Wednesday, October 31, 2007

I won't run either

Good As You puts it much better than me, but those of you readers who have been chatting with me for months know well that it won't be the first time I have to hit a nose or confront a gay-basher, and maybe it was years ago but I know well how to box. I won't run either. Now see this and tell me it's not a call for violence and hate crimes.

Stickers actually being eBay-ed.

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Monday, October 29, 2007

It could have been no other...

After J K Rowlings outed Angus Dumbledore, some religious group has started to demand a complete ban on Harry Potter books. Guess who:

  1. Born Again American Christians
  2. US Evangelicals
  3. All of the above.
  4. Exactly.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Gene switch alters sexual orientation... of nematode worms

wormsAltering a gene in the brain of female worms changed their sexual orientation, U.S. researchers said on Thursday, making female worms attracted to other females. The study reinforces the notion that sexual orientation is hard-wired in the brain, said Erik Jorgensen, scientific director of the Brain Institute at the University of Utah. "They look like girls, but act and think like boys," Utah researcher Jamie White, who worked on the study published in the journal Current Biology, said in a statement. Researchers in Jorgensen's lab switched on a gene in female worms that makes the body develop male structures, but they only activated the gene in the brain. As a result, the female worms still had female bodies, but they behaved like males. "It suggests sexual behavior is encoded in our genes" and not caused by extra nerve cells specific to males or females, Jorgensen said in a telephone interview.

Animals such as nematodes, fruit flies and mice share many of the same genes as humans and are often used as models to understand human genetics. But Jorgensen said the study is not likely to resolve the burning question about the genesis of sexual orientation in humans. "A human's brain is much more complex than a worm's brain," he said.

Many scientists think a host of factors such as genetics, hormones and environment may play a role in determining sexual orientation in humans, but this has not been proven. Jorgensen said the study is interesting because it suggests rather than being caused by extra, sex-specific nerve cells, attraction behaviors are part of the same brain circuit.

The finding was part of a study looking at areas in the worms' brains involved in sexual attraction. The study was funded by the National Science Foundation.

© Reuters

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Gay club attacked in Lithuania

That's how PinkNews opens this article about Lithuanian homophobia. It's apparent now that eastern european countries are among the most homophobic at least inside the European Union. While the reasons for this behavior are not yet clear, in my opinion there seems to be some sort of religious resurgence, the deep rejection of communism which probably leads people to the far right in the political spectrum, and an overall laissez faire towards neo-nazi gangs while communist counterparts are hunted, as in the Poland case where not only homosexuals were going to be listed and fired from civil servancy, but every person with "communist" collaboration issues in the past had been included in black lists during the Twin Government. I think we have spoken about Lithuania formerly, here and here, and also you can explore the bonding of their anti-gay bands with US-based organizations in this Alternet article.

It's quite clear to me that the American Religious Right can't do much in Western Europe to strike back against LGBT rights, but recent documents related to Uganda and Lithuania appear to draw a similar trend where the ultimate link leads to American Evangelist Churches — with a paranoid conspiracy sense awake, one would say that such cults had launched a crusade to baptise the world. But we're no paranoid, are we?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The real "gay bomb" of the Iraq war

By Brian Ochalla, - copypasted from Edge NY, all rights reserved

Everyone has had a chuckle over the non-lethal "gay bomb" the U.S. Air Force considered adding to its arsenal in the early ’90s.
Although the weapon never made it out of the planning stages, a gay bomb of another sort has been exploding in Iraq since the U.S. military invaded the country in 2003, according to Ali Hili, a 34-year-old Iraqi exile now living in London.
"The U.S, and other allied forces are doing nothing to stop the massacres of any ordinary Iraqi, not to mention the homosexuals, the most unpopular portion of Iraqi society under the new evil regime," says Hali, who launched Iraqi LGBT in late 2005 "after hearing about the killing of so many of my friends" inside the war-torn country.
Hali describes Iraqi LGBT as a "secretive underground network" for the country’s LGBT community-especially effeminate men and anyone transgender. "We’re a fledgling group but have been paramount in helping Iraqis with safe houses, protection and underground communication," Hali explains.
Two of the group’s safe houses are set to close at the end of the month, however, due to a lack of funds. According to Hali, it costs about $1,800 each month to run just one of his safe houses, which covers gas, electricity, food, water and the salaries of two guards-essential to protecting the 10 to 12 people living within their walls.
Closing the safe houses wasn’t a decision Hali and his partner made lightly-especially considering such an act could well be a death sentence for some of the soon-to-be-homeless.
"Homosexuality was generally tolerated under Saddam," Hali says. "There certainly was no danger of gay people being assassinated in the street by police. Since his overthrow, the violent persecution of gays and lesbians is commonplace. Life in Iraq now is hell for all LGBT people; no one can be openly gay and alive."
Although the plight of Iraq’s LGBT community hasn’t been ignored completely in the U.S. and the rest of the world-in June, for instance, Reps. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Barney Frank (D- MA) called on U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to investigate reports of violent persecution of gay and lesbian Iraqis by Islamic groups and militias-Hali says LGBT Iraqis continue to be "the most unpopular portion of our society."
"Sometimes when I look at the news I feel so sad," he adds. The deaths of his LGBT compatriots "doesn’t matter to world. [It’s] as if we don’t exist."
Hali hopes to change all that with Iraqi LGBT, though he admits he can’t do it alone. "We need donations to help fund the safe houses and to pay for food, clothing, electricity, police protection-even phone cards," he says. "Many people have nothing but the clothes on their backs, and sometimes not even that."

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Yet another apocalypse caused by gays

Every time some natural disaster in form of hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, et al, strikes some part of the United States, there will always be a self-called pastor, priest, minister or bishop who will state that such disgrace is the Very Wrath of God Almighty at the un-moral, abominable and satanic path the American society is taking. And of course, that applies to California fires. Taken from DailyKos:

Subject: The Righteous Judgment of God
Date: Wed, 24 Oct 2007 03:00:18 +0000

Dear Friends,

Last week I groaned when I read how Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill into law in California which foisted homosexuality upon the children of that state through the state school system. The bill was SB777 and it clearly redefines (perverts) what sexuality is, as well as promotes the legitmacy of homosexuality upon children starting from kindergarten on up. He signed the bill on Saturday, October 13th.

Seven days later on October 20th, wildfires broke out across California in  several places.

Matt Trewhella from Missionaries to the Preborn. Hmm... wait a minute? Preborn? That means they are preaching to what people? So pregnant women have not enough with their weight increase, discomfortable conditions, swelling legs and all, they will have to stand prayers and sermons by Mr. Trewhella?

One really wonders, if all those righteous and godly people don't drink considerable amounts of liquor, what are they getting high on?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

News in brief

Stephen Colbert on gay marriage

Stephen Tyrone Colbert had some words on gay marriage on MSNBC Meet the Press. Here's the linkWhy Colbert is (sort of) running for president
to the video at NBC (not able to embed, first plays a commercial, then the interview. Colbert said: "I only got married as a taunt toward gay men because they couldn’t."  It is not clear whether Mr. Colbert is eager to engage on any other of the many varied activities gay men can't do. For instance, I myself can't hold my breathe for more than 15 minutes, neither I can do scuba diving on a liquid nitrogen pool.

