Sunday, May 31, 2015

Irish 'Ayes' are Smiling

Well, Pope Francis is in a dither. It seems that Ireland has just recently become the very first country to officially recognize gay marriage following a national referendum on May 23rd. Ireland has been staunch Catholic since the early 400's. Just 100 years ago, Ireland didn't permit divorces and still remains opposed to abortions. Nevertheless, it appears that pink is the new green on the Emerald Isle. To be honest, with all the commotion going on in the world, like wars, depleting food sources, energy shortages, troubles in the Middle East, terrorism, climate change, decreasing supplies of fresh water, an unsustainable population rate, jobs, pollution, America's loss of its democratic republic to a increasingly fascist oligarchy, a failing global economic system, I wouldn't think gay marriage in Ireland would even be on the radar for the Vatican.

So, how many people does this ruling affect? Well, apparently not that many. Approximately 4% of Ireland's population claim to be either gay or bisexual, though some surveys hint that the real number could be closer to 10% since many have refused to answer the question. What may have added to the Pope's ire is the report that church attendance dropped, not just in Ireland, but throughout all Europe and the Middle East (church attendance in Europe is down approximately 40% over recent years). Of course attendance in the Middle East could be partially attributed to the recent persecutions of Christians in general and the Eastern Orthodox and the Catholic Church in particular throughout not just the Middle East, but in Africa and parts of Asia or anywhere else where there is a rising tide of radical Islam. An estimated 24,000 Christians have been murdered so far by ISIS while another 700,000+ Christians are in flux as they try to avoid ISIS and other extremist Moslems; Moslems, by the way, who have declared Christianity to be "enemy #1" while dozens, if not more, churches are destroyed along with ancient historical sites. It seems that only the Catholics in Latin America has been immune from far. On the "bright side", President Obama is poised to bring thousands of Moslems to the United States rather than these Christians who are under threat and facing a very real holocaust of their own.

Here in the States, gay marriage has been largely unpopular, especially in more conservative States, but there are signs that resistance against gay marriage is weakening. 37 States have legislation upholding gay marriage while 13 States have legislation prohibiting it. Ultimately, it will come down to the Supreme Court, which brings me to the heart of this article. The more conservative Christian churches and seminaries openly condemn gay marriage while the moderate and liberal religious groups have been mostly accepting if not at least more open minded. Among Millennials, who are replacing the Babyboomers as the largest voting bloc, gay, bisexual, or transgendered lives are a non-issue. That's something that the conservatives will have to get past if they are to remain a viable political power, at least on the national level. Otherwise, Millennials will leave the conservatives in the dust. In fact, Millennials are already forming their own socio-political identities which certainly leans Left and preferably non-partisan. Survey after survey show these Millennials to favor democratic-socialism while also reflecting a streak of libertarianism. In voting patterns so far, Millennials have tended to vote Democrat and Independent most often with Republicans coming in a distant third. It's not that they have any specific loyalty to the Democratic Party or Indies, it's just that they don't like the GOP's vision of America, which brings us back to the topic gay marriage. Unless the Republican Party (as well as other conservative parties and political groups) make a course change, they will---to quote Trotsky---wind up in the "dustbin of history". No one says they have to like it, but they do have to accept the reality of it. To borrow another quote, this time from the "Iron Chancellor", Otto von Bismarck, "politics is the art of the possible".

As for my personal opinion (and my apologies in advance if I step on any toes), I can't say that I have a problem with those who are gay, bisexual, or transgendered. I've always been heterosexual (so sue me). I've always thought that marriage was a relationship between a man and woman. It has been the backbone of civilization through the ages and it served a practical function. Civilizations such as the Assyrians, Babylonians, and Sumerians accepted a form of bisexual relationships, though the opposing sex arrangement was considered the most acceptable. This was also true of the Greeks who never sanctioned any sort of same gender marriage. In Roman, it was much the same, though not overt publically and was generally frowned upon.

When I ran for Metro Council in 2001, I was endorsed by the Fairness Campaign (the Fairness Campaign was a predominately LGBT organization which was promoting the Fairness Ordinance prohibiting anyone regardless of their sexual orientation--straight, gay, bisexual, or transgendered---from be discriminated against). I was one of the very few who answered the questionnaire and was willing to sit for an interview. I was quite truthful in both the questionnaire and interview. Briefly, I stated that I didn't believe in discrimination of any sort based on their sexual preferences or self-identity, race, religion, gender, or place of origin. As a result, I also received the endorsement of several other LGBT organizations such as The Letter. My opponent, however, was strictly against it though admitted in a interview that he hadn't read the proposed ordinance. Individuals were encouraged to call, email, and send threatening messages because of my acceptance of the endorsements. I recall trying to educate them, but it was mostly hopeless. Nevertheless, the ordinance passed by a substantial margin.

When I ran for the State Legislature in 2004, I received a similar questionnaire from most of the same groups. I again answered their questions exactly the same way, though some withheld their endorsement this time because of their personal hang-ups with the political party and not me. There were a few in the party leadership who disapproved but that was their problem not mine. Besides, I've always been secure enough with my own masculinity not to feel threatened. All the same, I was supported by the nation's top conservative gay, bisexual and transgendered political organization. As I explained at the time, I am strictly heterosexual and I believe marriage as such should be a union between one man and one woman. Nevertheless, I would not support any legislation which promoted discrimination in any form. To be clear (and here is my obligatory disclaimer statement), I've had numerous gay, bisexual, and lesbian friends; still do. I lived in San Francisco during the 1970's, at a time when individuals were just coming "out of the closet". I even stood on the sidewalk to watch the second "Gay Pride" parade (actually I happened to be at a Kosher deli eating a sandwich and walked out to see what the hubbub was all about, but that muddles the point). I even knew Harvey Milk, a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors who was assassinated along with Mayor Moscone in 1978. Milk was the first openly gay politician ever to be elected in California. While in the service, I discretely "protected" a couple of Navy corpsmen who were in a same-sex relationship. Had it come out that I knew and didn't report it, I would have been in some pretty serious trouble too. Still, had they been found out, they would have literally been booted out with a General Discharge within 24 hours. These individuals were good corpsmen with exemplary military records and I wasn't going to let that happen. I've also worked with numerous individuals who weren't straight over the years. As with every group, there are always some who are nice and some who are jerks. I have no issues with that since I treat people the way I way I want to be treated. I also treat them as they treat me. As an aside, should I should ever run for office again, I hope I can count on their support
While I don't personally agree with non-straight relationships, I still must acknowledge that none of these relationships are, frankly, any of my business. I have enough problems living my life without managing someone else's. Each us exist in this time and space for a some reason which may or may not be entirely clear to us. We can say it's all a part of "God's plan" or part of some deity's grand design. We can attribute it to some random fluke in the universe, or simply claim that our existence is nothing more than a meaningless flip of the comic coin. Nevertheless, we are here for now. In our fleeting moment of existance, we are free to choose what sort of life we want to live within certain defined parameters set by society. Thus, we are free to choose to be with those who bring us happiness and fill whatever personal void we each have to the degree we allow. Accordingly, what innate right do we have to decide for someone else who can be a friend or lover. We can't decide what level of emotional or ever personal comfort and security someone brings to someone else. We can only make that decision for ourselves.

Historically, both governments and religious institutions (which for most of history, has been one and the same) have sought ways to control the population through its rules and dogma. Slowly, society has rolled much of that back, giving the individual power over themselves while both government and religious institutions continue to seek ways to reassert their authority. In this, Ireland's voter have acted in unison to reclaim personal responsibility over their lives much to the consternation of the Vatican and no doubt to conservatives in general. At what point should the government continue to exert its control over the lives of two adult individuals who freely choose to make a purely personal decision regarding their relationship? Do we really need the government's "permission" in the form of State sanctioned license? If we choose to seek to invoke the blessing of God or some other divinity, shouldn't that decision be between the two individuals and that religious institution? If a Church disapproves, fine. There may be others which will approve. Ultimately, churches and their like will grow or decline based on their ability to meet the needs of the community the same way businesses would prosper or close based on allowing or forbidding smoking (employees are, of course, free to work there or not, depending on their acceptance of the risk just as customers are free to eat there or somewhere else. The business which best meets the needs of the local market will succeed while the others either adapt or close). This really comes down to personal choice. Meanwhile, as far the State is concern, the religious institutions can still record and report the marriages for the government's tax records. As for the Irish, congratulations on having the moral certainty to made a bold statement to the world. Now, how about a pint?

How Many People in Ireland are Gay?

37 States with Legal Gay Marriage and 13 States with Same Sex Marriage Bans.

The New Exodus: Christians flee ISIS in the Middle East

Vatican: Irish gay marriage vote a 'defeat for humanity'

No comments: