Friday, November 9, 2007

Seven Deadly Sins: Republican Deceit on the ENDA Debate in the House

My review of the Congressional Record for the ENDA debate in the House of Representatives gave me some insights into the weakness of will and the dearth of moral courage in my Democratic friends, though I do see a glimmer of hope for the future of human rights for my people (see the immediately previous blog entry).

On the Dark Side of the aisle in the House, the Republican conservative opposition to ENDA and to trans-inclusion appears from the statements made in the Congressional Record to be based on seven viewpoints that I will call the "seven deadly sins:"

  1. The Sin of Willful Ignorance. They appear to exhinit a lack of understanding of the tenets of Christianity – they erroneously seem to think that that all Christians perceive homosexuality as sinful, and that the beliefs of their own erronneous Christianist (not Christain at all) should be imposed on the nation in a Christianist form of Shariah – in which their form of religion is also the basis for the civil law;
  2. The Sin of Superiority of the Master. They see Religious Freedom as the religious freedom of a Christianist employer counting for more than the religious freedom or other rights, liberties and freedoms of the employees;
  3. The Sin of Superiority of Christianist belief. They see Religious Freedom as the right of a Christianist employee to outweigh the religious freedom or other rights, liberties and freedoms of other employees and trumps an employer’s reasonable requirements for respect and tolerance in the workplace;
  4. The Sin of Superiority of the Heterosexual. They insist that married heterosexual employees should be entitled to more and better employment benefits than employees who are prevented by government interference with the free exercise of their religion, from getting married;
  5. The Sin of Babel. They exhibit a curious lack of understanding of the English language commeasurate with their lack of understanding of the teachings of Jesus Christ, in their babbling about the word "perceived."
  6. The Sin of Mischaracterization. They characterize the religious and other rights of other people as "sexual rights" and do not recognize the fact that "sexual rights" are actually not exercised in the workplace but rather in the bedroom; and
  7. The Sin of Denial of Equality. They think a federal ENDA would be evidence in favor of equal marriage rights, which they oppose – they want to continue to favor special rights for heterosexuals.

So, let’s get down to a discussion of some of what these people said on the floor of the House, and I will comment on each:

1. A lack of understanding of the tenets of Christianity – they erroneously seem to think that that all Christians perceive homosexuality as sinful, and that the beliefs of Christianists should be imposed on the nation in a Christianist form of Shariah – in which their form of religion is also the basis for the civil law.

Rep. Souder: "The question is, can you as a Christian express your views and not be persecuted? That, yes, in a sense it is at least a plurality of Americans profess Christianity, a smaller percent conservative Christianity, but we are moving so far as to restrict the rights in the workplace of Christians' even ability to hold or say anything about their views. People can't even have Bible studies in some places it has been ruled because that would be offensive to homosexuals in the workplace based on this law in some cities and have been upheld in the court."

My response: The Christian who believes homosexuality is sinful has every right to not engage in homosexual activity. That Christian is protected in his or her private beliefs. But the protection of religious freedom should be seen as a shield and not a sword. One’s constitutional right to a prejudiced and bigoted "religious" belief that homosexuality is sinful should be protected. But to act on that belief in an aggressive way that can be harmful to others whose religious beliefs are different should not be protected.

The right to impose that bigoted and prejudiced "religious" belief in the workplace, in the face of general secular principles of fairness, equality and justice, should not be permitted under the law. It would be the same thing as permitting the teaching of the erroneous literalist flat-earther six-day Creation in lieu of the science related to the development of the Universe, in public-funded or licensed schools

It is one thing to have a Bible in the office to read during lunchtime, and quite another to put up a large poster in a prominent location in the workplace proclaiming the text of Leviticus 18:22 or 20:13 in an attempt to intimidate gay co-workers or employees.


2. Religious Freedom, where the freedom of a Christianist employer counts for more than the religious freedom of the employees – but should the religious freedom of the employer count for more than the religious freedom of the employee?

Rep. Souder: "Under this bill, they will be forced to hire homosexuals regardless of the personal views of Christian bookstores."

My response: The personal views of Christian bookstores, or rather, the owners of Christian bookstores, have nothing to do with the jobs of stocking bookshelves, doing bookkeeping, or any of a host of other jobs. None of these jobs have anything to do with whether the employee is gay or is perceived to be gay while not actually being gay. The religious freedom of the owner of the store should not be allowed to trump the religious freedom of the employee. To imply that the employer’s religious belief is superior to that of the employee means that the playing field is not level, and that there is no equal employment opportunity, thus belying any assertion that this is really an issue involving religious freedom, but rather the imposition of a Christianist Shariah.


3. That the religious beliefs of Christianist employees are superior to the religious beliefs of other employees, and that Christianist employees should be exempt from an employer’s requirement that all employees treat other employees and customers with dignity and respect.

Rep. Souder: "AT&T employee in Denver fired for refusing to sign company-required pledge to recognize, respect and value sexual orientation differences within the company. In January 2001, an employee of AT&T was required to sign a new AT&T Broadband Employee Handbook with policies that conflicted with his religious beliefs by condoning the homosexual lifestyle. After notifying his supervisor that based on his religious belief he could not sign the certificate of understanding, he was fired."

Rep. Souder: "At Hewlett Packard's plant in Boise, Idaho, an employee with a 21-year record of meeting or exceeding expectations was fired for refusing to remove Bible verses about homosexuality from his cubicle. The employee allegedly posted the Bible verses in response to a poster near his cubicle that he perceived to be promoting GLBT relationships. HP openly admitted that its reasoning for firing the employee was ``his overt opposition to HP's Diversity Advertising Campaign.''

My comment: Rep. Souder apparently does not understand, or chooses to ignore, the difference between having a constitutionally protected right to a private religious belief and the right to impose that private religious belief on others. If an employer or employee’s personal religious beliefs require that they disrespect the religious beliefs of others in the workplace, then the disrespecting employer should not be in business, and the disrespecting employee should not be employed. In Rep. Souder’s example, the AT&T employee had every right to believe homosexuality to be sinful, and the employer has every right to expect that the employee will be respectful of persons in the company, or customers, whose religious beliefs are different. There is nothing in the Record that indicates that AT&T was obliging the employee to believe that homosexual behavior is not sinful, but only to respect the beliefs of others that it is not sinful.

In Rep. Souder's Hewlett-Packard example, he seems to equate the posting of threats to free speech. The freedom of speech, even religious speech, in the workplace, is not untrammelled - and no one should be allowed to use Bible verses to threaten others.