Mr Colbert is said to be running for president of the United States of America in what appears to be a remake of Man of the Year. Who's running the voting booth machines?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

LGBT rights in USA - moving to the closet

Peter LaBarbera, Fred Phelps, Ted Haggard... names that we've blogged about formerly. The Evangelical Christianity in the USA keeps struggling to kill any effort started by LGBT organizations towards a broader support for sexual and gender rights for Americans (and non-Americans as well). The type of clown which Phelps or LaBarbera are, able to condemn a whole nation and step into private funerals (allegedly on their own right for freedom of speech), or travel nationwide to pay for a ticket to a BDSM fair in an intent to depict homosexuality as an intrinsecally perverted, vicious, dirty and abominable condition of sinners; those are just anecdotic steps in the Born Again Christian crusade to wipe sins off earth. In regards to more important matters such as ENDA, which as you all know has been stripped off its transexual protections in order to secure its passing on the US Senate, still not secured, Bishop Harry R. Jackson Jr. said that "I find it is an insult for myself as an African American that you are granting through this law special protection for sexual orientation that might only be imagined.", Pink News informs. Of course, this and many other bishops, allegedly religious people as well, don't care what we find to be an insult and a spit in our faces. They would not care because that's their view of the world: they are simply and absolutely right, possessing The Truth, as well depicted by Lex in her blog. Guess who attended last weekend's Washington Briefing 2007? Yes, them all: McCain, Giuliani, Thompson and Romney. So it's bad news for American homosexuals and transexuals, but bisexuals can still hide themselves for a while.

Alarm and catastrophism here? Maybe, but there was not so many people sure that Bush would get a second mandate, and there he is, speaking with Jesus the Lord every morning, and sending boys to wars that the Lord tells him to start. And by the way, democrats are moving towards repelling the US Armed Forces "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy. Personally I guess that such will be a much more popular measure than reinstating the draft, however if homosexuals alone are not enough to feed the Armed Forces, expect a draft in a near future. Someone's got to fight USA's wars, and it seems it's not going to be Europe.

Finally, there's a very interesting analysis on the fight for gay marriage at Pink News.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Monday Bear Candy


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What happened over the weekend

Wow, it seems we can't leave for a while and not expect to return online with weird news. Over the weekend, Brazilian Senator Magno Malta got upset by the approval of an anti-homophobia bill in his country, and ranted on TV comparing homosexuality with paedophilia and bestiality. I know that some of us guys love bears, but that's real far from bestiality, and I wouldn't dare to compare a twink with a baby, also. And for Pope Benedict it wasn't enough to have suspended a major priest over being aired on Italian TV coming out, now this same cleric is threatening to produce a huge list of closeted homosexual priests too. Back to priesthood or you'll be all exposed? Who knows. With Sam Brownback out of the presidential race, and Fred Thompson being backed by Phelps (yep, that same Phelps), what chances are left for anti-homosexual groups to reach the White House? Oh, and don't forget that Dumbledore happened to be a gay wizard in all of the seven books of Potter. Did anyone catch a lusty gaze from Angus to Harry? Not me. Meanwhile, Watchmen on the Walls, that weird half-lithuanian, half eastern whatever violent anti-gay organization held a meeting last Saturday on Lynnwood, California. No arrestings, it seems. And the Poland twins have been defeated on Sunday's election, well, not both, but at least one of them, the prime minister, which will hopefully bring some relief for Polish homosexuals.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Lucky Dube killed

Sad news from Reuters:

Gunmen shot reggae star Lucky Dube in front of his children in one of South Africa's highest-profile murders, uniting political rivals in calls for a crackdown on violent crime.

Dube, 43, was killed in an apparent botched carjacking on Thursday evening in a Johannesburg suburb. Police are searching for three suspects, police spokesman Eugene Opperman said.

One minute of respect for one of my ever-favorite reggae musicians. And three video clips in remembrance.




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Maybe a positive output from Larry Craig affaire

According to Gay City News, Craig told KTVB-TV that he "would take a very serious look" at legislation to protect people from police entrapment in restrooms and other public places. We have read a lot of words and articles about Craig's hypocrisy for not coming out, for supporting homophobic laws and actions, and all the hype, but I personally think that if the output of the whole case leads to some point closer to give people an enhanced chance to eye for sex in public places, that'll be good; whether they be homosexual or not, whether they be in the closet or completely out, an adult should not be put into traps for seeking sex. If you don't want sex with other adult, homosexual or heterosexual, simply say "no". That's all. Maybe the USA need some better sexual education. Just my two cents.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Jammeh: Lesbianism no good for The Gambia

Gays Without Borders, which is becoming one of our favorite blogs, depicts about the latest nonsense played around the world, this time by president Yahya Jammeh of The Gambia, that same guy who earlier in February this year sought the Medicine Nobel Award by stating that AIDS could be easily healed with only herbal tea plus a couple of bananas (story in the Daily Mail). Along with Eid al Fitr celebrations, Jammeh called for Islamic solidarity (The Gambia may not belong to the Arab League, but it's a majority muslim country) and also proved himself as hallucinated as Mr. Sheikh Ramathan Shaban Mubajje from Uganda.

President Jammeh stated that "What Allah says in the Qur'an is very clear, which is man can marry woman, but not woman to a woman or man to man. Lesbianism will not be accepted in The Gambia, so their idea of democracy is unacceptable, unislamic and ungodly", and that type of democracy will never enter The Gambia as long as he lives. Yahya went on to compare past Catholic and West behaviors to present terrorism, and pointed out that "hanging and electrifying someone to death, is not a way of killing a person, according to the Sharia law."

Hum, one wonders what merciful sort of death penalty Jammeh is saving for homosexuals in The Gambia.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Ex Gay movements turning violent

Ex-gay Watch, a blog devoted to keep an eye on ex gay movements, writes about the relationship between JONAH, (Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality) and NARTH. Among the many points of similarly neo totalitarist rhetoric of NARTH, these bloggers count the following:

  • NARTH sports a guide to “taking back” schools from pro-tolerance activists, written by Scott Lively. Lively is a former American Family Association state chapter leader (he’s still listed as an active director) and the author of the book The Pink Swastika, which (according to the SPLC) falsely asserts that more gays were involved in the perpetration of genocide than were murdered under the Nazi regime. Lively has used The Pink Swastika to achieve popularity in Eastern Europe and among Russian-speaking U.S. immigrants. Lively is now a leader of a Slavic organization called Watchmen on the Walls (Google translation link), which has applauded the murder of a Sacramento gay man by Slavic skinheads, used West Coast Russian-language radio shows to promote anti-gay ethnic cleansing, and taught audiences that homosexuals have a contagious disease that must be quarantined and treated. If you think this sounds eerily familiar, you’re right.
  • Paul Cameron, previously reported to be a supporter of a “Final Solution” for homosexuals and an admirer of Nazi officer Rudolph Höss, is still quite pervasive in NARTH’s library. Articles that cite his work can be found here, here, here, and here.

