In Michigan: “License to Bully” Bill Changed

Two weeks ago, I posted about the Michigan State Senate passing SB 137, which sanctioned bullying in schools on the basis of “sincerely held religious or moral conviction.” Click here to read that post.

“But thanks to media coverage and a great campaign by State Senator Gretchen Whitmer, a Republican lawmaker has agreed to remove the religious exemptions language from the final bill,” as reported on Queerty.

I’m pleased to hear this news and also happy that Rick Jones, the State Republican Senator who added the “religious or moral conviction” addendum agreed to “drop his amendment and vote for the House version after critics said the language could allow gay, Muslim or other minority students to face harassment,” as quoted from The Washington Post.

Jones also said that “had he foreseen the controversy, . . . he would have removed the problematic language.”

I’m grateful when a politician realizes his/her mistake and does what is right to rectify it. Although the State Republicans “only wanted to protect free speech,” they understood the damaging ramifications of the amendment.

This just goes to show us that when our elected officials get something wrong, it’s up to us to make our voices heard. When we do, we are able to affect change. That’s something we should always remember.

Veteran’s Day: For My Grandfather

My grandfather, Martin Sanchez, served three tours of duty in the Vietnam War. As a child, I didn’t have a full concept of what that meant, and I often asked him questions. When he would discuss his time in Vietnam with me, his eyes would glass over, as if he was simultaneously with me but also somewhere else. And he was somewhere else. He was back in the jungles, trudging behind his friends through the muddy fields or enjoying a smoke break in the sweltering heat. My questions had thrown open the doors to his past and brought those ghosts to his present.

Ignorant to this, I asked him lots of questions, the most frequent one was why he enlisted. I knew enough about the war at that time to know that many young men were being drafted. Not my grandfather. He enlisted.

That boggled my young mind. It seemed crazy to me, at least from my childish perspective. I couldn’t understand why anyone would leave the safety of their home and their family to fight a war in another country.

His answer rarely satisfied me. He would look at me, smile, and say that “He had to.”

This confused me. Did his parents make him go? Did my grandmother encourage his enlistment? Did he go because all his friends were going?

Whenever I asked him why, he simply smiled and said one day I would understand.

I hated being told those words by any adult. It made me feel stupid, as if my childish brain was incapable of handling whatever information the adult kept just out of my reach. I wanted to know more, but my grandfather realized he couldn’t provide an answer that would satisfy me.

And the stories he sometimes told didn’t help much either.

In one story, he was trapped in a foxhole with his squad. A firefight ensued all night. He couldn’t move. He couldn’t eat. He couldn’t sleep. All he could do was fight–to stay alive and to make sure none of his buddies died.

I also remember a story where he and his friends spent the night in an abandoned structure of some kind, tracked by their enemy and seeking shelter where it could be found. There was also a time when a grenade was tossed in his direction. I’m uncertain how he survived (to be honest, I stopped listening because the thought of my grandfather in danger really made me uneasy), but he made it out alive.

In all the stories I’ve heard over the years, not once did his face betray his emotions. There was neither fear nor regret.

He was proud. After all, it was something he just had do.

As an adult, I understand my grandfather more than ever. Fighting for his country was his calling. It’s what made him the man he is today. He served the United States without thinking about his personal well being. He did it because he loves his country. He did it because he is a man of principle and a patriot, and he lived his life following those very basic tenets.

And by being that patriot, that man who stood up when so many others ran, he taught me a great deal about honor, about loyalty, and about what it meant to truly be a man.

It had nothing to do with laying waste to an enemy or with fighting tooth and nail for survival. That was only in the movies.

Being a man meant doing what needed to be done. It meant embracing your fear, looking it square in the face and never once backing down. Being a man wasn’t something you could run from. Being a man meant you sometimes had to stand your ground, no matter what.

So, today, I thank my grandfather for being a man, for doing what he had to do for his family and his country.

And I want to thank the other veterans, the other men and women who proudly serve this country. Like my grandfather, they are all doing what they have to do. They are heroes in a world where true heroes are few and far between, and they represent the best of what this country has to offer!

