Monday, October 05, 2009

(Updated) Guest Blog: ABQ City Councilor Harris Feels Being Pious a Qualification

Update: Gwyneth Doland at NMI has an enlightening story reporting a response by Don Harris to the discussion about his hit piece directed against David Barbour on the basis of religion.
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This is a guest blog by Cornelia "Nili "Lange, MD, who serves as a Democratic Ward Chair in Ward 28B in Albuquerque.

The last time I read the City Charter, I did not see any requirement of religiosity to be an Albuquerque City Councilor. Yet, Mr. Don Harris, District 9 City Councilor, in a mail piece I received last Thursday, set religious affiliation as a preferred qualification for a City Councilor; implying that his opponent is an atheist. Click to see the direct mail piece (pdf). Is he trying to lead us lambs of District 9 to the choice of a pious leader? Is Mr. Harris telling us lambs of District 9 that we should indicate our religious affiliation or lack of it to assist his judgment of us?

The two campaigns for City Councilor in District 9 had already presented two very different and clear choices before this piece arrived in our mail boxes. Sadly, with numerous glowing endorsements in his back pocket, Mr. Harris decided to pull this stunt. Our District 9 Councilor’s innate ability to drum up conflict in the past has resulted in one costly recall election for Albuquerque voters.

I suggest that Mr. Harris revisit the Bible lesson of what a real religious leader said regarding casting the first stone in the story of Mary Magdalene. I suggest that he revisit the Golden Rule. I also suggest that Mr. Harris get used to having an opponent in every election. His juvenile behavior will drive future political opponents to run against him from the diverse constituency which he is supposed to serve.

This is a guest blog by Cornelia “Nili” Lange, MD, who can be reached at cwlange@aol.com. The candidates for City Councilor in District 9 are incumbent Don Harris and challenger David V. Barbour.

If you'd like to submit a piece for consideration as a guest blog, contact me by clicking on the Email Me link on the upper left-hand corner of the page.

October 5, 2009 at 05:28 PM in 2009 Albuquerque City Council Races, Civil Liberties, Guest Blogger, Religion | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 01, 2009

Murder of Dr. George Tiller: NM Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice Hosts Memorial Service Tonight in ABQ

GTillerThe New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (NMRCRC) will be sponsoring a memorial service honoring Dr. George Tiller (right). The service is scheduled for tonight, Monday, June 1, 2009 at 7:00 PM at St. Thomas of Canterbury Episcopal Church, 425 University NE, in Albuquerque.

The NMRCRC released a statement saying they extend their deepest sympathy and their prayers to the family of Dr. George Tiller, who was assassinated yesterday morning in the lobby of Reformation Lutheran Church in Wichita, Kansas, where he was a member of the congregation. "We are horrified and outraged and saddened at this enormous loss – for his family, for all the women who need his care now and will need it in the future."

“Today we are mourning the loss of a hero, a man who was fundamentally pro-life. Dr. Tiller saved the lives of women again and again," the statement continued. "We know most of the so-called 'pro-life movement' deplores this action, and condemns it, and we can not blame the whole movement for the actions of one madman. But the fact that the murder took place in his church reminds us that some people use religion as an excuse for acts of hatred. Let us remember that violence and murder are perversions of religion,” said Executive Director, Joan Lamunyon Sanford.

"Dr. Tiller was a person of conscience and faith, who provided abortion services for women in the greatest medical and for poor women in particular, who are the women most likely to need abortions in the second trimester, Dr. Tiller was an essential provider. He was one of the very few doctors providing medically indicated late-term abortion services and he did not waver from the provision of this service, despite frequent threats, lawsuits and violence and was well aware that he was never far from danger."

"Tragically, there were many warning signs that this cruel act could take place. Dr. Tiller's clinic was severely vandalized earlier this month and it was reported that Dr. Tiller had asked the FBI to investigate the incident. Today, as we mourn the loss of Dr. Tiller, we urge the federal government to take swift action against the person or persons who committed this act," the statement concluded.

