May 22, 2013 – Yesterday, the Senate Judiciary Committee chose to exclude same-sex bi-national couples from legislation reforming the U.S. immigration system. Due to lack of support and threatened opposition, Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) withdrew his amendment that would have allowed LGBT American citizens to sponsor their foreign-born legal spouses for citizenship, a benefit long afforded to opposite-sex married couples. It would have corrected a wrong that needlessly divides American families and tears husbands, wives, and parents away from their loved ones each day. Rev. Pat Bumgardner, the Executive Director of the Global Justice Institute, issued the following statement:
“There, indeed, is room for all. Whether we were brought here forcefully, of our own free will, or otherwise, we all call this country home. As people of faith, we see the innate humanity in all immigrants. We stand with them as members of our human family. We will not accept any system of power that seeks to divide us from one another, especially our most vulnerable. For these reasons, we express our grave disappointment in our elected leaders in the U.S. Senate for willfully excluding same-sex bi-national families from immigration reform efforts they have underway. As a nation, we are always stronger together. Those who would divide us, those who would leave anyone behind should be ashamed for not living up to the ideals our nation professes. Senators who promised to undermine attempts to pass truly comprehensive immigration reform and those who bowed to their vows are simply wrong and subject themselves to the wrong set of values.”
“We will continue to work with the broad coalition of immigration reform partners, grassroots activists, and our elected officials to ensure that bi-national same-sex couples, along with all other immigrants (regardless of their legal status) are included in the bill as it heads to the full Senate. We call on all our allies in the Senate to join us.”
For more information on the work of the Global Justice Institute and Metropolitan Community Churches and comprehensive immigration reform, see “No Strangers to God: A Call for Sensible Immigration Reform that Supports and Reunites Families.” http://mccchurch.org/no-strangers-to-god-a-call-for-sensible-immigration-reform-that-supports-and-reunites-families/
For more information, contact Rev. DeWayne Davis at
This statement prepared by Kareem Murphy on behalf of the Public Policy Team,
Metropolitan Community Churches and the Global Justice Institute.
by The Rev. Dr. Nancy Wilson
A trial began this month for the death of a boy who, in 2011, was sent to a South African boot camp where boys were supposed to become men—especially effeminate boys or boys who were thought to be gay. Photos of his emaciated body in the hospital bed look like the body of a Nazi death camp victim.
Fifteen-year-old Raymond Buys was not the first boy to die at this camp. Two others in earlier episodes died at the hands of the camp leaders who are affiliated with white supremacist groups. Camp leaders attributed the previous deaths to heart attacks but autopsies revealed choking in one victim and dehydration, broken bones, and brain hemorrhaging in the other.
Raymond’s roommate from his camp days said that Raymond had been chained to his bed for extended periods and left in his own soil. Tortures included being forced to eat his own feces and camp leaders put a pillowcase over his head and used an electric cattle prod on his fragile body. When he arrived at the hospital he had multiple burns, his bones were broken, and he was starved and dehydrated. He died.
It is for such travesties that The International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) was created to be observed each year on May 17.
We would like to think that Raymond’s death was perpetrated by criminals but it was Raymond’s mother who wanted him to man-up. How many mothers and fathers force or “encourage” their children to change their gender expression through such military boot camps or through so-called “ex-gay” or “reparative therapy” programs where debunked psychology is enmeshed with religious bigotry. How many boys are sent off to be “toughened up” without consideration of the persecution they might endure at the hands of enforcers of hyper-masculinity?
Whether pseudo-military, pseudo-psychology, or pseudo-religious, these programs demean, torture and even kill boys and girls—as well as men and women—if they don’t fit gender or heterosexual expectations.
“Poster children” in these pseudo-programs in the United States who claim to have been changed, over time, have come out and admitted they did not change their identity or sexual orientation. Michael Bussee, founder of Exodus, recanted years ago and now spends his life working for equality. Alan Chambers took over the leadership of Exodus and announced that Exodus should let go of their slogan, “Change is Possible!” He realizes that sexual orientation cannot be changed; the best you can do is to decide not to be sexual or to force yourself into a heterosexual marriage. Recently, John Paulk, a one-time Focus on the Family star, and who was once featured on the cover of Newsweek as “ex-gay,” said he was gay and expressed regret for the harm his work had done.