Another author enlisted in NARTH ranks is Joseph Nicolosi, who, with Gerard J. M. van der Aardweg, the latter being a psychologist deeply involved with the Opus Dei, make the core project of the Catholic Ex-Gay movement, which tried to root in Spain as well as in Latin America apparently without much success, as one can deduct from the site Es Posible El Cambio, promoted by a so called Grupo Juan Pablo II.  It's likely that Courage Latino be more active around Latin America, though.

Finally, and about the involvement of Mr. Scott Lively with Watchment on the Walls, we recommend you an interesting reading, this article from Alternet published on October 5th.

Anti-gay movements are out there and homosexuals are their target. Even physically. Beware.

Hump Day Eye Candy

Disclaimer: We do not claim to own any photograph posted on this blog; all were found in public domains. Should you be the owner of any and would like it removed please contact us for immediate removal

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

New study will try to find genetic clues for homosexuality

Associated Press informs that Dr. Sanders from the Evanston Northwestern Healthcare Research Institute has undertaken a study involving 1,000 pairs of gay brothers aimed at finding genetic clues for homosexuality. Previous studies haven't been taxatively concluding about any, so to call, "gay gene" but previous research showed that homosexual brothers shared certain genetic markers in their X chromosome, obviously transmitted by their mother. Sanders and other researchers believe that it's more likely to be several genes interacting together, while some scientists say that homosexuality could possibly depend on activation of some genetic markers via mother-supplied hormones around the 3rd month of pregnancy.

Homosexuals have a double stand towards genetic causes of homosexuality, proven or imaginary: on one hand, there would be much easier that courts and laws be issued against discrimination if homosexuality is eventually proven to stem from genetic causes; in the same way that skin, eye, or hair color. But on the other hand, some foresee that if such causes arise and are acutely determined, people would be able to choose whether to raise or not raise a foetus that would become a homosexual person.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Celebrating Eid in Uganda

Pink News informs that an Ugandan Muslim cleric, some sort of scholar of prestige among muslims, has called for all homosexuals in the country to be put on exile off to an island in Victoria Lake, and "If they die there then we shall have no more homosexuals in the country" he bothered to remark. This stupendous solution for the homosexuality "problems" that Uganda has been allegedly facing lately, partly with support from the United States of America, which has been allegedly funding homosexuality-hate groups as developers of HIV programs, has been put to use in more extreme conditions last century, when homosexuals were also called to wear pink triangles. And then Mr. Sheikh Ramathan Shaban Mubajje calls himself a scholar.

Well, the truth may be that after the celebrations of the end of Ramadan, Sheikh Mubajje may have been suffering of some acute attack of gastroenteritis, or perhaps he was simply drunk.

And there are still people who think homosexuals don't need hate protection. Sure.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Dangerous Living - Coming Out in the Developing World

Weeks ago, we at Party for the Rights made some reference to this production of a documentary showing how homosexuals outside Europe and the USA cope with their personal problems. We're proud to present the full documentary here today, so sit back, relax, and take a look at it down below.

Dangerous Living: Coming Out in the Developing World, is a feature-length documentary that explores the immense changes that occurred for gays, lesbians and transgender people living in the Global South. In the last decade of the 20th Century, a new heightened visibility began spreading throughout the developing world and the battles between families, fundamentalist religions, and governments around sexual and gender identity had begun. But in the West, few people knew about this historic social upheaval, until 52 men on Cairo’s Queen Boat discothèque were arrested for crimes of debauchery. That explosive story focused attention to the lives and trials of gay people coming out in the developing world and the film chronicles those events.
Dangerous Living opens with one of the Cairo 52 defendant’s, Ashraf Zanati, who was tortured, humiliated, beaten and forced to spend 13 months in prison. His simple, but powerful statement sets out the basic theme for the film: “My sexuality is my own sexuality. It doesn’t belong to anybody. Not to my government, not to my brother, my sister, my family. No.”
Directed by John Scagliotti and Produced by Janet Baus and Dan Hunt. Executive Producer is Reid Williams. Major sponsor includes The H. van Ameringen Foundation.



A slide show history of The Vibrator

Slate magazine online displays a brief and comprehensive history of vibrators, with facts as curious as the following:

  • Invented in 1880 by an unnamed British doctor
  • First vibrator for men was patented in 1899 by John Muir
  • First take-home vibrator was patented in 1902, becoming the fifth electric appliance in USA homes, after the sewing machine and way before the electric iron.
  • By 1917 there were more vibrators than toasters in American homes.

Definitely, it's worth taking a look at the slide show.

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Friday, October 12, 2007

Portrait of a marriage, 1901

Marcela Gracia Ibeas and Elisa Sanchez first met when studying at Teacher's College in La Coruña. Years later, they met again when teaching in a unmentioned village. By 1901, Elisa became a cross dresser and invented a life story for herself and took on a new identity as Mario. Both Marcela and Mario got married at the parochial church of St. George in La Coruña, blessed by father Cortiella, who had to baptize "Mario" unknowingly in the Catholic faith.
Their trick was eventually discovered, thus they were prosecuted by judicial system. This along with social homophobia, mockery and the inability for Elisa to find a job as her male identity Mario, led them to migrate to Argentina.
The portrait above is theirs, took by José Sellier Loup.
UPDATE: As it should have been, the LGBT Association of A Coruña, Milhomes, has provided several deeper details upon the story. A local newspaper, La Voz de Galicia, published in June 1988 a verisimilarly accurate account of both women's love affair (not available online on the paper's site, though transcribed by Milhomes in their Flickr account), marriage and eventual fleeing to Buenos Aires, after their trick was published on newspapers all over Spain and even Europe.
Collective Milhomes, the LGBT Association of A Coruña, launched a campaign in order to have a street in that town named after both women, providing with full details, and established an award: the "Homoxexual Award Parish of St. George". Apparently, upon changes in the management staff of Milhomes, such actions towards keeping both women's memory alive have been discontinued, as well as the award.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

USA financing Homophobia in Uganda? IGLHRC speaks

Via Gays Without Borders, some worrying letter by IGLHRC:

October 10, 2007
For Immediate Release
Contact: Hossein Alizadeh, IGLHRC Communications Coordinator, 212-430-6016
(New York, Monday October 10, 2007) - The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) has uncovered evidence that the U.S. government has funded groups in Uganda that actively promote discrimination against lesbians and gay men. In a letter to U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Mark Dybul, IGLHRC has criticized funding the groups and has asked for assurances that U.S. government funds are not being used to support homophobic organizations anywhere in the world.
IGLHRC’s investigation followed a series of distressing events in Uganda. At an August 16 press conference, Sexual Minorities of Uganda (SMUG), a coalition of LGBT groups, launched Let us Live in Peace Campaign, calling for understanding and respect of sexual minorities. SMUG’s campaign was met with an increase in hate speech by religious groups. The primary instigator of the backlash was Pastor Martin Ssempa, leader of the Makerere University Community Church and spokesman for the Interfaith Family Culture Coalition Against Homosexuality in Uganda. Ssempa organized an August 21 rally in Kampala, the country’s largest city, at which more than one hundred demonstrators, including several government officials, demanded official action against LGBT people. Ssempa has called homosexual conduct, “a criminal act against the laws of nature,” and has said that, “there should be no rights granted to homosexuals in this country.”
According to the U.S. Embassy in Uganda’s website, Makerere University Community Church received a grant under a program designed to provide funds for AIDS prevention, treatment and care programs in Africa. Mr. Ssempa and his coalition, which includes Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Baptists, Seventh Day Adventists, and Evangelicals, have threatened the safety of Ugandan LGBT rights activists by posting their names, photos and addresses on a website ( With support from conservative organizations such as Family Watch International in the United States, Ssempa has launched attacks not only on homosexuals but on Uganda’s women’s rights and HIV activists as well.
“The U.S. government’s funding is meant to alleviate suffering and support effective AIDS initiatives in Africa, not to further blame and stigmatize already marginalized groups,” said IGLHRC Executive Director Paula Ettelbrick. IGLHRC provided Ambassador Dybul with evidence of grants made by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to the Makerere University Community Church.
Furthermore, IGLHRC found that the Uganda Muslim Tabliqh Women’s Desk has also received a grant under the President’s Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) to implement HIV programs in Masaka District. Recently, Muslim Tabliqh youth announced a plan to form an 'Anti-Gay Squad' to fight homosexuality in Uganda. On 28 August 2007, Sheikh Multah Bukenya, a senior cleric in the Tabliqh Organization, was quoted during prayers at Noor Mosque in Kampala as saying that his followers are “ready to act swiftly and form this squad that will wipe out all abnormal practices like homosexuality in our society.”
PEPFAR is a $15 billion Bush administration fund to fight AIDS in Africa. According to IGLHRC’s 2007 report, “Off the Map: How HIV/AIDS Programming is Failing Same-Sex Practicing People in Africa,” less than U.S. $1 million targets HIV programs for men who have sex with men in Africa, despite strong evidence that HIV has a disproportionate impact on LGBT communities throughout the continent. According to IGLHRC, the complicated PEPFAR sub-granting process lacks transparency and makes it difficult to track the funding.
“What we do know, is that few PEPFAR dollars are being used to fight HIV among gay men in Africa,” said Cary Alan Johnson, IGLHRC Senior Specialist for Africa. “Not only have African men who have sex with men been largely ignored with regard to HIV prevention services, but avowedly homophobic organizations are receiving funding for programs that will only further stigmatize homosexuality. This has to stop.”
IGLHRC has called for increased transparency in the distribution of U.S. government HIV/AIDS funding internationally and a commitment by U.S. administrators that organizations espousing hate speech will not be funded
Homosexuality is illegal in Uganda and is punishable by between 14 years and life imprisonment. Last year, the Ugandan Parliament passed a constitutional amendment making same-sex marriages illegal.
You can download a high resolution photo of Paula Ettelbrick from IGLHRC website:
You can download a high resolution photo of Cary Alan Johnson from IGLHRC website:
IGLHRC’ letter to Ambassador Dybul, can be found at:

(Emphasis mine)

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

European Day against Death Penalty

ILGA-Europe reminds us on this day that there are still seven countries (six and a half, in fact) that keep death penalty as punishment for same-sex activities, namely Saudi Arabia, Iran, Mauritania, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen, and the 12 northern Nigerian states under shari'a.

It's the first event of its kind in Europe, sponsored by the Council of Europe, after last month Poland tried to veto the celebration on grounds that it should also condemn abortion and eutanasia. We have already reported Poland's government attitudes and policies in regards to LGBT issues and rights, which are dominated by a deep ultracatholicism. Poland's conservative, populist government has made something of a speciality of going against EU opinion on issues ranging from homosexuality to environmental protection.

Precisely in Poland, Police had to evict a group of nuns from a convent in Kazimierz Dolny. Previously, 10 nuns of the Congregation of the Sisters of Bethany had been expelled from their order by the Vatican. Church spokesman has likened the Congregation to a sect, and it seems that their mother superior has claimed to have been having visions of the Holy Spirit. Sixty five nuns and a Franciscan monk were found inside the convent.

It's curious that on nuns convents there's always a monk. Or a garden keeper. Busy men.

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

"Puritads" at work

Via Truthdig, here's the latest technology in youth sex: is, clearly from the url, a USA government-owned site devoted to promote sexual abstinence among youth "until marriage". Of course, since gay marriage is not recognized as such in the United States (except for some isolated states and towns), the site promotes total abstinence for homosexuals. The Vatican must be cheerful about it. But there are some other pearls on the site, check it at your own risk.

Along with the usual teen movie where main roles are going to have sex before graduation but decide not because "I want my first time to be special"... it may not be proof enough for some people, but add all those sex scandals and here you are: a truly puritan society. No wonder, weren't those in the Mayflower puritans, after all?

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Monday, October 08, 2007

A Plastic Plate

This is a short by Barakat TV, in their own description: "It is the eid (Sham El Nesem - or Spring Feast) and an Egyptian family is sitting down to have a festive meal. Everyone is asking and inquiring: will he come? Are you going to allow him to come? What are you going to do? Will he bring his guy friend with him? Disapproval and sorrow are manifest on everyone's face. Meanwhile, in front of a mirror, where we hear a voice-over of a young man, talking about wanting to go home for the last time. His mother allowed him to come home. His sisters and his brothers are reluctant. He goes in and there is awkwardness in the air..."


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Some good news

  • China Daily reports that Scholars struggle to put gay marriage in spotlight: while public discussion of sex issues remains a deeply rooted taboo in China, a new generation of scholars, start to challenge the statu quo. Professor Li Yinhe, himself a gay rights campaigner, as well as Dr. Zhang Beichuan, is leading the call for marriage among other rights for China's homosexuals. Dr. Beichuan pointed that legal unions "will lead to more stable same-sex relationships", as well as "will also help better protect the legitimate rights of same sex lovers, especially the right to inherit their deceased partner's goods."
  • In Colombia, Constitutional Court ruled affirmatively over same-sex couples health benefits, building upon a previous decision granting inheritance rights.
  • A bit southwards, Rio de Janeiro witnessed a demonstration called upon by Grupo Arco-Iris by the worldwide famous Christ of Corcovado, to protest against homophobia and violence against homosexuals, as an event prior to the celebration of Rio's 12th Gay Pride Parade next October 14th. The Association's director said that 2,582 homosexual people have been killed in Brazil over the last 10 years.
  • And across the ocean, in South Africa, Johannesburg celebrated its 18th Pride Parade last weekend, with an estimate attendance of 5,000 gays and lesbians (and their families, points out Mamba Online): "Following a performance by Flash Republic on the main stage, the Parade, consisting of over 30 floats and vehicles, and led by the Joburg Metro Police Department, set out through the streets of Rosebank at 11.30am. And, as if on cue, the rain paused for the one and half hour duration of the Parade."
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Religion and Homosexuality (IV): Truthdig's 2005 "Inventing Sin"

Some weeks ago we tried to start a series of posts on Religion and Homosexuality, which we'll retake later on this year with more accurate information, but in the meantime, there's an extensive report labelled as a Dig in TruthDig, under Larry Gross direction, which sums pretty much the history of all 3 "abrahamic" faiths, with a very special emphasis on Christianity, when related to homosexuality. There's a timeline also that you can follow as a way to even cut shorter those events. But due to the importance of the report, we can't help doing a full copypaste of it all here. Religions other than christianity, judaism and islam are not covered in the report, which is dated Nov 30, 2005, and recent statements by Pope Benedict XVI either, though from letters and statements made when the current Pope was still Cardinal Ratzinger you could guess that Vatican point of view hasn't improved at all. But the article is large, and we're losing time here with all this preface, so let's dig into the juice. And don't forget to read the more than 100 comments on it at Truthdig.

