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April/May '04 Articles:
Building An Ecological Society
Editorial: IMPACT at 50
Notes from the Cultural Wasteland
Born to Die
The Muddlemarch: 1
The Muddlemarch: 2
USA: Home of the Hateful
Quickies
(music reviews)

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There is little doubt that Planet Earth, as we know it, is being hurled into a new abyss of barrenness, as mankind leaves a path of pollution and destruction to mark its advances. But of all our planet's resources, the one that is most steadily being depleted is not some mineral, or even the rain forest. No. Love–humanity, patience, tolerance–is the substance most endangered on Earth.

No better proof of such a sorrowful reality exists than the recent outcry of opposition to gay marriage, as expressed by politicians and, in particular, the American people. Many, of whom a great number were never moved by the spirit of peace to protest the war or sexism, have teemed onto the streets across the U.S. to castigate homosexuals. In fact, according to a Time/CNN poll conducted in early February 2004, 62 percent of the population "oppose legalization of same-sex marriages; less than a third favor it."

And as history is fated to repeat itself, lawmakers and politicians, embroiled in the debate over gay and lesbian rights of today, sound a lot like the lawmakers and politicians who strongly resisted the 1960s Civil Rights movement. At the time, many leaders cited such fears as the deterioration of the family through a mixing (both socially and sexually) of the races. And now today, many leaders are once again stating concerns that the American family is being threatened, this time by homosexuality.

Actually, the plight of both movements share a similitude that can hardly be extracted from one another: today, gays and lesbians struggle to obtain a civil legitimacy and a sense of freedom that is superior to the condescending idea that "separate"is "equal." Yet where minorities like African Americans, as well as Hispanics and Native Americans, have at least partly been successful in defeating stigmas, overturning discriminatory laws, and quieting racist rhetoric from politicians, the new preoccupation of legal intolerance concerns sexual preferences. Proof of such is witnessed in the June 2003 Supreme Court ruling (Grutter v. Bollinger) in favor of permitting the use of race as a determining factor in the college admissions process. Though affirmative action remains controversial, political correctness censors the type of boastful opposition that gay and lesbian marriage has garnered.

For instance, while an African American has the freedom to become a Boy Scout troop leader and participate fully, such is often not the case for the stigmatized homosexual. In fact, three years ago the Supreme Court issued a 5-4 vote that "ruled it unconstitutional for a New Jersey judge to force the Boy Scouts to accept a gay rights activist as a scoutmaster." But it doesn't end there; gays and lesbians have had to endure a mounting prejudice that is not limited to hateful subcultures, but instead extends deep into the courts of law.

Although some might say the Supreme Court's latest ruling in the case of Lawrence v. Texas, in which the majority ruled in favor of the plaintiff that laws should not regulate the private sexual affairs of consenting adults, expresses sympathy equivalent to that of the recent affirmative action case, the disparity between the two is proven by the malevolent words of the court's three dissenters in the Texas case.

"The court has taken sides in the culture war," wrote Antonin Scalia, President George Bush's self-proclaimed favorite Supreme Court justice, on behalf of the three. Scalia went on to complain, "This reasoning leaves on pretty shaky grounds state laws limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples." Scalia wrote, "The ruling also threatens laws banning bestiality, bigamy and incest." Encompassing the three justices'stringent disagreement with the courts majority ruling, Scalia also warned that the court "has largely signed on to the so-called homosexual agenda."

Not in decades has a particular group of people been identified with such terse, sweeping language, which essentially implies that the behavior of gays and lesbians is equivalent to that of barbarism and immorality. And still, such potent, derogatory statements from conservatives like Scalia are far from uncommon. Many politicians, lawmakers and justices around the nation have based their discriminatory bent on the supposed proof that homosexuality is an extreme perversion against nature. But such a view totally ignores the consensus of the scientific community.

For instance, the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its official list of mental disorders in 1973. So obvious is the conclusion that homosexual behavior is not fully contradictory to the accord of nature, Qazi Rahman, a lecturer in the School of Psychology at the University of East London, recently authored a study that links sexual orientation with inborn characteristics. In response to what many believed was a startling discovery, Rahman was quick to remind,

"We have several decades of research which suggests rather strongly that human sexual orientation is to some degree biologically determined"
("Startling Study Says People May Be Born Gay," HealthDay Reporter, October 6, 2003). So, while Scalia accuses his fellow judges of joining the "homosexual agenda," it appears, conversely, that conservatives like Scalia have simply signed onto a doctrinaire "anti-homosexual" agenda.

