Here I am, Lord

As a disenfranchised Catholic, I cannot help but be intrigued and even a little hopeful about Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation.  I do not like Benedict even though I love the church.  I grew up Catholic, was both an altar and choir boy, and even considered becoming a priest.  I can’t imagine how that would have turned out.

English: Pope Benedict XVI in Italy

English: Pope Benedict XVI in Italy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Nonetheless, the American/Roman Catholic culture became my culture.  My friends were Catholic.  We attended the Catholic grade school and church at the corner of my street.  I later went to a Catholic high school and college (University of Dayton).  I especially loved the new music in the church, and played and sang those songs in a church music group for years.  I even came to appreciate the deep meaning and spiritual significance of the Mass and other Catholic traditions.

I miss those parts of being Catholic because they are so much a part of who I am.  However, like so many others, I can no longer tolerate both the fact of clergy child sexual abuse, and the church hierarchy’s cover up of the same.  Neither can I abide the church’s homophobic positions, philosophy, and teaching.  Did you ever notice when Benedict has discussed these, he does not refer to scripture, nor even mention Jesus, let alone his teachings about love and lack of judgment.  Perhaps this is because the gospels, ostensibly, have also sanctioned the power of the Vicar of Rome, the Successor of St. Peter (“I say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it,” Matthew 16:18, New American Standard Bible (©1995), emphasis added), as well as his minions, to assess judgment upon sinners.

Purportedly, this power, conferred by Jesus himself in John 20:23, New American Standard Bible (©1995)  (“If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained”) takes precedent in the minds of the Church over Jesus’ direct order:  “This is my commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you” John 15:12, New American Standard Bible (©1995).  And, what about this rather direct admonishment?  “Do not judge and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. . . .”  Luke 6:37, New American Standard Bible (©1995).

I have never heard an explanation for this elevation of one of Jesus’ principles over that of others, and would love to read the apologetics which justifies this doctrine promulgated by the self perpetuating (and protecting) hierarchical system known as the church.  But, that is perhaps another matter.

Be that as it may, apparently not all church members agree with these judgmental policies.  “Equally Blessed, an LGBT-inclusive Catholic group, issued a statement upon Benedict’s announcement and said members were ‘grateful that Pope Benedict XVI had the foresight and humility to resign his office for the sake of the church to which he has given his life.’

The organization added that the Roman Catholic Church now has the opportunity to change the church and overturn oppressive, homophobic policies.

‘We pray for a pope who is willing to listen to and learn from all of God’s people. We pray for a pope who will realize that in promoting discrimination against LGBT people, the church inflicts pain on marginalized people, alienates the faithful and lends moral credibility to reactionary political movements across the globe. We pray for a pope who will lead the church in looking the sexual abuse scandal squarely in the eye and make a full report on the complicity of the hierarchy in the sexual trauma inflicted on children around the world. We pray for a pope who is willing to make himself vulnerable on behalf of the voiceless, the poor, the marginalized and the oppressed.’”  http://www.advocate.com/politics/religion/2013/02/11/pope-benedict-xvi-announces-resignation.

I wish I could be as genial and hopeful, but, sadly, I must acknowledge as have others that many of the Cardinals who will select Benedict’s successor (and from whose ranks he will be chosen) were handpicked by Benedict himself.  Thus, it is very likely that they share his views and support his policies.

I pray from the depths of my soul for a pope who will truly believe these words from a popular Catholic hymn*:

I, the Lord of sea and sky,
I have heard my people cry.
Who will bear my light to them?
Whom shall I send?

Here I am Lord, Is it I Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night.
I will go Lord, if you lead me.
I will hold your people in my heart

*Written by Daniel Schutte and recorded by Daniel O’Donnell in 1981 after Vatican Council II. Its words are based on Isaiah 6:8 and 1 Samuel 3. The song was then published by North American Liturgy Resources which later was purchased by New Dawn Music, a subsidiary of Oregon Catholic Press. It’s been used at many Papal Masses.  From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (Citations omitted).

The Joke (on us) Has (at least for now) Ended.

Yes, folks, the circus that was the 62nd Legislature of the State of Montana has been officially closed.

It was one of the most contentious sessions in memory- and one of the most publicized. Sadly, for Republicans, it was mostly at their expense. Republican lawmakers introduced the most ridiculed and bigoted legislation in Montana history- giving the state its fair share of national media attention. Only some of it good.

Mostly it was about third-rate candidates such as Billy Bob Wagner, who introduced legislation to reinstate the gold standard, and was laughed at nationally on Anderson Cooper 360 for his ridiculous “birther” bill (but mostly for his stupidity). Then there was Kris Hansen, a “secret lesbian” who introduced one of the most pro-discrimination legislative actions to ever hit the aisles of the Capitol. Mary Cheney, anyone? And the Montana GOP, for no good reason other than to perpetuate hate and shame, voted to keep The Gays illegal- and we heard some of the most disgusting testimony to ever foul a Capitol microphone.

And don’t forget (as if I could) Janna Taylor’s ridiculous, ignorant and dangerous comments about HIV in the Montana prison system. In my opinion, the defining moment of the session. And that is a short list of all the craziness perpetuated at the time and expense of the people of Montana-a better list is here.

But I want to take a minute to thank the legislators who spent a great deal of their time and energy standing up for the rights of Montanans. Diane Sands, Carol Williams, Christine Kaufmann and Bryce Bennett all spent a lot of time defending equality and testifying against discrimination, bigotry and homophobia in this session. If you see any of them, thank them. Buy them a drink.

Hell, give them a kidney if they need one.

It is folks such as these- and all who testified, protested, blogged and wrote letters-, who keep our freedoms alive- and who stand in the face of political bigotry and chicanery.  And let’s not forget Jamee Greer, Mike Wessler, Niki Zupanic and all the representatives of groups who lobbied for human equality- they get all the abuse, ridicule and sleepless nights, but not enough recognition. Drinks and kidneys for them, too.

Let’s give Carol Williams the last word (for now):

“I’m proud of our work.

With that, Mr. Chairman, I will wish you luck in the next session probably trying to fix a lot of the things we broke this time.”

Progress, But Still Disappointing

March 29th, from Diane Sands:

Friends…

Today I attempted to “blast” SB 276 out of hostile Judiciary Committee and onto the Floor for a vote. This is Senator Facey’s bill to remove offensive language about “Deviate Sexual Conduct”….the law was ruled unconstitutional in 1997 but the legislature insists on keeping it on the books as part of sentence in the Sex Crimes part of MCA that includes bestiality.

Rep. Ken Peterson still claims that the Court didn’t address this issue entirely and that the crime should stay on the books, including the FELONY status with a penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine up to$50,000 or both.

While we didn’t get the 60 votes required, we did get 51, including a number of Republicans who believe it is a privacy issue.

THIS IS THE FIRST TIME IN THE 20 PLUS YEARS I HAVE WORKED ON THIS TOPIC THAT WE HAVE EVER WON THE MAJORITY OF THE SENATE AND THE HOUSE!!!!

I view this a great progress, especially with the ultra conservative make up of the current legislature.

Sands, the first openly gay member of the Montana Legislature, is a force of nature and a champion of human rights. The words she chose to introduce her motion are powerful and deserve a look/listen:

The words of the opposition also need to be heard- the ignorance and intolerance are epic, an embarrassment to the State of Montana and, indeed the whole country.

HB 516 Returned To Committee

HB 516, the legislation written to overturn the rights of local governments to enact protection ordinances, has been returned to the Local Governance Committee. Mike Wessler:

Throughout the session, we have been following Rep. Hansen’s pro-discrimination bill. This bill seeks to nullify Missoula’s non-discrimination ordinance that expands protections in the state’s human rights act to include gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. Hansen’s bill would also prohibit any other city from passing similar measures.

Last Friday, supporters of equality and dignity in our state were dealt a blow when the bill received approval from its Senate committee. With this decision by the committee, the bill was headed for it’s final debate–a full debate on the Senate floor…or so we thought.

Today, shortly before the full Senate was slated to debate the measure, Republicans–out of nowhere–asked that the bill be sent back to committee. They cited the revelation of new information as their reason for this action. The bill was quickly returned to the committee.

While at this point, we cannot say anything definitive about the reason …, however, if history teaches us anything, it is that when bills are sent back to committee, it is not a good sign for the ultimate fate of the bill. One can’t help but wonder if today’s polling on the actions of the GOP scared a few of them out of supporting such a discriminatory measure.

And maybe my last post about the miserable treatment LGBT persons have received at the hands of this legislature had something to do with it.

Nah.
They’re not that smart.

Update: The Associated Press reports:

A Republican senator says a measure to overturn a Missoula city ordinance that protects gay people from discrimination lacks support from GOP leadership.

The Senate Local Government Committee passed House Bill 516 last week. But the bill was returned to the committee Tuesday and chairman Sen. Jon Sonju says it is doubtful the measure will go to the Senate floor.

Sonju says he moved the measure back to committee because it doesn’t have the support of Senate leaders.

The proposal, carried by Republican Rep. Kristin Hansen, drew lengthy testimony during its hearings in the House and Senate.

Supporters said the bill would overturn an unconstitutional ordinance that infringes on the state’s authority.

Opponents said the measure is targeted against the gay community and interferes with local governments’ ability to govern.

Stand Up Against Discrimination!

HB 516, which seeks to overturn the Missoula Ordinance and ban further ordinances of its kind, is coming up in the House Judiciary this Friday at 8 am. Also coming up that session will be HB 514, which seeks to add gender identity and sexual orientation to the Montana Human Rights Act.

Let’s show the legislators how important equality is to Montanans.