It is heartening to me that a religious group is sponsoring a memorial event for Dr. Tiller. The New York Times reports on the killing of Dr. Tiller and provides an unconscionable quote from one of the murderer's fellow anti-choice activists who ostensibly is a Christian -- in stark contrast to the response of the NMRCRC:

Scott Roeder, 51, of Merriam, Kan., whom authorities have described as a suspect in Sunday’s fatal shooting here of George Tiller, was once a subscriber and occasional contributor to a newsletter, Prayer and Action News, said Dave Leach, an anti-abortion activist from Des Moines who runs the newsletter. Mr. Leach said that he had met Mr. Roeder once, and that Mr. Roeder had described similar views to his own on abortion.

Commenting on Dr. Tiller’s death, Mr. Leach said, “To call this a crime is too simplistic.” He added, “There is Christian scripture that would support this." [emphasis mine]

Frederick Clarkson has an excellent diary at Daily Kos about the murder that examines the roles played by ugly rhetoric and incendiary actions in helping to set off violent crimes like this one. Given the propensity of certain right wingers and their proponents in the media to create an atmosphere of intimidation and hatred around issues like this, be prepared for more outbreaks of viciousness using religion as an excuse.

June 1, 2009 at 04:26 PM in Civil Liberties, Crime, Events, Religion, Women's Issues | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Anti-Marriage Equality Group Trying to Suppress Videos That Demonstrate Its Dishonesty



NOM audition videos

I'm sure you recall the melodramatic TV ad concocted by the so-called National Organization for Marriage (but only if you're straight). The NOM is primarily a front group for the monied Mormon church, and is fighting against marriage equality efforts. The ad features people who are presented as ordinary people claiming marriage equality scares them and/or will hurt them, and who identify themselves as a California doctor, a Massachusetts parent etc. 

Not too surprisingly, it turns out the people appearing in the ad are just your garden variety, bit-part actors hired for the gig. We know this because somebody leaked their audition videos and they ended up all over YouTube and thousands of blogs soon after the ad was released. We also know the audition vids are genuine, because NOM has launched an effort to stop their distribution. Caught in the act.

As Wired reports:

... for sheer hilarity, no parody can match the audition tapes for the ad, in which a series of no-name actors stand in front of a green screen and mostly botch lines like "the clouds are dark and the winds are strong" and "I'm a California doctor who must choose between my faith and my job."

The audition videos, uncovered by the Human Rights Campaign, seem too good to be true. But NOM has helpfully authenticated them by sending DMCA notices to YouTube to get them pulled down. Vimeo.com hosted the banned videos for a while, but now also appears to have folded like an umbrella.

So internet rebels are saving the videos with keepvid.com, and then uploading them back to YouTube when they're pulled.

Now NOM has gone one step further, successfully demanding that a clip from MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Show discussing the ad and audition video story be removed from YouTube:

The National Organization for Marriage seems to be ratcheting up its efforts to suppress the audition videos that leaked from its anti-gay-rights "gathering storm" shoot. According to YouTube, the group has gotten a clip from MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Show pulled from the site.

In the segment, which aired Thursday, Maddow criticizes the group's ad, and shows 40 seconds of the audition tapes. "We do not know how Human Rights Campaign got access to the audition tapes, but because they did, we do know that pretending to be a straight person hurt by gay marriage is apparently very, very challenging," she says.

The clip was previous available on YouTube, but now the page says "This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by National Organization for Marriage."

Thankfully, you can still see the Maddow clip here and on the MSNBC site.

I guess the powers that be at NOM aren't just afraid because the "clouds are dark" and the "winds are strong" in the "gathering storm" that represents momentum for marriage equality in the ad. They're also clearly afraid that when people view the audition videos they'll see behind the false curtain of respectability NOM is attempting to create for themselves and their homophobic campaign against equality. 

Let's hope the folks who keep posting the auditions on YouTube keep up their good work until NOM gives up on their quest to supress. Then again, groups like NOM are all about suppression and repression, so it might take quite some time. The forces allied against equal rights for all are nothing if not stubbornly single-minded in their pursuit of quashing civil liberties.