Rep. Blunt of Missouri: "Madam Chairman, the tension this bill could create is not difficult to foresee in practice. For instance, if you chose to keep a Bible at your work station or perhaps even display in your cubicle a verse you found particularly meaningful, the legal question is simple created by this legislation: Can one or more of your coworkers seeing that passage, seeing that Bible, understanding there are passages there about homosexuality, bring suit against you and your employer on the grounds that mere presence of religious symbols constitutes a ``hostile workplace'' in which they are being forced to work?"

My comment: Rep. Blunt’s understanding of religious freedom is certainly strange, but similar to Rep. Sopuder's. If the employee’s "meaningful" verse is one that assaults the religious belief of another employee – let's use a "non-gay" example such as Exodus 22:18 "Do not suffer a witch to live" when the employee knows that this is intimidating to a fellow employee who is a practitioner of Wicca, that should certainly be prohibited in the workplace! It doesn’t mean that the Christianist employee can’t have the freedom to believe that witches should be stoned to death, but the taking of action that can be seen as a threat to stone a fellow employee or disrespect her freedom of religious belief should be legally prohibited.

Rep. Pence from Indiana: " Some examples: Under ENDA, employees around the country who possess religious beliefs that are opposed to homosexual behavior would be forced, in effect, to lay down their rights and convictions at the door. For example, if an employee keeps a Bible in his or her cubicle, if an employee displays a Bible verse on their desk, that employee could be claimed by a homosexual colleague to be creating a hostile work environment because the homosexual employee objects to passages in the Bible relating to homosexuality."

My response: Rep. Pence doesn't understand. The employee doesn't have to lay his religious beliefs at the door - but he should be required to be respectful of the different beliefs of others. Just because the employee believes something that isn't true, doesn't turn that belief into the Truth. That same Bible that Rep. Pence does nopt seem to be able to read and understand has the positive gay images in the Book of Ruth and the relationship between David and Jonathan as reported in 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel. Example: "I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan: very pleasant hast thou been unto me: thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women." 2 Samuel 1:26.

Indeed, I wonder what Rep. Pence would have to say about Isaiah 56, Mt. 19:12 and Acts 8:35-end, all of which make it clear that God loves and accepts transgender people (for more detail, see the oldest blog here, from October 2007). I wonder why he and his colleagues are not co-sponsoring H.R. 3686, which would outlaw discrimination against people based on gender stereotyping. The reason is that they do not understand the Good News and instead use the Holy Bible as is it was just so much scrap paper in which they wrap their cissexism, cisgenderism, transphoboa, homophobia, and other prejudices.

Why should my religious beliefs, which are actually supported by a reasonable interpretation of the Bible, be subordinated to Rep. Pence’s, which are only supported by his twisted interpretation? And Rep. Pence started out his comments so nicely: "Let me be clear. I don't condone discrimination against people for any reason whatsoever. I believe in civility and decency in society" – and then he proceeds to elevate his religious beliefs over mine and anyone else’s for protection.


4. That married heterosexual employees should be entitled to more and better employment benefits than employees who are prevented by government interference with the free exercise of religion, from getting married.

Rep Souder: "In Portland, Maine, city officials canceled a $60,000 grant for a Salvation Army meals-on-wheels program for senior citizens. Why? As a Christian denomination, the Salvation Army won't provide marital benefits to homosexual employees, thus running afoul of the city's ``sexual orientation'' law. When the Portland's ``sexual orientation'' ordinance was introduced, proponents argued, as they do often today, that it would merely ensure that ``people won't be fired for being ``gay.''

My comment: Government money should never be used to support faith-based discrimination when it intersects with equal employment opportunity and fair employment practices. It is one thing for the Salvation Army, which is a church, to engage in legally exempt faith-based employment discrimination, and quite another for taxpayer dollars to be used to support that discrimination. Unfortunately, the Republican conservatives and the Bush Administration do support faith-based bigotry. This is very sad.


5. Their lack of understanding of the word "perceived."

Rep. Souder: "I offered an amendment in committee that was unanimously opposed by the Democrats in committee to eliminate the word ``perceived.'' This is a legal nightmare."
Mr. KLINE of Minnesota: "This bill, and I quote, ``prohibits employers from discriminating against an individual because of an individual's actual or perceived sexual orientation.'' What does that mean, ``perceived sexual orientation''? We do not know because the bill fails to provide a definition. This raises a number of practical and legal concerns. The term ``perceived'' is overly broad, vague, and will inevitably lead to increased litigation, lots of increased litigation

My comment: Rep. Souder wasn't the only befuddled Republican Representative blathering about how he doesn't understand the English language. It’s really simple – in the sense of "actual or perceived," if you fire someone for being a member of the protected class and the individual really isn’t a member of the class, it’s still against the law. It should be no defense that the man you fired for being gay because he speaks with a lisp (the perception) actually turns out to be heterosexual. All the negative bleating in the debate about the word "perceived" was for the purpose of protecting employers from liability for firing straight people who look gay to the employer. What a world! These people would not want to protect a straight person who was fired because he was perceived by an employer to be gay. Shame on them!


6. They characterize religious rights of others as "sexual rights" and do not recognize anyone else’s religious rights than their own.

Rep Souder: "One prominent attorney says that basically religious rights have to be trumped by sexual rights in the workplace, and that's the goal of this act, and that this gives religious rights a secondary status in our society to sexual rights.

Rep Wahlberg: "ENDA is a fundamental departure from the longstanding principles of religious liberty as well, principles our country was founded upon. In fact, this will directly discriminate against people of traditional values and long-held faith principles. Rather than reducing discrimination, this legislation will instead reduce religious freedom and increase litigation."

Rep. Souder, again: "But I have heard my religion and my religious belief called prejudiced, bigoted, hate-filled, that the predominant religions in America have had their basic beliefs, those who believe in a literal Bible, have seen their faith smeared today on this House floor, and I am very disappointed in much of the tone. I understand the passion. I understand why people who have a homosexual life-style feel they have been discriminated against, but this is a classic question in our country. If, in fact, nobody could get a job, we would be facing a different challenge today. I openly admit that. But the challenge here is do people who have deeply held religious convictions based on the fundamental text of their faith have the right to practice their faith, too, or are they going to be trumped? This amendment is a step, but it's only a step."

My Comment: Rep. Souder’s religious beliefs certainly are erroneous, mistaken, heretical, prejudiced, bigoted, and hate-filled – and he is constitutionally protected in having those beliefs, and his exercise of religion is protected so that he cannot be forced to engage in homosexual sexual activity against his beliefs. On the other hand, he should not be entitled to impose those religious beliefs in the workplace as a form of Christianist Shariah on his employees, to hire and fire in a secular workplace outside the church itself – and that should include schools that are not schools of theology, or Sunday Schools, or yeshivas devoted solely to religious training.

The law can and should impose equal employment opportunity rights in the workplace with only the narrowest exemption for religious institutions – one protected area could be for teachers of religion or theology, even in a school in which other curriculum is taught – but limited only to the teaching of the religion. An art teacher, or a history teacher, or a science teacher, who does not teach religion should be covered under the law. As it is, we already have a problem with Christianist teachers who believe that teaching science in biology class conflicts with their devout beliefs – these are people who should not be teaching in the classroom, as they cannot separate their religion and faith, from science and reason.

Rep. Gohmert of Texas said: " What this Congress is now attempting to dictate is which religious beliefs and moral beliefs the majority believes are okay and which religious beliefs it feels are not okay. This will actually encourage people, whether they are gay or not, to flaunt or manifest what may be perceived to be characterizations to help the lawyers."

My comment: Rep. Gohmert seems to be in some Orwellian Newspeak Bizarro zone. He and his colleagues in the religious conservative faction are themselves the ones who want to dictate which religious and moral beliefs are okay!

What this sadly weak and ineffective version of ENDA does, at least for sexual orientation, is to say that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation has no place in the workplace. No one is suggesting that heterosexual Christianist employers or employees be forced to engage in homosexual activity against their moral beliefs. However, they should not be allowed to use those moral beliefs in the workplace as an excuse to discriminate against people whose religious and moral beliefs are not the same as theisr – this is not "religion" against "sex." This is conservative religionists who do not understand enough of the English language to know what "perceived means’ or to understand the positive references to gay people and transgender people in the very Bible that they like to thump on the podium!


7. They think a federal ENDA would be evidence in favor of equal marriage rights, which they oppose – they want to continue to favor special rights for heterosexuals.

Mr. PITTS. "Madam Chairman, I rise in opposition to this ENDA bill. This bill, if signed into law, will have serious long-term implications on one of our most basic and treasured institutions, marriage. A Federal ENDA will provide activist judges with the legal ammunition to move toward the legalization of same-sex marriage. In fact, State ENDA laws are already being used by activist judges to impose gay marriage and civil unions on States." and "One example is the landmark decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Court which determined that there was ``no rational basis for the denial of marriage to same-sex couples.''

My comment: Rep. Pitts should really read Justice Scalia’s dissent in Lawrence v. Texas, in which the learned jurist opines that the majority decision in that case will lead inexorably to equal marriage rights. And the Massachusetts Supreme Court was entirely correct in determining that there is no rational basis for the denial of marriage rights to same-sex couples. Opposition to marriage equality is not rational – and that is true, unlike the adamant belief in a literal biblical six-day creation, which, while constitutionally protected, is not at all a rational belief in the face of scientific fact. Faith does not equate to Reason.

The Massachusetts Supreme Court, unlike the New York Court of Appeals, actually understands the Constitution, and the principles of equality and justice that should apply to all of us, not just the Patriarchal Christianist Cissexist homophobic majority.

My people hunger and thirst for justice, and justice is denied to us. How long must we wait?

I pray that God may soften the hearts of those Republican congressmembers whose hardness of heart and erroneous beliefs cause them to oppose fairness, equality and justice for my people.

May they, like St. Paul on his way to Damascus, see the light, and recopgnize the error of their ways.

May they be granted the wisdom and understanding to do the right thing.

May they see their error and repent in time, before they are Judged and found wanting.

May they never have to be numbered among the goats.

For if they do not repent, if they leave my people hungering and thirsting for justice, then they will be numbered among the goats; and when my people and I are resting in the bosom of Father Abraham, and they have been condemned and are suffering the thirst and hunger in the eternal fire, that they realize that they are there, an immeasurable gulf between us, and that we cannot save them, who have not taken in life the steps necessary to save themselves in God's grace.

The Democratic Side on the ENDA Debacle in the House

A review of the November 7, 2007 debate in the House of Representatives on H. Res. 793 to set up the rules for debate on H.R. 3685, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, leads me to the following conclusions regarding the Democrats in the House (Republicans will be covered in a separate blog entry):

The carefully choreographed rule was designed to limit debate and to allow the introduction, brief discussion and withdrawal of the Baldwin Amendment to restore the protection for "gender identity" that had been stripped from the bill while it, or rather its predecessor, H.R. 2015, was in committee. This was a Kabuki-like dance of words designed only to bring the idea of protecting transgendered people from employment discrimination onto the floor of the House without permitting adequate timne for real debate, and no time at all for a vote.

As a result, there are perhaps only seven Democrats I can really count on for support, because they voted against the flawed bill on principle because it does almost nothing for anyone. They are: Rep. Yvette Clark (D-NY), Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ), Rep. Michael Michaud (D-ME), Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Rep. Ed Towns (D-NY), Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY), and Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY). I applaud their principled stand, while not condemning the principled stand taken by those other Democrats in the House who voted in favor of the flawed bill because they would not vote against any bill to extend civil rights to even part of an oppressed minority. Some of them expressed as much in their remarks on the House floor and some inserted their remarks into the Congressional Record. I can respect that position.

I am appalled by the lack of moral fiber on the part of the House leadership that arranged this piece of choreographed theater without giving the Baldwin Amendment a chance at a vote. I do not blame Rep. Tammy Baldwin, because I believe the only opportunity the leadership gave her when the rule for debate was crafted, was to permit the introduction of the Amendment on condition that it be withdrawn prior to a vote. It was reported that this became the Speaker’s strategy because a couple of conservative Democratic first-term Representatives went to Speaker Nancy Pelosi to ask that there not be a vote. Rep. Baldwin would not have had the opportunity to introduce the Amendment without agreeing to ask for a withdrawal. I believe the failure to allow a vote was a serious tactical error, as bad an error as dropping the "gender identity" prpotection and watering down the "religious" loophole.

I am encouraged by the statements of Rep. Castor (D-FL), Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ), Rep Welch (D-VT), Rep. Davis (D-CA), Rep. Moran (D-VA), Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA), Rep. Langevin (D-RI), Rep. Stark ( ), Rep. Honda ( ), Rep. DeGette ( ), Rep. Waxman ( ), and Rep. Hirono ( ) (I plan to revisit this to get the states and fuller names for the imcomplete representatives).

Here are some of their trans-positive remarks, for those who wish to read but don;t want to poke around the Congressional Record:

Rep. Castor (D-FL): I do wish Ms. Baldwin would allow a vote on the amendment . I strongly support the amendment , as many of those in the Congress do. But this was her request, and this is the way the rule has been structured.

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA): The Baldwin amendment , which recognizes that transgendered Americans should have all of the protections and the rights of any person in America, should be included in this bill. It should include the Baldwin amendment . Because if we believe in who we are as a country, and if we believe that discrimination is wrong against anyone, then how in the world can we leave out a significant number of Americans in this bill? So, if it becomes law, transgendered Americans will still face discrimination in the workplace. And we must not let up until we ban discrimination against everyone.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY): While I may disagree with some of my colleagues on strategy, I assure you that we are united in support of the ultimate goal, protection from employment discrimination for the entire LGBT community. . . . Transgender Americans, because of a lack of familiarity and understanding, are more likely to face employment discrimination and, therefore, more in need of protection from irrational discrimination that an inclusive ENDA would afford. And removing gender identity from ENDA may also leave lesbian and gay employees vulnerable to discrimination for failing to conform to gender stereotypes. In other words, some employers and courts may take an overly restrictive view that an exclusive ENDA fails to protect lesbians who appear ``too masculine'' or gay men who appear ``too effeminate.'' . . . . When the House considers ENDA today, I will support the amendment introduced by Congresswoman Baldwin to restore the protections from discrimination based on gender identity. Should that amendment fail, I will not be able to vote for the underlying bill because it fails to uphold adequately the American values of fairness, equality and inclusion, but I will continue to fight for a proper ENDA bill that includes all the people who need its help.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH): I am very concerned, as my Republican colleagues are, that the Baldwin amendment can be offered and pulled back without a vote, because if it was given a vote, I would vote for the Baldwin amendment.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY): I rise in strong support of the underlying bill and the Baldwin amendment. . . . I strongly support providing protection from discrimination to transgender Americans, and I will not rest until their right to live their lives free of fear, discrimination, and intolerance is the law of this land.

Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ): Mr. Speaker, as a strong supporter of inclusive ENDA that provides employment protections for sexual orientation as well as gender identity, I am an original cosponsor of the original ENDA that was introduced earlier this year, the legislation we should be taking up today.

(Rep. Holt also added to the Congressional Record a letter from himself, Rep. Yvette Clark, Rep. Linda Sanchez, and Rep. Dennis Kucinich, dissenting from H.R. 3685, though only two of them (Reps. Holt and Clark) actually voted against the flawed bill.)

Rep Welch (D-VT): "I am glad that the rule makes in order the amendment by Representative Baldwin to include ``gender identity'' protections in the bill. I urge all my colleagues to support the rule, support the Baldwin amendment , and support the underlying bill."

Rep. Davis (D-CA): I rise in support, but I am sorry we are not debating a more inclusive gender identity bill today, which I would have supported, and let me tell you why. Employment discrimination strikes at a fundamental American value, the right of each individual to do his or her job without facing unfair discrimination. Transgendered people are among the most marginalized and vulnerable groups within the LGBT community.

Rep Moran (D-VA): As a sponsor of ENDA, I would have favored the further amendment by Congresswoman Baldwin , but the fact is that this is a civil rights struggle, and struggles take time.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA): While ENDA's victory will represent an historic victory, I share the disappointment of TAMMY BALDWIN , BARNEY FRANK and others who support including protection for transgender individuals in ENDA.

Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA): . . . at the outset, I'd like to note that I did not vote for this bill in Committee, not because I don't support its goals--I do--but because I strongly believe that we could have done better by protecting more people from discrimination. That is why I am proud to support the amendment by my colleague from Wisconsin, that will add a prohibition against gender identity discrimination. This amendment is needed because protecting transgender people is the right thing to do. We're talking about a small group of people, but a group that faces tremendous discrimination and that deserves to be protected from workplace discrimination just as much as anybody else. Now that this bill is out of committee and on the floor, let me be clear, I will vote for it because it extends a basic right to millions of Americans. And that right is the right to go to work and earn a living.

Rep. Langevin (D-RI): I also want to voice my strong support for an amendment to be offered by the gentlewoman from Wisconsin, Ms. Baldwin , which would prevent discrimination based on gender identity. Rhode Island is one of 12 States that protect gender identity in employment, and our experience has been a positive one. Transgender individuals often have their own set of challenges in the workplace, and we must ensure that their rights are protected as well. I am deeply disappointed that the underlying bill does not include gender identity, especially as I am a cosponsor of a fully inclusive ENDA.

Rep. Stark ( ): No job applicant should be discriminated against because of his or her race, religion, gender, ethnicity, age, disability, political affiliation--or sexual orientation or gender identity. . . . This legislation succeeds in advancing civil rights. However, it still falls short of what needs to be accomplished. By no means is this bill as inclusive as it should be. It fails to include gender identity as a protected class. I commend Congresswoman BALDWIN for her efforts to include the transgender community in today's legislation. Had her amendment reached a vote on the House floor, I would have proudly supported it.

Rep Honda ( ): Sadly, more inclusive language was narrowed to exclude the most vulnerable, least understood group within the LGBT community, transgender men and women. I congratulate Representative BALDWIN on offering an amendment to re-insert this wording into the underlying bill and I proudly support her effort. Although this amendment was withdrawn, I was prepared to vote in its favor.

Rep. DeGette ( ): I will cast my vote with deep regret the trangendered community has been denied the protections offered to gays and lesbians in this bill. I did not support its removal from the overall legislation and am extremely disappointed that it will not be included when the House passes H.R. 3685.

Rep. Waxman ( ): As an original cosponsor of H.R. 2015, a more comprehensive version of this legislation, I am disappointed that H.R. 3685 does not protect against discrimination based on gender identity. I strongly support the amendment Representative Baldwin will offer to include gender identity in H.R. 3685 and if that amendment is not adopted, I pledge to work for an ENDA that includes gender identity.

Rep. Hirono: As an original cosponsor of the original ENDA, H.R. 2015, I am glad to be able to have this opportunity to debate the BALDWIN amendment to include anti-discrimination protections for transgender individuals. It is unfortunate that political realities made it difficult to bring an inclusive ENDA to the floor today in the first place.