For those of you in Missoula, there will be carpooling  to Helena. Meet at the Eastgate Parking Lot at 6 am.

Facebook page here.

Spread the word- PFLAG chapters, parents, siblings, children, allies, come together!

2010- When Official Republican Persecution and Bigotry Went Unchecked

For me, 2010 is/was about Republican political shaming of The Gays. The Montana GOP approved a platform which included this blatant piece of ignorance and bigotry:

We support the clear will of the people of Montana expressed by legislation to keep homosexual acts illegal.

And, despite the fuss I made, that others made,  the discomfort from one Montana Republican leader (no leader of the Democrats said a word), the platform plank is still there. No one really paid much attention. Despite my letters to elected officials, to the Log Cabin Republicans, to advocacy groups, no one really paid much attention. fact, I only got one lukewarm response- from GLAAD. The issue got mentioned a few times- including once by Rachel Maddow, then it seems, was forgotten.

It’s sad. It’s even more sad when you figure the Texas GOP into the equation. They, too have a “Jail The Gays” plank.

Why can’t we get it together?

I tried to make the case that “Montana Matters“- a few nibbles, a few more voices added to the chorus, but still, nothing changed. I’m not sure I should be surprised, but it doesn’t keep me from being disappointed. I want us to be better than that. I want the LGBT community to speak out against this with one voice. I want Republican allies and Log Cabin Republicans to take a stand. I want straight allies and parents of LGBT children to speak up. I want Democrats to see this for what it is: blatant persecution and bigotry- and do something about it. I want to live in a world- or at least a state, where ugliness and hate don’t win- not even one round.

I know. As my mother says “..and people in hell want ice water.”

But they won this one. Again, I remind you, nothing changed. That plank is still there. In both states. Despite the amazing victories we’ve had this year, despite the DADT repeal, despite the increased awareness of anti-LGBT bullying, despite the increased polling numbers for same-sex marriage, despite the popularity of Glee- institutionalized homophobia is alive and well.

They got away with it. 

My resolution for 2011 is this: I will work to bring liberty and justice for all- even in the so-called “flyover” states. Because this phrase in the Pledge of Allegiance isn’t true yet. Because the erosion of our humanity is happening right in front of our noses- and I find it troubling, offensive, perverse and distinctively Un-American.

Don’t you?

Where’s The Outcry?

by Jamee Greer

Most of you have probably already heard that the MT GOP platform was reaffirmed on June 19th, and included a plank under the heading of “Crimes” calling for recriminalization of gays and lesbians. (http://www.mtgop.org/platform.aspx)

This reflects how much power the religious right has on the Montana Republican Party today.

MCA 45-5-505, the deviant sexual conduct code, was ruled unconstitutional in 1997 by the MT Supreme Court – and 2003 by the US Supreme Court. The law, which is still on the books despite multiple attempts at removal both before and after the court rulings, calls for up to 10 years in prison and/or $50,000 in fines. (http://data.opi.mt.gov/bills/mca/45/5/45-5-505.htm)

LGBTQ Montanans are our family, friends, neighbors, firefighters, police officers, and small business owners. LGBT Montanans staff our hospitals, teach our children, build our towns, and pay taxes. We cannot be forced back into the dark and discriminatory shadows of this unjust law.


There are real and disastrous consequences associated with supporting recriminalization.

In 1995, the legislature tried to force lifetime registration of gay men and lesbians convicted under the law, that is, lifetime tracking and reporting through the sexual or violent offender registry simply for being gay or lesbian. The law, and its supporter’s rhetoric, is not just archaic and discriminatory, but can encourage violence against members of the LGBTQ community in Montana.

There’s been one press story on this that I know of, and it ran in the Missoula Independent.

(http://missoulanews.bigskypress.com/missoula/lgbt/Content?oid=1273242)

There’s a growing chorus of voices upset by the fact that the MT Democratic Party hasn’t come forward in support of Montana’s gay and lesbian community.

I get the feeling as a gay man – and what the opponents like to call “professional homosexual” – that some in the party think talking about gays and lesbians hurts their chances at winning. When you’re talking about discrimination in the workplace, polling of likely voters suggests otherwise. Most Montanans support non-discrimination protections that give LGBT people equal protection under the law in housing, employment and public accommodations, like hotels and doctor’s offices.

The GOP has taken this to a new level and is calling for criminal status for all gays and lesbians! Both sides of the aisle should be coming alive, speaking out and taking action.

Beat the drums loudly. Talk about this on your blogs. Talk about it with your co-workers, your neighbors, your friends and your families.

I know this list is statewide, are there central committees interested in bringing forward resolutions condemning the platforms? Is there some statewide listserv to get that word out on? Can everyone commit to writing about this – and calling for both Democrats and Republicans – to denounce the platform?

Thanks to all. Let me know if I can be of any help.

Best regards,

Jamee Greer
Montana Human Rights Network
jamee@mhrn.org  406-241-7716