Furthermore, while Christian fundamentalists find gay and lesbian attempts at becoming adoptive parents contentious, organizations like The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) have taken stances that do not oppose such parental relations. Actually, the AAP issued a policy statement in the February 2002 issue of Pediatrics affirming,

"A growing body of scientific literature demonstrates that children who grow up with one or two gay and/or lesbian parents fare as well in emotional, cognitive, social, and sexual functioning as do children whose parents are heterosexual."

Nevertheless, countless leaders in the U.S. continue to rail against what they believe is a destructive agenda to promote acceptance of homosexuality, and instances of prejudiced, anti-homosexual rulings abound.

In A People's History of the United States, author Howard Zinn points out that Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer "voted with the most conservative judges on the Court to uphold the 'constitutional right'of Boston's St. Patrick's Day parade organizers to exclude gay marchers."

Another example of outright gay-bashing occurred in February 2002, when Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore cited a mother's lesbianism as grounds for denying the woman custody of her children, writing

"...the homosexual conduct of a parent–conduct involving a sexual relationship between two persons of the same gender–creates a strong presumption of unfitness that alone is sufficient justification for denying that parent custody of his or her own children or prohibiting the adoption of the children of others... Homosexual conduct is, and has been, considered abhorrent, immoral, detestable, a crime against nature, and a violation of the laws of nature and of nature's God upon which this Nation and our laws are predicated. Such conduct violates both the criminal and civil laws of this State and is destructive to a basic building block of society–the family... It is an inherent evil against which children must be protected."

Moreover, U.S. Senator Jesse Helms made his belief that gays are inferior crystal clear when he said, "These people are intellectually dishonest in just about everything they do or say... They start by pretending that it is just another form of love. It's sickening." ("'Dear' documentary takes less-than-loving look at Sen. Helms," Boston Herald quoting Congressional Quarterly, July 9, 1998).

While today's politically correct environment makes it clear that racial bigotry is unacceptable, it seems the advances of the African American civil rights movement has thrown open the valve of American animosity in the direction of the gay and lesbian movement. Yet, as freedom often provides many with complacency, instead of realizing the parallel between the African American struggle for equality and the current plight of homosexuals, Americans of today are taking up their once bemoaned heritage of prejudice– except, this time around, the discrimination is being perpetrated by all races.

In an example of the ubiquitous disdain for homosexuals, the Associated Press (AP) reported in 2002 that a coalition of several organizations used the legacy of Martin Luther King to encourage voters to repeal Miami-Dade County's gay rights ordinance. According to AP, the group made a reproachful pamphlet complete with the sponsoring effigy of King and the words: "Martin Luther King Jr. would be OUTRAGED! If he knew homosexual extremists were abusing the civil rights movement to get special rights based on their sexual behavior" ("Group's Usage of MLK's Image A Point of Debate," Associated Press, January 19, 2003).

Sadly, such an instance is not at all isolated, nor is the opinion held by those Miami-Dade County protesters who opposed the distribution of rights to homosexuals in the county. Groups everywhere, like the Washington, D.C.-based organization Family Research Counsel, work arduously not only to purport the idea that HIV is vastly a homosexual disease, but also to propagate the ill-founded notion that gays and lesbians are unfit for parenthood. In actuality, according to an ACLU fact sheet, "Not a single study has found the children of lesbian or gay parents to be disadvantaged because of their parents'sexual orientation."

Nevertheless, on January 28, 2004, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against four gay foster parents who were attempting to adopt children in their care, upholding Florida's right to continue its absolute ban on gay and lesbian adoptions.

