That’s right: Someone needs to think of the
children bigots! Their rights are being trampled on! They’re being persecuted and repressed, and someone needs to consider their tender feelings!
The religious right in general, and the Archdiocese of Washington in particular, are up in arms about the Washington DC City Council. What is the Council doing to arouse such ire? They are considering the passage of the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act of 2009 (Bill 18-482). What evils are contained in this bill? What heinous acts will be permitted?
The bill is intended to amend Chapter Forty-Three of An Act To establish a code of law for the District of Columbia, approved March 3, 1901 (31 Stat. 1391; D.C. Official Code § 46-401 passim).
The amendment would do the following:
To amend An Act To establish a code of law for the District of Columbia to permit same-sex couples to marry in the District of Columbia;
Oh my gosh! The next thing you know people will be marrying animals and… Yeah, right. The bigots can shut up now. We know what they’re upset about. Big fucking deal. Get over it. This is a civil rights issue, and your religion is on the wrong side of it.
What else does the amendment have to say?
…to ensure that no priest, minister, imam, or rabbi of any religious denomination and no official of any non-profit religious organization authorized to solemnize marriages shall be required to celebrate any marriage if doing so violates his or her right to the free exercise of religion;
There you go, religious bigots. There’s your “be-a-bigot-in-your-own-church-free” card. If your religion thinks same-sex marriages are a big no-no, you don’t have to take part in them. It’s up to you. No one is forcing you to get married to someone of the same sex, nor are they forcing you to perform the ceremony in your place of worship.
So, where’s the problem? Well, you might think that the issue of same-sex marriage itself is the problem, and you would not be entirely incorrect. There is, however, something more specific that the Catholics and others are upset about.
The big problem for the religious right is that the proposed legislation could leave them open to legal action in some cases if they continue their discriminatory practices. It also means that practicing their bigotry would mean that they would not be eligible to provide certain services under contract to the city.
From the 2009 November 10 press release from the Archdiocese of Washington:
“It is our concern that the committee’s narrowing of the religious exemption language will cause the government to discontinue our long partnership with them and open up the agency to litigation and the use of resources to defend our religious beliefs rather than serve the poor,” said Edward Orzechowski, president/CEO of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington. Catholic Charities serves 68,000 people in the city each year. The city’s 40 Catholic parishes operate another 93 social service programs to provide crucial services.
There are some other niggling little details in the amendment, it seems. Section 1288 (31 Stat. 1392; D.C. Official Code ‘ 46-406), subsection (e) would contain the following language (the emphasis is mine):
Any refusal to provide services, accommodations, facilities or goods in accordance with this section shall not create any civil claim or cause of action, or result in any District action to penalize or withhold benefits from such entity, unless such entity makes such services, accommodations, facilities, or goods available for purchase, rental, or use to members of the general public.
So that’s where the problem is! The religious folks are afraid that if they provide a service (something like renting out a hall, for instance) to the general public, and a same-sex married couple wants to avail themselves of that service, then the religious folks would be open to a discrimination suit when they tell the same-sex couple to get lost (or get saved). Working under contract to the city would also mean that they could not discriminate against same-sex couples in other ways.
Their fears are not unwarranted. I do, however, have a very simple solution. Religious folk keep reminding me that their beliefs are very personal, and very private. [They do this by written or spoken word, not by action.]. The solution is to make their organization and any services, accommodations, facilities, or goods available to members only. They could make membership in their organization official with little membership cards and everything! They could be just like some of those country clubs in Georgia!
You’re probably saying that this is not a civil rights issue. You’re probably saying that the civil rights movement of forty or fifty years ago has nothing to do with a situation like today’s. You think not? Let’s try a little experiment. Let’s look at the first paragraph of a recent article from Christian News Wire:
The District of Columbia City Council is moving to pass a bill next month that would recognize same-sex relationships as marriage. The council has refused to exempt religious organizations or individuals from the mandate to treat same-sex couples as married. If the council majority persists, and if Congress does not intervene, Christian ministries could be forced to provide benefits to same-sex partners of employees, to place children for adoption with same-sex partners, and to offer counseling and support to same-sex couples.
