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Friday, January 10, 2014

Them there Gays, wanting rights again!

The City of Chattanooga is wrestling with the decision of whether or not to offer domestic partner benefits to its employees. The City originally passed an ordinance approving those benefits, but a group called "Citizens for Government Accountability and Transparency" collected 7,000+ signatures on a petition, which forced the City Council to either repeal the ordinance or do nothing (which would send the ordinance to a vote in the August general election). The Council has decided to let the citizens of Chattanooga vote it up or down.

The underlying reason for this ordinance, although not explicitly stated, is to provide same-sex couples with the same benefits that heterosexual couples already enjoy.

As you might imagine, this has created a firestorm of opinion, often centering around biblical interpretations. It seems to me, in reading various comments following online articles and polls (yeah, I realize that I should NEVER read the comments, as that is often where the worst of us reside), that the majority (not all, but the majority) of the comments coming from the pro-bible side of the argument are against providing these benefits.  Some of the comments came across as downright mean and nasty ("dirty homos").

Disclosure:  I'm a Christian - I'm an Episcopalian (a Christian denomination that encourages me to use my God-given brain as a tool for discernment).

Lacking in many of the comments is a feeling of love for our brothers and sisters. There seems to be a pervasive sense of hatred out in the world today - maybe it is not a new phenomenon, but it is one that I've really noticed over the last several years.

I realize that there isn't consensus among Christians as to the rightness or wrongness of Homosexuality.  To me though, that is beside the point.  The point is the rightness or wrongness of providing equal rights to all Americans, as our Constitution requires (I guess I'd go with the "Equal Protection Clause" of the 14th Amendment, although I'm certainly not a lawyer!).

It's not an issue to be adjudicated according to religious beliefs - although that might be how it is decided, at least at this level. It is a civil issue, much the same way that same sex marriages should be civil issues. Churches should be free to perform or not perform same sex ceremonies according to the dictates of their rules, but should have no say in how governments that follow the Constitution act.

I was reading a blog post written by an Episcopal priest (written in 2007) that pretty much sums up how I feel as a Christian - as it relates to this subject - here is a link to the whole post:, but I'll excerpt this bit:

"Homosexuals in the Church - Episcopalians do not tend to believe in homosexuality as a moral or psychological disorder. We accept the well-researched findings of boring experts like the American Psychiatric Association, which sees homosexuality as a “normal variant of human sexuality.” An important question, then, is not the gender of your partner but rather the quality of your intimate relationship. Are you committed, monogamous, and nurturing? Most of us have come to know homosexuals who are involved in healthy, life-giving and sustaining partnerships. We see that there is no essential difference between gay and straight: we all long for love; we all fail to love perfectly; and as we deepen our spiritual journey, we seek to live in forgiveness and harmony with the Source of love. Episcopalians humbly follow Jesus as One who shows us how this is done, and for that reason our worship centers around Christ.

And yet, a handful of Christian leaders lead the charge that would deprive homosexuals of their civil and human rights. Many who call themselves Christians routinely link homosexuality with pedophilia and incest. If we did not know better, we would dismiss this position as sadly ignorant; but if this is ignorance, it appears to be of the willful variety, and it is dangerous."

I believe then that the voters in Chattanooga should vote this ordinance "up" so that this group of human beings is granted the same rights as other humans.

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