Inventing Sin: Religion and Homosexuality

There they were, lined up in all their finery across the top of the front page of The New York Times of March 31, 2005, occupying perhaps the most prime piece of real estate in all of journalism: Sheik Abed es- Salem Menasra, deputy mufti of Jerusalem; the Rev. Michel Sabbagh, the Latin patriarch; Archbishop Torkom Manoogian, the Armenian patriarch of Jerusalem; Rabbi Shlomo Amar, the Sephardic chief rabbi; and Rabbi Yona Metzger, the Ashkenazi chief rabbi. What brought together these religious leaders more accustomed to squabbling over slivers of land in the Holy City? They came together to denounce plans by international gay leaders to hold a WorldPride festival and parade in Jerusalem, saying it would desecrate the city and convey the erroneous impression that homosexuality is acceptable.

“This is not the homo land, this is the Holy Land,” said Rabbi Yehuda Levin of the Rabbinical Alliance of America at the news conference, adding that the proposed celebration of the right to be gay would mean “the spiritual rape of the Holy City.”

* * *

On Sunday, April 24, 2005, as described by Frank Rich in The New York Times, “Justice Sunday,” the judge-bashing rally being disseminated nationwide by cable, satellite and Internet from a mega-church in Louisville, Kentucky, focused the hostility of “people of faith” against that perennial target of the right: activist judges. But, what sort of judicial “activism” has roused the ire of these defenders of the faith?  Rich continued:

The “Justice Sunday” mob is . . .  lying when it claims to despise activist judges as a matter of principle. Only weeks ago it was desperately seeking activist judges who might intervene in the Terri Schiavo case as boldly as Scalia & Co. had in Bush v. Gore. The real “Justice Sunday” agenda lies elsewhere. As Bill Maher summed it up for Jay Leno on the “Tonight” show last week: “ ‘Activist judges’ is a code word for gay.” The judges being verbally tarred and feathered are those who have decriminalized gay sex (in a Supreme Court decision written by Justice Kennedy) as they once did abortion and who countenance marriage rights for same-sex couples. This is the animus that dares not speak its name tonight. To paraphrase the “Justice Sunday” flier, now it’s the anti-filibuster campaign that is being abused to protect bias, this time against gay people.

* * *

On Nov. 29, the Congregation for Catholic Education, the Vatican department in charge of seminaries, published a long-awaited “instruction” ordering seminaries to bar candidates for the priesthood who “practice homosexuality,” have “deeply rooted homosexual tendencies” or support “gay culture.”

These apparently disparate events reflect a current reality: At the start of the 21st century, religion remains intertwined with politics, and few topics arouse as much religious fervor as those concerned with sexuality-as we are witnessing in the battle today over gay marriage. Indeed, for the three Abrahamic religions, as they’re sometimes called, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, homosexuality has provided a rare example of a truly common cause-the unusually harsh and virulent condemnation of homosexuality by religious authorities through the ages.

In nearly all societies throughout human history, religion offers answers to fundamental questions concerning the origin and meaning of things. Religious systems of explanation offer accounts of the creation of the world, as well as specifying the rules for proper behavior-and the consequences for infractions-that have been imposed by the Creator. In “Civilization and Its Discontents,” Freud summarized what “the common man understands by his religion-the system of doctrines and promises which on the one hand explains to him the riddle of life with enviable completeness, and, on the other, assures him that a careful Providence will watch over his life and will compensate him in a future life for any frustrations he suffers here.”

In Western culture, the dominant religious traditions for the past two millenniums have been Christian, built upon, but significantly differing from, Judaism. In contrast to most other major world religions-Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism and Islam-Christianity has been marked by what sex historian Vern L. Bullough terms a general antagonism toward sexual expression. However, homosexuality has been singled out in Judaism and Christianity for condemnation far greater than that directed toward most other forms of sexual behavior.

Old Testament views on sexuality were shaped by principles that resulted in hostility to homosexual acts. The first was a focus on procreation as a necessary goal and duty, embodied in the commandment to “be fruitful and multiply.” This fundamental injunction led to the expectation that everyone would marry as early as possible and engage in marital sexual intercourse on a regular basis. In this context, any sexual act that could not promote appropriate procreation was sinful. Thus, because conception was viewed as the product of male semen planted in the female womb, lesbianism did not evoke the same sort of condemnation: As one Biblical scholar put it, “In lesbianism there is no spilling of seed. Thus life is not symbolically lost, and therefore lesbianism is not prohibited in the Bible.”

The second consideration pervading Old Testament views of sexuality was the fear of assimilation into neighboring cultures, which prompted the prohibition of many sexual practices associated with outsiders (this is a common explanation as well for many of the Biblical dietary requirements). At earlier stages in Jewish history the hostility to foreign religions focused on the temple prostitutes, both male and female, common in many Middle Eastern societies, and this has been seen as a source of the famous prohibition in Leviticus against a man “lying with a man as one lies with a woman.” (It might be worth noting that this Biblical prohibition, part of the “Holiness Code,” is addressed only to Jews and did not apply to Gentiles.) At the same time other forms of emotional, and possibly physical, attachment between men and between women were celebrated. The love of David and Jonathan, which “surpassed the love of women,” and the devotion of Ruth to Naomi can certainly sustain a homosexual interpretation. In the later period of the Second Temple, widespread fear of assimilation into Greek culture led to greater hostility toward homosexuality that was carried into exile in Talmudic Judaism. These condemnations of homosexuality were also absorbed into, and amplified by, early Christianity.

The Gospels are silent on the topic of homosexuality, but St. Paul provided sufficient ammunition for those seeking New Testament support for condemnation of homosexuality, as well as any other sexual acts outside of marriage. The early Church adopted a suspicion toward sexuality based on Jesus’ purported endorsement of celibacy, as reflected in his statement (Matthew 19:12), “For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it.”

Although the interpretation of Christ’s statement has been debated, with some emphasizing Jesus’ endorsement of celibacy only for those “able to receive it,” there is less ambiguity in Paul’s expressed preference for sexual continence: “I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own special gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain single as I do. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion. . . .” Paul’s apparently explicit condemnation of homosexuality, both female and male, occurs in Romans 1:26-27: “For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise, also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet” (King James version).  While this passage has been cited as evidence for the inherent sinfulness of homosexuality, there are conflicting interpretations. Historian John Boswell argued that Paul was not condemning homosexuals, but heterosexuals who engage in homosexual acts.

Ultimately, the Catholic Church adopted the influential formulation of St. Augustine, taking as the core Christian belief a definition of sexuality as inherently sinful, and exculpated only by the sacrament of marriage and the need to procreate. All forms of sexual intercourse outside of marriage and the possibility of conception were sinful. 

Despite the hostility of the Church fathers to sexuality outside of marriage, and the specific condemnation of homosexuality as a diversion of the sexual organs from the procreative purpose, Boswell has argued that the early Middle Ages were relatively tolerant of homosexuality. It was in the 12th and 13th centuries, as the Church began to demand greater adherence to dogma which led to the Inquisition, that homosexuality became utterly stigmatized. Along with other behaviors ascribed to heretics, homosexuality came to be viewed, as Boswell writes, as “a dangerous, antisocial, and severely sinful aberration. . . . By 1300 . . .  a single homosexual act was enough . . . in many places, to merit the death penalty.”

The most influential formulation of the emerging view of sexuality was that of St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), “whose Summa Theologiae became the standard of orthodox opinion on every point of Catholic dogma for nearly a millennium and permanently and irrevocably established the ‘natural’ as the touchstone of Roman Catholic sexual ethics.” For Aquinas, sins against nature were those forms of lust that were directed solely to the pursuit of pleasure and that entirely precluded procreation. These included, in ascending order of sinfulness, masturbation (spilling seed); deviation from the natural manner of coitus (which, according to Aquinas, was limited to face to face with the man on top (the “missionary position"); homosexuality; and bestiality.

In the 16th century, Christianity was in turmoil as the Protestant movement begun by Luther set loose a torrent of schism and strife that transformed the Western world. However, while the leading Protestant theologians differed from the Catholic Church on many issues of sexuality, such as divorce and clerical celibacy, Luther and Calvin both followed Aquinas in condemning homosexuality as contrary to nature. At the same time the Catholic Church responded to the Protestant challenge by convening the Council of Trent (1545-64), which reasserted traditional views and enshrined Aquinas as the “doctor of the church.” As historian John Noonan writes, because “Catholic moralists were not eager to appear to abandon a moral doctrine of the Fathers if the Protestants still held it,” both sides emphasized their intolerance of non-procreative sexuality. These restrictive views were carried by both Catholic and Protestant colonizers to the New World, where they were imposed upon both Native American cultures and the emerging European-American societies. 

The past five centuries have seen a decline in the role of religion as the institution that explains the world and defines morality, and this process of secularization has extended to the realm of sexuality. But the replacement of church authority by civil law did not result in any immediate liberalization, as the condemnation of “sins against nature” was translated into “crimes against nature” now punished by the state. Codifying the process of breaking away from the Catholic Church, Henry VIII’s government enacted a series of laws asserting the king’s spiritual and secular power. In so doing it was important to maintain the Church’s position on such issues as sexuality, although the changes famously relaxed the prohibition against divorce and permitted priests to marry. Among the laws passed by Parliament at the king’s behest was the Buggery Act in 1533. It made buggery with man or beast punishable by hanging, a penalty not finally lifted until 1861.

It was not until the scientific and medical discoveries of the 19th century that some Western views of human nature and human sexuality began to change. In the latter part of the century sexual reform movements began to appear, among them the first defense of homosexuality as a natural variation rather than a sin or crime against nature. By the mid-20th century progressive forces within many religious denominations had joined the effort to liberate lesbian, gay and bisexual people. In the early 1950s reform efforts in Great Britain spearheaded by progressive Anglican clergy led to the Wolfenden Report of 1957 and the sodomy law reform of 1967. In the United States progressive clerics and religious groups such as the Quakers, Unitarian Universalists and some Episcopal dioceses lent support to homophile groups and lesbian/gay liberation.

In 1965 the Council on Religion and the Homosexual, an alliance of liberal church leaders in San Francisco, joined with lesbian and gay groups to protest police harassment. In 1969 the United Church of Christ called for the decriminalization of homosexual activities between consenting adults, a position soon joined by the Unitarian Universalist Association. Similar stands were taken by significant factions within the Presbyterian and Methodist churches. Within Judaism, the Reconstructionist movement has long ordained lesbian and gay rabbis, and it was joined in this by the Reform wing of American Judaism in 1990.

In 1968 the Rev. Troy Perry (ordained in a southern Pentecostal denomination) started the first gay church, in his Los Angeles home. Within a short period Perry’s Metropolitan Community Church had grown to several hundred members, drawn from numerous Christian denominations, and it began to spread beyond Southern California. By the mid-1980s the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches had nearly 200 congregations in 10 countries. The example of the UFMCC led to the founding of lesbian/gay congregations within other religious persuasions. In 1972 the first lesbian and gay synagogue, Beth Chayim Chadashim ("House of New Life"), was founded in Los Angeles, followed shortly by synagogues in New York, San Francisco and, ultimately, over 30 other locations in the United States and other countries.

In some instances lesbian and gay organizations have attempted to obtain official recognition, sometimes holding services in established churches. Dignity, founded by gay Catholics in San Diego in 1969, was emulated by organizations of lesbian and gay Episcopalians (Integrity), United Methodists (Affirmation), Mormons (Affinity) and other Protestant denominations.  After an initial period of quasi-toleration of Dignity, which had grown to be among the largest lesbian and gay organizations in the country, the Catholic Church began to reassert its traditional hostility toward homosexuality. In 1975 the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published a “Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics,” in which the Catholic Church tried to come to terms with the changing sexual attitudes of the times.

In that document the Church acknowledged the existence of individuals who are homosexual “because of some kind of innate instinct or a pathological constitution judged to be incurable.” This was taken by many as a sign of progress, despite the document’s insistence that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered and can in no case be approved.” Some thought it could lead to liberalization, but after the election of Pope John Paul II in 1978, conservative voices dominated the choir yet again. Father John McNeill, a Jesuit priest who wrote “The Church and the Homosexual” (1976), was first silenced and then expelled from his order, and other liberal theologians were disciplined for espousing pro-gay positions.

These measures did not suffice to reverse the liberal trends found throughout American Catholicism, and in 1986 Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, then head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (the Catholic Church’s official theological enforcer), issued what has come to be known as the Ratzinger Letter, “On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons.”

This new document repeated and strengthened the message of the 1975 declaration that homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered,” and then specifically condemned efforts to enact civil legislation “to protect behavior to which no one has any conceivable right.” If such efforts provoke “irrational and violent reactions,” Cardinal Ratzinger suggested, it was only to be expected.

The letter went on to state that “all support should be withdrawn from any organizations which seek to undermine the teachings of the Church, which are ambiguous about it or which neglect it entirely.” This official pronouncement effectively ended the access to churches previously enjoyed by Dignity chapters in dioceses across the United States and Canada. 

In the period since the Ratzinger Letter, the Catholic Church has not relented in its hostility to lesbian and gay people, and prominent clerics have been in the forefront of efforts to defeat lesbian and gay causes. Conservative Catholic laypersons such as Paul Weyrich, Phyllis Schlafly, William F. Buckley and Patrick Buchanan have also played leading roles in the rise of the “New Right,” which has made attacks on gay people a centerpiece of its political rhetoric. 

In 1992 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith responded to the success of legal efforts to provide protection for homosexual people:

Recently, legislation had been proposed in some American states which would make discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation illegal. In some Italian cities, municipal authorities have made public housing available to homosexual (and unmarried heterosexual) couples. Such initiatives, even where they seem more directed toward support of basic civil rights than condonement of homosexual activity or a homosexual lifestyle, may in fact have a negative impact on the family and society.

After reiterating many of the arguments of the 1986 Ratzinger Letter, the 1992 statement made explicit the conclusion that Church leaders were expected to intervene in the political process in opposition to such efforts:

Finally, since a matter of the common good is concerned, it is inappropriate for Church authorities to endorse or remain neutral toward adverse legislation even if it grants exceptions to Church organizations and institutions. The Church has the responsibility to promote the public morality of the entire civil society on the basis of fundamental moral values, not simply to protect herself from the application of harmful laws.

Catholic Church leaders followed the injunction of Pope John Paul II and his theological enforcer, Cardinal Ratzinger. In May 1993, Philadelphia Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua strode into the City Council to testify against proposed domestic partner benefits for city employees. Accompanied by the head of the [Protestant] Black Clergy of the Delaware Valley and a prominent Muslim cleric, and cheered on by senior citizens and schoolchildren bused in by the archdiocese, the cardinal warned of the grave threat to the family posed by domestic partner benefits.

The Philadelphia legislation was defeated when City Council President John Street declared his opposition to the legislation in a statement that parroted Cardinal Bevilacqua’s words. When Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell later issued an executive order granting domestic partner benefits to mayoral appointees, Cardinal Bevilacqua held a news conference at which he warned that the executive order would end civilization as we know it in Philadelphia. 

If civilization in Philadelphia was threatened by domestic partner benefits, Rome was even more alarmed at the increasingly successful movement to legalize same-sex marriage in Europe. Playing his familiar role as the pope’s enforcer, Cardinal Ratzinger took aim.

In July of 2003 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued yet another letter to the bishops of the Church, this time enumerating “Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons.” The purpose of the letter was to “provide arguments drawn from reason which could be used by Bishops in preparing more specific interventions, appropriate to the different situations throughout the world, aimed at protecting and promoting the dignity of marriage, the foundation of the family, and the stability of society, of which this institution is a constitutive element.” The letter also addressed Catholic politicians in countries or localities where same-sex marriage was being debated:

If it is true that all Catholics are obliged to oppose the legal recognition of homosexual unions, Catholic politicians are obliged to do so in a particular way, in keeping with their responsibility as politicians. . . . When legislation in favour of the recognition of homosexual unions is proposed for the first time in a legislative assembly, the Catholic law-maker has a moral duty to express his opposition clearly and publicly and to vote against it. To vote in favour of a law so harmful to the common good is gravely immoral.

Then, during the 2004 U.S. presidential campaign Cardinal Ratzinger ratcheted up to direct intervention, telling American bishops that Communion must be denied to Catholic politicians who support legal abortion. In August of 2005, fulfilling the spirit of this injunction, Bishop Thomas Olmsted ordered that politicians who support gay rights and abortion be banned from speaking at Roman Catholic churches in the Phoenix diocese. In keeping with this order, Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano was forbidden to speak at a Scottsdale church.

The 2003 Letter also condemned the possibility of permitting lesbian or gay couples to adopt children: “Allowing children to be adopted by persons living in such unions would actually mean doing violence to these children, in the sense that their condition of dependency would be used to place them in an environment that is not conducive to their full human development.” This Letter was promulgated, as many noted, at the same time that the Catholic Church was beset with its own ethical and legal travails over its failure to seriously address the problem of sexual abuse of minors by priests.

When the sexual abuse scandals broke over the Catholic priesthood in the United States in the late 1990s the Vatican responded by scapegoating gay priests, despite abundant evidence that pedophiles are not gay and that gays are not pedophiles. Vatican spokesman Joaquin Novarro-Valls broke the Vatican’s official silence on the scandal, telling The New York Times in March 2002 that gay men should not be ordained as priests. Philadelphia Cardinal Bevilacqua, returning from a meeting of cardinals with Pope John Paul in Rome, expanded on the Church’s increased hostility towards homosexuality:

“We feel that a person who is homosexually oriented is not a suitable candidate for the priesthood, even if he did not commit an act [of gay sex],” he said. “There is a difference between heterosexual candidates and homosexual candidates,” he said. “A heterosexual is taking on a good thing, becoming a priest, and giving up a very good thing, the desire to have a family.” A gay seminarian, even a chaste one, he said, “by his orientation, is not giving up family and marriage. He is giving up what the church considers an abomination.”

In February 2005, Pope John Paul II published his last book, “Memory and Identity,” described by the Reuters news service as “a highly philosophical and intricate work on the nature of good and evil.” However, in his final months, ill and facing death, Pope John Paul’s highly philosophical ruminations did not preclude an attack on same-sex marriage, recently legalized in several European countries.

Referring to efforts in the European Parliament to promote same-sex marriage, he wrote, “It is legitimate and necessary to ask oneself if this is not perhaps part of a new ideology of evil, perhaps more insidious and hidden, which attempts to pit human rights against the family and against man.”

Despite the evident hostility of the Catholic Church, some lesbian and gay Catholics have searched wistfully for silver linings. Conservative journalist Andrew Sullivan tried to reconcile his homosexuality and his religion, arguing that the Church made a monumental concession by using the term “homosexual persons” because “the term ‘person’ constitutes in Catholic moral teaching a profound statement about the individual’s humanity, dignity and worth; it invokes a whole range of rights and needs.” But not, of course, the right to sexual expression; that, according to the Ratzinger Letter, is “behavior to which no one has any conceivable right.”

Sullivan seemed less concerned over whether his church grants him the right to express his sexuality than grateful that it found a place for him in the natural order. And what is this place? Sullivan writes, “As albinos remind us of the brilliance of color . . . as the disabled person reveals to us in negative form the beauty of the fully functioning human body; so the homosexual person might be seen as a natural foil to the heterosexual norm, a variation that does not eclipse the theme, but resonates with it.”

The view that homosexuality can only be seen as the distorted reflection of a heterosexual norm is not limited, of course, to tortured gay apologists. The religious right has placed what it calls “family values” as the centerpiece of its crusade against minorities (single mothers on welfare), feminism (women daring to seek employment and careers outside the home), and gay people (who “recruit because they can’t reproduce").

In this ecumenical enterprise, homosexuality’s threat to the “traditional nuclear family” and to heterosexuality itself is constantly emphasized. As the Ramsey Colloquium, a conservative theology group, put it, “heterosexual marriage, despite its divine origins, is a fragile institution in need of careful and continuing support.” And, as Jewish theologian Samuel Dressner worries, acceptance of homosexuality is the first step down a familiar slippery slope: Once “heterosexuality within the marital bond is dismissed, then how can adultery, pedophilia, incest or bestiality be rejected?”

Among mainline Protestant denominations, the United Church of Christ was the first to permit the ordination of open lesbians and gay men, and in July 2005 its rule-making body voted to endorse same-sex marriage. In 1992 the Presbyterian Church initiated a three-year study of homosexuality, which failed to resolve the issue of ordination of gay people. In 1993 a draft statement on homosexuality by a committee of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America set off what a church official called “the most volatile explosion in the life of this church.” In 1996 conservative Episcopal bishops failed in their attempt to force a heresy trial for a bishop who ordained a non-celibate gay man, and in 2003 the election of Gene Robinson, an openly gay priest, as the Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire rocked the Episcopal Church in the United States and reverberated through the Anglican Church around the world.