Oh my! Can’t you just feel that righteous indignation jump off the page? Let me edit that text just slightly to reflect the bigotry of a few decades ago (my changes will be emphasized):
The District of Columbia City Council is moving to pass a bill next month that would recognize interracial relationships as marriage. The council has refused to exempt religious organizations or individuals from the mandate to treat mixed race couples as married. If the council majority persists, and if Congress does not intervene, Christian ministries could be forced to provide benefits to colored partners of employees, to place children for adoption with colored partners, and to offer counseling and support to mixed race couples.
That doesn’t sound very “Christian” these days, does it? Just fifty years ago you would not have been surprised to read something very much like that. Why is the original paragraph different? Bigotry is still bigotry, no matter what the decade, nor whom the recipient.
Bill Donohue Weighs In
Leave it to Bill Donohue to screw up an analogy so badly that it’s almost painful to read. Foaming-at-the-mouth Bill had this to say in a Catholic League press release:
If Alabama Governor George Wallace had told the Archdiocese of Mobile that as a condition of receiving state aid for social services it had to cease performing interracial marriages, few would have criticized the archdiocese for exercising its doctrinal prerogatives. Indeed, it may even have been applauded for doing so. Now it should not matter what the issue is that the Church decides it cannot in good conscience support—what should matter is its First Amendment religious liberty right to do so. The unprincipled, of course, cannot understand such logic.
Bill Donohue is absolutely wrong, as usual. He seems to have gotten his analogy backward. There was a time in the living memory of people in this country when the white churches in Mobile would not have performed a ceremony for a black or interracial couple. It would be more appropriate to consider the situation as one in which the Archdiocese of Mobile refused to perform interracial marriages after standing alongside George Wallace, supporting this famous line from his inaugural speech:
“In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.”
It would be a more appropriate analogy to think of an Archbishop blocking a same-sex couple from entering the courthouse to get their marriage license, and General Henry Graham commanding him to step aside, saying, “Sir, it is my sad duty to ask you to step aside under the orders of the President of the United States.”
The Catholic Church and other religious groups are supporting the idea of segregation today. They are saying that gay, lesbian, bisexual, and trans-gendered individuals are less than human, and do not deserve the rights that are afforded to heterosexual (at least outwardly) Christians like them. Of course, this isn’t the first time they’ve done something like that.
Don’t you religious bigots try to tell me how different this situation is, either. I already know what you’re going to do. You’re going to tell me that your religious tradition decries homosexuality as a sin against your god. You’re going to justify your bigotry and hatred because of a few lines in your holy book.
The Curse of Ham
How many of you have heard of the “curse of Ham”? It comes from Genesis 9:20-27. Ham’s son, Canaan, was cursed by Noah: “And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.” [All this because Noah got drunk and passed out naked in his tent. Ham actually saw him! Heaven forbid (literally)!]
The “curse of Ham” has been used Christians, Muslims, and Jews to justify racism and to justify the enslavement of people of Black African ancestry. Black Africans were believed to be descendants of Ham, and were often called Hamites. This justification of racism was used even into the mid twentieth century.
The Christians will now tell me that it’s different today. No one (very few who will admit to it, at any rate) believes that way any more. The people who thought that way were simply mistaken, and misinterpreted things. That early Old Testament stuff is not relevant in the same way as it was. It’s different today.
Yes, it is different today. Today those few lines that support your view don’t come from Genesis, but from Leviticus. They’re different lines, but they’re still used to justify hatred and bigotry. Most Christians are still hateful, and they’re still bigots. Will they change on their own, or are we going to have to drag them, kicking and screaming if need be, into the twenty-first century?