Paulk was photographed in a gay bar. Another “ex-gay” activist, Matt Moore, was caught on the pick-up site, Grindr. Paulk seems to just want to get on with his life but Moore is still saying that he was using Grindr to see who was in the neighborhood. After being caught, Moore sold his computer, locked his phone, ended his blog and said more “seasoned believers” should be in the public eye rather than himself.
Worse scandals reveal the tragic result of these lies. A few years ago, “Dr. Shock,” Aubrey Levin, was arrested in Canada after a career of torturing gay men with electric shock aversion “therapies” in South Africa and then moving to Canada where he continued to torture and exploit vulnerable men. Finally, he was stopped after one of his court-mandated patients secretly recorded a session where Levin sexually abused him. In another public debacle, a Florida newspaper photographed George Alan Rekers a board member of NARTH (North American Reparative Therapy), returning from a vacation with a “rent boy” in tow. He tried to say he was there to carry his luggage.
When secrets, lies and obsessions combine with dogma and vulnerable people, it is a disaster.
Tragically, much of the efforts to convert lesbian and gay people are deeply rooted in misguided religious beliefs. Originally, groups like Exodus and NARTH tried to position themselves as traditional counseling and psychotherapy, but key players like Joseph Nicolosi and Richard A. Cohen were discredited and barred from the highly respected American Counseling Association for ethics violations.
In 2007, the American Psychological Association assigned a Task Force on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation. The Taskforce reviewed more than 80 studies, which were overwhelmingly flawed, and none could prove that sexual orientation could be changed.
In 2012, the researcher highly cited by conservatives, Dr. Robert Spitzer, apologized for his own research in which he interviewed people in the so-called “ex-gay” movement and asked them if they had changed their sexual orientation. Of course, a few claimed to have changed, but there was no proof.
With the veil of psychology in shreds, the only remaining smoke screen is religion. Yet, even the biblical texts used to disparage LGBT people are fading as families headed by same-gender couples are front and center in support of the moral and civic institution of marriage. Across the United States, faith leaders are standing shoulder to shoulder in support of equality. Racial divides have been diminished as President Obama and the NAACP continue to speak out for equality.
In a better world, this would also be a requiem for misguided conversion therapies. However, in a world that allows Raymond Buys to be tortured to death because he was a soft and delicate boy, the travesties continue. Our young people are in the crosshairs of narrow-minded Evangelical Christians who will treat them as collateral damage if they cannot conform to compulsory heterosexuality and gender roles.
Even though nine countries in Europe, several in Latin America, and South Africa have marriage equality, more than 70 countries throughout the world have laws making same-gender love illegal, and in seven countries, being gay is punishable by execution.
What is critical to understand is that conservatives who claim they are acting out of Christian love are exporting these same defamed and debunked conversion “treatments” all around the world as an alternative to prison and execution. These same people are perfectly willing to label gay people as evil and sinful and then are surprised when punitive laws are enforced and people in the street begin to take the law into their own hands and attack and kill people they believe are gay. So-called “ex-gay” programs originating in the United States are the backdrop for much of the expanding international homophobia .
Evangelicals from almost 200 countries gathered in South Africa for the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization. Leaders of this 2010 conference, the largest evangelical gathering in recent history, included leaders from the Exodus Global Alliance. Exodus presenters claimed there are no more than a few thousand gay people in each African country and these are all products of the West. They intone that being gay is not a greater sin but say no other sin has a movement for acceptance. Another speaker parroted the completely discredited myths about rejection, sexual abuse and distant fathers as “causes” for being gay. She closed with the rejected slogan, “Change Is Possible.”
Whether it is in the United States, South Africa, China, Africa, Latin America, or Eastern Europe, homophobia is still at work, and Evangelicals are still trying to position “ex-gay” ministries as the compassionate choice. It is not! Whether it is the death penalty, prison, shock treatment, laws that silence all discussion of LGBT concerns, or conversion therapy, all of it kills. Whether it kills the spirit, promotes suicide or results in the death penalty, carnage lies in its wake.
Raymond Buys, rest in peace. I will not forget you. I will not forget your broken body. I will stand with all those who mark the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. I will stand shoulder to shoulder with all those who defend our young people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and gender non-conforming. Your journey ended, but your story continues.
“Hate has no place in the house of God. No one should be excluded from our love, our compassion or our concern because of race or gender, faith or ethnicity — or because of their sexual orientation.” -Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Washington Post, March 12, 2010
Since 2005, millions of concerned people world-wide have joined together each year for a day of action against anti-gay prejudice and discrimination, highlighting personal stories and direct action to bring equal rights to LGBTI persons in every corner of the world. Now understood to be the “international LGBT solidarity day,” International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) has inspired more than 100 countries to engage their citizens and institutions in intentional conversations around the rights and quality of life issues for sexual minorities within their borders. As a result, a global movement for civil and human rights for LGBTI people is fomenting unprecedented momentum for change. But more needs to be done.
On May 17th, join others from all over the world in raising your voice in your church, school, and/or community against homophobia and transphobia. This is our opportunity to bring a message of equal rights and non-discrimination to regions and countries where civil and human rights have been stifled and to build alliances with those who are willing and able to mobilize for action in a comprehensive campaign for equal rights. Further, all of our actions against homophobia and transphobia forecast to political leaders and social and religious institutions that the demand for civil and human rights for LGBTI people will not be silenced.
The Global Justice Institute and MCC’s Public Policy Team join in solidarity with LGBTI persons and allies in observance of International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia and urge all members of MCC to raise their voices against anti-gay prejudice and discrimination.
There are many ways that you can participate:
The resources below can help you make the most of your observance of International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia:
Today at 10 AM EDT, C-SPAN will broadcast an important briefing on the situation at Guantanamo and how the President can move forward with closing the prison there. We encourage you to watch it. The briefing is hosted by Rep. Jim Moran and is sponsored by the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, The Constitution Project, and the New America Foundation.
The situation at the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center continues to deteriorate. Eleven years after it first opened, and more than 4 years after President Obama mandated its closure, there are still 166 men being held at Guantanamo – 86 of whom have already been cleared for transfer or release. At the moment 100 of the detainees, responding to a growing sense of hopelessness and despair over their continued detention, in most cases without charge or trial, are engaged in a prolonged hunger strike.
Last week, 38 religious leaders sent a letter to President Obama and to Congress calling for the closing of the detention center. Please add your name to theirs by also signing the letter. The letter states, “As people of faith, we oppose torture and indefinite detention without trial because they are contrary to the inherent dignity of the human person. As the nation’s most visible and painful symbol of torture and indefinite detention, Guantanamo Bay is a constant reminder of a deep moral wound that will heal only when it is permanently closed.”
Help us build support for closing Guantanamo within your community. Here are two ways you can get involved:
Join in the 100th Day Weekend of Action
May 17th will mark the 100th day of the hunger strike. We invite you and your congregation to mark this day with a “100th Day Weekend of Action.” Please find a time during the weekend of May 17-19 to include mention of Guantanamo in your worship service or prayers. We also invite you to hold a prayer vigil, fast in solidarity, or organize educational and advocacy activities in your congregation. To assist you we have prepared a Guantanamo Fact Sheet, Sermon Talking Points and a Bulletin Insert with an Interfaith Prayer. Go to www.nrcat/closegitmo for more information.
Add your name to the religious leaders letter
You can add your voice to the growing chorus demanding that Guantanamo be closed by signing the religious leaders’ letter. Also, please download a petition version of the letter and circulate it in your congregation, campus or community.
If we can help you or you wish to let us know of your plans, please contact Paz Artaza-Regan .
Thank you for lifting up the importance of closing Guantanamo.
Linda Gustitus, President
Rev. Richard Killmer, Executive Director
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The R.I. House of Representatives Thursday approved matching same-sex marriage bills after their unanimous approval by the House Judiciary Committee Tuesday night. Governor Chafee signed them into law shortly afterward.
Take a look back at a timeline of events in gay and lesbian history, here and Rhode Island and across the country:
In Case Watch reports, lawyers at the Open Society Justice Initiative provide analysis of notable court decisions and cases that relate to their work to advance human rights law around the world. Read more
from U.S. Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor
The pages that follow document the often difficult march forward of human freedom around the world. Significant progress is being made in some places, but in far too many others governments fall short of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ vision of a world where people live “free and equal in dignity and rights.”
A week after the European Union called for proposals from organisations in Zambia working on human rights, including the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) individuals, the Minister of Home Affairs, Edgar Lungu, stated in an interview that the EU was promoting same-sex marriages in Zambia – sparking a storm of homophobic bigotry and hate-speech.
