Uncivil Unions: Archives

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August 15, 2008

Friday Funny: No To Gay Marriage & BigoTV genre: Gaylingual & Tongue-In-Cheek & Uncivil Unions

Those opposed to same-sex unions frequently suggest that it is a threat to their own marriages. In the first of the two following videos, 9in10.org helps highlight some of the hypocrisy behind these sanctimonious assertions.

Needless to say, their depiction of the heterosexual male's fascination with girl on girl action also highlights the acceptance of female objectification and the degree to which the male mind set dictates societal norms.

In the second video, they introduce us to BigoTV...a network committed to propagating all forms of bigotry. Pay special attention to the portion of the video (1:35 - 1:45) where our two bigoted friends engage in a little celebratory cackling. Suffice it to say that their latent tendencies are on display.

No To Gay Marriage

BigoTV

Tagged as: Bigotry, Gay, Gay Marriage, Humor, LGBT, Racism, Same-Sex Marriage

Daniel DiRito | August 15, 2008 | 11:32 AM | link | Comments (0)
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August 13, 2008

Edwards V. McCain: Sean Hannity Spins Bunkum Out Of B.S. genre: Polispeak & Uncivil Unions

I realize that partisan politics is apt to skew our views of the politicians we support or oppose. At the same time, reality should lead us to see them as they actually are. In the aftermath of the John Edwards affair, party pundits have done their best to spin the situation for maximum benefit. Unfortunately, the following video of Sean Hannity demonstrates the degree to which denial can transform strategic spinning into little more than hysterical hyperbole.

In discussing the Edwards affair with a guest panel, Hannity proceeds to excoriate John Edwards while defending the same behavior from John McCain. It seems that Hannity thinks that McCain's time in captivity in Vietnam is sufficient to grant McCain a waiver with regards to cheating on his wife. Never mind that his wife, who had been the unfortunate victim of a horrific car accident, remained faithful to her husband despite her stressful circumstances. Apparently Hannity believes adversity can only be used to the advantage of husbands when explaining their dalliances.

The problem with Hannity's tortured defense of John McCain is found in numerous biographical accounts of his candidate. Truth be told, while McCain's time in Vietnam deservedly garners him high praise for exemplary service, it simply interrupted his well-documented and self-admitted womanizing. I've included two video excerpts from A & E's biographical account of John McCain. Suffice it to say that the piece includes the following paraphrased descriptors when referencing the Arizona senator.

He spent his time cruising for girls.

He was a rebel who broke the rules.

He was the class delinquent, a partier, a bad student...always on the edge of expulsion.

His was the life of a free-wheeling jet jockey...drinking, chasing women, and living the life of a playboy.

Within a year and a half of his return from Vietnam, he resumed his old ways as a playboy...drinking, carousing, and having affairs.

The 42 year old ladies man decided to run for office a year after moving to Arizona with his new wife and former mistress.

Let me be clear...I don't believe a candidates sex life necessarily negates their capabilities to be an effective elected official. Yes, the deceit and dishonesty is troubling, but I challenge anyone to take a moment and consider their own co-workers who have engaged in extramarital activities. I doubt many of us can conclude that their infidelity directly impacted their ability to fulfill the duties of their employment. While it's reasonable to revile the cheating, its relevance to one's occupational acumen is rarely substantiated.

I suspect the same is true with regards to John Edwards and John McCain...just as it was with Bill Clinton. The fact that campaign surrogates seek to capitalize upon our disdain for such behavior is to be expected. In Hannity's case, I suspect he's a victim of his own pompous pabulum. Fortunately, our own emotional maturity ought to instruct us to proceed with caution. If Hannity wants to drive the bias bus off the cliff, so be it.

When it's all said and done, there are more similarities between the behaviors of Edwards and McCain than there are differences. Both men appear to have engaged in extramarital affairs while their own wives struggled with serious illnesses (yes, Edwards denies this but I suspect the evidence will confirm otherwise).

The fact that Sean Hannity wants to grant John McCain a pass is a transparent display of the kind of punditry that poisons the airwaves and undermines our ability to focus on the real world issues that will influence our lives. Ever intent to be good soldiers - spinning bunkum out of B.S. - men like Sean Hannity actually do little more than muddy the waters of the morality they seek to claim as the unique domain of their party and their candidate.

In the end, history tells us that wherever human beings are found, human frailties will flourish. Sean Hannity's banal bravado is simply more of the same.

Sean Hannity - Being A POW Justifies McCain Affairs

John McCain A & E Biography - Part One

John McCain A & E Biography - Part Three

Tagged as: 2008 Election, Adultery, Alan Colmes, Fox News, Infidelity, John Edwards, John McCain, Morality, Politics, Sean Hannity

Daniel DiRito | August 13, 2008 | 9:26 AM | link | Comments (2)
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August 8, 2008

On The John Edwards Affair - The Stop & Stare Society genre: Nouveau Thoughts & Six Degrees of Speculation & Uncivil Unions

LionAndZebra.jpg

It's common knowledge that car accidents cause traffic jams...even after the vehicles involved have been moved to the shoulder of the road. I've often wondered what causes us to slow down and gaze out our windows as we pass by. Is it out of concern for the passengers or is it some morbid curiosity as to the carnage?

As I've pondered the possibilities, the first image that comes to mind is a herd of zebras, standing and staring with ears perked, as the lion they've just eluded puts the finishing clench upon the zebra that didn't get away. What makes a herd of animals suddenly stop to watch, as their comrade becomes an unwilling victim of the food chain, moments after running frantically for their lives?

If you're wondering where I'm going with this rather morbid musing, I've been looking for a way to make sense of our fascination with John Edwards' admission that he engaged in an extramarital affair. Let me be clear...I'm troubled by the deceit that preceded the revelation...but I'm more troubled by our seeming inability to focus upon the underlying issues.

You see, John Edwards may be unique in having had the opportunity to run for president of the United States, but his affair puts him on a par with the majority of the American public. The fact that we stop to gawk at him underscores our similarity to a herd of zebras, while our holier-than-thou looks of disdain uncover our propensity for self-forgiving double standards.

As we approach the November election, we're being confronted by the all too familiar rhetoric that same-sex marriage is threatening to destroy the family. Frankly, this is a manufactured issue that serves the purposes of politicians and preachers and serves as a distraction from what actually ails the family. Truth be told, the preoccupation with same-sex marriage and the affairs of others is the equivalent of watching the zebra in the grasp of the lion. It gives us something to look at while counting our blessings that we avoided capture...not by the lion...but by the discovery of our own undisclosed indiscretions.

Yes, I've long argued that gays should be entitled to the same marriage rights afforded to heterosexuals...but I've also argued that the institution is at best broken. In fact, I suspect that it is, in its current form, contrary to human nature. In saying as much, I'm not suggesting that we eliminate marriage. At the same time, I'm in favor of beginning the process of an honest assessment of the expectations we attach to our marriages and, therefore, the manner in which they're created...and dismantled.

Yes, I'm embarking upon an unpopular task that mimics the myth of Sisyphus...but then again...so are most of the individuals who choose to marry. If we admit that pushing the rock over the pinnacle is the equivalent of perfection, we should quickly understand the reason for Sisyphus' perpetual failure...as well as our own with regard to marriage.

Look, the human heart is fragile...it can fall as fast as it can harden...and in that dichotomy is revealed the precarious nature of love...as well as the inability to predict its path. While the mind can promise the heart, the heart cannot always be expected to abide. That's a reality we prefer to ignore...until someone's heart is broken.

Where we miscalculate is in our expectations of ourselves and others...antecedent to our marriages as well as the moment at which we recognize the one we're in is broken. In each of these moments, rather than acknowledge our human nature, we demand that another defy their own in order to protect the fragility of ours...and visa versa. Yes, this works well on the front end...but it fails miserably at the other.

In many ways, we humans are victims of our own success. In that it provided us with more choices and greater flexibility, it has also diminished our dependence on each other as well as the affiliations we believe we'll need to form in order to survive (make a living, raise a family, etc). Hence, marriage is no longer the essential sociological glue it used to be. While necessity may be the mother of invention, the lack of necessity has allowed us to reinvent our understandings of the roles we play as mothers...and fathers. As such, we've reached the point at which one can choose to be either without the requirement of the other.

On the other hand, this freedom may also provide us with the opportunity to choose our partners absent many of the historical calculations and contrivances. Unfortunately, our actions with regards to relationships seem to lack the full awareness of the evolving terrain. At the same time, there are those who experience this changing dynamic as anxiety which leads them to recoil and call for a return to conventionalism. Unfortunately, rolling back progress is akin to rolling our mythical rocks over the pinnacle. Sadly, the time spent doing so simply detracts from the time we can spend adapting and adjusting our relationships (and the expectations we bring to them) to the current paradigm.

It's time to admit that the idyllic image of marriage, invoked by those who claim to be its protectors, is no longer the nature of the institution. That which no longer exists cannot be preserved. Notwithstanding, the painfully natural, though imperfect, human emotions that facilitated the creation of marriage will remain...and they warrant our awareness and our embrace. Were we to refocus our efforts upon understanding the essence of these emotions, and establishing our expectations accordingly, perhaps the next announcement of an indiscretion could be met with introspective analysis rather than preoccupied projections.

When the voyeurs are enthralled in watching the lion lay waste to the zebra, the bonds that connect them with those they love are left unattended...hanging perilously exposed...ever ready to attach themselves to the first heart that has taken the time to acknowledge, accept, and allow its innate humanity to flourish. When this happens, the heart of the voyeur is apt to be crushed...not by the lion...but by the weight of its own untenable judgments.

Tagged as: Adultery, Culture, Elizabeth Edwards, John Edwards, Marriage, Relationships, Rielle Hunter, Same-Sex Marriage

Daniel DiRito | August 8, 2008 | 2:47 PM | link | Comments (1)
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July 30, 2008

1913 Law Repealed: Mass Marriage Means Mass Hysteria? genre: Gaylingual & Uncivil Unions

The Massachusetts House has voted to repeal an antiquated law that prohibited the marriage of out of state gays. The measure, already approved by the Senate, is on its way to Governor Deval Patrick, who has indicated his intention to sign off on the repeal. Once removed, the state will allow for the marriage of gay couples who reside outside of Massachusetts.

From The Boston Globe:

In a major victory for advocates of same-sex marriage rights, the House voted by a wide margin yesterday to repeal a 95-year-old law that prevents gay and lesbian couples from most other states from marrying here, setting the stage for Massachusetts to join just one other state, California, in allowing same-sex couples to marry regardless of residence.

The 1913 law specifically bars out-of-state residents from marrying here if the marriage would be considered void in their home state. Its repeal opens the borders for potentially thousands of nonresident same-sex couples to marry in Massachusetts. A flood of couples is expected from New York, where Governor David Paterson has instructed state agencies to recognize and grant benefits to gay couples who marry elsewhere, even though New York does not authorize same-sex marriages.

Neither House nor Senate votes on the issue drew protesters to the State House. Advocates cited the absence of demonstrations as a sign that same-sex marriage has become an accepted fact of life in Massachusetts, after lawmakers in a joint session last year rejected a proposed constitutional amendment to limit marriage to heterosexual couples.

What, no protesters? Can it be? Are we to conclude that there aren't any defenders of traditional marriage in the state of Massachusetts? Could it be that heterosexual marriages weren't harmed as a result of the many same-sex marriages performed in the state?

Mitt Romney, where were you and your five sons when the religious right needed someone to stand up and defend family values?

Tagged as: Gay Marriage, LGBT, Massachusetts, Religious Right, Same-Sex Marriage

Daniel DiRito | July 30, 2008 | 8:49 AM | link | Comments (3)
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July 27, 2008

John McCain - The Straight-Talking Maverick Can Sure Ride A Fence genre: Gaylingual & Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak & Uncivil Unions

FenceRiding.jpg

John McCain, a former critic of Christian extremists, has suddenly become a seemingly born-again evangelical in conjunction with his 2008 presidential bid. Sadly, his run to the right is hardly evidence of a man who has made a career of portraying himself as a straight-talking maverick.

Those who contend that a McCain presidency won't be a third term of the policies of George Bush need look no further than the fence upon which slick John is perilously perched. If it isn't embracing the Bush administration's simplistic cowboy diplomacy, it will undoubtedly be the sleight of hand that comes with a carefully crafted claim of compassionate conservatism...couched, of course, as a commitment to the constitutional construct of states rights.

Truth be told, with regard to gay adoption, John McCain continues to sound like a man who has yet to realize that the fence he's riding has a limited number of sides. Perhaps the Senator believes he can finesse the fence...but from my vantage point, it looks more like he's a trick rider whose too clever by half. In fact, I don't think McCain has the political dexterity to simultaneously succeed at being both a pole jumper and a pole sitter. In the end, he's apt to find himself painfully impaled by the inconsistency his campaign continues to impart.

The Arizona Senator's latest attempt took place during today's appearance on This Week with George Stephanopoulos.

From ABC News:

STEPHANOPOULOS: What is your position on gay adoption? You told the "New York Times" you were against it, even in cases where the children couldn't find another home. But then your staff backtracked a bit.

What is your position?

MCCAIN: My position is, it's not the reason why I'm running for president of the United States. And I think that two parent families are best for America.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, what do you mean by that, it's not the reason you're running for president of the United States?

MCCAIN: Because I think -- well, I think that it's -- it is important for us to emphasize family values. But I think it's very important that we understand that we have other challenges, too.

I'm running for president of the United States, because I want to help with family values. And I think that family values are important, when we have two parent -- families that are of parents that are the traditional family.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But there are several hundred thousand children in the country who don't have a home. And if a gay couple wants to adopt them, what's wrong with that?

MCCAIN: I am for the values that two parent families, the traditional family represents.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So, you're against gay adoption.

MCCAIN: I am for the values and principles that two parent families represent. And I also do point out that many of these decisions are made by the states, as we all know.

And I will do everything I can to encourage adoption, to encourage all of the things that keeps families together, including educational opportunities, including a better economy, job creation.

And I'm running for president, because I want to help families in America. And one of my positions is that I believe that family values and family traditions are preserved.

UPDATE: The following is the video of the above transcript:

Huh!? So he's for the values that traditional two parent families represent? Well, I'm for the commitment to excellence the Oakland Raiders espouse...but I've also seen how the Raiders play football these days. In other words, just where does McCain think these orphans come from...the anti-family values stork?

Shouldn't our political leaders be focused upon finding stable and loving homes for these children regardless of the sexuality of the adoptive parents? Just what does the Senator know about the experiences of children reared in families consisting of two same-sex parents? Has he bothered to explore the number of children that are orphaned from same-sex couples? I suspect he'd have to reconsider his definition of family values if he took the time to step beyond his efforts to insure the votes of his biased and bigoted base.

So McCain's position on gay adoption is "to encourage all of the things that keep families together, including educational opportunities, including a better economy, job growth. Yep, that will undoubtedly encourage family values and convince straight couples to stay married, to stop cheating, to stop getting divorced, and to stop viewing children as possessions and parenthood as little more than a rite of passage.

Then again, the goal of many on the religious right has little to do with insuring happy children. They view anything that prevents the substantiation of homosexuality to be worthwhile...even if that means a few hundred thousand children have to remain the wards of the state. Shifting orphaned children from one foster home to another like chattel is beneficial if it supports the anti-gay agenda. How compassionate and how Christian is that?

The only claim John McCain can make to straight talk is that he's learned the talk needed to win the votes of those who favor a world that is exclusively straight. John McCain may see himself as a maverick...but I suspect his maverick status is more like the role James Garner played in the television series with the same name...an unintentional hero presented with fanciful aplomb that is little more than the guise for a man who, when push came to shove, elected to avoid any of the risks associated with actually being a straight talking maverick and a political hero.

In the meantime, I hope the good senator is enjoying his ascendency to the pinnacle of political expediency. Come to think of it, he's simply mastered the metaphorical equivalent of riding a horse side-saddle...he knows that if you're going to ride the fence, you need to be a skilled side-stepper. Senator McBush, you're ability to parse words is an inspiration to orphans everywhere.

Tagged as: Divorce, Evangelical, Foster Care, Gay, Gay Adoption, George Stephanopoulos, John McCain, LGBT, Marriage, Orphan, Parenting, Religion, Religious Right, This Week

Daniel DiRito | July 27, 2008 | 1:30 PM | link | Comments (0)
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July 20, 2008

The "Order" Of Things: Let Them Kill...Yes - Let Them Marry...No genre: Gaylingual & Just Jihad & Nouveau Thoughts & Uncivil Unions

OutOfOrder.jpg

I'm always amazed at public opinion...especially when it provides some insights into human nature in 21st century America. Over the years, I've always marveled at the prudish obsession with all things prurient.

I could be wrong, but I suspect a majority of Americans would rather allow their children to watch depictions of violence on television and at the movies than anything remotely sexual. In some ways, I understand how this happens, but in my moments of lucidity, I wonder why we never take the time to understand or alter this seemingly incoherent ideation.

To find evidence of this phenomenon, one need look no further than the polling relevant to same-sex marriage and the military's policy of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Despite the occasional outlier, it's fairly safe to state that more Americans oppose same-sex marriage than favor it. At the same time, numerous polls in recent years suggests that a significant majority of Americans are in favor of allowing gays to serve in the military. I find those two incongruent positions fascinating.

First, a look at the latest polling on both issues.

From The Washington Post On DADT:

Public attitudes about gays in the military have shifted dramatically since President Bill Clinton unveiled what became his administration's "don't ask, don't tell" policy 15 years ago today.

Seventy-five percent of Americans in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll said gay people who are open about their sexual orientation should be allowed to serve in the U.S. military, up from 62 percent in early 2001 and 44 percent in 1993.

Today, Americans have become more supportive of allowing openly gay men and women to serve in the armed forces. Support from Republicans has doubled over the past 15 years, from 32 to 64 percent. More than eight in 10 Democrats and more than three-quarters of independents now support the idea, as did nearly two-thirds of self-described conservatives.

From CBS News On Same-Sex Marriage:

(CBS) Most Americans continue to think there should be some legal recognition of gay and lesbian couples, and 30 percent say same-sex couples should be allowed to marry - the highest number since CBS News began asking this question in 2004.

Twenty-eight percent think same-sex couples should be permitted to form civil unions, but more than a third - 36 percent - say there should be no legal recognition of a gay couple's relationship.

Americans' views on this issue have changed since 2004, although opinion has not changed substantially in the last two years. In November of 2004 (soon after the presidential election) just 21 percent of Americans supported the idea of same-sex couples being allowed to marry.

Majorities of both men and women support some form of legal recognition for gay and lesbian couples, but more women (36 percent) than men (24 percent) back the idea of same-sex marriage.

With regard to DADT, it seems fairly clear that the country is ready to embrace gays serving in the military. Virtually every constituent group agrees. As such, it would be difficult to contend that the favorable response is due to the vague or uncertain nature of the survey question.

With regard to gay marriage, the results are more nebulous. Don't get me wrong, there's little doubt that the trends are encouraging. In fact, one could make the argument that a narrow majority of Americans actually favor some recognition of same-sex relationships. Defining the specifics of that recognition would likely provide less encouraging results.

I'm intrigued by the disparity. On the one hand, it seems that patriotism and a desire to defend one's nation elicits thoughts of equality on the part of the electorate. In other words, if gays are willing to kill and die for their country, by God, we shouldn't deny them that opportunity. [Wave flags now] On the other hand, who a gay person chooses to love and how that love is recorded by society apparently elicits thoughts of moral rectitude on the part of the electorate. [Cover eyes now]

In other words, views about homosexuality seem to mirror the general pattern of allowing our children to be exposed to violence (masculinity...or behavior associated with men?) while shying away from exposure to, or discussion about, sexuality (intimacy...or behavior associated with women?). Is that an anecdotal observation and a broad brush approach to the subject? Perhaps. Does it offer a plausible explanation for the divergent data? In part, I think so.

Let's take it a step further. When one thinks about the treatment of those in the LGBT community, three things emerge. One, lesbianism (often associated with being a tomboy), while still objectionable to many, is also a source of male fascination, and as such, serves to insulate lesbians from intense societal derision. Secondly, gay men (often associated with being effeminate) draw the intense ire of a number of heterosexual men which is much more likely to lead to acts of derision and/or violence being perpetrated on homosexual men. Lastly, transgender males, seeking to identify as women (adopting virtually all aspects of feminine behavior), are potentially at the greatest risk for vitriol and violence.

I contend that if one were to ask all voters to quantify each groups social acceptability, each groups acceptability to serve in the military, and the acceptance of the love relationships each group forms, the discomfort would mirror the rankings I've noted above.

Let's return to the apparent discomfort with all things sexual and the seeming tolerance for depictions of violence. If one looks at the dance of sexuality, generally speaking, the male is in pursuit which can easily be construed as an aggressive act. Since men generally accept this role...and they also have daughters...a disconnect emerges which may well lead to the seeming silence with regards to all things sexual.

In simple terms, men, aware of each other's inclinations, are uncomfortable admitting and acknowledging that their daughters will be pursued sexually and anything that reminds them of this creates dissonance that is rarely resolved. The carnal nature of sex as conquest (masculine) can prevent them from viewing sexuality favorably as intimacy (feminine).

This may also explain the difference in men's and women's reported acceptance of gays in the military. Men, by virtue of their own views of sex, are apt to view the homosexual male similar to themselves...meaning they assume a gay man is in pursuit of a sexual encounter. At the same time, women are apt to be more comfortable with gay men as a result of their inclination to share expressions of intimacy.

I'll offer one additional observation. Sex, by its nature, involves unspoken understandings about penetration and being penetrated...tops and bottoms if you will. That again brings us back to the above ordering. Lesbianism, from a conventional view of gender roles, is often thought to be about penetration...meaning there is a perception that someone adopts the position as the top (the masculine aggressor). With gay men, the perception is that someone adopts the position as the bottom (the feminine placater). Lastly, with regard to the transgender male, the assumption is that the individual seeks to adopt the feminine role...although in this instance, with a heterosexual male.

Simply stated, the subconscious predisposition to favor masculinity over femininity (imposed over centuries by the prevalence of misogyny as opposed to any innately ordered hierarchy) therefore leads to ranking the three accordingly.

All of the above, in my opinion, helps explain why voters are more inclined to support gays in the military than to endorse same-sex marriage. The former is consistent with established societal norms that favor masculinity which makes it more palatable. Conversely, the latter serves to threaten the established order and unseat the stereotypical male identity from its lofty perch.

When it's all said and done, I contend humanity hasn't navigated that far from its awareness that the king of the jungle's demands are usually met (he writes the rules) and he is therefore afforded a wide berth...simply based upon an unspoken understanding that he has the ability to impose his will (penetrate) upon those who can't do the same.

Whether all of this suggests that love does or doesn't exist as we define it is open to debate. In the meantime, the message to the LGBT community is rather convoluted...and fully impeachable. In a world too easily inclined to violence, it's a shame to be rewarding gays for propagating aggression as the acceptable status quo while stifling their potential to act as loving agents for constructive change. It's time for the sleeping giant to assemble its parts and uproot the tree to which it has too long been tethered. It's time for a new order.

Tagged as: DADT, Discrimination, Don't Ask Don't Tell, Gay Marriage, LGBT, Military, Misogyny, Polling, Relationships, Same-Sex Marriage, Sexuality, Society, Violence, War

Daniel DiRito | July 20, 2008 | 2:27 PM | link | Comments (5)
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July 18, 2008

Poll Shows California Voters Oppose Prop. 8 Same-Sex Marriage Ban genre: Gaylingual & Hip-Gnosis & Uncivil Unions

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While it's far too early to celebrate, a new poll suggests that Proposition 8, an amendment to the California constitution designed to define marriage as the union of only one man and one woman, would not have sufficient support for passage. Conventional wisdom suggests that ballot measures that fail to garner significant early support are unlikely to succeed. Unfortunately, I doubt this standard can be applied to this particular measure.

From The San Diego Union-Tribune:

SACRAMENTO - Proposition 8, the constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage in California, is opposed by 51 percent of likely voters with 42 percent in favor, according to a new Field Poll.

Those results put the proposed ban in a politically perilous position in the Nov. 4 election, said Mark DiCamillo, director of the nonpartisan Field Poll.

"Starting out behind is usually an ominous sign for a proposition," DiCamillo said. "Over 90 percent of propositions that start out behind get taken down."

Typically, ballot measures start out ahead, but become less popular as the opposition campaign begins raising questions and creating doubt, he said.

The poll is the first to question voters using the measure's exact language. But the results are similar to a Field Poll on the same topic in May, shortly after the California Supreme Court overturned laws that prohibited same-sex marriage.

In my experience, polls on ballot measures that are intended to deny gay rights rarely capture the actual level of voter support. Amendment Two, passed by Colorado voters in 1992, is the best example of this phenomenon. Prior to the election, virtually every poll suggested the measure was headed for defeat. As it turned out, the measure passed by nearly six percentage points.

The following information is from the Field Poll and it offers some insight into the dynamics that may be at play in November.

From The Field Poll:

There is relatively high voter awareness of Proposition 8 among the state's voting electorate. Statewide 62% of likely voters report having seen or heard something about the proposed constitutional amendment.

There are also big differences by religion. Protestants favor Prop. 8 56% to 40%, while Catholics are evenly divided. By contrast, voters affiliated with other religions or who have no religious preference are opposing Prop. 8 by wide margins.

Evangelical Christians favor the amendment better than two to one, 66% to 31%. However, non-evangelicals are on the No side 59% to 34%.

There is greater opposition to Prop. 8 among voters who personally know or work with gays or lesbians. This group, which includes nearly three in four voters statewide, opposes Prop. 8 54% to 40%. On the other hand, those who have no personal familiarity with gays or lesbians favor the amendment by a narrow margin.

I'm of the opinion that the data is instructive. To the benefit of those opposed to the constitutional ban, voter awareness is high which may suggest it will be difficult to change minds. In other words, if voters already understand the measure, and a majority opposes it, proponents may have a difficult time turning the tide. Additionally, the fact that a solid majority of the three in four voters who "know or work with gays or lesbians" will vote against the measure bolsters the belief that coming out is by far the best means to change hearts and minds. It may also suggest that those voters who oppose the measure are doing so based upon a personal consideration rather than in keeping with their religious beliefs.

On the other hand, the support for the measure by evangelicals evidences the influence right wing religious leaders still have with their followers...and it highlights their willingness to exploit any issue that can be connected with their opposition to homosexuality. Frankly, the ideology of evangelicals prohibits them from ever viewing gays as individuals...someone worthy of consideration outside the constraints of established dogma. To do so would be the equivalent of abandoning their core Biblical beliefs.

I'll offer one last observation. I took note of the fact that Catholics are evenly divided on the issue. Strange as this may sound, I suspect that the prevalence of gay priests may serve to soften the opposition to the measure. My own experience as a Catholic suggests that there is an unspoken acceptance of gays despite the fact that it is contrary to church doctrine. In other words, the psychology posits that if the church elected to embrace gays as priests for years, why should Catholic voters not embrace the right of gays to marry?

One thing most Catholics learn...especially if they've attended Catholic schools...is that hypocrisy is part and parcel of the church...which I believe can lead to a level of tacit tolerance which might not otherwise emerge. Perhaps that's a stretch, but I think it merits consideration.

Tagged as: California, Catholicism, Civil Rights, Constitutional Amendment, Equality, Evangelical, Field Poll, Gay, LGBT, Marriage, Polling, Proposition 8, Religion, Same-Sex Marriage

Daniel DiRito | July 18, 2008 | 11:08 AM | link | Comments (1)
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July 11, 2008

Teen Pregnancies Rise: How About Those Abstinence Programs? genre: Hip-Gnosis & Little Red Ribbon-Hood & Uncivil Unions

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I'm not sure what it will take for our government to admit that abstinence education isn't working. Fortunately, George Bush will soon leave office and we can hope that the next president will restore science to its proper place and put an end to the myth that purity pledges are an effective means of birth control.

In the meantime, a new government report shows that the teen pregnancy rate rose for the first time in 15 years...a testament to seven years of relegating comprehensive sex education and contraception to the back burner.

From Fox News:

Between 2005 and 2006, the number of teenage girls between the ages 15 to 17 having babies rose by more than 5,700 to 138,920, from a record low of 133,138, according to an annual report on the health and well-being of children and teens published by the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics.

The 4 percent increase in the teen pregnancy rate is cause for concern among health professionals.

"This is one of the key indicators for the health of the teen population," said Edward Sondik, director of the National Center for Health Statistics, during a conference call with the media. "Not only does this affect teen health at this point, but their health and well-being for the next 20 to 40 years, and the health and well-being of their children."

Now I'm sure the religious right will do their best to refute those who will undoubtedly claim that this report provides evidence that abstinence only education is a failure. Unfortunately for the wingers, the report offered another key piece of information that may make it rather difficult to hold the line on the benefits of abstinence.

While teen pregnancy is up, the percentage of teens having sex has remained stable for the past few years at 46 percent, according to the report.

So here's the bottom line. The same number of teens are engaging in sex, however more of them are getting pregnant. Care to venture an explanation? Clearly, as I've long argued, teens, in predictable numbers, will continue to have sex regardless of promising to abstain...and when they do so absent comprehensive sex education, inclusive of contraceptive measures, the number of pregnancies is certain to increase.

Fox News, in a move that once again shows their propensity for bias, chose to add the views of one of their contributors in an effort to offer an alternate explanation for the rise in teen pregnancies.

Teen pregnancy has been a hotly debated subject in recent weeks with the birth of 17-year-old Jamie Lynn Spears' daughter and reports that a pact among Gloucester, Mass., teens may have resulted in the pregnancies of 17 high school students.

Dr. Keith Ablow, a psychiatrist and FOX News contributor, said the recent reversal in the trend of declining teen pregnancy is a grave concern. He said young people, especially girls, are looking for ways to connect with themselves and others in an "increasingly technology-driven world." One way to do that is to have a baby.

"It's not pretty and we really need a public health response that's very vigorous to counteract this," he said. "Ultimately, the gravest long-term consequence is that we have babies being nurtured by mothers who really can't provide them with what they need.

"And that's really a self-centered act. You've basically declared that it's all about you. Those people who are [acting] in this way may be the worst role models."

Oh yes, the rise in teen pregnancy is the fault of Hollywood and girls who are self-centered. In other words, my child would remain pure if it weren't for bad role models and selfish sluts. I guess that means that mom and dad are helpless to protect their children from cultural influences that are sure to overwhelm the values parents have instilled in their children.

I hate to break the bad news, but there's a problem with this logic. You see, we have that little issue of the constancy of the percentage of teens who are having sex to contend with. If recent culture is to be blamed, why aren't we seeing a larger percentage of teens engaging in sexual relations. Could it be that the desire to engage in sex, an innately constant construct of human nature, isn't all that susceptible to external influences...including the religious exhortations of parents and politicos who have likely chosen to forget their own sexual experimentations?

The study offered one other statistic that caught my attention.

From The Washington Post:

Another disturbing trend is the increase in violent crimes and homicides committed by adolescents, Sondik said.

"Homicides increased in 2005 for the first time since 1993," Sondik said. "In 2005, the firearm homicide rate also increased for the first time in more than a decade."

Adolescents aged 12 to 17 who committed violent crimes increased from 14 crimes per 1,000 in 2004 to 17 per 1,000 in 2005. This is still a substantially lower rate than was seen in 1993, when there were 52 violent crimes per 1,000 adolescents, the report stated.

So while the religious right rails against contraception and abortion, teens are harming each other with increasing frequency. In other words, these people are willing to spend time and money opposing sex education, contraception, and abortion while seemingly appearing tone deaf to teen violence.

Why is it that Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council aren't up in arms about teen violence? Why aren't they pushing their followers to vote for one politician over another based upon their respective plans to address teen violence? If all life is precious, why isn't the same energy being expended to protect the living?

I'll answer my own question. Well, sex sells...which means issues related to sexuality (orientation and promiscuity)...are cash cows that bring in the donations. It also serves to assure religious leaders and the GOP that they have a captive constituency. Besides, addressing violence might require a consideration of gun control...and that doesn't sell well with the Guns, God, and Gays gang.

Tagged as: Abortion, Abstinence, Contraception, Fox News, George Bush, Religion, Religious Right, Sex Education, Sexuality, Teen Pregnancy, Violence

Daniel DiRito | July 11, 2008 | 12:24 PM | link | Comments (0)
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June 28, 2008

Missionary Positions: XXXChurch.Com Tackles Porn genre: Hip-Gnosis & Uncivil Unions

While I frequently criticize religion and those who have used it as a vehicle for their own self-interest, every now and then I've come across some people of faith who are actually willing to take an honest look at people and then set out to make a difference. The following documentary, Missionary Positions, is about two such Christian ministers who started xxxchurch.com to assist Christians who are addicted to pornography. I wrote about their ministry in the past in a piece titled, Icebergs And Identities: What Lies Beneath?

Before proceeding I want to offer one caveat. I respect these guys for addressing an issue that is prevalent in society...as well as in many of those who are affiliated with religion. On the other hand, I'm not sure that the approach they employ will produce the intended outcome since I don't necessarily think that immersing oneself in religion actually puts a halt to this or any other addiction. I say as much because we're all aware of the many ministers who have succumbed to any number of carnal obsessions and fallen from grace.

In fact, part of the problem, as I've outline in the posting mentioned above, is that religion frequently seeks to cast sex as sin, ignoring the fact that it is an integral part of our human identity. In my opinion, the goal shouldn't be to extinguish pornography; it ought to be to encourage and educate our children that sex is a healthy component of human behavior and, when channeled properly, it should and will enhance our relationships.

Until we abandon the sex as sin construct, everything that is negatively associated with sex and porn will continue to propagate. I relate the pornography problem to the notion of, "you can pay me now or pay me later". When we cease stifling sex education in our schools and begin to encourage our children to incorporate their sexuality into a healthy identity, we will begin to disarm the power of pornography.

By the way, while pornography is the subject of this documentary, it is, for the most part, tastefully presented. The video is just over 71 minutes in length.

Tagged as: Craig Gross, Mike Foster, Pornography, Religion, Sex, Sex Education, Sexuality

Daniel DiRito | June 28, 2008 | 2:26 PM | link | Comments (7)
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June 19, 2008

Mika - Lollipop & Billy Brown genre: Gaylingual & Tuned Out & Uncivil Unions & Video-Philes

Mika, born in Lebanon and currently living in London, doesn't get a lot of mainstream attention in the States. I've included two of his videos below. The first is for the song, Lollipop, an infectious upbeat tune with a fun animated video that just seems appropriate for the start of summer. I'll come back to the meaning of the song in a moment.

The second video isn't actually the music video for the song, Billy Brown...but it does a good job in telling the song's story. In fact, there isn't an official video for the song since one was never released. The song, in my opinion, tells the story of a man who struggles to accept his homosexuality.

That brings me back to Lollipop. There has been a fair share of buzz about Mika's sexuality, a subject he has not chosen to address. Some have speculated that he's gay but doesn't disclose that fact as it could hinder his popular appeal in the United States. He points to Billy Brown as evidence that he isn't shying away from sexual orientation.

Let me be clear. Mika's sexual orientation is irrelevant to me but to the extent that issues of orientation may influence the songs he performs makes my psychology wheels spin. In this particular instance, call it instinct, intuition, or gaydar...but whatever it is, I find the content of his songs fascinating. Both of these songs talk about love and relationships...with a focus on a lack of fulfillment as well as a measure of preoccupation with norms and conventionality.

Granted, Lollipop is far more gender and orientation neutral than Billy Brown, but what I hear in both songs is the undertones of a personal struggle...one that leaves the protagonist is a state of limbo. If he follows his heart, he'll have to endure the whispers and judgments of others...if he conforms, he can fit in but he'll be denied the happiness he seeks.

Hence, he vacillates between the two, which I view as akin to the back and forth of a pendulum...always struggling to find the center...but always overshooting the mark in an endless battle for a measure of constance and comfort. In other words, the center is safe but often wholly meaningless. Mika's song, Stuck in the Middle, reveals more of this concept. The lyrics can be found here.

One line captures the essence of what I'm talking about. When Mika sings, "Oh Billy Brown you are a victim of the times", I hear the angst I've described above. Whether that angst is Mika's or simply the words expressed in a song he sings, I don't know. Regardless, the song succeeds in capturing real feelings that I suspect resonate for many in the gay community.

You can find the video for Happy Endings here and the video for Grace Kelly can be found here.

Mika - Lollipop

Mika - Billy Brown

Tagged as: Billy Brown, Grace Kelly, Happy Endings, LGBT, Lollipop, Mika, Music, Relationships, Stuck In The Middle

Daniel DiRito | June 19, 2008 | 12:20 PM | link | Comments (0)
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June 18, 2008

Is Something Fishy At Focus On The Family? genre: Gaylingual & Hip-Gnosis & Uncivil Unions

The folks at Focus on the Family are out with another video in opposition to same-sex marriage. It's consistent with the new strategy being adopted by religious groups to portray themselves as victims.

The gist of their message is that the passage of gay rights will create prohibitions on free speech and their right to practice their religious beliefs. Never mind that the practice of their religious beliefs often includes working to deny rights to gays. After all, if they say they are the real victims, they must be, right?

This new video is also a play on words that appears to be designed to assail Truth Wins Out (TWO), an organization established to combat the rhetoric of those who are promoting the notion that being gay can be reversed. This propaganda is delivered by a number of groups including Love Won Out, an outreach group established by Focus on the Family, Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays (PFOX), and Exodus.

In the video, Focus on the Family's Stuart Shepard is seen wearing a sign stating "The Truth Always Wins Out". As the video progresses, a number of individuals (with angry faces intended to mimic militant homosexuals?) affix other signs on top of it...demonstrating the assertion that gays are attempting to silence the voice of people of faith.

Anyway, I decided to have some fun with a couple of screen shots from the video and a saying from my Italian heritage, "When a fish rots, it starts from the head". There are a number of versions of the saying, but they all deliver the same message - when an organization, family, club, or any other affiliated group of people lose their way, it starts with the leader.

As you'll see from the graphic, I'm suggesting that there's something "fishy" about Focus on the Family and its leader James Dobson...if you know what I mean. Oh, and lest there be any doubt, TRUTH WINS OUT.

TruthWinsOut.jpg

Tagged as: California, Evangelical, Exodus, Focus On The Family, Gay, James Dobson, LGBT, PFOX, Religion, Same-Sex Marriage, Stuart Shepard, TruthWinsOut.org

Daniel DiRito | June 18, 2008 | 8:54 PM | link | Comments (2)
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Pastor Hagee Misrepresents "Thoroughly Modern Women" genre: Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak & Uncivil Unions

If you listen to Pastor John Hagee, modern women are little more than sinful secular caricatures of all he would deem wrong with the fictional women portrayed on Sex & The City. In fact, he sets out to portray independent women (feminists) as little more than hedonistic sluts who engage in the excesses of self-satisfaction. Yes, according to Hagee, nothing about modernity...as it applies to women...is sufficient or redeeming in the eyes of the obtuse pastor.

Now I'm going to go out on a limb and attempt to identify the hypocrisy that emanates from men like Hagee...especially when they set out to proclaim one political candidate superior to another...while never comparing and contrasting the reality of the lives of the candidates with the rhetoric they espouse.

First, an important caveat. I don't actually think the personal lives of candidates and their families are all that relevant to their ability to execute the duties of the positions they seek. However, when one side of the political spectrum decides to make morality and values the prevailing determinant for their followers, the other side must respond to the pointed attacks launched to impeach the character of their candidates...or their family members.

Here's the point. Many within the GOP want to portray Michelle Obama as a "modern woman". They did the same with Hillary Clinton for years. While these current assailants refrain from defining Michelle Obama by the specific attributes mentioned by Hagee in the video below, they associate her with the notion of modernity...and therefore they endeavor to infer that her values are aligned with the specious caricature described by Hagee. Hence, the sympathetic voter is never asked to take the time to complete a thoughtful examination of Michelle Obama's values and her redeeming attributes. In fact, those voters who are predisposed to accepting Hagee's world view are asked to do little more than connect Michelle Obama with modernity...and therefore the derisive definition provided.

At the same time, they hold up their own candidates and their families as examples of all that is decent and moral...predicated upon the one-dimensional assumption that their candidate will cast votes that support the agenda of the religious right and men like Hagee. Here's the problem...they do so while ignoring any of the questionable values that their candidate, and/or the family of their candidate, may have demonstrated over the course of their lives.

In other words, the morality of their candidate is only measured on the basis of the votes that candidate will promise to cast. This means that men like Hagee (and the followers they lead) are fully content to disregard the personal history and morality of their chosen candidate (while highlighting that of the opposition) if the result is political gain.

I find this strategy to be an abrogation of reality that is not only unacceptable...it is also an act of incorrigible deception. Even worse, it is an insult to the morality that is worn like a badge by men of John Hagee's ilk. You may be thinking that this is the point at which I plan to pivot to assail the values and morality of John and Cindy McCain. It isn't and I won't. It isn't necessary since anyone who wants to pursue such comparisons, without prejudice, can find the relevant documentation in the public record.

You see, choosing our next president shouldn't be limited to a measurement of the values of Barack Obama or John McCain...or their wives. Unfortunately, there are those, like Hagee, who would seek to misconstrue the values of others for political gain and power...under the guise of religious righteousness. Truth be told, Michelle Obama's modernity should not be an indictment of her values any more than Cindy McCain's unfortunate battle with drug addiction should overwhelm the good deeds she's performed.

Those who hide behind the rhetoric of religion to pursue power are a threat to the values we hold because their manipulations are designed to misconstrue morality. In doing so, good people frequently become unsuspecting casualties. As we approach the November election, the task of all Americans is to sift through the smoke.

When men like John Hagee tell us that modernity offends motherhood, our obligation, as people who espouse a commitment to the family, is to look to those mothers who have embraced modernity (women like Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton) and conduct an honest examination...absent the hyperbole of those who seek to promote patriarchy at the expense of progress.

In the end, humanity will only achieve it's potential when it refuses to stifle the vast potential that resides in all of us...regardless of gender or any other label that is attached as a means of limitation. If Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama represent modernity, then John Hagee and those who entertain his ideology of oppression are the unacceptable antithesis. I'm hopeful that 2008 will be the year that voters choose to turn this cathartic corner.

Tagged as: Cindy McCain, Feminism, God, Hillary Clinton, John Hagee, Michelle Obama, Misogyny, Modernity, Religion, Secularism, Sexism, Values, Women, Women's Rights

Daniel DiRito | June 18, 2008 | 12:57 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Heinz Deli Mayo Advertisement: "Mum's" The Word genre: Gaylingual & Uncivil Unions

The following video is a new advertisement being run by Heinz in the UK. The ad, designed to promote it's Deli Mayo, is delivered with a different take on a typical morning in most homes...where mom is preparing school lunches for the children and dad is getting ready for work.

From The Guardian:

Heinz is set to challenge some viewer expectations with a light-hearted TV campaign that features two men sharing a kiss.

The TV commercial, which promotes a new range of dressing called Heinz Deli Mayo, breaks tonight and will be supported by a press campaign.

AMV BBDO said that the concept behind the campaign is that the product tastes so good "It's as if you have your own New York deli man in your kitchen".

The twist in this ad is that "mum" is actually a man...one that looks like an employee from a New York deli, complete with the appropriate accent. Despite the gender bending, everything plays out as expected...the kids interact with mum while she readies their lunches and dad gives mum a goodbye kiss as he heads off to work. I think the subtlety is effective and charming.

As an aside, imagine it is still 2004 and think about what the GOP would have to say about this ad and the fact that John Kerry's wife is none other than Theresa Heinz Kerry.

Tagged as: Gay, Heinz, Humor, LGBT, Tolerance

Daniel DiRito | June 18, 2008 | 9:52 AM | link | Comments (1)
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June 16, 2008

John McCain Revealed: The Unborn, Gay Marriage, & Health Care genre: Gaylingual & Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak & Uncivil Unions

MCainBushFourMoreYears.jpg

John McCain would like independents, moderates, Reagan Democrats, and Hillary Clinton supporters to think of him as a maverick who doesn't march in lockstep with George Bush and his right wing ideology. The problem is that John McCain is traveling the country espousing the very principles that define the evangelical agenda George Bush touted throughout his presidency.

McCain's recent comments to a gathering of Catholics offers insight into what voters could expect from a McCain presidency.

From Catholic Exchange:

The first issue addressed by McCain was abortion. He said that the "noblest words ever written" were "the inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." McCain believes that those words "apply to the unborn." He reminded the Philadelphia Catholics of his pro-life voting record, adding that he would "maintain that commitment" if elected president.

McCain also brought up the subject of defending marriage, saying that some in the room may differ with his view that this decision should be taken up first in the states. "But," he added, "if some federal judge rules that all the states must recognize the [gay] marriages in Massachusetts, I would be in favor of pursuing a Constitutional amendment."

When asked about the possibility of universal healthcare, McCain rejected the idea completely. "The government can't run the healthcare systems it already has; take a look at the Bureau of Indian Affairs." He argued that government-run health systems around the world have been "colossal failures," and inevitably become two-tiered systems, "one for the rich and one for the poor."

It's well known that McCain is aligned with George Bush in supporting the war in Iraq and continuing the presence of large numbers of American troops. However, voter perceptions about his positions on social issues could benefit from a review of the above statements.

Lest voters fool themselves, it's clear that a McCain presidency would likely embrace the overturning of Roe v. Wade and seek to eliminate a woman's right to choose. Depending upon the real meaning of McCain's comment, one could easily see his administration working to define the moment of conception as the point at which an individual is granted legal standing...leaving women to simply serve as involuntary and unwitting vessels for unintended pregnancies.

As to same-sex marriage, one would be reckless to assume that John McCain would refrain from invoking the need for an amendment to the Constitution to define marriage as nothing more than the union of one man and one woman. Despite his statement that states should be allowed to decide the issue, he cleverly pivots to suggest that he's opposed to the courts enforcing existing laws with regard to any current requirements to recognize marriages enacted in other states.

In other words, the only reason he hasn't yet called for a constitutional amendment is because he can assert that same-sex marriage in Massachusetts has a residency requirement. Notwithstanding, with the recent ruling of the California Supreme Court, there is little doubt that out of state couples will soon marry in one state and then return to their home state wherein they could argue in favor of availing themselves of established recognitions such as the "full faith and credit" clause of the U.S. Constitution. At that point, I would bet on McCain leading the charge for a federal amendment.

To assume that a McCain administration would resist the temptation to appease an important segment of the Republican base is foolhardy. Like George Bush before him, I would expect a McCain presidency to raise the issue each time it needs to rally the faithful.

On the issue of health care, it's clear that a McCain presidency will simply seek measures that do nothing to disrupt the flow of more money to existing and established insurance providers. Unless and until health care costs are no longer allowed to operate unchecked, the tax credits promised by John McCain will, in short order, leave the public scrambling to afford ever increasing health care costs and the rising insurance premiums that will accompany them. It should be clear by now that the free market system has simply facilitated the expanding number of uninsured Americans.

John McCain can pretend he's not an establishment politician and he can attempt to portray himself as an agent of change...but his positions, since his defeat by George Bush in 2000, simply suggest that John McCain has become a loyal soldier who gladly tows the party line.

The fact that he thinks he can sell repackaged Bush administration kool-aid to an already skeptical citizenry suggests he not only mortgaged his straight talking soul to become George Bush's successor...he's become a run-of-the-mill snake oil salesman. I don't plan to be buying anything he's selling come November.

Tagged as: Abortion, California, Catholics, George Bush, Health Care, Insurance Premiums, John McCain, LGBT, Massachusetts, Pro-Life, Right To Choose, Roe v. Wade, Same-Sex Marriage, Supreme Court, U.S. Constitution, Women's Rights

Daniel DiRito | June 16, 2008 | 2:24 PM | link | Comments (0)
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June 11, 2008

Innocence Lost: The Path From Purity To Pragmatism genre: Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak & Uncivil Unions

AshesOfInnocence.jpg

Many Americans like to look at Europe as an example of the moral decay we can expect if we continue to alter our values and ignore our long standing Christian principles. Implicit in this belief, amongst many on the religious right, is the presumption that one's morality is directly correlated with one's sexuality...and that goes beyond any consideration of one's orientation. It also includes a belief that sexual activity is only acceptable under the umbrella of a marriage. That means that sex before marriage is unacceptable and it also infers that both parties are expected to be virgins.

Along with these sexual mores and our disdain for Europe is a growing belief that Islam is an unacceptable religion...or at the very least a religion that will not lead to salvation and therefore it cannot lead to one's admittance into heaven. Fortunately, life often provides the contrasts and comparisons necessary to illuminate the absurdity and/or hypocrisy of our beliefs...and our predisposition to judge others while ignoring the need for self-examination.

An article in The New York Times provides the backdrop for some measure of reflection...and an illumination of the slippery slope that moral certainty often becomes. The prevalence of Islamic immigrants in Europe has served to pit a strict religious ideology against a far more secular society...and that has led to some rather convoluted interpretations of propriety.

It seems that a number of the Islamic women (note that we don't focus on the Islamic men) who have partaken in the sexual freedoms afforded by European culture now find themselves in the unenviable position of being unacceptable marriage partners. Islamic teaching require that a bride be a virgin, and should that not be the case, she can be rejected and the marriage can be nullified. In extreme cases, family members (on both sides) feel justified in committing an honor killing.

To combat the stigmatization that results from losing their virginity...and to restore their moral standing...a number of Islamic women are now seeking out the services of the medical profession to "reconstruct" their lost virginity and allow them to comply with the prescribed marital expectation.

From The New York Times:

Gynecologists say that in the past few years, more Muslim women are seeking certificates of virginity to provide proof to others. That in turn has created a demand among cosmetic surgeons for hymen replacements, which, if done properly, they say, will not be detected and will produce tell-tale vaginal bleeding on the wedding night. The service is widely advertised on the Internet; medical tourism packages are available to countries like Tunisia where it is less expensive.

"If you're a Muslim woman growing up in more open societies in Europe, you can easily end up having sex before marriage," said Dr. Hicham Mouallem, who is based in London and performs the operation. "So if you're looking to marry a Muslim and don't want to have problems, you'll try to recapture your virginity."

The issue has been particularly charged in France, where a renewed and fierce debate has occurred about a prejudice that was supposed to have been buried with the country's sexual revolution 40 years ago: the importance of a woman's virginity.

The furor followed the revelation two weeks ago that a court in Lille, in northern France, had annulled the 2006 marriage of two French Muslims because the groom found his bride was not the virgin she had claimed to be.

The domestic drama has gripped France. The groom, an unidentified engineer in his 30s, left the nuptial bed and announced to the still partying wedding guests that his bride had lied. She was delivered that night to her parents' doorstep.

The next day, he approached a lawyer about annulling the marriage. The bride, then a nursing student in her 20s, confessed and agreed to an annulment.

The court ruling did not mention religion. Rather, it cited breach of contract, concluding that the engineer had married her after "she was presented to him as single and chaste." In secular, republican France, the case touches on several delicate subjects: the intrusion of religion into daily life; the grounds for dissolution of a marriage; and the equality of the sexes.

Some feminists, lawyers and doctors warned that the court's acceptance of the centrality of virginity in marriage would encourage more Frenchwomen from Arab and African Muslim backgrounds to have their hymens restored. But there is much debate about whether the procedure is an act of liberation or repression.

Those who perform the procedure say they are empowering patients by giving them a viable future and preventing them from being abused -- or even killed -- by their fathers or brothers.

Now I realize that many on the religious right will simply condemn the loss of virginity as well as its restoration...and I believe I understand how they would come to that conclusion. Regardless, I don't believe any of us can ignore the lessons we can learn from looking at this clash of religious ideology with secular society.

The willingness to characterize Islam as an extremist belief system seems to disregard the many similarities it shares with evangelical Christianity. If one were to strip away the arguments over the source of each groups beliefs (Jesus v. Muhammad; the Bible v. the Koran) and looked exclusively at the values both groups espouse as well as their desires to impose them upon their fellow citizens, one begins to see that evangelical Christianity and Islamism aren't all that different.

The irony is revealed in the animosities that exist. Evangelicals view secularism and Islam as a threat to their beliefs...while Islamists view secularism and the tenets of Judeo-Christianity as the enemy. On the other hand, the secularists look at Islam and Christianity and struggle to ascertain the relevant distinctions while hoping that all can exist under the umbrella of a governance that remains separate from religion and religious beliefs.

Reason and rationality tell us that secularism is relatively accommodating...happy to allow citizens to embrace the belief systems they choose while insisting that they refrain from imploring the government to impose one belief at the detriment of another. Hence secularism embraces freedom while allowing those who are religiously inclined to live the ideological inclinations they elect.

Unfortunately, with the growing influx of immigrants, secular societies are constantly barraged by the demands of the ideologues who now reside within them...couched in the certainty of their faith absent any real respect for the faith of others or those who have no faith at all...all premised upon the writings of mortals who allegedly intuited the one true deity's directives.

That brings us back to an understanding of morality. Yes, evangelicals like to assail the French and the Islamists like to attack the infidels...but aside from dogma...just what is the basis of their morality? Can it be reduced to the existence of a woman's hymen? Can it be surgically restored? And where's the imperative to know about the places a man's penis may have traveled prior to marriage? Is morality nothing more than a misogynistic construct such that the purity of a woman is the only relevant consideration? We know that numerous women die in the interest of morality, but I want to know how many men are put to death for disregarding the same moral imperatives?

In many ways, hasn't morality become a contrivance or a club used to make discriminations...one that serves to elevate the standing of some members of society and denigrating that of others (gender and other considerations)...all the while endeavoring to impose the beliefs of one group upon all others? How is it that religiously derived morality is the least accepting of other iterations of morality despite its inability to rationally justify its assumed superiority?

In the larger picture, why is it that the one group that affords tolerance...the secularists...are the object of scorn and ridicule from people of all faiths? In truth, it is the secularists who are willing to admit the reality of this existence...that people will always adopt conflicting beliefs...and government's role should be accommodating. In the end, the secularist assumes that the only achievable role government can play is to allow for difference while rejecting and preventing the imposition of any singular or narrow belief system.

We Americans have a tendency to forget that our history is in its infancy when juxtaposed with that of Europe. No doubt the secular forms of governance that exist in Europe result from a recognition that the ideological differences (especially those derived from absolute religious doctrine) will never be resolved to the satisfaction of the purists. The evidence supporting this is found in the centuries of conflict, crusades, and death in the name of a deity that dominated the history of Europe.

Rather than ridicule Europe for achieving some measure of peaceful and cohesive stasis, perhaps evangelicals and Islamists could find the wherewithal to realize that the best they can hope for is the right to believe as they choose absent the constant fear that those very beliefs may facilitate their extermination. It has the added benefit of recognizing the inherent flaws of the human condition. That seems like a rather evolved morality to me. If the cost is nothing more than the loss of purity, sign me up.

Tagged as: Bible, Europe, Evangelical, France, God, History, Honor Killing, Innocence, Islam, Judeo-Christian, Koran, Misogyny, Morality, Muslim, Purity, Religion, Secularism, Sexuality, Tolerance, Values, Virginity

Daniel DiRito | June 11, 2008 | 11:11 AM | link | Comments (0)
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