catholics chose Obama, who is Protestant. In South Carolina, which McCain carried, voters in Greenville County — traditionally seen as among the state's most conservative areas — went 61 percent for the Republican, and 37 percent for Obama.
"It was not an attempt to make a partisan point," Newman said in a telephone interview Thursday. "In fact, in this election, for the sake of argument, if the Republican candidate had been pro-abortion, and the Democratic candidate had been pro-life, everything that I wrote would have been exactly the same."
Conservative Catholics criticized Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry in 2004 for supporting abortion rights, with a few Catholic bishops saying Kerry should refrain from receiving Holy Communion because his views were contrary to church teachings.
Sister Mary Ann Walsh, spokeswoman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said she had not heard of other churches taking this position in reaction to Obama's win. A Boston-based group that supports Catholic Democrats questioned the move, saying it was too extreme.
"Father Newman is off base," said Steve Krueger, national director of Catholic Democrats. "He is acting beyond the authority of a parish priest to say what he did. ... Unfortunately, he is doing so in a manner that will be of great cost to those parishioners who did vote for Sens. Obama and Biden. There will be a spiritual cost to them for his words."
A man who has attended St. Mary's for 18 years said he welcomed Newman's message and anticipated it would inspire further discussion at the church.
"I don't understand anyone who would call themselves a Christian, let alone a Catholic, and could vote for someone who's a pro-abortion candidate," said Ted Kelly, 64, who volunteers his time as lector for the church. "You're talking about the murder of innocent beings."

Oh, Henry VIII: you were a bastard in so many ways. But at least you had the wisdom...and the want your own Church separate from Rome!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Turning Good Friday into Easter

I am, for better or for worse, on perma-hold with my anger and frustration at the vote that occured last week on gay civil rights in Florida, California, Arizona and Arkansas. And as I process my feelings, read my scripture, get inspired and cared for by psalms, there's one clear message for me: it may feel like Good Friday....but the promise of Easter is always there. I just need to allow for it to happen.

I want resurrection of my soul, and a restoring of justice to the world. And that's why I'm channeling my energy toward raising a ruckus on Saturday. One big ol' temper tantrum. One long, hard cry for mercy. One more chance to release myself from the bitter taste this has left in my mouth. Truth is, the acuteness of the pain is wearing off. Now I'm just aware of how wrong it is to allow a majority to vote on an amendment that has profound and far-reaching language to oppress a minority.

Again, I am reminded of the story of the Syrophoenician woman in Mark's gospel where Jesus initially refuses to help a woman of "other" status when she asks him to use his gifts to heal her daughter. His immediate response is to tell her his gifts were meant for the children of Israel, and not the dogs. And her reaction was to go all New Jersey on him and remind him that it is the dogs who eat the crumbs under the table of Israel's children. And Jesus does a 180, praises her for her faith, and sends her home to her healed daughter.

One interpretation of this could be that Jesus was testing this woman's faith with his reluctance to help her. But, as one who so often sees the world through my eyes as an "other", I think of this as a moment where the human Jesus is schooled into understanding that the gifts belong to the many, and not just "the chosen". Imagine if the apostles had never taken the good news anywhere but within the temples? What if Paul hadn't had his moment of "seeing the light" as it were, and becoming a man on a mission to bring the message of God as expressed through Jesus to the Gentiles?

I'm asking now for those who think that marriage should be for "one man and one woman only" to consider what the benefit is to society to keep this "gift" to themselves. How have you really helped children, especially the foster children of Arkansas, to be raised in a loving household? Do you really believe that marriages of convenience or appearance or default are helping to strengthen the "institution of marriage" and keep it "sanctified"? To paraphrase MSNBC commentator Keith Olbermann, "What are you thinking?!"

Again, when I consider the road ahead for me and my queer brothers and sisters, I know that we have a difficult path to walk. But I look to the prophets of the Old Testament, and I look to Christ, and I know that while many have faced huge obstacles, they leaned on their faith, pushed on through, and kept going. And just like Moses, just like Christ, just like Paul, just like Philip....there is also the hope that when us "others" start showing up, and saying, "Me, too!", the reward does come, and God's will is done...on earth as it is heaven.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Join The Impact and Fight for Rights


All across the nation, we're gathering in communities big and small to organize and rally and make some noise to say we're dissed, we're pissed, and voting on the rights of a minority group is WRONG.

Go to and find your state and city to take part in this protest.

In Tallahassee, FL, we're gathering at the Westcott Building at FSU on Saturday, November 15th at noon. There will be a march toward the Capitol building with a rally in front of the old state capitol at 12:30pm.

This is part of the nationwide Join the Impact protest.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Tit for Tat

The Mad Priest has posted a link to a website that is retaliation on one element of the religious right wing. Go sign the petition, and start putting the financial screws to those who think it is the will of God to stomp on the heads of the gay community by popular vote!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

And This is Why I Keep Coming Back

I suppose it is hard for some of my friends, or even some of you reading, to understand why I remain with Christianity or the Episcopal Church in light of some of the recent events.

Perhaps this Psalm...Psalm 70 which is the one we used at St. John's this morning...can give you some insight. For your benefit, I will give a play-by-play of my internal and external response to these words. The refrain is below...for those who want to sing along...

1Be pleased, O God, to deliver me;
O Lord, make haste to help me!

2Let those who seek my life be ashamed
and altogther dismayed;.Let those
who take pleasure in my misfortune
draw back and be disgraced.
(Sing refrain...and reach for the hankerchief in left pocket as tears form in eyes).

3Let those who say, ‘Aha!’ and gloat over me
turn back because of their shame.
(Reflect on Yes2Marriage group's news release, and sob as if at a funeral)

4Let all who seek you
rejoice and be glad in you.
Let those who love your salvation
say evermore, ‘Great is the Lord!’
(Sing refrain, while wiping tears from eyes)
5But I am poor and needy;
come to me speedily,
(Nod in agreement. Tears are stopping)
6 O God! You are my help and my deliverer;
O Lord, do not tarry!
(Sing refrain with sense of calm and peace of soul).
Et voila! God continues to send the message that God remains with me until the end of the age.
Trust me, the reason I stay is because I belong. And it really doesn't matter two bits what any person thinks, or says, or tries to impose on me and call it the will of God. Because none of us really knows God's will. We just try our best to decipher it. And while those who are "Gloating in the name of God" today like to call upon the same old seven passages in the Bible that they say condemn me to Hell, I will tell you there are hundreds and hundreds of verses in Scripture that communicate an enormous love that is for me. For example, the above Psalm...which was almost like receiving a telegraph from the unseen God who knows all too well that I have been feeling pretty crappy since Tuesday night, and knew what I needed to see on this Sunday.
I have been in mourning. And now I want to be in motion. I want to fight back. And I look to God for the wisdom to know how to do it with love, strength and courage.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Like A Roaring Lion...

The statement sent out to the Florida media from John Stemberger, chairman of the Yes2Marriage campaign:
A Special Report:
Passage of the Florida Marriage Protection Amendment
The Triumph of the Common Man over Cultural Elites
Dear Friend,

We did it -- You did it -- And ultimately God did it! After four long years of hard work and some rather stunning opposition along the way, the Florida Marriage Protection Act is now a permanent part of the Florida Constitution under Article I, Section 27. This is simply a remarkable and historical victory. Well over four and a half million Floridians comprising 62.1% of the electorate voted for the common sense idea that marriage will remain between one man and one woman.

Thank You So Much
Yesterday Dr. James Dobson called to congratulate me and to interview me on the national Focus on the Family broadcast. Dr. Dobson asked me to personally thank every single person in Florida who labored and supported this great cause. I also wish I could speak face to face with every single one of the hundreds and thousands of pastors, county coordinators, phone bankers, sign waivers, volunteers, and people who just asked their family and friends to vote “Yes on 2” and personally thank them also.

