Friday, February 20, 2009

Standing on the Promises: Mormons and Catholics Say, Mormons and Catholics Do

Remember how, in the wake of prop 8’s victory in California, leaders of the LDS church assured us (here) that, in blocking gay marriage, they did not want to roll back civil rights for gays? That they would even consider civil unions for gay couples?

On 5 November, the Salt Lake Tribune reported that Elder L. Whitney Clayton of the LDS Presidency of the Seventy had stated that Mormons wanted to reach out to their gay brothers and sisters battered by the LDS spearheading of prop 8 and “heal any rifts caused by the emotional campaign by treating each other with ‘civility, with respect and with love’” (here).

Around the same time, Cardinal Francis George, head of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote to the new president, Mr. Obama, saying, “We stand ready to work with you in defense and support of the life and dignity of every human person” (here). This despite the fact that the Catholic bishops had supported the initiative to remove the right to marriage from gay citizens of California . . . .

We also received reassurances in December from Catholic Archbishop George Niederauer, who actively solicited the involvement of the LDS church in the prop 8 battle in California, that his support for prop 8 did not represent “an attack on any group, or . . . an attempt to deprive others of their civil rights” (here). Archbishop Niederauer assured us that, even with the removal of the right to marriage, “same sex couples who register as domestic partners will continue to have ‘the same rights, protections and benefits’ as married couples.”

Well, guess what? It appears that something has gotten lost in the . . . transmission . . . of those church dignitaries' noble ideals regarding human rights, to those who make the laws respecting said rights. As of this week, every initiative to assure the rights of gay citizens of Utah has been turned back by the Utah legislature (here) and (here). The bills are not even making it out of committee—bills to prohibit discrimination against gay citizens in housing and employment, to allow adoption rights to gay couples, and so forth.

One more initiative remains in Utah: a bill to protect the right of same-sex partners to each other in the hospital, bequeath property to each other, and make medical decisions on each other’s behalf. Given the track record of these bills standing on the promises of Elder Clayton and the Mormon church, I don’t have strong hopes that this one will make it through, either.

What’s going on here? Well, as I’ve been writing for some time now, these promises by leaders of the religious right regarding respect for the human rights of gay persons are smokescreens. They’re lies. The ultimate goal of the religious right is not to outlaw gay marriage while respecting other rights of gay citizens. It is to roll back all human rights for gay citizens, everywhere in the nation, whenever this is possible.

As I wrote last November,

The goal of these initiatives against gay marriage is to roll back as many rights as possible from gay citizens. We who are gay would be foolish in the extreme if we did not recognize that this is the game plan of those using gay lives and gay human beings to make political points . . . . [T]he ultimate objective of those using gay persons in these ugly political battles is to tell us that we are unwelcome, and should return to the closet in order to make our fellow citizens comfortable (here); see also (here).

This is why, in my view, all American citizens concerned about the protection of the human rights of any of us ought to be interested in the recent ramping up of the assault on gay citizens by the religious and political right, about which I have been blogging. As Pam Spaulding reports today, the Washington Blade published an article about this development yesterday, noting that “[a]nti-gay conservatives are increasing their rhetoric and activities . . .” (here) and (here).

In my view, we haven't begun to see all that the political and religious right are capable of, in this regard, in 2009. Times of economic downturn are times in which toxic political groups seeking to undermine democracy adroitly fuel fires of social anxiety, and work up animosities against groups easily targeted to further their anti-democratic campaigns. It's time to keep our eyes wide open.