Respect for Marriage Act Passes Senate Judiciary Committee

Earlier today, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed (by a vote of 10-8) the Respect for Marriage Act, as reported on Queerty. This act would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defined a marriage as between one man and one woman for the country. The Respect for Marriage Act doesn’t force states to legally recognize homosexual marriage; however, for those states that do, this would allow same sex couples the right to federal benefits accorded to married heterosexual couples.

ThinkProgress reports that a White House Official made the following statement on the committee’s vote: “The President has long believed that DOMA is discriminatory and has called for its repeal. We should all work towards taking this law off the books. The federal government should not deny gay and lesbian couples the same rights and legal protections afforded to straight couples.”

While I’m glad to hear of the vote and President Obama’s words of encouragement, I’m also a realist. The Respect for Marriage Act has little hope of passing in the Senate, where conservative Republicans lie in wait to tear this act asunder. And though President Obama made many promises in his election bid, I’ve yet to see many of them fulfilled.

Still, I won’t give up hope. I’ll take this as a good sign, that we are headed in the right direction. We might not get there tomorrow or next year, but that doesn’t mean we won’t eventually get there! After all, we’ve traveled a long way down the road to equality–6 states recognize gay marriage, DADT has been repealed, and hate crime laws and anti-bullying bills are being passed in many states.

Gay rights have come a long way, and with determination and fortitude, we’ll go all the way to full equality.

Whether conservatives or Christian fundamentalists like it or not, the closet doors are open and we aren’t going back in!

 

NOM Loses in Iowa

A few weeks back, I posted that the anti-gay group the National Organization for Marriage funneled funds into the Iowa special senate election. They were hoping to decrease the democratic majority by backing Republican candidate Cindy Golding. Click here to read that post.

I’m pleased to report that the Iowa voters were too smart for their shenanigans! Democratic candidate Liz Mathis won the election by “a healthy 55% of the vote” as reported by ThinkProgress.

In response, NOM pouts by blaming the woman who they once supported by calling Golding “a weak candidate.”

Instead of blaming the woman, I think NOM needs to take a good, hard look at itself. Gay marriage wasn’t even an issue in Iowa until NOM made it one. Their interference and their hate campaigns turned Iowa voters away from Golding. Had NOM kept its trap shut and not interfered with the election, Golding might have had more of a fighting chance.

Still, I’m not complaining. I enjoy watching someone (like NOM) drown in its own hateful bile.

 

 

Hillary Clinton: It’s Time to “Usher in an AIDS Free Generation”

Today, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave a speech at the National Institute of Health outlining her commitment to increasing funding for HIV/AIDS research that would “usher in an AIDS free generation,” as reported by ThinkProgress. During her speech, Clinton said that “creating an HIV-free population has never been a government priority until today.”

Personally, I think such a commitment has been a long time coming. While great strides have most definitely been made in treating those individuals living with HIV, greater measure need to be taken to make HIV as eradicated as polio and smallpox.

Apparently, Clinton agrees.

During her speech, she stated that “she envisioned a world in which virtually no children are born with the virus, face far lower risk of becoming infected, and have access to treatments that prevent the development of AIDS and reduce spreading the infection.”

Besides increasing funds for HIV/AIDS research, Clinton is also committed to what she dubbed “combination prevention” designed to decrease future HIV infections.

One of her goals is reducing “mother to child infection. . . to zero” and set the year 2015 as her target for achieving this feat. She also wants to enact “voluntary male circumcision,” which has been proven to “decrease male to female transmission by more than 60 percent.” Lastly, she wants to provide low cost treatment of “anti-retro viral drugs” to those living with the virus. Effectively treating those currently infected reduces transmission to a partner by “96 percent.”

Now, this is what politicians should be doing. They shouldn’t be messing with the private affairs of individuals such as marriage. They should be tackling problems that affect the nation, such as AIDS, education, health care, or employment, and come up with policy that is designed to make the nation stronger, not fracture it with hatred and prejudice.

Archbishop Dolan Promotes Gay Discrimination

Awhile back, I posted about Archbishop Patrick Dolan who commented that gay marriage would lead to a conflict between church and state. In a recent proclamation, the good shephard made a decree (as reported by ThinkProgress) that prohibited “any Church personnel or property from being utilized for same-sex marriage ceremonies under penalty of ‘canonical sanctions,’ calling  [New York's] new marriage equality ‘irreconcilable with the nature and the definition of marriage as established by Divine law.’”