Read full article http://www.osisa.org/lgbti/blog/sowing-poisonous-seeds-zambia
The Rev. Dr. Nancy Wilson is the moderator of the Metropolitan Community Churches, which has ministries in over 40 countries. Dr. Wilson was part of the first religious LGBT delegation to meet with a U.S. sitting president in 1979. She is currently a member of President Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
The White House announced a forum to review progress on the fight against human trafficking, a cause to which President Barack Obama proclaimed his commitment in his groundbreaking speech in September of 2012. One partner group is the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, which released a report called, “Building Partnerships to Eradicate Modern-day Slavery” on 10 April 2013. (Full Report)
The Rev. Dr. Nancy Wilson, Moderator of Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC) and member of the Council, said, “Today, we stand against the sexual or economic enslavement of any human being. We are abolitionists from all religions because we share the belief that each human being is a creation of God.”
The report states:
There are more slaves in the world today than at any other point in human history, with an estimated 21 million in bondage across the globe. … Victims of modern-day slavery include U.S. citizens and foreign nationals, children and adults, who are trapped in forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation, with little hope of escape.
Trafficking in persons is estimated to be one of the top-grossing criminal industries in the world, with traffickers profiting an estimated $32 billion every year. The extraordinary reach of this crime is shocking—with cases reported in virtually every country in the world…
“With over 77% of victims being persons of color and the targeting of homeless youth, 40% of whom are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, our mandate is clear,” said Dr. Wilson. “Prejudice makes people vulnerable to hate, to violence and to being enslaved so we must challenge prejudice wherever it is.”
The report made 10 recommendations ranging from scaling up the fight against slavery throughout the world, minimizing purchase of slave-produced goods, anti-trafficking work by government agencies, ad campaign, hotline, national summit, call to action and “tool kit” for religious groups on what to do.
“All MCC congregations and faith leaders understand that it is our stories that change hearts and minds. We are walking a path toward freedom and must bring others with us. When anyone is enslaved, we are all enslaved,” said Dr. Wilson. “When a child or worker cannot tell their story, we must tell it for them and work for their freedom.”
The report highlighted the stories of:
Statement from the Public Policy Team
Metropolitan Community Churches
For Immediate Release: 28 March 2013
METROPOLITAN COMMUNITY CHURCHES
STANDS WITH LT. DAN CHOI
AND FREEDOM OF SPEECH
Today, March 28, the Public Policy Team of Metropolitan Community Churches proudly stands with our friend and colleague in the fight for equality, Lt. Dan Choi. He defended himself in a unique criminal trial at the federal level regarding an act of peaceful protest, as guaranteed under the Constitution of the United States.
Lt. Choi has been an advocate for justice and human rights at great personal and professional cost along the way.
At the heart of Lt. Choi’s case was one of our basic rights in the United States: freedom of speech. Lt. Choi stood accused of “failure to obey a lawful order” by the U.S. Park Police for protesting in front of the White House, and was found guilty and fined.
Protesting in front of the White House has long been a public square space for free speech and assembly. On the day of his arrest, Lt Choi and 13 others were peacefully protesting against a homophobic military policy, “Don’t Ask – Don’t Tell,” which has since been repealed.
According to a previous statement by Peter Tatchell , an advocate for Lt Choi:
“Generally, White House protestors are arrested and required to pay a $100 fine to a municipal court, the equivalent of a parking ticket in the District of Columbia. Instead, in this case, the U.S. Attorney’s Office is invoking a seldom-used federal level criminal charge called ‘Failure to Obey.’ Choi’s case is the first time since anti-Iraq war protester Cindy Sheehan was prosecuted, that a protestor has been tried federally for demonstrating at the White House.”
We give thanks today that some modicum of civility prevailed and that while found guilty, Lt. Choi did not receive the kind of unusual and harsh punishment that the Attorney General’s office sought.
“I am proud of Lt. Choi” said Rev. Dr. Robert Griffin, Chief Programming Minister at Sunshine Cathedral and former member of the U.S. Navy. “Dan has stood as an example of what it means to serve his country proudly and with distinction. I am personally touched by his witness and conviction to stand for what he believes in, a better and just society for all.”
Today we offer this prayer, taken from the Book for Worship for the U.S. Forces, for Lt. Choi and all who serve and have served faithfully in the armed services: “Lord, make us instruments of thy peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy; for thy mercy and for thy truth’s sake. Amen.”
This statement prepared in conjunction with the Public Policy Team of Metropolitan Community Churches,
The Rev. Dr. Robert Griffin, Member, The Rev. Pat Bumgardner, Chair.
For more information:
Rev. Dr. Jim Merritt
MCC Public Policy Team