In spite of the wide-ranging disapproval and sometimes blatant intolerance of many Americans towards homosexuals, many have taken the less popular stand–of favoring gay and lesbian marriage rights. In an instance of bold defiance, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom ignored Proposition 22, whereby the state of California refused to acknowledge same-sex marriages, when he announced that the city would begin issuing marriage licenses. In just a few days after the proclamation, which occurred in February 2004, nearly 3,000 same-sex couples had come to obtain a license–some coming as far away as New York, Georgia, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and South Carolina. While many groups quickly rebuked the illegality of the Mayor's decision to offer the licenses, others felt that the spirit of Newsom's civil disobedience was an inspiring throwback to that of Martin Luther King's own actions.

Regardless of the legality of Newsom's decision, it has, if nothing else, provoked a deluge of news coverage, acquainting the television-watching masses with the earnest excitement of gays and lesbians, suffering all-nighters in waiting for a chance to receive a license, as they attempt to solidify their love in matrimony–a freedom so many Americans take for granted.

Nevertheless, many believe that the plight of gays and lesbians is overstated; but nothing could be further from the truth. In addition to bringing the issue of marriage to dinner tables everywhere, the jovial scenes in San Francisco have also unveiled a sad state of American liberty: same-sex couples are everywhere, yet one has to look hard to notice, because gays and lesbians, more often than not, dare not engage in any public display of affection, including holding hands. While they are afforded the same basic rights as all Americans, the reality is that they necessarily live discreet lives, ever careful to tiptoe around questions concerning a "significant" other.

Theirs is a furtive subjugation. But in many ways, it is drastically obvious. Take, for instance, the comments made by U.S. Senator Trent Lott just four months before 21-year-old gay college student Matthew Shepard was brutally beaten, tied to a fence and left to die in Laramie, Wyoming. On June 15, 1998, AP quoted Lott as having said of homosexuals "You should try to show them a way to deal with that problem, just like alcohol... or sex addiction... or kleptomaniacs." Unlike his less insidious remarks concerning how great life in America would had been if Strom Thurmond and his ticket of segregation had been elected long ago, Lott never lost clout in his party for his anti-gay remarks.

Instead, such a position on homosexuality has only spread like wildfire and continues to blaze through the Republican Party.

For instance, an AP interview with Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum quoted him as having said, "If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual [gay] sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery" ("Family Values Drive Pa. Sen. Santorum," Associated Press, April 21, 2003).

"All of those things are antithetical to a healthy, stable, traditional family," the lawmaker told AP. "And that's sort of where we are in today's world, unfortunately. It all comes from, I would argue, this right to privacy that doesn't exist, in my opinion, in the United States Constitution."

Such rhetoric was even sanctioned by the White House, which responded to Santorum's venomous language with a laudatory response. On April 25, 2003, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer told reporters, "...the president believes that the senator is an inclusive man... The president has confidence in the senator and believes he's doing a good job as senator" ("Bush Praises Santorum As 'Inclusive Man,'" Associated Press, April 25, 2003).

Still more telling is the April 25, 2003 Reuters article "Bush Sees Embattled Santorum As 'Inclusive Man'" that stated, "Many Republicans supported [Santorum] and Senate Republican Leader Bill Frist called him 'a consistent voice for inclusion.'" No other group of Americans faces such open opposition and fanatic discrimination. Prior to the Supreme Court's June 2003 ruling (Lawrence v. Texas), 13 states held anti-sodomy laws, including four that specifically prohibited same-sex relations. At one time, states like Idaho, Oklahoma, Michigan, Mississippi, Louisiana, South and North Carolina carried penalties for sodomy ranging from three years to life in prison, revealing a long legacy of legalized hatred for same-sex relations.

In the Lawrence v. Texas case, Justice Scalia even tried to use the existence of anti-sodomy laws to thwart the plaintiff's initial argument that the "liberty" promised by the Constitution gives consent for adults to engage in the private sex acts of their choosing. Scalia argued that many states, in fact, banned sodomy. He also said "we have to assure ourselves that that liberty was objectively deeply rooted in this nation's history and tradition."

But such an argument, made by a man many believe President Bush hopes to one day nominate for chief justice, implies that if the original idea of liberty, did not expressly include freedom for African Americans, since they were enslaved at the time, then they should not be afforded freedom. Since a woman's right to vote has not a seed, let alone a deep root in our "nation's history and tradition,"should they not have been given the freedom to vote? Such reasoning fails to meet the high-hopes the founders of our nation held.

