Inhuman Swill : Gay Rights
            

As I was working through the very final set of revisions on The Accidental Terrorist, I had to hunt down the original source of a well-known Joseph Smith quote on the topic of the accuracy of the Bible. I found what I was looking for in his History of the Church, but I also found a nearby paragraph that was equally interesting.

Joseph was obviously frustrated by the persecution he and his people had been suffering, and was perhaps even more frustrated by his inability to get protection or redress from the courts, or even much sympathy from President Martin Van Buren in a face-to-face 1840 meeting. In Volume VI, Chapter 3 of History of the Church, he wrote:

The Constitution should contain a provision that every officer of the Government who should neglect or refuse to extend the protection guaranteed in the Constitution should be subject to capital punishment; and then the president of the United States would not say, "Your cause is just, but I can do nothing for you," a governor issue exterminating orders, or judges say, "The men ought to have the protection of law, but it won't please the mob; the men must die, anyhow, to satisfy the clamor of the rabble; they must be hung, or Missouri be damned to all eternity." Executive writs could be issued when they ought to be, and not be made instruments of cruelty to oppress the innocent, and persecute men whose religion is unpopular.

Think about that for a minute. The death penalty for failing to protect everyone's rights under the Constitution. Can you imagine the irony had Joseph's fancy become an actual amendment? Can you imagine the implications for the attorney generals and county clerks who refused to issue marriage certificates to same-sex couples? Can you imagine the implications for district attorneys who failed to indict white officers for shooting black civilians?

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To Young Men Only by Boyd K. Packer
A handful of links have been accumulating in my to-be-posted queue over the past couple of weeks. Time to toss them out there for consumption.


First, longtime Mormon apostle Boyd K. Packer died last Friday at the age of 90. To many of us who grew up in the church, Packer was the "scary apostle," the one most likely to give talks on uncomfortable topics, and to do it in frightening ways. He was the closest thing we had to an old-fashioned fire-and-brimstone preacher.

Packer will long be remembered for his influential talk (later published as a pamphlet) called "To Young Men Only," which could have been subtitled "Why You Should Feel Like an Evil Dirty Shit If You're Weak Enough to Masturbate." And this is the same talk in which he unconvincingly pretends not to endorse violence against men who make passes at other men. "I am not recommending that course to you," he says with a broad wink, "but I am not omitting it. You must protect yourself."

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To follow up on my recent post about why, on average, gay parents are better than straight parents, I want to point you toward a terrific blog post by my cousin Erika's daughter Lia. (Because I was born a Mormon and have genealogy in my genes, har har, I must point out that this specifically makes us first cousins once removed.)

Anyway, Lia's post is dedicated to answering the stupid questions she gets asked about having two moms. Here's a sample:

Q:  Did your mom become gay because your dad was a jerk?
A:  Even though that is more a question for her, I'm going to go ahead and answer: NO. Being gay is no more a choice than being straight. Every person has natural attractions. Some people are naturally attracted to the opposite sex, and some to the same sex. It's really simple. You can't just "become" or "turn" gay, it's kind of built in. Someone could get into a terrible car accident (God forbid) and become paralyzed, but as far as I know, there isn't an event that can subsequently change your sexual orientation.  [read more]
I've always been proud of my cousin Erika for the way she's lived her life and raised her kids, but now it's obviously past time to be proud of the next generation too. Just more anecdotal evidence for my original thesis.
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Gay parents are better

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That nasty Rick Santorum is at it again. He likes to think of himself as a culture warrior, but I see him more as the kind of infectious culture that requires a good shot of penicillin. The poisonous idea he's spreading this time around is that children with fathers in prison are better off than children of gay parents.

This notion is so offensive and counter to all that is rational that it shouldn't require demolishing. But unfortunately, in our political landscape it's the kind of junk-scientific argument that people who don't know any better (and many who do) will seize on and spread. It a notion that needs inoculating against, and I can't think of any inoculation better than this video clip of Zach Wahls testifying before the Iowa House of Representatives in opposition to a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage:

Yes, Zach is only one example of a child of gay parents, but he's a powerful example, and if Santorum can misuse scientific studies to jump to unwarranted conclusions, I can generalize from this one example through a simple thought experiment to prove that gay couples are, on average, better parents than straight couples.

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The right to equal criticism

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If Bethlehem were Pompeii and Vesuvius spewed molten gold
The house on the corner is a goddamn nuisance.

Laura would probably put it like this: "Someone sure whacked them with the Christmas stick."

It's a big, beautiful house of tan brick, in the Prairie School–derived style that makes so many old Chicago houses so distinctive. We covet this house.

But the Christmas decorations—good lord. Not only is there a half-size crèche occupying half the front lawn, spotlit, but on top of that the whole house is covered in colored lights that flash in sync with the synthesized loop of carols blaring from the hidden speakers. When we walk past it at night, Ella skitters away from the place. I don't know how anyone inside, or even next door, can get any sleep. All together, it's seizure-inducing.

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We are all fucking assholes

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I am shocked, saddened, and sickened by the recent spate of bullying and harassment of gay youths that has led to so many teen suicides nationwide. It's disturbing that such vicious intolerance still exists in our country, and depressing that with so many positive gay role models today that the message that it gets better still hasn't permeated society far enough.

But I'm also uneasy with this week's rush to label every bully a "total fucking asshole." Lest there be any misunderstanding, let me stress that bullying is wrong. Bullying of any stripe, against anyone of real or imagined difference, is ugly and cruel and harmful and utterly wrong. It seems to me, however, that labeling anyone who expresses an opinion we don't like a "total fucking asshole" is counterproductive in a couple of important ways.

First, though I think it's important for gay kids (for all kids, really) to learn to stand up for themselves, calling a tormentor a "total fucking asshole" is not exactly a way to open up a pathway to understanding and enlightenment. It strikes me only as a way to close off communication and escalate conflict. (Still, I know it would be an awfully satisfying thing to say, and there might be a certain element of empowerment to it. That and a good right hook.)

But second, and more importantly, I think the "total fucking asshole" label is a great way for adults to draw a dividing line between "us" and "them," and to avoid confronting the hard truth that we all have some degree of bully in us. The trick for us all is to recognize and curtail our own bullying tendencies, and to spread that same message in constructive ways.

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The Accidental Terrorist 30th Anniversary Sale

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William Shunn

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This page is an archive of recent entries in the Gay Rights category.

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