April 14, 2009 at 11:55 AM in Civil Liberties, GLBT Rights, Media, Religion | Permalink | Comments (7)

Friday, April 10, 2009

Guest Blog: Creation vs Choice is Key to Domestic Partnership Arguments

This is a guest blog by Ellen Wedum of Cloudcroft, New Mexico.

The Domestic Partnership Rights and Responsibilities Act, Senate Bill 12, was defeated in the New Mexico Senate on February 26, even after several attempts to reach a compromise acceptable to the Conference of Catholic Bishops. The complete vote can be found here (pdf).

The scientist’s argument.
As a scientist, I see no reason for this unrelenting determination to deny the civil rights of gays and lesbians. But then, I believe that the universe was created billions of years ago, and that God created homosexuals, heterosexuals, the solstice, giraffes, and all the rest of our marvelous universe. I do NOT believe that homosexuality is a simple “choice,” and predict that once the entire human genome is mapped, we will find that the tendency to homosexuality, as well as musical genius and other traits, is programmed into our DNA. To which some might reply, “What do you know? It may be that homosexuality is not in the genes at all.”

Well, that is my point. What do I know? What do any of us know about the influence of the genes, or fetal nutrition, or family upbringing? How can we presume to deny civil rights to these couples based on uninformed judgments?

The Biblical argument.
During the 2008 legislative session opponents relied heavily on the Bible, particularly the Book of Leviticus, for their arguments against domestic partnerships (HB 9 that year). For example, chapter 18, verse 22 states, “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.” (I am quoting the King James Version.)

The Book of Leviticus was written for a community of escaped slaves, struggling for existence in a harsh environment. Reproduction was crucial to them. A woman’s most important function was to produce many children, preferably boys. Likewise, men were expected to father many children, so avoidance of that duty was indeed an abomination.

Leviticus is part of a Torah ("Teaching") of some 613 rules and regulations, and a number of "abominations." These teachings helped the ancient Hebrews to survive, but many of them seem pretty ludicrous now, like calling the eating of shellfish an abomination (Leviticus 11:9, Deut. 14:9). None of today’s quoters of Leviticus are out picketing Red Lobster restaurants, but you can’t just cherry-pick the verses in Leviticus that you choose to apply, especially if you are applying them to folks that do not believe as you do.

There are good reasons why Christians feel free to watch football on Friday nights and Saturday afternoons, and eat popcorn shrimp and a pork-filled hotdog while they're at it; but acknowledging those reasons means recognizing and accepting changes in the rules laid down in the Torah since the time of Moses.

The legal argument.
Another argument used against the institution of domestic partnerships in New Mexico was that in both California and Massachusetts they were ruled to be the same as marriage. That argument is misleading. In those two states, the supreme courts have ruled that the domestic-partnership laws violated state constitutions by creating a separate-but-unequal institution. In California, this effectively legalized same-sex marriage (see In re Marriage Cases, 5/15/08). The issue is still unsettled in that state. In other states domestic partnership and civil union laws have been upheld. The New Mexico constitution needs to be examined to determine whether the objection raised in California would be valid in our state or not.

The angel food cake argument.
I was talking to someone the other day who dismissively said that gays and lesbians should just go to a lawyer and draw up a contract if they want a domestic partnership. They don’t need to institutionalize it, he implied. In fact, Nora Espinoza, currently the HD 59 state representative, said much the same thing when she testified against domestic partnerships in 2008: “...all you have to do is go on the Internet and there are already, um, forms, thank you, forms, that you can get ... they can be used and I implore you that you can take care of your loved ones without touching the sanctity of marriage.”

To me that is like saying that gays and lesbians are unworthy of eating angel food cake unless they make it themselves from scratch. If you try to make an angel food cake from scratch, instead of from a mix, the first problem is that you need 12—13 egg WHITES. So you have to separate the whites from the yolks, and then figure out what to do with all those yolks.

Next you have to use cake flour, not regular flour, and sift it before measuring. Also, the sugar must be superfine. Now wouldn’t you rather just buy the mix, add water, stir, pour, and bake?