In his decree, Archbishop Dolan outlined the following restrictions:

1. No member of the clergy (priest or deacon) incardinated or assisting in the Archdiocese of New York, or any person while acting as an employee of the Church, may participate in the civil solemnization or celebration of a same-sex marriage, which includes but is not limited to providing services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods or privilege for such event. Ecclesiastical solemnization or celebration of same-sex marriages is expressly forbidden by Canon law.

2. No Catholic facility or property, including but not limited to parishes, missions, chapels, meeting halls, Catholic educational, health, or charitable institutions or benevolent orders, or any place dedicated, consecrated, or used for Catholic worship may be used for the solemnization or consecration of same-sex marriages.”

While his decree isn’t surprising, I find it quite sad.

I’m a firm believer in the separation of the church and state, and I in no way believe that any church should be forced to break their canonical laws. To do so would violate the basic tenets of our Constitution. Every church has the right to their rituals and beliefs, and no government should ever infringe upon that. After all, one of the reasons the Pilgrims came to this country was because their beliefs were being violated by the monarchs in England.

In his quest for new brides, King Henry XIII fractured the Catholic Church and began a long bloody battle between Catholicism and Protestantism, where the only people who suffered were those who didn’t follow the religion of the crown.

Separating church and state was the only way to ensure the safety of the people. No one would have to worry about being oppressed for religious beliefs if those beliefs didn’t match the individual in charge.

With that said, Archbishop Dolan’s decree basically outlines that the church will actively discriminate against homosexuals and those who might disagree with the church’s stance.

It seems to me we are moving in the wrong direction here.

I’m no religious scholar, but I thought Jesus created his church for all–the mighty and the meek, the poor and the down trodden, the saint and the sinner. I don’t recall stories of Jesus decreeing that anyone was not welcome in his church. He reached out to the outcasts, those who were shunned by a polite society and he sought to bring them closer to God through his loving embrace.

Archbishop Dolan’s proclamation does the exact opposite. It pushes away a section of His people, telling them they will not be welcome and they will not receive the blessings of others.

To me, that sounds extremely anti-Christian and actions unbecoming of a truly good shepherd.

Another Ex-Gay Leader Comes Out

Sergio Viula, who lives in Brazil and who helped found the ex-gay conversion group Movement for the Healthy Sexuality (or MOSES), came out of the closet.

According to The Flying Teapot, MOSES is an “evangelical NGO which helps people interested in quitting homosexuality.” Because of the ex-gay conversion, Viula “got married, had two children and saw by himself the very methods of ‘sexual re-orientation.’”

Surprisingly, the “brainwashing” didn’t stick. Not that anyone is really surprised.

In an interview shared by ThinkProgress, Viula stated “Nobody really quit being gay. There were relationships even within the group, between an activity and another, they would always find time for that.”

Apparently while the gays were being converted by MOSES into heterosexuality, they were heading back to their rooms to do the nasty with people of the same sex.

Viula isn’t the first ex-gay to come out of the closet. I posted awhile back about John Smid, another ex-gay leader who admitted that conversion therapy was a fraud.

Now, Viula’s voice joins Smid’s in their attempts to undo the damage they have done, but I have to wonder: is that enough?

How many years did both men torment other homosexuals in their attempts at making them straight? How much mental anguish did they inflict on others, promising that the “conversions” were valid?

Is simply apologizing and trying to clear the air enough?

For me, it is not. While I’m glad these men have accepted who they truly are, it doesn’t undo the damage they have already inflicted.

A criminal may be sorry for his crimes, but that doesn’t solely exonerate him. It seems to me that Viula, Smid, and others like them should have to suffer some type of legal recourse for their actions.

Michigan Senate Passes “License to Bully” Bill

In what can only be described as a cowardly political move, the Republican controlled Michigan Senate passed SB 137, which basically sanctions bullying.

ThinkProgress reports that the bill “not only neglects to protect students based on sexual orientation or gender identity, but creates a special exception for bullies who have a ‘sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction.’”

Basically, a student in Michigan schools can be bullied if another student, teacher, or administrator has strong moral reasons for tormenting a child. You have got to be kidding me?!?!

Are there adults elected to office in Michigan? Do they really believe that anyone’s religious beliefs give them sanction to physically or emotionally assault another individual? How is this any different than the Taliban or a jihad? Yet those individuals are terrorists and a jihad is a terrorist attack!

But according to Republican senators in Michigan (which passed SB 137 in a 26-11 vote), assaulting a child in school based on “religious or moral conviction” is A-OK! I guess as long as those beliefs are Christian based then it’s alright.

Do these people understand that a group of students in Michigan can form a Holy Crusade and beat the crap out of some gay kid, which according to SB 137, would be perfectly within their right? Those students would never be held accountable for their actions because they were simply following their “moral” convictions.

Democratic Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer refused to take the bill’s passage lying down. In a passionate speech, she made the following statement:

So this might solve a political problem that Republicans have. but be clear: You are papering over the problem that is a reality faced by hundreds of kids in Michigan schools every day. In fact, not only does this not protect kids who are bullied, it further endangers them by legitimizing excuses for tormenting a student. And the saddest and sickest irony of this whole thing is that it’s called ‘Matt’s Safe School Law’. And after the way that you’ve gutted it, it wouldn’t have done a damn thing to save Matt!

This is worse than doing nothing! It’s a Republican license to bully.”

Here’s her full speech if you would like to hear her lambast the Republicans.

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Lady Gaga to Create Anti-Bullying Foundation

Lady Gaga’s song “Born This Way” became an anthem for self-acceptance and loving one’s self despite adversity or prejudice. Her lyrics remind us all that we were all created by God, and that He made us exactly the people we were to be, no matter our race or sexual orientation.

Now, Lady Gaga is ready to take her anthem “Born This Way” to the next level, as reported by The Advocate. She will “launch her Born This Way Foundation” where she “will use the title of her hit pro-LGBT anthem and best-selling album as the name of the non-profit that will focus on youth empowerment and ‘issues like self-confidence, well-being, anti-bullying, mentoring and career development.’”

When asked about her hopes for the foundation, Lady Gaga said, “Together we [including her mother, Cynthia Germanotta] hope to establish a standard of Bravery and Kindness, as well as a community worldwide that protects and nurtures others in the face of bullying and abandonment.”

These are the types of stories I love to see. When entertainers, politicians, or anyone else in the limelight uses their influence to truly make a difference, everyone benefits. Lady Gaga isn’t attacking religious fundamentalists or Republicans. She isn’t launching a smear campaign against those she disagrees with.

Instead, she is using her fame and her resources to make a difference, to give hope to those who feel abandoned.

My hats off to Lady Gaga and those like her. Such actions by people such as this are worth more than the venom that spews from any hate monger’s mouth. After all, hate and ignorance can’t stand against love and compassion for all.

Here’s the music video for “Born This Way” if you haven’t seen it or would like to see it again.

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FRC Launches Prayer Campaign Against Gay Adoption

Last week, Angela Gillibrand, a democratic Senator from New York, introduced a new bill called “Every Child Deserves a Family.” This bill is designed to eliminate bans on gay adoption across the country. Obviously, Gillebrand sees the merit of allowing gay couples a chance to adopt the 800,000 children in our country who go unadopted each year.

This bill would increase the chances of those 800,000 children finding homes and prevent those children from growing up within the foster care system. Instead, they would be adopted by a family dedicated to giving them a life they could not ordinarily have as wards of the state.

Apparently, the Family Research Council hates this idea as reported by ThinkProgress.

On the FRC website, the group offers up this prayer:

May God intervene and stir Americans to resist and stop this effort to advance the radical homosexual agenda and literally to possess our nation’s children. May God open our eyes! (Gen 1:26-28; 2:21-24; Lev 18:22-30; Dt 26:7-8; Pr 28:4; Lk 17:1-2; Acts 5:29; Eph 5:31-6:4)”

The FRC is ticked off because this bill would force private agencies to accept gay and lesbian couples as potential parents or lose their federal funding. Instead of focusing on the children who go without parents each year, the FRC is more concerned with defeating the “radical homosexual agenda.”

The only “agenda” these gay and lesbian couples have is to become parents, which is the same agenda as straight couples. I hope one day soon people will come to realize that the only real victims in issues like these are the children, who were abandoned by their biological heterosexual parents.