Friday, November 2, 2007

"And God gave me the wherewithal to get out of that and to find out who I really am."

Pastor Donnie McClurkin of the Perfecting Faith Church in Freeport, Long Island, has been referred to as a "superstar black gospel singer" who views that "homosexuality is a choice." Pastor McLurkin’s controversial views became national news at a Barack Obama gospel concert in South Carolina, at which the Pastor performed, and then shared his viewpoint.

"God delivered me from homosexuality," he is reported as saying to the enthusiastic, mostly black, evangelical crowd of over 2,000. But there’s an essential falsehood in that statement – one that perhaps Pastor McClurkin himself does not really realize – and that is, that it isn't "homosexuality" that he was "delivered from."

McLurkin’s ex-gay story is based on his belief that he was gay in the first place. But here is what he has to say in an interview:

"Well, like I said, there was a big 20-year gap of sexual ambiguity where after the rape my desires were toward men, and I had to fight those things because I knew that it wasn't what we were taught in church was right. And the older I got, the more that became a problem, because those were the first two sexual relationships that I had. Eight years old and 13 years old. So that's what I was molded into. And I fought that."

That "sexual ambiguity" seems an awful lot like a non-gay, or perhaps somewhat slightly bisexual, Kinsey-scale-wise, experience. Surely someone who can choose to be gay or straight isn’t gay or straight at all – but is bisexual by nature, choosing one side of his nature to the exclusion of the other. Before I started researching for this blog entry, I was working from the theory that Pastor McClurkin might actually be one of those bisexual people.

But after reading his own description of his 20 years of "gay" experience, I might reasonably conclude that Donnie McClurkin was never cured of homosexuality, because he never had a gay orientation – he claims that all his gay sex, his "desires towards men," was the result of pressures from those in authority - "what I was molded into." And what did he do? He fought the pressures.

That is the same sort of situation that occurs when a naturally gay person struggles for years to try to be straight, or my own transsexual experience of being a woman who was expected to live in the role of a man, and who tried for many years to deny my nature just because of societal expectaions that my gender must be in conformity with my birth genital shape. I spent over 25 years trying very hard to assimilate in the world as a straight man after being told that I could not be transsexual in 1970 because of my attraction to women. As I was told, "Psychiatry won’t cure you of one disorder (transsexuality) to give you another (lesbianism)." And, of course, this predated the 1973 amendment to Psychiatry’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) that took homosexuality out of the list of mental disorders.

Just like Pastor McClurkin, many gays, lesbians and trans people struggle with trying to fit in with societal expectations – it’s just that with the secret predator pedophile religious leaders in his church community many of the expectations were that he be gay, or rather, a willing victim.

In Pastor McClurkin’s words:

"And you were in an environment where there were hidden, you know, vultures I call them, that are hidden behind frocks and behind collars and behind -- you know, reverends and the deacons, and it becomes a preying ground, a place where the prey is hunted, and that was what it was like."

McClurkin basically describes a world in which pedophilia is common in the church community. But that predator/prey world isn’t a matter of a same-sex sexual orientation at all.

Pastor McClurkin said:

"And God gave me the wherewithal to get out of that and to find out who I really am."

"There's a group that says, "God made us this way," but then there's another group that knows God didn't make them that way."

The problem arises when Pastor McClurkin may not realize that God made some of us straight, some of us bisexual, and some of us gay – and that his experience of being pressured into being something he was not is a common experience with people who are gay who get pressured into acting straight.

The biggest problem with Pastor McClurkin’s "ex-gay" message is that it acknowledges the pain of only one kind of "pressure" and not the other. Pastor McClurkin’s experience has parallels that he might do well to one day acknowledge.

I can only reiterate, for my experience prior to transition, Pastor McClurkin’s words:

"And God gave me the wherewithal to get out of that and to find out who I really am."

And I pray that each of us, however we are by our nature, can come to accept the nature that God has given us – we should, most of all, be true to ourselves. God made me who I am – and who I am was not that man I tried to be for so many years. And God still loves me.


Quotes from Donnie McClurkin are from:

Friday, October 26, 2007

Meditation on St. Francis and the Leper

Francis Bernardone was a rich young man who had everything life could offer – but he was not happy.

Francis hated and despised lepers, more than anything else, much in the same way that my pharisaical Christianist brothers and sisters hate and fear gays and transgender people.

Lepers were treated terribly – everyone, at least everyone who wasn’t a leper themselves, hated them, despised them, feared them. They were outcasts who were forced to live in the dhadows, away from decent folk; who had to ring a bell and proclaim that they were "Unclean!" if they ventured out of those shadows.

Like his peers, Francis hated them and could not bear the sight or smell of them; he became nauseated, and he was afraid of catching their disease.

Francis himself recalled the experience of encountering a leper one day while riding his horse:

"When I was in sin, the sight of lepers nauseated me beyond measure; but then God himself led me into their company and I had pity on them. When I became acquainted with them, what had previously nauseated me was turned into sweetness of soul and body. After that, I did not wait long before leaving the materialistic world."

Why would he have gotten off his horse to embrace a leper?

It was the first step in his real conversion – in his realization that only by loving even the least of God’s People that he could begin his spiritual journey in earnest.

After this embrace lepers were no longer hateful to him. He dedicated himself to their care and lived with them. As he did this, about sacrifice, forgiveness, and love.

My pharisaical Christianist brothers and sisters will sneer in pompous judgment that AIDS is God’s punishment for homosexuality – but the truth is that people with AIDS may well be the test that they themselves are failing – these are the people they fear, the people they feel nauseated and repelled by, the people they must first embrace before they can hope to achieve Heaven. In a very real way, people with AIDS are among the least of God’s People, in much the same way as the lepers of Francis’ (and even Jesus’) time.

Many of them are so glib – they see Salvation being as simple as making the statement, "I accept Jesus Christ as my personal savior." The mere repetition of this statement, without any other effort on their part, then becomes their secret password to Redemption – or so they think.

The statement allows them to feel they can have a right to spend a tremendous amount of time and money working hard to persecute others for the sin of being different – and to do so in the name of a God who will be telling themon the day of Judgment that "For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me not in; naked, and ye clothed me not; sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not." (Mt. 25:42-43)

Their hardness of heart, if it persists, will bar them from salvation – and yet they have time to repent.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

In the Image and Likeness of God

Today’s reflection focuses on Genesis 1:27. (The following is the King James translation - see the note at the end of this essay):

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

Just for flavor, here is the Douay-Rheims version:

And God created man to his own image: to the image of God he created him: male and female he created them.