In this, as in other arenas, the issue of openly gay clergy widened a split not only between liberal and conservative factions within the American church but between the Old World churches of Europe and the United States and the fervent, rapidly growing churches of the Third World in Latin America and Africa. Reacting to the election of Robinson in the United States, Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola, who leads the largest church in the 70 million-strong Anglican Communion, set the tone by describing it as “a Satanic attack on God’s church.” In 2004 the leaders of two Southern California Episcopal churches, St. James’ Church in Newport Beach and All Saints’ Church in Long Beach, voted to withdraw from the Episcopal Church of the U.S. and put their flocks under the authority of the conservative Diocese of Luwero in Uganda, with the blessing of the bishop of Luwero.

In February 2005 the leaders of the global Anglican communion asked the U.S. Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada to temporarily withdraw from a key council-a move designed to avoid a permanent schism over differences on homosexuality and same-sex unions.

[PBS Newshour report]

The issue of openly gay clergy continues to roil most mainline Protestant denominations. In December 2004, an openly lesbian United Methodist minister was stripped of her ministerial credentials by a church trial court. The Rev. Irene Elizabeth “Beth” Stroud was found guilty Dec. 2 of engaging in “practices that are incompatible with Christian teachings.” Stroud’s case was the third lesbian trial in the United Methodist Church since the denomination adopted a law barring “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” from the ministry in 1984. On April 29, 2005, however, the denomination’s Northeastern Jurisdiction Committee on Appeals overturned the trial court’s verdict and penalty, citing legal errors, and restored Stroud’s clergy standing. On Oct. 27, 2005, a hearing on the appeal was held by the Judicial Council, the denomination’s top court, and on Oct. 31, it defrocked the Rev. Stroud for violating the denomination’s ban on “self-avowed, practicing homosexual” clergy.

Beyond the fringe of mainline denominations lies the rapidly growing domain of the Protestant fundamentalists who erupted onto the public stage in the late 1970s, amassing enormous financial and political power through broadcast and cable programming, direct mail and videocassette distribution. Organizations such as the Rev. Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority, Beverly LaHaye’s Concerned Women for America, the Rev. Donald Wildmon’s American Family Association, Dr. James Dobson’s Focus on the Family, the Rev. Lou Sheldon’s Traditional Values Coalition, and the Christian Coalition founded by televangelist Pat Robertson have made attacks on lesbian and gay people a major attraction of their crusades and their fundraising.

In August of 2003 Jerry Falwell informed his followers that:

I am dedicating my talents, time and energies over the next few years to the passage of an amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which will protect the traditional family from its enemies who wish to legalize same-sex marriage and other diverse “family” forms. I have just created a special website ( ), whereby one million American are being recruited to sign a Federal Marriage Amendment Petition which will be forwarded to all 535 members of Congress and to President Bush. My line in the sand has been drawn!

Even farther out, beyond the pale for most Christians, lies the website God Hates Fags, created by the Rev. Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas. Phelps and his followers are best known for picketing the funerals of gay people who have died of AIDS or anti-gay violence, such as Matthew Shepard. As they put it on their website:

WBC engages in daily peaceful sidewalk demonstrations opposing the homosexual lifestyle of soul-damning, nation-destroying filth. We display large, colorful signs containing Bible words and sentiments, including: GOD HATES FAGS, FAGS HATE GOD, AIDS CURES FAGS, THANK GOD FOR AIDS, FAGS BURN IN HELL, GOD IS NOT MOCKED, FAGS ARE NATURE FREAKS, GOD GAVE FAGS UP, NO SPECIAL LAWS FOR FAGS, FAGS DOOM NATIONS, etc.

Meanwhile, back in Rome, the cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church gathered to elect a successor to John Paul II. In the shortest conclave in memory they elected as the new pope Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. Whether Pope Benedict XVI will, like Nixon going to China, surprise both his supporters and his detractors remains to be seen. What is unquestionable at the moment of his election, however, in the words of Boston Globe columnist Derrick Z. Jackson, is that “the church fled to yesteryear, hoping to avoid facing today.”

In his new role as pope, Ratzinger was immediately confronted with familiar challenges he had tackled as John Paul II’s enforcer. Following Holland in 2001 and Belgium in 2003, Canada in 2003 legalized same-sex marriage. The Vatican immediately called this a distortion of God’s plan for the family. However, the most dramatic blow to the Church’s authority came in 2005 in heavily Catholic Spain, when the parliament joined other liberalizing nations in voting to legalize same-sex marriage. The Spanish parliament acted despite vehement opposition from the Catholic bishops, who had taken the unusual step of endorsing a “pro-family” demonstration in Madrid on June 18, and despite Pope Benedict’s condemnation of gay marriage as an expression of “anarchic freedom” that threatens the future of the family.

All this occurred in the same time frame as charges were being leveled that the former Cardinal Ratzinger, in his role as church enforcer, had ignored and covered up charges of sexual abuse by priests. A lawsuit filed in Texas by three boys, alleging that a seminarian molested them during counseling sessions in the Church in the mid-1990s, accused the pope of having conspired with the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston to cover up the abuse [AP, Aug.17, 2005].  Although the Vatican was served with papers in the suit, the U.S. State Department maintained that the pope, as a head of state, has diplomatic immunity from such lawsuits. Nevertheless, the revelations continue to emerge: It was reported that Ratzinger sent a confidential letter to his bishops in May 2001, asserting the Church’s right to hold its inquiries of sexual abuse charges behind closed doors and keep the evidence confidential for up to 10 years after the victims reach adulthood. Lawyers representing abuse victims reacted to the revelation of the letter by accusing Ratzinger of obstructing justice, and the Vatican’s refusal to comment on the letter is not likely to prevent further controversy.

Undeterred, the Vatican continues to evade responsibility for the Church’s sad history of child sexual abuse by its priests by focusing on the hopefully distracting question of gay priests. In August 2005 it was revealed that the pope was considering a policy that would prevent gay men from being ordained as priests.  The new “religious instruction,” at the request of Pope John Paul II, was prepared by the Congregation for Catholic Education and Seminaries, the body overseeing the Church’s training of the priesthood, and now confronts John Paul’s successor with a controversial decision. In September 2005 the Vatican sent investigators to the U.S. to visit 220 Catholic seminaries and campuses; the investigators report directly to the Vatican, which could choose to issue the instruction barring homosexuals from entering the priesthood.  Since a conservative estimate places the presence of homosexuals in the American priesthood at 15%, such a policy would be as drastic as it would be vicious, and it would ultimately be irrelevant to the ongoing problem of abuse by pedophiles and cover-up by Church authorities. The instruction was officially promulgated in the document released on Nov. 29.

Today, religious leaders and institutions play increasingly important roles on both sides of the cultural wars raging in the United States. Progressive clergy, often openly lesbian and gay, are reshaping rituals and beliefs and challenging their colleagues to evolve and adapt. On the other side, the religious right has been the engine of social and political reaction for the past three decades, and homosexuality has been among its most consistent targets. Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and Moslem fundamentalists have made common cause in their unrelenting hostility to lesbian and gay people’s demands for civil and religious equality.