Friday, August 10, 2007

The Democratic Candidate Debate: Gay Rights Takes Center Stage

Here we go again. The hot topic during the most recent Democratic Presidential debate was gay rights. It’s safe to say that the concerns that led to the election of George Dub during the last Presidential election were those that forced people to deal with their deep seeded religious convictions. Namely, John Kerry’s seemingly liberal views on abortion and gay rights were too much for many Americans to deal with.

The recent debate proves that these presidential wanna be’s are grappling to find a way to say what most intelligent people are willing to acknowledge-that the constitution protects a persons right to have a relationship with whomever they wish. Given the assumption that part of living in a nation that safeguards the “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness” of every person residing in America; it’s effortless to conclude that part of what that means is related to ones relationship.

The gay rights issue becomes convoluted when thrust within the political arena. What makes it problematic isn’t so much about law, but more about what it takes to get elected to the highest office in the land. In other words, sad to say, most Americans aren’t ready to embrace a president willing to hang out at a gay rally. Despite the progress made, far too many Americans are homophobic and unwilling to consider the underlying issues that have gays and lesbians pressing for equal rights.

At the root of this political diatribe is the bearing evangelical Christianity plays in molding a divisive agenda. There are two issues related to the amalgamation of public policy and religion. The first begs us to regard the significance of the warning embedded within the Constitution-the marriage of Church and State will ultimately lead to the refutation of other faith claims. America is, and has always been, a union of varied theological voices. This is the strength of any democratic society, and to impose a theological construct above others at the expense of a segment of society forces a rethinking of our melting pot dreams.

The Democratic presidential candidates ranted on their justification for opposing same-sex marriage. Senator Barrack Obama, who supports only civil unions, cited the need to “disentangle” the issue of legal rights for gay couples from what “has historically been the issue of the word marriage, which has religious connotations to some people.”

John Edwards cited his Christian faith as a reason for his opposition to same-sex marriage. He stressed that his campaign is “about equality across the board,” while admitting that his position on civil unions “stops short of real equality. It makes perfect sense to me that people would feel that way.”

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton said it was a mistake that she failed to do more to condemn the recent comments of a top military officer who said that homosexuality is immoral. Clinton angered gay supporters when she appeared to dodge questions about the remark.

The three front runners are functioning in a way reminiscent of the good ole boys in ole Dixie during the heat of the Civil Rights era The maligned of society must be sacrificed for political gain. Given the detestation toward gays felt by evangelical Christians and an overwhelming majority of African Americans, it’s best to do what they did in the old South, discount the agenda of the minority in favor of being elected.

By affirming their individual faith above the rights of the discarded, these candidates have proven their inability to stand above the political fray to protect the rights of those with a position that defers from that in the mainstream. What America needs is leadership enamored with doing the right thing, even when it may lead to being abandoned by the masses.

Now for issue number two. Not only does this issue beg for a deep conversation on what it means to promote a clear separation of Church and State, it also is screaming for the Church to engage in a critical rethinking of its long held position related to homosexuality.

In 2002, I wrote a column for the Herald-Sun (Durham, NC) challenging churches to deliberate on new ways to confront homosexuality. The solution I proposed was for faith communities to hold conversations with gays and lesbians who share the same faith claims. I informed my readers that gays and lesbians are attending their churches. Rather than deny their presence, why not have a chat around the issues they have, and, in the process, give those on the other side space to discuss how they feel about having gays and lesbians as part of their congregation.

This simple solution led to my termination from the church. Yes, there were other issues that caused the members to turn their back on the pastor who helped transform the church into one of the largest and most vital ministries in the city. With that being said, it’s safe to conclude that the prevalent concern was my desire to embrace gays and lesbians. More than my divorces (yes there were two). More than my dating before the divorce from my second wife was final. More than the ordaining of a single female who was pregnant. More than any of that, the congregation was incensed that I was willing to love, embrace and support gays and lesbians void of a demand that they change before entering those pearly gates.

What is the lesson? Leadership requires sacrifice. I’m looking for a president willing to lose it all for the sake of the higher good. The secret to change are leaders who stand above the common voice. I’m still looking.

This bunch has a lot to learn.

1 comment:

  1. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

    Well the canidates are only seeking that which will bring them happiness. They want your votes and they will say and do anything to get them. They will never say how they truely feel because it isn't popular opinion and you really wouldn't give them your votes.
    Gays have the utmost right to be treated equally and fairly with out exception. But guess what that day is a long time coming. Blacks and minorities are still waiting for it. Get in line!
    Gays have a right to life, a right to live. Just respect the persons who don't believe in being gay. Simple.
    Most people aren't fighting against the world and its beliefs they are fighting against themselves and their beliefs. Just accept yourself and you won't be fighting all the time.