Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Standing up to be counted

I discovered recently through Box Turtle Bulletin that a number of clergy and church leaders in Iowa signed a petition asking the legislators to overturn the Supreme Court's decision that Iowa law and Constitution required same-sex partners the ability to legally obtain civil marriage.

I downloaded the petition and saw, to my dismay, that a church I attended on weekends while visiting my family during college had 5 signatories on the list. Tonight I finally decided to do something about that. So I located the email addresses of 4 of them (the fifth eluded me) and I typed up the following email in an effort to let them know that their signatures as church staff has consequences for those in their congregation. It read:

Dear (staff member),

I'm (Topher), a graduate student currently at the University of Illinois. I'm originally from the Iowa City area, where I often visit my dad and mom and sisters. I spent many Sunday mornings at (church name) during weekends at home during my undergraduate at Iowa State University, and my family has often visited as well.

I was dismayed to learn, however, that recently you were a signatory of the "petition to the Iowa legislature from Iowa clergy and church leaders" that advises legislators to establish the legal definition of civil marriage as between a man and a woman. I and other gay persons I know from college have directly benefited from the ability to have same-sex marriage in the state of Iowa. This includes the entitlement to medical information in an emergency, sharing health insurance through their employers, and a stable legally-binding relationship to support their adopted children. But most of all, these people are Christians who are now legally permitted a relationship already sanctioned by their churches.

I hope that you, having stated your opposition to the Court's position have undertaken your civic duty to understand why the court reached its conclusion. If you have not read any of the Court's opinion, I have attached a summary released by the Court last spring. In particular, I would ask that you read the section "Religious opposition to same-sex marriage" in the document, which reads:

Recognizing the sincere religious belief held by some that the “sanctity of marriage” would be undermined by the inclusion of gay and lesbian couples, the court nevertheless noted that such views are not the only religious views of marriage. Other, equally sincere groups have espoused strong religious views yielding the opposite conclusion. These contrasting opinions, the court finds, explain the absence of any religious-based rationale to test the constitutionality of Iowa’s same-sex marriage statute. “Our constitution does not permit any branch of government to resolve these types of religious debates and entrusts to courts the task of ensuring government avoids them . . . . The statute at issue in this case does not prescribe a definition of marriage for religious institutions. Instead, the statute, declares, ‘Marriage is a civil contract’ and then regulates that civil contract . . . . Thus, in pursuing our task in this case, we proceed as civil judges, far removed from the theological debate of religious clerics, and focus only on the concept of civil marriage and the state licensing system that identifies a limited class of persons entitled to secular rights and benefits associated with marriage.”

In the future, I hope that you would strongly reconsider attaching the name of (church name) and your staff position behind your individual petition signature. For while it may momentarily seem to increase the strength of your signature, it also demonstrates that because of political beliefs, rather than theological beliefs, that I, my parents, and my sisters are not welcome in your congregation.

Thank you for your time.


I will let you know if and when I hear back from any of them.

(Day 731)

Happy 2nd anniversary to us!

Now I've officially made a habit of being late on posting about our anniversaries. But if it makes you feel any better, I at least remembered to share my 2nd anniversary with the man I love, even if not immediately with all of you!

Our weekend was, strangely enough, dominated by family time. We visited Chicago, meeting up with J's aunt and cousin, both of whom came to our Quaker wedding, and with J's mother, who was not present at the wedding. This led to a few awkward situations, two of which I'll detail.

The first: J's mother saying that she was going to buy us an anniversary dinner. It just didn't sit right with me. Sure, it's a sign of support. But of what? Certainly not the marriage. Support of her son, even though he's her wayward child? Perhaps. Luckily, circumstances intervened and we had to order food in, which meant no weird discussions of who pays for what and that it did/didn't have anything to do with our anniversary.

The second: on Sunday morning, J's cousin and aunt (both supportive of our relationship) started asking questions related to us getting kicked out of our church. Nothing we said was inaccurate or meant to portray the church in an unfair light, but still J's mom was quiet the entire time and was obviously not fitting into the conversation.

Happy anniversary, my love!

(Day 731)

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

How can gay be natural, if ...

... it doesn't increase reproduction? You, of course, won't hear this argument much from those who don't believe in evolution. But for those who do, it raises an interesting question: how can homosexuality be a recurring natural occurrence, when on the surface it appears to decrease the number of offspring who will survive to reproduce themselves?

Not that this article answers the question, but it brings up many scientists who are now delving into the details of that very question. Enjoy:

Can animals be gay?

(Day 655)

One year anniversary for Iowa same-sex couples

This coming Saturday, April 3 2010, will mark the one year anniversary of the unanimous Iowa Supreme Court ruling that stated it was unconstitutional to deprive same-sex couples of the institution of civil marriage. Jonas and I were directly impacted by this ruling, in that we were able to finally be recognized in the state where I grew up and where we visit my family. What a great day!

Not only that, Iowa Governor Chet Culver reiterated his support of the Democrat-controlled legislature to not bring same-sex marriage to a vote, saying:

“Regardless of our personal views, we have a line that needs to be drawn between the executive branch, the judicial branch and I think Iowans are ready to move on and accept that unanimous decision.”

Maybe not everyone is willing to accept it; all three Republican candidates for governor are opposed to same-sex marriage and . But I hope they fail ... after all, it would mean endangering the marriages of over 1,800 same-sex couples in the state. One of which Jonas and I would miss terribly should it disappear.

(Day 655)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Genuine bridge-building

About every other Tuesday night, the local LGBT and allies Christian group for students on campus meets. Yesterday, however, we decided to take our group off campus and into the home of a wonderful PFLAG woman named Peggy. We brought 12 students from campus and met with approximately 10 adults from Peggy's presbyterian church. One adult, Don, was the guy who organized bringing Andrew Marin to town, which was surprising, since he is more evangelical and less supportive than those who were from PFLAG (speaking of Andrew Marin, I need to write a post about his visit to town).

The food was excellent (I need to get some recipes!), the conversation meaningful. We had an hour-long discussion after dinner about our experiences of either being LGBT and coming out to friends and/or family, or of being a parent/wife/family member of someone who is LGBT. Two stories particularly resonated. One was of a woman whose husband of 18 years one day said he had to move out to figure things out; only a few months later did he tell her that it was because he was gay and just couldn't continue in their marriage as such. And yet she was such a supportive woman, even after all the hurt and pain caused by her husband having been gay. The second story was that of a student who I had only met twice before. He is involved in Intervarsity, a Christian group on campus, but was told he could no longer be a leader after he started dating his current boyfriend. That and other parts of his story reminded me of the difficult times my husband and I encountered when we first started dating within an evangelical church.

The evening was, by all means, hugely successful. Whereas our regular meetings are about 1 hour long, this one went for ~2 to 2.5 hours before breaking up, and then people voluntarily stayed around for another 30 to 45 minutes! Now that we've seen how it can work well, we will be eager to repeat it again in the future. Heck, another PFLAG couple has already volunteered to be the next hosts; now that's a vote of confidence in what we're accomplishing!

(Day 634)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Lt. Choi visit

Last night I attended a talk headlined by Lt. Dan Choi. Many of you may know him as the military officer who has been vocally opposed to Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT). While I will not regurgitate his speech, a majority of which can be found strewn across the web, I wanted to latch onto an idea mentioned and which I had not heard explained before.

In 1948 President Truman signed executive order 9981, which enacted racial desegregation in the military. Lt. Choi said some people have picked up on this recently and argued that to repeal DADT, we need to have committees and perform studies and have plans for how to integrate gays into the military, etc. But, said Lt. Choi, we don't need to do all this pre-planning and stretch it out for years, because those who draw the comparison are missing out on a vital component: gays are already integrated into every corner of the military. Unlike race, where it was easy to keep out people of a certain skin color or appearance, LGBT service members who have not run afoul of DADT are everywhere in the military. There is no need for an integration plan, because they are already integrated. All that is needed is for DADT to be repealed and for commanding officers to demand that all members, regardless of orientation, are treated with dignity and respect.

All of this is not to mention that Democrats may lose control of congress in less than a year, in which case DADT may stay on the books for years to come.

(Day 612)

Monday, January 11, 2010

Conservative Case for Gay Marriage

Well written by Ted Olson, I would like to direct people to The Conservative Case for Gay Marriage in this week's Newsweek.

(Day 576)