Saturday, August 7, 2010

End-of-Week News Round-Up: Prop 8 Commentary

A few articles about the prop 8 decision that have struck me as thought-provoking in the past week:

At San Francisco Chronicle, Mark Morford comments on the prop 8 decision from a global perspective—America’s really big deal is an almost yawningly obvious non-issue in much of the civilized world, which sails by us as we haggle about according even minimal rights to gay and lesbian citizens:

This is what we are learning: The U.S. matters less and less in the grand public debate, the global shift, the Great Understanding. In the past few decades we've seen nation after nation fly right by us in many a happy category, from humanitarianism to education, health care to drugs, sexuality to the arts, prison systems to pollution, transportation to spiritual awareness. What a sad, strange trip it's been. 

And here’s Marcus Baram at Huffington Post parsing President Obama’s opposition to gay marriage: genuine, or a political calculation?  I’m strongly inclined to agree with the conclusion of Freedom to Marry’s Evan Wolfson, who argues that the cynical, values-absent political homophobia of key Democratic leaders comes with an increasing political price, as more and more Americans recognize the damage that discrimination does to their gay family members and friends:

If they are making a political calculation, it's a very costly one for them and the country because it's not appeasing any of their opponents and it's disappointing and impeding the strength of their base.  People may respect people they disagree with but not inauthenticity and pure political calculation—that doesn't ring true... I don't think there's a single voter that Obama would lose because he openly embraced freedom to marry instead of everything but marriage.

As millions of Catholics seek to remind our church’s pastoral leaders today, leadership depends on integrity.  Without that indispensible foundation, a leader simply cannot expect to lead effectively.

And finally, a stellar piece of commentary by Rabbi Michael Learner about why Jews should rejoice at the overturning of prop 8: as he notes, not only have gays and lesbians endured historic oppression alongside Jews and were murdered at Auschwitz with Jews, the core values of Judaism call Jews to solidarity with their LGBT brothers and sisters:
That support is not only based on a memory of shared victimhood, but also on the core values of our own Jewish tradition. The Torah's command to "love our neighbor" and "love the Other [or 'stranger,' Hebrew ger]" are intrinsic to how most American Jews understand our Jewish obligations today.

And rabbinic interpretation of the scriptures has long recognized the pitfalls of literal interpretation of  biblical texts such as the injunction to fathers to stone their rebellious sons to death:

The claim by some fundamentalists that gay love is forbidden by the Bible is itself an interpretation and a selective reading of Biblical text. Few of those fundamentalists demand that their society take literally the command to forgive all loans every seventh year (the Sabbatical Year) or to redistribute the land every fiftieth year (the Jubilee) or to not light a fire in their homes on the Sabbath, or for that matter, the command to not destroy the trees of your enemy when engaged in warfare, but they selectively choose this command for special attention.

Finally, a reminder of the 1000+ marital benefits denied to gay couples but permitted to straight ones under federal law, according to U.S. government reports.  I link to this report specifically to remind my brothers and sisters in my own faith community that the oppression of gay and lesbian persons in our society is not something the gay community merely imagines: legally enshrined prejudice produces serious, harmful socioeconomic (and other) consequences in the lives of LGBT persons.  Silence in the face of such harmful discrimination is not—as Rabbi Lerner argues eloquently—a viable option.