Educating Ourselves into Imbecility
From my perspective, this victory is really a triumph of the common man over the cultural elite. This vote represents the views of the vast majority of Floridians who are hard working, have families and children, love their country and whose faith is not some rabbit’s foot in their pocket but a real and vibrant part of who they are and what they stand for. On the other hand, every single daily newspaper in Florida (all 27 of them) openly opposed Amendment 2 not just once-- but several times in their editorial pages. All this reminds me of what English Journalist Malcolm Muggeridge said about the modern man: “We have now educated ourselves into a state of complete imbecility.”
(Please allow me to interrupt here to note that I agree: they are imbeciles.)
What does this means for Florida’s Future?
What the passage of Amendment 2 means for Florida is that as a matter of law marriage will be held in esteem and respected as a special and unique relationship which is vital to our success. Gender differences and words like “mother and father” not be removed from the law and declared bigoted. It means that kindergarten girls and boys will not come home with “diversity” packets containing brochures entitled “Am I gay?”. It means that second graders will not learn to read from books like Heather has Two Mommies and the King and King. It means that crafty homosexual activists will not be able to create gay marriage and try and call it something else like what happened in California and Connecticut. It really means that a whole of array of legal and policy nonsense aimed at radically redefining natural marriage and family structures will never see the light of day.

Major Thanks!
While the leaders and staff of the Florida Family Policy Council were the primary force behind spearheading this historic effort, there was a diverse coalition of thousands of churches, demoninations, businesses and organizations that participated on and off along the way. But there are some organizations and persons that have to be thanked and recognized for their full and unconditional support of this effort the entire way through this four year process. They are: Focus on the Family, Focus Action, Florida Baptist Convention, Liberty Counsel, Florida Catholic Conference, Knights of Columbus, Family Research Council, American Family Association, National Organization for Marriage, The High Impact Coalition, Christian Coalition, Community Issues Council, Exodus International, Eagle Forum of Florida, Florida Family Association and the Christian Family Coalition. Senator Dan Webster, State Rep. Frank and Juda Atkisson, former Senator Tom Lee, Pastor Clayton Cloer, Pastor Tom Messer, Bishop Harry R. Jackson, and Pastor Guillermo Maldonado. In addition to the above major supporters there were also thousands of others who participated and supported the effort at various stages along the way. These volunteers have spent hours, weeks, months and in some cases years working tirelessly for this effort. These men, women and young people too many in number to list are the real unsung heroes and have my respect and admiration above all else. And finally to the members of the staff and campaign team you all were simply amazing! To all of them we offer our heartfelt thanks.
Again, thank you for your tireless efforts. I am so grateful to God and so proud of for your help and support. We changed the course of history and generations of children yet unborn will someday thank you for your efforts.
Sincerely, John Stemberger
State Chairman,
And now some words from Scripture that I think Mr. Stemberger might have missed in his cherry-picking of favorite Bible quotes:
"God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. Love has been perfected among us in this; that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as his is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because he first loved us. Those who say, "I love God," and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen."--1 John 4:16-20.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Putting All the Pieces Together

I'm still a bit numb from this election. And none too pleased that no matter how much I want to be part of the exuberance about Barack Obama's election, truthfully, I don't care. Because, in Florida, I am not free. I feel a little bit like a woman who's lover has taken her out on the town in the Big Apple and dumped her on New Year's Eve in Times Square. While the streamers and confetti fall and people blow party horns all around me and cheer, I am feeling like crap, like an island in a vast ocean.

This has been very hard. Wednesday, I couldn't look people in the eye because it was too painful, and I was crying all day long. Today, I am moving from tears to anger and bitter rage at the injustice of these actions. I'm hoping that by tomorrow, I will enter into calmness and preparation for decisive action.

As I said in a previous post, Amendment Two in Florida was not so much about outlawing gay marriage because gay marriage was already illegal here. But what was really happening with this vote was the straight majority was being allowed to decide if they wanted to treat me and my brothers and sisters the same, or differently, in the state constitution. The Marriage Amendment was the vehicle that was taking us down a road...either to fairness and equality for all, or the dead end of discrimination. We know which path we've been put on now.

One could rant and rave about the conservative Republicans who were big backers of this proposal. But, given that Florida did aid in Barack Obama's election, it is clear that a number of Democrats, and very probably church-going African-Americans, voted Yes on Amendment Two. Baptists, Roman Catholics, Evangelicals all heard sermons, or many of them did, from pastors who told them that in America everyone is equal, but some are more equal than others. And certainly, everyone needs to be terrified of gay people because they are the scariest people on earth, always wanting to be treated fairly and with respect. The horror!

The fact that Democrats could vote for this Amendment is disturbing. I thought you guys were the "good guys"? More devastating is the thought that African-Americans, who know what it's like to be kept down by the majority, would turn around and stick it to the gay community? How wrong! How prejudiced! How utterly human!

In the end, what I know is true about the vote is this: people will betray people. And I can't put faith in people to do the right thing even if I believe they have the right politics. Because I have experienced this disappointment before, and this time I have felt it most acutely. People fall short of the mark...all the time. God, on the other hand, remains constant. And God knows I am crying out for justice in this unjust, screwed up, messed up, prejudiced world.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Could It Get Any Worse?

Yes, it can!
I was sitting at Lake Ella, trying to console my bruised soul with an iced mocha and my friend, Diana, giving me hugs and listening to me vent my frustrations with an election that was not as joyous for me as I was hoping. Passage of Amendment Two really did a number on me...and to hear that things weren't going well in California with Prop. 8...sigh.

Then..."she" showed up.
"She" was a power-walking middle-aged African-American woman, with a big smile, and a confident stride that said, "I want to talk to you!"

Unfortunately, she did.
And her mission was to make sure that I knew that Jesus was the way and the truth and the life. And she had a pamphlet that would explain it all to the words of one of country's great homophobes, Dr. James Dobson.

"Oh, honey, I really don't want this, thank you," I said, hoping that she would simply go on her way and leave me alone.

"Oh" her concern sooo sincere. "Are you not a Christian?"

Clearly, I must be because I didn't deck her for that one. But I could feel my body growing tense.
"Yes," I stated clearly, slowly, purposely. "I am a Christian. But I don't want that!" motioning to her pamphlets.

She looked at me with worry.

"Well, y'know, God loves all people..."

"Yes, he does."

"And he is the truth and the life and the way."

"Uh-huh, yeah."

"Have a blessed day!"


Once she was gone, I broke down in tears again. That was only the fifth time I'd cried, and it was only 1:30 in the afternoon. And I kept hearing the question, "Are you not a Christian?"

Yes, I am. Yes, I am. Yes, I am.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

I Am Your Neighbor

At last, the election is over and our nation can make way for a new leader and one who, I think, will be a vast improvement over what we’ve endured for the past eight years. Barack Obama seems to be a man willing to go back to an old standard of past Presidents: get people together who are ideologically different to help develop the strategies and policies that will lead the nation. Wow! What a concept!

And it’s a good thing, too. Because, unfortunately for him, he is taking over from the toddler President who has thrown all the toys all over the room, kicked the stuffing out of every teddy bear, and scribbled in magic marker on the furniture. Now the adult has to clean up after the eight-year temper tantrum. Good luck! Can we get the bucket brigade in to help ya scrub the ink off the coffee table?

From observing his victory speech last night, I sense that our President-elect is not gloating about this victory. He knows there’s a big mess behind that Oval Office door. Another sign, to me, that we may finally have a leader again, and not a spoiled brat.

As pleased as I am to see this change coming to our highest office in the land, I am more somber than some others about last night’s election results. Because change, as it affects me and all other gay people, is still elusive. In fact, it feels as if it is out-of-reach.

