Published on Sunday, November 19, 2006 by the Boston Globe
The Antigay Obsession
by Derrick Z. Jackson
All in the same week, Governor Mitt Romney, the US Catholic bishops, the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, and the Presbyterian Church USA drove themselves nuts over homosexuality.
Here in Massachusetts, despite ample evidence that two years of same-sex marriage have not destroyed straight life in the Commonwealth, Romney is helping plan a rally tomorrow for a statewide referendum to ban it. A month ago, in one of his sky-is-falling speeches, Romney said "activist judges struck a blow to the foundation of civilization, the family." He went so far as to say, "The price of same-sex marriage is paid by the children."
In Washington, the bishops passed a bizarre set of guidelines called, "Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination." In the same breath, they claim to be "welcoming" to gay and lesbian people, then tell them to be chaste and stay in the closet about their sexual orientation. The bishops remain resolute that being gay or lesbian is "disordered."
The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina voted to expel congregations that affirm homosexuality period, let alone gay marriage. "In our day and time, no other sin marches so defiantly across our national landscape," expulsion proponent Mark Harris was quoted as saying in The Washington Post. The Presbyterian Church was so fearful of this "march" of "sin" that it was going to put the Rev. Janet Edwards on trial for marrying a same-sex couple. Charges were brought too late and were dropped.
If you ask me, Noah should load up all these folks in the ark and drop them off in South Africa.
While all this nuttiness was going on here, the South African parliament this week voted 230-41 to legalize same-sex marriage. This vote came after South Africa's highest court ruled that existing marriage laws discriminated against gay and lesbian couples. The post-apartheid South African Constitution passed about a decade ago was noteworthy for being the first in the world to explicitly outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
South African Defense Minister Mosuia Lekota was quoted by the Associated Press as saying, "The roots of this bill lie in many years of struggle. . . . This country cannot afford to be a prison of timeworn prejudices which have no basis in modern society. Let us bequeath to future generations a society which is more democratic and tolerant than the one that was handed down to us."
The tone of affirmation in South Africa had been set years before by the likes of former South African President Nelson Mandela, who lost a son to AIDS, and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu, who has repeatedly criticized homophobia in the church. "This is crazy," the retired archbishop said eight years ago. "We say the expression of love in a monogamous, heterosexual relationship is more than just the physical but includes touching, embracing, kissing, maybe the genital act. The totality of this makes each of us grow to become giving, increasingly God-like and compassionate.
"If it is so for the heterosexual, what earthly reason have we to say that it is not the case with the homosexual, provided the relationship is exclusive, not promiscuous?"
John Allen, Tutu's former press secretary and biographer, last month said Tutu "found it a little short of outrageous that church leaders should be obsessed with issues of sexuality in the face of the challenges of AIDS and global poverty. Too many South Africans remember that homosexuals were imprisoned for their sexual orientation, alongside Mandela. Tutu's successor as archbishop, Njongonkulu Ndungane, has continued to voice a similar message.
Referring to the consecration of Episcopal Bishop V. Gene Robinson in New Hampshire in 2003, Ndungane told The Washington Post last spring, "The Anglican Communion should be on the forefront of fighting social ills and not bothering about what Gene Robinson may be doing or not doing." Ndungane, himself a former political prisoner at Robben Island, added, "One of the key things that we have learned both as a country and as a church is the principle of nondiscrimination, because the people who were discriminated against (under apartheid) were judged on things they couldn't alter."
Compared with that kind of thinking in South Africa, Romney and American church leaders who are trying to lead a backlash seem more like they have too much time on their hands. Romney is known for saying gay marriage would turn Massachusetts into a Las Vegas for such events. It is time to stop judging things he cannot alter.
© 2006 The Boston Globe