Saturday, July 26, 2008

Regarding Homosexuals

I have not blogged much about homosexual issues for a variety of reasons, but mainly because most of my friends and aquaintances are less tolerant than I and would find it offensive if they thought I was defending queers. Being in the Episcopal Church also doesn't help, since the consecration of "openly gay" (I hate that term), "non celebate" (that one, too) Bishop Robinson has brought about a split in the church that is literally world-wide.

At the core of the schism are concerns that are more cultural than religious. The longer it lasts and the more I think about it the more I feel the discussion is sub-Christian. Some opinions I have heard regarding homosexuality offend me as much as those defending war, capital punishment or torture.

It became clear at the last
Lambeth Conference (1998) that the American church, by welcoming homosexuals, is isolating itself from a great majority of the rest of the Anglican Communion because so many in the global South, especially Africa but virtually everywhere except Europe and America, live in cultural environments where homosexuals are outcaste. Predominantly Muslim societies are particularly intolerant, with homosexuality being a capital offense. Since part of the Christian message is aimed at making converts, how much more challenging that mission becomes if Christians embrace homosexuals in a society that forbids them. For that matter, being homosexual in America can be fatal. Conservatives in North America and Europe in agreement find themselves in a minority and the church seems to be losing it's moorings as litigation and arguments over assets and doctrine eclipse that hard to swallow teaching about loving enemies.

(Sometimes is seems easier to "love" those on whom we are dropping bombs from military aircraft than peers who can't see the difference between right and wrong. After all, if we kill millions of an enemy in war, it's God's problem. But if you can't see the truth after I have explained it to you I don't know where next to turn.)

Hearings this week regarding the "don't ask, don't tell" non-policy of the military brought a couple of points to light that need to be considered.

First, it is an insult to the maturity and professionalism of anyone to suggest that personal feelings about someone with whom they live and work could cause them to fail at their job. This echoes arguments against racial integration that I heard years ago, against black access to restaurants, schools and neighborhoods. In retrospect it is obvious that those arguments were empty. Arguments that homosexuals compromise team performance and cohesiveness are just as empty.

Second -- and this is the point that inspired this post -- expecting homosexuals to conceal their orientation destroys a fundamental right, the right of an heir to an estate. The way this happens is clearly described in the compelling testimony of Captain (ret.) Joan Darrah at this hearing.

In September of 2001, the true impact of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” on me personally came into sharp focus. On Tuesday, September 11, I was at the Pentagon attending the weekly 8:30 intelligence briefing. During the briefing, we watched on CNN as the planes hit the Twin Towers. Finally at 9:30 my meeting was adjourned. When American Flight 77 slammed into the Pentagon, I was at the Pentagon bus stop. As it turned out, the space I had been in seven minutes earlier was completely destroyed. Seven of my co-workers were killed. The reality is that if I had been killed, my partner then of 11 years, would have been the last to know as I had not dared to list her in my emergency contact information.

As I listened to part of her testimony on the radio yesterday I realized that the expectation of orientation anonymity leads to tragic results. It is quite simply wrong and needs to be changed. Questions of lifestyles and morality may remain. One can argue that lifestyle and celibacy may be choices but sexual orientation is not. In the same manner that racial integration forces no one into inter-racial marriage, private club membership or other social contact, official recognition of homosexuality forces no one to join that club. In the case of homosexuals in the military this is clearly a civil rights issue.

Hilzoy expands on this question and her commets are worth reading. She also posts a video from the hearing.

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