The voters of Florida, Arizona…and it seems California, too…have written into their state constitutions a ban on gays and lesbians being allowed to marry their partners. In Arkansas, they’ve decided gay people can not adopt children…just like Florida! In Florida, the marriage ban goes so far as to say anything that is “marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof” will be banned. Proponents have said this will not affect domestic partnership laws in some jurisdictions of the state. I will tell you that they have said that with their fingers crossed behind their backs. They may not start their attack on those policies today or tomorrow…but it will come.

I am reminded of the psalmist who wondered why God has turned his face away. I am feeling that level of “WTF?!” How long must “my people” be the left-behind, the ridiculed, the used for political expediency, and always told to take our seats at the back of the bus of change? I wonder when it will get through to those who do not experience what it is like to be an outcast to see that the ones who you cast out are your neighbors? When you look into our eyes, do you not see the light that shines out? Do you not know me? Why does a phrase like “gay marriage” cause your heart to harden, your ears to close, your eyes to go blind with fear?

God moves in most mysterious ways, and I’m sure has a purpose in what has occurred. May I remain open to learning what is next for me. And to never allow the whims of 62-percent of the population of a state to disrupt that relationship. You can define marriage, but you do not define me.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

While the Nation Cheers...

....I am glum. Not because of Obama; that's a good thing. It appears we will finally be out from under the tyranny of the GOPodpeople come January.

But what happens with the presidency isn't all that practically important to my every day life. Not the way state and local politics affects me. And apparently, Floridians are a frightened group of people, terrified that gay people are going to get---eeek----married!

As of 10:30pm....Amendment Two was passing with almost 63 percent of the vote. Words to describe the betrayl I am feeling escape me. Rumor has it, even "liberal" Leon County voted 56-percent in favor of this hateful amendment. 56-percent?! What's wrong with straight people?

Monday, November 3, 2008

What's in a Word?

I heard from one of my California relatives that Proposition 8, which I refer to as Proposition Hate, will likely pass. This will mean that Californians will write discrimination against the gay and lesbian community into its state constitution. A very sad statement, given that California is viewed by so many as "liberal"...a deep-blue state. From what my relative says, and she and many of the family are voting No on 8, the hang-up is with the word "marriage". If this were gay "civil unions" that would be OK. But "marriage" mean two men or two women with rings, and white, and bells, and cake, and flowers, and garters, and bridesmaids, and groomsmen and horse-drawn carriages, and....???

I know. It's absurd. The whole "show" of weddings, that is.

In California, as in Florida...and probably Arizona, too...the proponents of discrimination have tried to convince frightened people that they should be very, very afraid of gay "marriage" because us queer folk are trying to "redefine" traditional marriage. This argument is so crazy that I don't know quite where to start, but I'll give it a shot.

First, the anti-gay marriage gang keep pulling out the creation stories from Genesis to back up their arguments. "God created male and female" and he instructed them to "go forth and multiply". In both creation stories (yes, there are two) God never said, "I now pronounce you husband and wife". In fact, I would argue that Adam and Eve were actually a heterosexual domestic partnership! But besides all that, if you read the rest of Genesis, you get a pretty clear understanding that our ancestors from way, way, way, waaaaayyy back when had polygamous relationships (Abraham and Hagar and Sarah...Jacob and Rachel and Leah...) So, if I were the anti-marriage gang, I might not want to "go there" with the Biblical backing of my b-s about "traditional" marriage.

Second, which is like unto the first, marriage has been defined and redefined by heterosexuals throughout the centuries. It wasn't about love; it was about heirs and ownership of women and children. Much of what the "think about the children" argument comes down to is paternal ownership of a child. Not that children need a mommy and a daddy, but more like daddy needs to take care of what is "his". My father, an old school lawyer and judge, was always concerned about heterosexual couples having children out of wedlock because, in his mind, this created a legal catastrophe for the children because daddy wasn't committing to taking care of his "property". In today's world, with so many single parents, and lesbian and gay couples with children, to not have laws in place that recognize the multiplicity of relationships would actually do more harm than good for children and their legal protection.

Finally, for us in Florida, gay couples can not get married right now. Even if we have a commitment ceremony, and a clergy person of some faith tradition or another blesses that union, as far as the state authorities are concerned...we are just roommates. That's in statute FOUR times in Florida, and this is a red-state! Our courts aren't about to flip on this one.
And what if we were allowed to marry? Well, many rights guaranteed to heterosexual couples would also be available to gay and lesbian couples. I am still waiting for the explanation of how someone else's relationship status has any bearing on anyone else's relationship status. What are you anti-gay gangsters losing....besides control over my life?

I wrote a letter in support of an op-ed piece by Rev. Brant Copeland who gave the Biblical reasons to Vote No on Amendment Two (Florida's Proposition Hate). A person responded to the Tallahassee Democrat's website, saying "Susan Gage thinks the gay marriage ban is anti-Christian. I think Susan is a sick person!" Well, friends, if my sickness is one that conveys a message of God's love for all of God's children then I hope it consumes my body, mind and spirit!

Californians, Floridians, and Arizonians: don't be led down the path of discrimination because of the word "marriage". Vote No.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

We Are All Saints

Here’s another installment of “The Mystery of Christ...and Wow, It Moves in Mysterious Ways”.
I had been thinking that I needed to spend some time in meditation and prayer as we get closer to Election Day. The exposure this week to all the fears of opponents of equality for gay people wasn’t sinking in with me, but it wasn’t going away either. So, I had a little time around lunch on Friday and figured I would go to St. John’s for the noon-day eucharist, get that spiritual shot in the arm, and go back out into the world in peace.

It was Friday, and so Fr. Lee Graham was the celebrant. I like him. He’s kind and unpretentious. And I have learned through other members of St. John’s that he has a long history of always looking out for those who society has forgotten.

I arrived early enough that I was able to sit in the chapel, quiet my mind, and be present and focused. Ready to receive, so that I would be able to give.

So I was blown away when what I received was a homily I had not asked for, and hadn’t expected.

The gospel lesson had been from Luke, a story in which Jesus heals a man with dropsy in front of the Pharisees after asking if it wasn’t OK to do this on the Sabbath (he was at a Pharisee home for the Sabbath meal). Fr. Lee referred to this story as one of the many moments in which the law keepers of the day tried to trap Jesus into doing something wrong, wrong, wrong. And, as it always happened, Jesus deflected the finger-wagging by turning the mirror around and asking an introspective question that often left his accusers speechless. As Fr. Lee noted, these folks were hung up on the letter of the laws in Leviticus, and their absolute literal interpretation of said law. At which point, Fr. Lee segued into today’s world…and the coming election in Florida where some people would like to have their literal biblical interpretation of marriage become part of the state constitution.

“Oh. My. God,” I could feel the tears coming to my eyes. “Is this happening?”

Fr. Lee went on to say that the trouble with marriages isn’t homosexuals. The trouble in marriages is heterosexuals. This drew a laugh from one of the other attendees of the service. He spoke of how wrong it would be to separate out a group of people, our neighbors, for discrimination and denial of rights and dignity of humanness. And his conclusion was simple: Amendment Two is wrong. A couple of tears escaped and rolled down my cheek. To listen to this homily was like having someone place their hand on my back, assuring me I’m not alone. Ever.

Message received. And what I could give was simply, “Thanks be to God”. Thanks for whatever wisdom it was that led me to be in that place to receive what felt like a blessing.

On this, All Saints Day, it is important to remember that we are all saints, even in our brokenness and strife. And everyone has the right to be protected from insidious insane discrimination perpetuated by those who cherry-pick Bible passages for use against other people. If we act out of love, we are doing God’s will.