So why the denial of a “Domestic Partnership” mix? This denial is based entirely on the assumption that people are NOT created gay and lesbian by God, and can therefore be judged to be undeserving of “equal protection of the laws.”

Will scientific research eventually prove that homosexuality, like racial characteristics, is written in one’s genes? Until we know, I propose that it is better to heed the Torah of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount: “Judge not, that ye be not judged.”

This is a guest blog by Ellen Wedum, who is a retired physical chemist enjoying her life in the mountains outside of Cloudcroft. She is active in the Democratic party in Otero County, served as the Otero County Democratic chairwoman 2007-2009, and ran for state representative in 2006 and 2008.

Ellen suggests that readers might want to copy this op-ed, which also appeared in the Las Cruces Sun-News, and send it to their favorite, or least favorite, legislator.

If you'd like to submit a piece for consideration as a guest blog, contact me by clicking on the Email Me link on the upper left-hand corner of the page.

April 10, 2009 at 01:13 PM in Civil Liberties, GLBT Rights, Guest Blogger, Religion | Permalink | Comments (6)

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

V.B. Price Says NM Domestic Partnership Foes Exhibited "Stunning Arrogrance"

In a scathing piece today in the New Mexico Independent by the highly esteemed V.B. Price, the state senators and the powerful religious figures who joined forces to defeat SB 12, the Domestic Partner Rights and Responsibilities Act, are taken to task in no uncertain terms. I can't resist quoting it at length, but please go read the entire column (which also discusses the recent no confidence vote at UNM):

When those with power choose to discriminate against the rights of a minority, using the moral authority of a religion supposedly grounded in loving thy neighbor as thyself, the powerful make a mockery of their own deepest inner standards.

... When a number of powerful Christian hierarchies from numerous sects and denominations in New Mexico turned themselves into political action committees, bombarding state senators with ferocious lobbying, and even some threats of hell fire and damnation, a majority of senators caved in on a bill supporting the legal rights of unmarried domestic partners, both heterosexual and homosexual, to have many of the rights of married couples.

The religious groups put their power to the service of stark prejudice, emotionally harming thousands of New Mexicans fighting for equality.

These church leaders weren’t protecting the rights of New Mexicans, but rather depriving a large and worthy community of the rights which all of us deserve. It’s dogmatic rigidity at its worst. Not all Christian denominations opposed the domestic partnership bill. Progressives in Christian churches backed it, but the furious absolutists won the day.

So much for Christian charity, and the live-and-let-live wisdom that’s implied in the First Amendment of the Constitution. What happened last week to a community of loving couples is simply unconscionable. This is why religion should be totally separated from governmental action, as the nation’s founders thought right and proper. And religious groups in being overtly political in their actions should lose their tax-free status.

How terrible it is to be the object of systemic prejudice by the very institutions that are meant to root out such immoral dead ends from our culture.

What's also terrible is that the original bill was watered down into a substitute, allegedly produced in last-minute, secretive negotiations with religious leaders aimed at making the bill palatable to the Archbishop of Santa Fe and others. Despite the effort, a number of senators who voted against the bill cited the advice and counsel of religious figures as a primary reason they voted no.

What I Want to Know: Is it now deemed acceptable to have religious figures drafting legislation governing the civil legal affairs of New Mexico's citizens? Whoever made the decision to go that route with this bill apparently thinks so. A very sad coda to a very sad story.

To see our previous posts on this issue, visit our archive.

March 4, 2009 at 11:57 AM in Civil Liberties, GLBT Rights, NM Legislature 2009, Religion | Permalink | Comments (4)

Friday, January 16, 2009

Video of the Day: Rick Warren, America's Moderate Evangelical Voice

Warren says in the video: "What is the vision for the next 25 years? I'll tell you what it is. It is the global expansion of the kingdom of God. It is the total mobilization of his church. And the third part is the goal of a radical devotion of every believer. Now, I choose that word 'radical' intentionally, because only radicals change the world. Everything great done in this world is done by passionate people. Moderate people get moderately nothing done. And moderation will never slay the global giants ..." Then he talks about the effectiveness of the tactics used of Hitler, Stalin and Mao, and how similar tactics can be used by his followers. I wish I were kidding, but I'm not.

January 16, 2009 at 04:18 PM in Civil Liberties, GLBT Rights, Obama Transition, Religion | Permalink | Comments (4)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Slap in the Face to Gay Americans: Obama Picks Rick Warren to Lead Inaugural Invocation

Above is an ad recorded by the porcine Rick Warren in support of Prop. 8. As John Aravosis says at AmericaBlog, "If you watch the video, in addition to invoking Obama's name to justify homophobia, Warren talks about how (he claims) gays are only 2% of the population. And how we shouldn't let 2% of the population decide what we do on this issue. Gee, wonder how he feels about Jews, who are also 2% of the population. Watch the video, and prepare for your head to explode.

Update: Have complaints to share? Email Parag Mehta, Obama's LGBT liaison on the transition team, at parag.mehta@ptt.gov. Feel free to share your missive to the team in the comments.
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Enough. Enough. Enough. I've been silent or muted in my criticism of some of Obama's less than stellar cabinet picks and other appointments -- and there are many to complain about if you're a real Democrat or progressive. I've held back on criticizing Obama's reticence to say anything powerful or real during his transition about Wall Street's wholesale sacking of the U.S. Treasury thats been going full tilt the last few months. It made me angry that it was Blogojevitch who went to Republic Windows in Chicago and stood with the fired workers -- and not Barack. But Obama's lastest bone-headed decision takes the cake, and I find it completely intolerable.

As reported in a Politico article, Obama has picked the awful, money-grubbing, "evangelical," anti-GLBT preacher, Rick Warren, to give the invocation at the presidential inaugural. Could he have made a worse choice? Warren and his multi-media Saddleback Church racket were front and center in enthusiastically supporting California Prop. 8, which negates California's constitutional protections for same-sex marriage. In opposition to a recent California Supreme Court ruling, Prop. 8 returns the state's gay population to second class citizenship, something every single Democrat -- if not every real American -- should be opposing vocally if they wish to maintain a claim to be supportive of equal rights for all.

This isn't a theocracy last time I looked. Yet here's Obama rewarding a preacher who believes the entire population should be forced to live by his personal church's teachings. Warren has compared gay marriage to "legitimizing incest, child abuse, and polygamy." I can't tell you how much this disgusts me.

I wonder how Obama would have felt if Clinton had picked a Ku Klux Klan functionary to give the invocation at one of his inaugurations. You know, to bring people together, racist or not, so we can rise above "partisanship." I also wonder what the results would be if, even today, we allowed California to put African-American rights -- or maybe mixed racial marriages -- to a referendum vote.

Negative Reactions
I have to agree with Joe Solomonese on this one (see full text of his letter at the end of this post):

“Your invitation to Reverend Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at your inauguration is a genuine blow to LGBT Americans,” the president of Human Rights Campaign, Joe Solomonese, wrote Obama Wednesday. “[W]e feel a deep level of disrespect when one of architects and promoters of an anti-gay agenda is given the prominence and the pulpit of your historic nomination."

This isn't the first time Obama has dissed GLBT citizens. Last summer gay groups complained, but were rebuffed by Obama, when an "ex-gay" singer led Obama’s rallies in South Carolina.

The Real Problem: Dem Politicos Have No Spines
Here's the real problem at the root of the issue: Democratic candidates and officeholders refuse to publicly support gay marriage, even though almost all of them support it in private -- or at least when they're raising significant sums of money and getting lots of volunteer hours from GLBT voters. Instead, they fall back on the copout of supporting "civil unions" or "domestic partnerships," which do not -- let me repeat that -- do not give couples the same or even a similar array of civil rights that are bestowed on straight married couples.

Like the other Dem parrots, Obama has said he opposes same-sex marriage, but he also claimed he opposed Prop. 8. Not surprisingly, Prop. 8 supporters used Obama's statements against gay marriage in their radio and TV ad campaigns to bolster their credibility. Heckuva job, Obama. Sorry, the integrity of "separate but equal" treatment of certain classes of citizens went down the tubes long ago, as Obama well knows.

More Reactions
Here's what others have to say about Obama's choice of Warren:

“It’s a huge mistake,” said California gay rights activist Rick Jacobs, who chairs the state’s Courage Campaign. “He’s really the wrong person to lead the president into office.

“Can you imagine if he had a man of God doing the invocation who had deliberately said that Jews are not going to be saved and therefore should be excluded from what’s going on in America? People would be up in arms,” he said.

The editor of the Washington Blade, Kevin Naff, called the choice “Obama’s first big mistake.”

“His presence on the inauguration stand is a slap in the faces of the millions of GLBT voters who so enthusiastically supported him,” Naff wrote, referring to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people. “This tone-deafness to our concerns must not be tolerated. We have just endured eight years of endless assaults on our dignity and equality from a president beholden to bigoted conservative Christians. The election was supposed to have ended that era. It appears otherwise.”

People for the American Way also issued a statement critical of Obama's choice of Warren, saying it was a "grave disappointment." Excerpt:

Pastor Warren, while enjoying a reputation as a moderate based on his affable personality and his church's engagement on issues like AIDS in Africa, has said that the real difference between James Dobson and himself is one of tone rather than substance. He has recently compared marriage by loving and committed same-sex couples to incest and pedophilia. He has repeated the Religious Right's big lie that supporters of equality for gay Americans are out to silence pastors. He has called Christians who advance a social gospel Marxists. He is adamantly opposed to women having a legal right to choose an abortion. Rick Warren gets plenty of attention through his books and media appearances. He doesn’t need or deserve this position of honor.

Speak Up Dem Officeholders!
I hope other Democrats and progressives, including our new members of Congress, speak up and encourage Obama to rethink his selection of Warren to lead the inaugural invocation. To do less would be siding with the forces of backwards, narrow thinking and hate-filled bigotry as we move towards the second decade of the 21st century. You can't claim to be a leader in the push for enlightened change and do otherwise, at least in my book.

The complete text of the letter sent to Obama by the Human Rights Campaign:

Let me get right to the point. Your invitation to Reverend Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at your inauguration is a genuine blow to LGBT Americans. Our loss in California over the passage of Proposition 8 which stripped loving, committed same-sex couples of their given legal right to marry is the greatest loss our community has faced in 40 years. And by inviting Rick Warren to your inauguration, you have tarnished the view that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans have a place at your table.

Rick Warren has not sat on the sidelines in the fight for basic equality and fairness. In fact, Rev. Warren spoke out vocally in support of Prop 8 in California saying, “there is no need to change the universal, historical definition of marriage to appease 2 percent of our population ... This is not a political issue -- it is a moral issue that God has spoken clearly about." Furthermore, he continues to misrepresent marriage equality as silencing his religious views. This was a lie during the battle over Proposition 8, and it's a lie today.

Rev. Warren cannot name a single theological issue that he and vehemently, anti-gay theologian James Dobson disagree on. Rev. Warren is not a moderate pastor who is trying to bring all sides together. Instead, Rev. Warren has often played the role of general in the cultural war waged against LGBT Americans, many of whom also share a strong tradition of religion and faith.

We have been moved by your calls to religious leaders to own up to the homophobia and racism that has stood in the way of combating HIV and AIDS in this country. And that you have publicly called on religious leaders to open their hearts to their LGBT family members, neighbors and friends.

But in this case, we feel a deep level of disrespect when one of architects and promoters of an anti-gay agenda is given the prominence and the pulpit of your historic nomination. Only when Rev. Warren and others support basic legislative protections for LGBT Americans can we believe their claim that they are not four-square against our rights and dignity. In that light, we urge you to reconsider this announcement.

Sincerely, Joe Solmonese
President
Human Rights Campaign

Also see my later post on this topic.

December 17, 2008 at 06:34 PM in 2008 General Presidential Election, Civil Liberties, GLBT Rights, Minority Issues, Obama Transition, Progressivism, Public Policy, Religion | Permalink | Comments (17)