Both translations are toward the “literal” end of the translation spectrum, and both grate on modern ears, in different places – “created he him” in the KJV, and “to his own image” instead of “in his own image” in DR.

And, from a "literal translation" point of view, I would give the award to DR for keeping to the literality of the Latin in the Vulgate:

et creavit Deus hominem ad imaginem suam ad imaginem Dei creavit illum masculum et feminam creavit eos

What I remember from the Latin I was taught in the seminary, ad definitely comes across as "to" rather than "in," as much as the "to" might grate on the ear in English. On the other hand, I would probably render hominem in this context as "humans" or "human beings" or even "people" rather than the "man" used in both KJV and DR. One might argue that "man" was intended by the KJV and Douay translators in 1611 and 1609 to mean all humans and not just men - though the 1776 American Declaration of Independence, in stating "all men are created equal" wasn't really interpreted as including women, until 1920 when the Constitution was amended to allow woment ro vote, or 1964, when women were included in the Civil Rights Act of that year. I doubt that the translators in the early 1600's were any more enlightened than Thomas Jefferson.

On the far end of the spectrum are the “dynamic” translations that try to convey the meaning and capture the spirit, if not using the exact words of the original. One example of this is the Contemporary English Version (CEV):

So God created humans to be like himself; he made men and women.

It is interesting what happens when one gets farther from the literal translations and deeper into the idea of “interpreting” what the translator thinks the writer (or earlier translator) may have meant. The CEV version reads very nicely – it’s in modern English, but it doesn’t convey the meaning that I read in the more literal KJV and Douay.

But let’s return to the message, and the reflection – those more literal translations emphasize how all human beings are made in the image and likeness of God. This is so important that it is repeated two times. And then we hear that we are created “male and female” in this image of God – that is, that each one of us is both “male and female” – it’s clear, at least from what I understand, that it is “male and female” and not “male or female.”

Despite the images we see of God portrayed as an elderly gentleman with a long white beard (perhaps the most famous image being the Creation of Adam on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican), we actually have a God who is all-male and all-female, as well as being (at least for Trinitarians) a Triune Being, one God in Three Persons: Father, Son and Spirit. (Some scholars posit the idea that it is possible that even more Persons than the official three being supported by the Hebrew term Elohim, and include Holy Wisdom (Hagia Sophia) and Holy Light (Santa Lucia) as “Persons” – even “female aspects” of God – but these are usually seen as being part of the Holy Spirit, and of course, then one gets close to the Roman idea of a corporate God, a Jupiter Optimus Maximus, into which all the various “gods” of myth, legend, and religion were being seen as aspects or persons.).

Male and Female.

Aside from the Taoist Yin-Yang and the Jungian animus/anima concepts, supporting the idea that every man has a “little bit of woman” inside and every woman has a “little bit of man” inside, the experience of many transsexual and transgender people seem to confirm the idea as well.

Even if we look to the mystery of fetal development, we can see that as a baby develops in utero, the early development is not sex-differentiated. Both “male” and “female” embryos have rudimentary sex organs that develop from the same cells, and in the same way, up to a point, and each initially has Wolffian and Mullerian “systems” in development. It is only after a few weeks that these cells develop into testes, ovaries (or ovotestes, in some cases), and prostate or uterus (or in some cases, neither), and a penis or clitoris (and yes, sometimes the development is something else). In most cases, the Mullerian system of ducts will disappear in boys, and the Wolffian system will degenerate in girls – but not always and not always entirely.

One resolution of the first Creation story with the second (the “Adam and Eve” story) is that Adam, as originally created in God’s image, was “male and female.” In the second story, this “male and female” Adam was put into a deep sleep while God separated him out into two people, Adam and Eve. The Hebrew story here is surprisingly similar in ideation to a creation story mentioned in Plato’s Symposium, attributed to Aristophanes, which also postulates a sort of combined “male-and-female” being as the initial creation, and posits that they were divided in two, though the Greek version shows a greater allegorical understanding of booth the nature of Eros and the idea that there are different sexual orientations. Not only are there “male and female” people being split in Aristophanes’ story, there are “male-and-male” and “female-and-female” people as well. On the splitting, though, each half is busy seeking its other half, whether that other half is same-sex or opposite sex. One might posit that the bible story covers the majority, but doesn’t necessarily cover everyone, if one is meditating on sexual orientation.

But we’re thinking about sex assignment and gender identity, and how most people see gender identity (or more specifically sex identity, as my intention is to refer to the feeling of “rightness” in being a man or a woman – something that is a given for those who are cissexual).

I take great comfort in knowing that I am, like everyone else, created in the image and likeness of God. I have had the experience of at least trying to assimilate as a man in accordance with the gender expected by society based on my birth-shaped genitals, while never feeling right in that assimilation (indeed, it was the source of a great deal of frustration, anxiety, and chronic depression usually referred to as gender dysphoria). I have the experience of being a woman, since starting the transition process, and feeling correct and comfortable with myself in this experience, finally not having to put on an act to be who I am.

I knew that I “should have been a girl” even when I was four years old. In my case, being created by God as “male and female” is perfectly natural, even if it is not the usual experience. My body developed with male genitals and a brain that is in part female (See Zhou J.-N, Hofman M.A, Gooren L.J, Swaab D.F (1997) A Sex Difference in the Human Brain and its Relation to Transsexuality. IJT 1,1, , reprinted from NATURE, 378: 68-70 (1995)). My underlying self-identity has always been consistent with that of being female even if my genitals were shaped differently. This is true even though I spent a very long time trying to deny that identity, and to construct a male “persona” to hide it. Early in my transition, I tried to continue to deny my essential identity, and for a time felt that I might have been “bigendered.” It was only through the process of resolving conflicts between my real feelings and those of the constructed persona I had built, that I realized that the real me was there all the time, and that I spent many years suffering by trying to keep myself in denial.

When confronted with the idea of transsexuals or gay people, many Christians feel a conflict. This is best noted by the Catholic Church’s Catechism references for how to deal with homosexuality.

2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered." They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.

2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

The Catholic Church, at lease, takes the position that homosexuality can be “deeply seated,” though the assertion that homosexual acts are contrary to natural law is clearly incorrect on the basis of an understanding of science and nature that is more advanced than the writings of Aristotle. For a really wonderful exposition of scientific research see: EVOLUTION'S RAINBOW. Diversity, Gender and Sexuality in Nature and People; by Joan Roughgarden, University of California Press, 2004.

Still, there is a conflict between the “Under no circumstances can they be approved” in Para. 2357 and the “They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided” in Para. 2358. The tension between these two paragraphs often underscores the Catholic Church’s approach to gay, lesbian, transsexual and transgender people. Under no circumstance can the Church be seen as condoning homosexuality, while at the same time the Church is compelled to accept gay and transgender people, and asserts that there should be no unjust discrimination against us.

This explains at least some of the actions of Catholic hierarchy. I was asked to leave my parish church in Valhalla when I started transition. At the time (August 1999), the associate pastor of Holy Name of Jesus, Rev. David Clifford, met with me and told me that if I stayed wt Holy Name, that I would be creating a “scandal in the Church.” He also said that I should go to some other parish where no one knew me as Paul. Doing so would avoid the conflict between “condoning” the transsexual and not “unjustly discriminating” against me.

The same sort of thing happened to a gay couple I know, Michael Sabatino and Robert Voorhees. They sang in a choir at a Catholic parish church in the Bronx. It was not a problem to the Church that they were gay. It really wasn’t even a problem that they got married in Canada. But when the news media covered the marriage, all of a sudden there was a “scandal in the Church.” The pastor told them that they couldn’t sing in the choir anymore, as it would seem too much like the Church “condoning” them. They now sing in a choir at an Episcopal church in Westchester.

Similarly, reports of the way the Diocese of Albany treated a retired Catholic priest who was a transsexual in transition, Rev. Denise Brennan, surfaced after the matter was investigated by a conservative Catholic publication, The Wanderer, and then got picked up by the New York Post. Initially, the diocese was supportive of Denise Brennan’s medical needs, but when the media picked up on it, steps were taken to distance the diocese from the transitioning Father Brennan. Once again, the attempt was made to be “accepting with respect, compassion and sensitivity” that got derailed when it started to look like “condoning” and “creating a scandal in the Church.

Many of the evangelical fundamentalist Christianist types who maintain a business of treating gay and trans people like lepers in our society make it clear that they don’t believe that transsexual or gay people can be “natural.” They believe that who we are is a matter of choice, and that we are all choosing to be sinners. So they believe their strident condemnations are a good thing and that this will gain them heaven, when it’s pretty clear that is not the case, and that if they don’t repent, they will almost certainly find themselves quite surprised to be numbered among the Goats on the day of Judgment (see my previous entry, and Mt. 25).

For me, I know that God created me as I am for a reason. I may not know that reason, but I am striving to try to make the world a little better place tomorrow than it is today. I am not junk – God does not create junk. I am special – perhaps closer to that initial creation than most cissexual people can experience. My very existence threatens them because they have never had the occasion to question their gender identity in any way, and are uncomfortable with people like me for whom the experience of gender dysphoria was much more than merely “a trial.”

Many gay and trans people, finding themselves rejected by conservative Christianists, themselves will reject religion. Others will find a denomination that does not treat them as evil. Our voices should be heard – if only to help bring the Christianists to the possibility of averting their assured eternal damnation.

NOTE: When I quote from the Bible in this blog, I will usually be using the King James version unless I note otherwise, because that is the version most of the six-day creationist evangelical fundamentalist Christianists use. With my Roman Catholic background, I suppose I should really use Douay-Rheims. In any event, these are both translations of earlier Latin Bible translations (though true for the 1609 Douay, in the mid-1700’s a Catholic bishop made some “corrections” to Douay based on then-available early Greek and Hebrew manuscripts), which are themselves one or two translations removed from the source languages. Muslims, at least, understand that translations lose something, and insist that their Holy Qu’ran is only accurate in Arabic. With the more modern discoveries of ancient texts (including but not limited to the Dead Sea Scrolls), modern scripture scholars have found that even St. Jerome’s Vulgate (the official Catholic Bible version, in Latin) is in many places a rather shoddy translation . Oh well – we work with what we have, I guess.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Will They Be Numbered Among the Goats?

I am terribly frustrated by the furor of the Christianist right wing over basic human rights for transsexual and transgender people, and people who don't fit into gender stereotypes. For example, Louis P. Sheldon of the "Traditional Values" Coalition derisively refers to the "gender-identity" inclusive version of the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act (H.R. 2015) as The Barney Frank She-Male Shower Bill.

For a long time, I have questioned the genuineness of the Christianity of people like Lou Sheldon, Fred Phelps (Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, and ) Tony Perkins (Family Research Council), James C. Dobson (Focus on the Family), and Beverly LaHaye (Concerned Women For America). I call them "Christianists" because theirs is a false Christianity built on a message of hatred for strangers and children; they pervert the Good News and make a mockery of religion in their quest to wrap their prejudice in the American Flag while lifting high the Cross upon which they have crucified me, and people like me.

They are all so consumed with an anti-Christian, anti-family, anti-transgender, anti-gay malevolence, that I fear for their souls.

Quite frankly, if they ever bothered to actually read the Bibles they thump so enthusiastically, they would know that God loves people like me who are strangers in the midst of a fearful cissexist heteronormative society.

The following is a homily I gave for the Remembering Our Dead services in 2005. It is as relevant today as it was then.

We have gathered together this afternoon for this Day of Remembrance to remember the silent victims of anti-transgender violence, many of whom each year are deprived of justice in addition to being deprived of their lives. Those who seek to murder us often wish to deny our existence, want to erase us, and want to see those of us who remain be relegated to the shadows and out of the clear light of day.

Before we take a look at the meaning of today’s readings, I think we should take a look at a couple of biblical verses that are often taken out of context by some who claim to be Christian, as a reason to vilify those who are transgender or gender variant.

Many of these "Christianists" will point to a single quote from Deuteronomy to demonstrate that transgendered people are an abomination hated by God, (Deut. 22:5): The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the LORD thy God.

This is the same chapter that required the Hebrew people to wear clothing with fringes, and prohibited the wearing of cloth with mixed threads, such as cotton-polyester blends. It also required those who build houses to put battlements on the roofs.

Somehow, when it comes to those other things, the good Christianist would be quick to point out Acts Chapter 15, in which it was made clear that one need not follow the whole of the Jewish law to be Christian, need not be circumcised, but only (v. 28-29) "no greater burden than these necessary things; That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well." Certainly, if crossdressing was such a horrible thing, it would have been included in the short list of Jewish law applicable to Gentile Christians. It wasn’t.

But let’s look a little more carefully at the Deuteronomy quote. Rabbinical scholars have debated the meaning of this verse for centuries, and while there are differences of opinion among these authorities, the historical context, and the ascription of "abomination" seems to make it clear that this verse was intended to forbid the Hebrews from engaging in the religious practices of the Canaanites, whose worship of the goddess Astarte, believed by her worshippers to be the goddess of sexuality, passion, creativity, and of the fertility of women and nature, involved transgendered priestesses and for whom sex was a sacrament.

Even the allegorical history of the Book of Genesis makes it clear that Yahweh did not approve of the sacrifice of Cain the farmer, but gave his favor to the sacrifice of the lamb of Abel, the shepherd. The Canaanites were farmers, the Hebrews were shepherds – and goddess-centered agricultural and fertility faiths were seen as the competition for the god-centered animal-sacrificing Hebrews.

We can also look at that Deuteronomy verse by asking the question, "who is a man" and "who is a woman?" Intersexed, Transgendered and gender variant people represent the natural diversity of the human condition, and not all of us can easily be placed in the either/or boxes of the binary gender system, in which one must be either a man or a woman.

And that brings us to the second verse that is used to negate the existence of transgender and gender variant people.

Those Christianists will often point out Genesis 1:27 as indicating that humans were created to be only two genders, male or female. But a careful look at that verse seems to indicate that humans were created in the image and likeness of God as "male and female" and not "male or female." In one sense, each one of us is "male and female." That is acknowledged in other spiritual and philosophical traditions as well.

For example, have you ever taken a close look at one of those Taoist Yin-Yang symbols? The half of light has a little bit of dark in it, and the half of dark has a little bit of light in it. In the philosophical psychology of Carl Jung, men have an animus, with a touch of an anima, while women have an anima with a touch of animus.

If we look at the readings chosen for today’s service, we can surely see the conflict between the traditional Christianist understanding of Deuteronomy 22:5 and the image of the Loving God who includes among the People of God those who are eunuchs and strangers, as shown in our first reading from the book of Isaiah (Isaiah 56:1-7).

And as to those who will point out the binary division of gender as God-given and God-willed, what could be a better answer than the words of Jesus himself in Matthew 19:12, in which Jesus lets us know that He is aware that there are several different sorts of "eunuchs."

There are those who are born different – those, for example, include both those who are intersexed and who have a visible genital anomaly at birth, and those who are transsexual, whose brains are formed differently from an erroneous genital-based sex assignment. There are those who are made different by men – and that includes those who seek surgical correction of the conflict between body and soul that the psychiatric community calls gender dysphoria.

And then there are those whom Jesus says are "eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven." The Magisterium of the Catholic Church would have us believe that this is a call to priestly celibacy, but it is more clearly a direct reference to Isaiah 56, in which those eunuchs who choose faith in the Lord will have "an everlasting name which will not be cut off."

In our last reading today from the book of Acts of the Apostles, the message of both Isaiah 56 and Matthew 19:12 is reinforced, as Philip the Apostle encounters an Ethiopian eunuch, who just happens to be reading the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, just a couple of chapters before our reading – the quote from Isaiah in the reading is from Chapter 53 verse 7.

It’s pretty clear that in the course of their discussion, Philip and the eunuch got around to Chapter 56 with its accepting message – and that this is what prompted the eunuch a bit later to ask Philip for baptism.

The three readings today are not merely verses taken out of context, as the quotes often used by the Christianists, they are the authentic message of the love that God has for all, even eunuchs, even strangers.

And then, what is the message to those who hate us, those who kill us, those who want to eradicate us?

Let’s look first at the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. When he was the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the current Pope (the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger) dismissively cited the story of Sodom and Gommorrah as follows "Thus, in Genesis 19:1-11, the deterioration due to sin continues in the story of the men of Sodom. There can be no doubt of the moral judgement made there against homosexual relations."*
*LETTER TO THE BISHOPS OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH ON THE PASTORAL CARE OF HOMOSEXUAL PERSONS – Homosexualitatis problema (Epistula de pastorali personarum homosexualium cura), October 1st, 1986, §6, paragraph 2
Apparently, the Pope has not read the story of Sodom as written in the Book of Genesis. It is a story that involves the suspicious and inhospitable inhabitants of the City of Sodom, who did not approve of strangers from outside the city who were visiting Abraham’s brother Lot.

They wanted to communicate their lack of hospitality for Lot’s visitors, by gang-raping them and then throwing them out of town. It was the ancient equivalent of tarring, feathering and riding out of town on a rail.

The idea of the gang rape of the visitors, was a very macho sort of thing – to show the visitors that the men of Sodom were "real men" and the visitors were "less than women."

This sort of misogynistic attitude, this mistrust of people who are different, or who are strangers in our midst, is not a characteristic of gay people, who are often slurred when they are called "sodomites."

What the Pope and the Christianists refuse to understand, is that the punishment of Sodom was meted out to those who do not accept strangers, and who hate people be-cause they are different. The real "sodomites" are the people who have a rabid hatred of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people, because we are different, because we are strangers, because we are eunuchs.

But God loves us.

There is a further message in the Gospel for those who preach bigotry and hate, and who want to deny human dignity and fair treatment to those of us who are different because we are LGBT.
The message of Mathew Chapter 25:31-46 is a warning to the intolerant.

When the time comes for Judgment, they will be found wanting.

Whatsoever they have done to the least of God’s children, they do to God.

Those who insult and hate us, and shoot us in the back of the head, or bludgeon and stab us until we are unrecognizable and dump our bodies in a shallow grave, are not the only ones who will number among the goats.

Those whose intolerance in the name of Christ leads them to deny to the members of the LGBT community basic human rights and dignity will fare just as poorly on the Day of Judgment. Like the men of Sodom, their inhospitable and suspicious bigotry is an affront to God as well as to those who are the victims of their persecution.

These same Christianists, the real sodomites, also often wrap themselves up in the flag and claim that their concept of Christianity is also patriotic and American. The nation that supposedly guarantees its inhabitants the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, has a history of treating people with injustice. The treatment of slaves, of women, and of LGBT people, has all the same earmarks. You will know them by their works.

My prayer for them is this: May God forgive them, if they know not what they do. But they do know what they do, and they believe they are justified, and that is so much sadder, because they are more likely to die unrepentant. And so I pray for them, that they may become open to the knowledge and understanding they need, the strength and courage to change their ways and see the truth, and, inspired by Holy Wisdom, that they no longer be so hard of heart, and that they know peace and love.