A lesson in contrasts

I think it is safe to say that the march of human rights has made steady though inconsistent progress over the last 100+ years. In the last 48 hours some interesting stories have popped up that have reminded me not only of how far we’ve come but also of how far we have to go.

The Catholic church is nothing if not conservative and resistant to change.  For those of us who are friends and family of the LGBTQ community the Catholic church is a tough nut to crack, especially for those of us who have friends and family who are gay Catholics.  That would be why this seemingly gay friendly statement by the pope on his way back from Brazil may seem like a bolt out of the blue.

It isn’t what it seems.  When you take apart the statement and the rest of the conversation, what it really boils down to is still, “Love the sinner, hate the sin.”  To me, that’s still not acceptable and is demonstrably unchristian.  Is it progress?  In the Catholic church, I’d argue that it is.  Tiny, itty bitty progress that is hardly worth mentioning, but it is.  That the pope was willing to couch a statement of any kind about gays in a positive light, in this case pretty specifically about gay men, has to lead to some good somewhere even if the intent was only to hew to the original doctrine reinforced by Ratzinger.  Are we likely to see any significant progress in the Catholic church in the way of civil right for gays in my lifetime?  That’s not a bet I’ll take.

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In the category of two steps forward one step back, we have this story which broke on Boston.com this morning and comes originally from the Baton Rouge Advocate.

You know how you always hear that ignorance of the law is no excuse for not following it?  Apparently that doesn’t apply for members of law enforcement in East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office.  Until very recently they had a task force dedicated to arresting gay men for the crime of simply being gay.

An undercover East Baton Rouge Parish sheriff’s deputy was staking out Manchac Park about 10 a.m. one day this month when a slow-moving sedan pulling into the parking lot caught his attention. The deputy parked alongside the 65-year-old driver and, after denying being a cop, began a casual conversation that was electronically monitored by a backup team nearby.

As the two men moved their chat to a picnic table, the deputy propositioned his target with “some drinks and some fun” back at his place, later inquiring whether the man had any condoms, according to court records. After following the deputy to a nearby apartment, the man was handcuffed and booked into Parish Prison on a single count of attempted crime against nature.

There had been no sex-for-money deal between the two. The men did not agree to have sex in the park, a public place. And the count against the man was based on a part of Louisiana’s anti-sodomy law struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court a decade ago.

Yep, that’s right.  There was no public lewdness, prostitution, pandering, or anything similar.  This man and many like him were arrested for just being gay.  Check out the articles here and here.  I have not thoroughly checked out the comments but as a general rule I’d advise against it.

The sheriff who led this task force witch hunt (in an incredibly high crime area that really could have used those resources in about 1,000 other ways) has apologized under the title of his office.  He has not, as of this writing, apologized personally to any of the men involved or used the word “I” in any of the apologies.  Classy.

This, my friends, is the type of narrow minded backwards thinking that keeps all of us, as a society, from making real progress.  People like this Sheriff Gautreaux shouldn’t hold public office or positions of authority in law enforcement where they can do this kind of damage.

The good news is that Baton Rouge is developing a conversation around gay rights because of this.  One of the most important aspects of this conversation is that the trumped up accusations of men masturbating and having sex in public parks around children were made up to allow the Sheriff to go on this rampage.  As a result, the fewer people that confuse homosexuality and pedophilia, the better off we all are.

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Finally, I bring you the quiet courage and convictions of a man I have long admired and who I am lucky enough to call a part of my own faith community, retired Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu.  The article is short so I’ll paste it in completely.

Desmond Tutu: I’d pick hell over an anti-gay heaven

South Africa’s iconic retired archbishop, Desmond Tutu, said on Friday that if he had his pick, he’d go to hell before heading to a heaven that condemned homosexuality as sin.

“I would not worship a God who is homophobic and that is how deeply I feel about this,” he said, by way of denouncing religions that discriminate against gays, in Agence France-Presse..

He added, AFP reported: “I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven. No, I would say sorry, I mean I would much rather go to the other place.”

He made the remarks during the United Nations‘ launch of its gay-rights campaign in Cape Town.

Mr. Tutu also likened equal rights for gays to the fight for equal rights for blacks.

“I am as passionate about this campaign as I ever was about apartheid,” he said, AFP reported. “For me, it is at the same level.”

That, my friends, is the definition of Christian love.  No press conference, no bells and whistles, just a quiet statement when asked that God loves us all the same and, if for some reason heaven is a homophobic place, then he wants no part of it.  I, for one, want to go to the same place Desmond Tutu goes to when he dies.  For that will be a place of people who understand the meaning of love.

~Kelly

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