Regarding the nature of liberty, James Madison clearly said, "Liberty disdains to persecute" ("Who Are the Best Keepers of the People's Liberties?" The National Gazette, December 22, 1792). Although such a phrase was not included in the Constitution, one might say Madison's statement on the nature of liberty sums up the ideal our nation was designed to strive for: to ensure the freedoms of all. And while many conservative family groups scream that, should the government sanction gay and lesbian relationships, the result would infringe on their right to family, the truth is same-sex couples are the ones being deprived of the liberty Madison intended when he wrote the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Right here in the land of liberty, policy makers and politicians are treating humans who have a different sexual desire as second class citizens, even though modern psychology and science has proven homosexual love is not the result of a person's choice, but is as biologically driven as a heterosexual's love for another. While opponents of gay rights groups feel family values are on trial, so too are the original tenets of our nation that each person is endowed with the inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Verifying a flood of extremism, in February 2004, President Bush broke new ground by proposing a constitutional amendment that would not only limit gay and lesbian Americans'right to happiness, but also, in essence, legalize their discrimination. Bush's call to approve a constitutional amendment banning gay marriages proposes to approve an amendment that is entirely antipathetic to the nature and history of America's most revered document, which has always sought to further the individual rights of Americans (with the exception of the Prohibition amendment, which was later repealed).

Such a zeal for repression should sound the alarms for all Americans because the threat to gay and lesbian sexual freedom is also a threat to their own. Best expressed by Martin Luther King's widow and nearest authority on her husband and his works on March 31, 1998, Coretta Scott King told those at the luncheon for Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund,

"I still hear people say that I should not be talking about the rights of lesbian and gay people and I should stick to the issue of racial justice... But I hasten to remind them that Martin Luther King Jr. said, 'Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.'"

A few years later, on November 9, 2000, while speaking at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force's 13th annual Creating Change conference, King said,

"All forms of bigotry and discrimination are equally wrong and should be opposed by right-thinking Americans everywhere." She went on to add, "I appeal to everyone who believes in Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream to make room at the table of brotherhood and sisterhood for lesbian and gay people."

But MLK's dream hasn't been realized; neither has that of our founders. Still, everywhere, momentum to restrict the rights of gays and lesbians is growing, and Americans have to begin questioning the roots of this new hatred. When popular radio therapist Dr. Laura Schlessinger openly refers to homosexual behavior as "deviant sexual behavior," we must ask ourselves, has America simply exchanged its cultural antipathy for blacks, simply to make gays and lesbians its new whipping post? What is it about hate that draws so many supporters, yet requires decades to overcome? In part, the answer may lie in our nation's arrogance.

Consider these points: President Bush tells us he went into Iraq to root out injustice. President Bush tells the American people that injustice was a trademark of Saddam Hussein's regime: women were not treated as equals, and the citizens of Iraq were subjugated to an intolerant government void of "justice." Meanwhile, in the year 2003, while Saddam's regime was being toppled and his statue drug irreverently through the streets of a "liberated" Baghdad, same-sex couples in Texas were pulling their blinds down, careful not to mutter a word of their private relations in public for fear of arrest and condemnation. While American servicemen risked–and some lost–their lives to accomplish Bush's goal of ousting an "evil" dictator and bringing democracy and justice to Iraq, gays and lesbians weren't even permitted the right to adopt one of the 43,000 children languishing in the state of Florida's foster care system.

And while those opposing the advances of the gay and lesbian rights movement have used issues like morality, the family, nature, and perfect love to aid their opposition, in a world so vacant of compassion and bona fide love, what could be more immoral than to deny a child a loving home? And what is more contrary to humanity than denying, be it constitutional or otherwise, a union between two lovers who are fully betrothed to one another? What could be more malicious, more unnatural, more unhealthy than raising children in a society that says yes to war, yes to greed, and yes to intolerance, and, yet, says no to compassion and acceptance?

When all is said and done, what act could be more deviant than squandering love, the world's most divine substance, with a message of prejudice and hate?

Alas, Americans have grown up believing themselves "liberators" and purveyors of "equality" and "justice." But the truth is, America may need to liberate itself from its perpetual propensity to hate.

Email your feedback on this article to editor@impactpress.com.

Other articles by Jeff Nall: