Sunday, November 29, 2009

Fantastic Mr. Fox = Wonderful; Planet 51 = Not So Much

I like having time away from work, but these four-day weekends tend to drag. With that in mind, I had the opportunity to check out a couple different movies over the long weekend.

D' and I went to see "Fantastic Mr. Fox" on Thursday night, which was based on a book written by Roald Dahl. Filmed with stop-motion animation and featuring creative dialogue and musical soundtracks, it was a joy to experience. I have absolutely no experience with the original book so I have no idea how good an adaptation it was, but the movie was a peach. They did such a wonderful job of portraying Mr. Fox and the other animals as equally civilized and wild. D' enjoyed the movie, but got upset with the little girl who kept kicking at the back of his seat -- which led to him yelling at her about 3/4's of the way through. It didn't stop her for long from kicking his seat, but it made me chuckle. I strongly recommend this flick.

Yesterday afternoon, we decided to pass the time by going to see "Planet 51", an animated film about an astronaut who lands on an alien planet. The planet resembles 1950's-era mid-America, complete with bopper music, white picket fences, and societal paranoia about those who are different. The best thing this movie had going for it was Ripley, the dog-like creature that strongly resembled the creature from the "Alien" movies. As cartoons go, it wasn't terrible. I didn't fall asleep through it, but I don't see myself ever renting it in the future. D'Angelo had pretty much the same reaction. But the popcorn was pretty good.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Be Careful What You Wish For

I mentioned earlier that I attended Around the Table: Iowa's First Annual Summit of LGBT Families & Allies last weekend with Mark and the boys. One of the workshops that I attended was titled "Transracial Adoption in LGBTQ Families: The Challenges of Traversing Boundaries". I was hoping for more practical tips and ideas, but it ended up being more of a historical and sociological review of data. So not really what I was looking for, but it's not like I could slink out subtley to attend one of the other workshops.

One of the presenters was Pauline Park of the New York Association for Gender Rights Advocacy. She and her twin brother were adopted in the 60s from Korea and she has since studied and written about international adoption trends and identity issues, among other topics.

One of the more interesting things that she spoke about was the experience of Korean-American adoptees who've sought out their birth families, sometimes out of curiosity about their birth origins and sometimes out of rejection for their usually Caucasian-American adoptive parents (or sometimes both). One interesting trend occurs after the initial joys & tears of reunification: the expectations of the reunited adoptee vs. the expectations of the reunited birth parents.

Many of these adoptees have found themselves in the position of hooking up with birth parents who now see them as wealthy and capable of supporting them through their old age. Female Korean-American women who aren't yet married are now being pressured to marry and bear children and then take in their aging birth mother. This is particularly humorous (dark humor, that is) for lesbian adoptees who have no intention of marrying men, but whose birth culture has even less respect for their sexual identity issues than most of America. In retrospect, one only need sit through a marathon of Margaret Cho's old ABC sitcom, All-American Girl, to anticipate that type of cultural expectation.

I guess the thing I walked away from most from that workshop was the idea of being careful about what you wish for. Life might be far from ideal now, but nothing barring God is perfect. It's good to dream about how life might be different if you reconnect with your birth family or if you left your current job to learn a new trade or if you decided to leave your spouse for your neighbor. And it's certainly possible that your birth family might be more nurturing that your adoptive parents, your new career might provide you with better income growth, and your new wife might be better than your first wife. But it's also possible that your fantasies will turn out just as checkered with hardship and doubt as your current reality.

I'm not saying that people should be afraid to learn about their birth families or to make other big changes in their lives. Just that they should keep those peepers open when they make the jump. Be aware that things could end up many different ways, not just how you hope they'll turn out.

Friday, November 27, 2009

What's Up With Wal-Mart?

D' and I decided to do a bit of shopping this afternoon for a special order Christmas present for someone else in the family. Afterwards, we decided to stop by briefly at Wal-Mart for a few odds & ends and for me to do a bit of price-shopping. Nothing too big.

So after we bought my Coke Zero and socks, we found ourselves standing in a line waiting to leave the building. They had a couple customer service workers combing through each departing customer's bag and comparing the contents to our corresponding receipts. They then put a big "X" over the receipts before giving back our receipts and letting us leave.

I couldn't help being both insulted, as well as curious about the legality of that act. I mean, we all just purchased that merchandise. They were sifting through our personal property. Why stop with our recent purchases? Why not go through customers' purses, pockets, and man bags?

It seems to me like Wal-Mart was going forward with a universal accusation of theft towards all of its customers today. Was this happening across the country or just here in Iowa City? Why on Black Friday, but not other days? Not cool...

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Around the Table: Memories from Iowa's GLBT Family Summit

Mark, the boys, and I participated in Around the Table: Iowa's First Annual Summit of LGBT Families & Allies, sponsored by Lambda Legal, One Iowa, COLAGE, and a couple other organizations. The first half of the day focused on advocacy training and the second half of the day was filled with a variety of workshops focusing on a variety of topics, such as transracial adoption issues, working with our kids' educators, protecting your family legally, second-parent adoption issues, learning options for creating/expanding one's family, etc.

The boys spent the day with other kids doing social programming with COLAGE staff. Les enjoyed hanging with the older teens, but otherwise didn't have much to say about the day (which isn't that unusally). D' seemed to have a good time with the younger tweens and told us about a movie they watched about LGBTQ families. Otherwise, he really liked the hotel, but wished they had a pool. LOL!

I think a big part of the COLAGE programming was about helping kids of gay families connect with other kids of gay families and to realize that there are others like them. It is an important message for these kids, many of whom don't know any other kids outside of their family like them. Fortunately, the Iowa City area's a little unique has a fairly active play group for lesbian and gay families that's been active since the very early 00's. Also, our church and the other UCC church in town have other kids with gay parents in them, so the message wasn't as clear for D'.

A few weeks before the conference, Mark and I were contacted by the group's organizer to see if we could help out with one of the panels. Apparently, there aren't a lot of families out there in Iowa headed by gay dads who have experience with adoption, foster care, and who have kids affected by varied disabilities.

The panel was interesting. There was us. There was a lesbian mom who was raising her child from a previous heterosexual marriage with another woman. There was a black lesbian raising her biracial child with a caucasian wife. And there was a woman (and former neighbor) who was apparently the first lesbian in Iowa to go through the second-parent adoption process with her former partner (their daughter is now an early 20-something college student and seems to be doing well).

We each introduced ourselves and discussed challenges that we've experienced as GLBT families and how we've overcome those challenges. I kind of felt out-of-place talking about our issues, especially since they and our challenges were so much different than most of the others' and really dealt more with challenges dealing with the foster care systems -- not gay-specific challenges most of the time. But our story apparently resonated with the audience, or sparked questions related to the foster care system and how they could be involved with it.

I'll probably post thoughts related to some of the workshops that I participated in at the summit later this week as there were some interesting anecdotes that I learned, particularly related to transracial adoptions from Asian countries.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving Day Thoughts

I feel like I should be posting, but the biggest stuff on my mind is stuff I can't really get into online with too much depth. I guess I'll just ask prayers for the following areas of my life:

1. Family: I still haven't heard anything from anyone in my family about whether or not they're coming to the wedding. Heck, I haven't heard from more than half on our invite list. I'm trying to not let it stress my out too much, but it's on my mind. A lot. I'm sure much of it has to do with people putting things off, but I still can't stop wondering... Well, I can't stop wondering.

2. Pastoral Changes: I recently learned that our pastor is leaving. It seems like he just began worshipping with us and now we have to start searching for a new pastor for our little church. I hate the whole introspective process on interim pastoring. We did it for two years last time and that was just 2-3 years ago. I'm not sure I'm up to it again. But I can't really see myself leaving the people and place I've been in community with over the past decade plus.

Anyway, that's the big stuff right now.

I hope everyone has a Happy Thanksgiving tomorrow. Leslie is away visiting his family for a few days, so we already did Turkey Day on Monday evening. It was nice to work all day and then come home to a huge spread of turkey, potatoes, veggies, and pie, but we had some nice friends over. The plan is to cook a ham tomorrow on the True Turkey Day, preceded by a morning workout at the gym, and an afternoon home viewing of "Fired Up".

In the meantime, check out this Youtube clip of Super Friends, featuring one of my childhood favorites, Apache Chief. When I wasn't playing the part of the Wonder Twins during our gym-yard fun, I was stopping on bad guys as this super-sized superhero.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

My Thoughts on the Latest Miller/Jenkins Rulling

I've put off writing about the latest news in the ongoing court custody battle over 7-year-old Isabella Miller between her biological mother Lisa Miller and her non-biological mother Janet Jenkins. Here is the court case in a nutshell: Two women were in a relationship. One of the women got pregnant. The women were in a civil union. They raised the child together for a year or so. The women broke up, but maintained joint custody and the non-biological mother was financially supporting their child. Eventually, the bio mom moved from Vermont (one of the more gay-friendly states in the nation) to Virginia (one of the most gay-unfriendly states in the nation). She renounced her lesbianism, joined an extremely theologically conservative Christian church, sought the legal support of Christian law firm Liberty Counsel, and attempted to write out non-bio mom.

This case has gone back and forth, but the Vermont courts have been pretty consistent with supporting the rights of both parents in this case and Virginia, surprisingly and for the most part, have referred the case back to Vermont. The latest ruling came out late last week in which a Vermont family court judge apparently got fed up with this ongoing and contentious battle and switch the primary custody of Isabella from Miller (the bio mom) to Jenkins (the non-bio mom), with Miller having ongoing visitation and Isabella still being allowed to practice her faith.

Here are a few links to other sites to offer more detail and some varied reactions:

Beyond (Straight And Gay) Marriage

Box Turtle Bulletin

The Formers Blog


So here is my opinion:

1. This decision was a sad one, but a needed one. Notice which parent has been obstructing the other parent. Notice which parent is willing to help Isabella maintain relationship with both parents. Notice which parent has been repeatedly held in contempt and who has ignored unfavorable court rulings.

2. This case has always stunk of jurisdiction shopping (i.e., shopping for the county or state that will do its best to screw over one parent over the other in a custody case). I have a friend with two sons who is divorcing her husband (an Armenian citizen). She's terrified that he will travel with the kids to Armenia, a country where she has no real legal rights over the father. I know of other cases of divorced fathers who've been jacked for huge child and spousal support payments with minimal visitation arrangements, mostly because of the preferences of the local judiciary. It's terrible when it's done against fathers, and it's just as terrible when it's done against mothers.

3. Check out DaveT's comments on the Beyond (Straight And Gay) Marriage blog entry and note the reference to the Manhattan Declaration. This Manhattan Declaration will be used against GLBT people and our families at every turn. Don't like a law or a court ruling? Cite the Declaration and use it to drum up support and disobey the law. It's going to continue happening. Mark my words.

4. This goes for anyone having kids with someone else. Remember, once you bring in a kid to a family, you both have an obligation to that kid. That connection is forever, even if the parents decide to break-up. I don't care if you are no longer a lesbian or if you change your religious beliefs or if you find someone that you like better, it's not fair to your child to deny them both of their parents. Suck it up and be civil to each other for the sake of the child that you once lovingly planned and brought into this world.

I have no illusions that this case is over. But one can pray that this broken family will eventually settle this sad situation and do the best they can to raise Isabella.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

New Day, New Moon

The boys and I took a break from our pre-Thanksgiving Day cleanathon to watch the film adaptation of New Moon. I kind of fell into the whole Twilight thing. I'm one of those parents who'd never heard of the book series and then started hearing snippets of buzz when the first movie adaptation came out and got dragged into the theater by my teen. The movie sucked me in and my hubbie sucked me in further by buying me copies of the first two books for either Christmas or my birthday.

The first book was pretty good and it gave more padding to the movie's plot, but the second book dragged on and on and on, what with Bella's obsession with abandoner Edward Cullen, her passive-aggressive flirtation with good guy Jacob Black, and her ongoing death wish and self-fixation. Some co-workers and Facebook friends assure me that I just don't understand what it's like to be a girl in her teens -- which is true --, but it was only assurances that the series would be better come books 3 & 4 that allowed me to slog my way through New Moon. Fortunately, New Moon's director did a good job of trimming off much of the obnoxious fat, so I was happy and pleasantly surprised to learn the Eclipse (the third book in the series) will be released as a movie in June 2010.

Mark asked me the other day if I was on Team Edward or Team Jacob. I hadn't heard of it, but apparently I fall in the narrow minority of folks who support Team Jacob. Then again, I tend to believe that Jacob is way better without Bella in his life.

I've always been disinterested in vampires. I just don't see the draw. I mean, I was a fan of Angel and Buffy, but I never fantasized about waking from the dead and feeding off the blood of innocents. A friend of Mark's has a theory that all girls go through at least one of three fixation phases in their lives: horses, huge solitary trees, and/or vampires. So maybe it's a female thing.

But I am fixated with werewolves. Actually, shape-shifting (lycanthropes, mermaids, Jekyll/Hyde, etc.). I think it has to do with the transformational aspect of it all. Give me a werewolf story and I'm all over it.

Anyway, check out New Moon if you get a chance. Moderate levels of romancing, slightly more action than in the first movie, and lots of Indian eye candy to get you through to the ending credits.

Friday, November 20, 2009

ECOTs United Against GLBTs, Part 2

I'd blogger earlier about the various evangelical, catholic, and orthodox Christian leaders who have banded together behind the Manhattan Manifest and vowed public disobedience against laws protecting gay people and our families from discrimination. Jeremy Hooper over at Good As You has published the complete text of the Manhattan Manifest. Go there to read it in its entirety. Here are some snippets:

The "threat" to ECOT Christianity:

We are Christians who have joined together across historic lines of ecclesial differences to affirm our right—and, more importantly, to embrace our obligation—to speak and act in defense of these truths. We pledge to each other, and to our fellow believers, that no power on earth, be it cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence. It is our duty to proclaim the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in its fullness, both in season and out of season. May God help us not to fail in that duty.

Gays marrying will lead to incest and plural marriages:

The assumption that the legal status of one set of marriage relationships affects no other would not only argue for same sex partnerships; it could be asserted with equal validity for polyamorous partnerships, polygamous households, even adult brothers, sisters, or brothers and sisters living in incestuous relationships. Should these, as a matter of equality or civil rights, be recognized as lawful marriages, and would they have no effects on other relationships? No.

Gays love abortion and euthanasia:

It is ironic that those who today assert a right to kill the unborn, aged and disabled and also a right to engage in immoral sexual practices, and even a right to have relationships integrated around these practices be recognized and blessed by law—such persons claiming these “rights” are very often in the vanguard of those who would trample upon the freedom of others to express their religious and moral commitments to the sanctity of life and to the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife.

Oh, there are huge chunks of the text devoted to religious liberty. Never mind that these groups routinely trample over and ignore the religious liberties of those of us that believe in the sanctity of all marriage (whether het or gay).

Anyway, check it out over at

Review: "Bulletproof Faith"

I found a copy of Candace Chellew-Hodge’s book, “Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians”, at the bookstore this past weekend. I’d heard some good buzz about the book through various sources, including the UCC’s Coalition for GLBT Concerns’ website. Ms. Chellew-Hodge is a UCC pastor and is the creator of the website

According to the blurb on the book, “Bulletproof Faith” “shows readers a way through the minefield of condemnation and persecution faced by gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Christians and helps foster a faith that is bulletproof – impervious to attacks, yet loving and savvy in its approach. (It) is filled with useful insights and proven spiritual practices that deflect attacks and enhance and strengthen faith by turning attacks into opportunities for spiritual growth.”

I’m only a couple chapters into the book, but I’m getting a lot out of it so far. From the first few paragraphs, pastor Chellew-Hodge’s message resonated greatly with my own perspective. For example:

Religion is not the “other side” of the “homosexual issue” any more than people who believe in a flat earth are the “other side” of the global warming issue or any more than the Ku Klux Klan is the “other side” of the black civil rights movement. Despite the media’s relentless search for the “other side”, for some issues, there isn’t a viable “other side”. This issue is one of them…

That’s not so say, of course, that being born (GLBT) automatically confers morality. Heterosexuality is presumed to be an inborn trait, yet that, in and of itself, does not make a person moral. Some inborn traits are certainly harmful, such as a biological leaning toward addiction, disease, or mental illness. Sexual orientation itself, however… is neither a moral issue nor harmful in and of itself. A person’s innate sexual orientation is irrelevant to concepts of morality.“The question of morality intersects with sexual orientation only in consideration of how we use our sexuality. The scriptures can be a valid guide here, but arguments regarding morality must apply to persons of all sexual orientations. The scriptures address sexual orientation in three main categories: adultery, prostitution, and rape. Adultery breaks a covenant of commitment between partners, prostitution is the practice of using another person for sexual gratification, and rape is the abuse of another in a sexual manner….

Once we understand that there is no valid “other side” to the “homosexual issue”, our faith can grow and become bulletproof. When we hear arguments against us based on Scripture, we know they hold no water—they have no power over us.”
(pages x-xii)
“Bulletproof Faith” does a good job of teaching people to recognize those who routinely seek to destroy the faith and lives of GLBT people by helping us to solidifying our understanding of the Bible and its messages and by helping us learn to step backwards a bit from those who seek to be our enemies to minimize their attempted harm.

Basically, it teaches that they have no power over us. We know the truth of our lives. We know the truth of how we live our lives. We hear their lies and recognize that those lies don’t match our reality. The times that I’m most miserable when I'm online are when I allow myself to internalize the nasty words posted by anonymous strangers who are out to cause harm. I’m most at peace when I project my truth and reflect my reality. I don’t have to necessarily hide from religiously-motivated falsehoods about my faith or my family, but my positive response to their words has not only a calming effect on my own mood, but also on many of the others in those discussions.

ECOTs Unite Against GLBTs

Good news for those seeking ecumenical unity amongst Catholics, Evangelicals, and Orthodox Christians. They have called on the name of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr, and taken a stand against gay families (oh, and abortions):

Citing the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s call to civil disobedience, 145 evangelical, Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christian leaders have signed a declaration saying they will not cooperate with laws that they say could be used to compel their institutions to participate in abortions, or to bless or in any way recognize same-sex couples.
"We pledge to each other, and to our fellow believers, that no power on earth, be it cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence," it says.

The manifesto, to be released on Friday at the National Press Club in Washington, is an effort to rejuvenate the political alliance of conservative Catholics and evangelicals that dominated the religious debate during the administration of President George W. Bush. The signers include nine Roman Catholic archbishops and the primate of the Orthodox Church in America.

This issue came to a head recently when the Catholic Diocese in Washington DC threatened to pull out of all charitable services if they were required to follow the city's non-discrimination laws for gay people (something that's been around for a couple decades), but they've framed it as an anti-marriage equality challenge. They don't like ENDA, even though religious organizations are exempt from that.

There's no end to the evils that the Christian church needs to protect itself, according to this article:
Imagine, a religious-based, tax-supported organization actually providing services for gay people in need. How tragic.
The most likely points of controversy, (Ira C. Lupu, a law professor at George Washington University Law School) said, could involve religious groups that provide social services to the public. Such organizations could be obligated to provide social services to gay people or provide spousal benefits to married gay employees.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

National Adoption Day: November 21st

I'm not sure if I will have time to write Friday or Saturday this week and wanted to make sure to draw people's attention to National Adoption Day on Saturday, November 21st. National Adoption Day is celebrating its 10th year of existence: a special day when court offices open the doors and finalize the adoptions of many of foster kids whose adoptions are currently backlogged. Besides finalizing these adoptions, National Adoption Day also serves as an opportunity for communities to talk about and promote adoption.

I think I've written before that Mark and I adopted our youngest son from foster care. It was an exciting (and exhausting) day as we drove to nearby Cedar Rapids to meet with the judge and to answer questions about what we had to offer D'Angelo as his parents. We then rushed back to Iowa City and hosted a huge party at one of the community's recreational centers. We hoped to host a dozen or so friends and family. Instead, we ended up with dozens of well-wishers.

I remember a few years back (I believe in 2002) when a bill was bopping around in the Iowa legislature that would specifically ban gay individuals and couples from foster parenting and adopting. We were finishing our first year with Leslie and the entire process was frustrating, insulting, and terrifying. I remember spending months writing to pretty much any Iowa legislator asking them to prevent this bill from coming to a vote. I even called rightwing radio host Jan Michaelson on WHO in Des Moines one morning to talk about why this proposed bill was a bad idea. He asked me about statistics of gay men's sexual patterns and I questioned how many of these guys were actually seeking to become parents. I also pointed out real life stories of gay folks who've taken in older, disabled kids in Iowa who would have otherwise ended up in residential care for 10 times the cost to the taxpayers.

I wrote to one of the bills sponsors and questioned the need for this bill. Why, I asked, involuntarily splice out an entire and significant group of existing foster and pre-adoptive parents from the state of Iowa? If people are concerned about gays foster parenting, why not recruit more potential foster parents who share similar values to them instead of eliminating those who've already stepped up to the plate?

Fortunately, this bill never made it to vote and it's never come up since.

Periodically, I like to check the Iowa KidsNet website to see the kids who are currently awaiting adoptive homes. These aren't newborns and toddlers. Most of these kids are in their teens and tweens. Some of them have mental disabilities and others have behavioral disabilities. Some don't, but are old enough that they're difficult to place. But all of them need permanent families. I'm sure if you google-searched your state and adoption information, you could find similar website filled with waiting foster kids.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Christmas Lists

I received D's Christmas Wish List a few days ago. Just a few little trinkets that he threw together for me:

*Any "Call of Duty" video game for his PS3 system.
*An iPod.
*An iPhone! (his exclamation point) or a regular cell phone.
*A skateboard.
*A DSi.
*Guitar Hero 2 + a guitar hero (presumably for his PS3).
*MONEY! (again, his exclamation point).
*A real guitar.
*A Wii.
*A remote control car.

Leslie came up with his own Christmas wish list. Pretty simple:
*An XBox 360.
*A specific James Bond DVD from the 80s, whose name currently eludes me.

I'm sensing a trend here. I have tried redirecting the boys to more varied and less costly gift ideas. I get blank stares.

I have already warned D' that he is not getting any new game systems. At most, I'll give him a gift card so he can buy a new game for the PS3 that he just cleaned out his wallet for back in September.

Beyond that, the skateboard and the DVD are both looking good. And maybe the guitar. Maybe.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Catholic Charities Threatens Poor Over GLBT Non-Discrimination

A new marriage equality bill is coming up for a vote by the Washington DC City Council soon. It does not force churches to perform weddings for gay couples (or any couple, for that matter), but religious-based organizations will still have to obey the city’s anti-discrimination laws. So of course DC’s Catholic Archdiocese is threatening to pull out of all social service programming (adoption home studies & facilitations, homeless shelters, health care assistance). In other words, they are more concerned about discriminating against gay people than following Christ’s mandate of serving the poor:

The Catholic Archdiocese of Washington said Wednesday that it will be unable to continue the social service programs it runs for the District if the city doesn’t change a proposed same-sex marriage law, a threat that could affect tens of thousands of people the church helps with adoption, homelessness and health care.

…Catholic Charities, the church’s social services arm, is one of dozens of nonprofit organizations that partner with the District. It serves 68,000 people in the city, including the one-third of Washington’s homeless people who go to city-owned shelters managed by the church. City leaders said the church is not the dominant provider of any particular social service, but the church pointed out that it supplements funding for city programs with $10 million from its own coffers.

…“If they find living under our laws so oppressive that they can no longer take city resources, the city will have to find an alternative partner to step in to fill the shoes,” [City Council Member David] Catania said. He also said Catholic Charities was involved in only six of the 102 city-sponsored adoptions last year.

They are worried about stuff like providing health insurance to possible employees married to a spouse of the same sex. Are they similarly opposed to providing health benefits to the families of their employees who are in second (ie, post-divorce) marriages? How about employees who worship other belief systems such as Judaism or Islam? Why not just discontinue family health care benefits for all of their employees?

Where is the UCC in all of this? There should be a United Church of Christ Social Services program establishing services with communities such as Boston or DC where existing religious based social service agencies like Catholic Charities have packed up instead of risking charitable services towards gay people and/or families. This could be one of those bridge-building efforts where all UCC churches (ONA-churches, FWC-churches, A2A-churches, or plain old jargon-less UCC churches) could get together to financially support, IMHO. Then again, the Biblical Witness Fellowship would probably pitch a fit if we attempted to fill this charitable service gap, given their ongoing disdain for anything potentially gay. Either way, UCCSS might be a good source for charitable giving and also might be a more effective means of attracting attention than the God is Still Speaking ads of years past.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

US Rep Steve King of IA Skipped Son's Wedding for Health Care Vote

How classy. US Representative Steve King of western Iowa made a significant sacrifice in order to cast his vote against health care reform last weekend: he skipped his 31-year-old son Mick's wedding. My personal experience is that conservatives tend to only miss their kids' weddings when they are marrying people of the same-sex. But I digress...

I love this quote from the original article:
“It was not a hard decision for me to decide then that I had to be in Washington, if that was the time the vote was coming up. But it was still hard, if you know what I mean,” King said.

The reaction in the room?

No one in this family asked me to reconsider. They all said, ‘We know that you will do what you have to do,’” King said. “So I call it full-family support and full understanding. As I said, the best thing that I could give them would be to preserve the freedom that I was born into and be able to pass that along to any children that they will be blessed with.”
I don't know about you, but when I hear people say something like "you're gonna do what you're gonna do", that does not translate as I'm behind you 100%. It's usually code for, "I'm not happy about this, but it's not like I can do anything about it".

If you read the article, you see how Rep. King meant to call his son during the wedding to wish his son well, but got distracted by his job. What a sad commentary.

Meanwhile, according to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, there are 83,000 individuals (15% of the population) without health insurance in King's Iowa district. Additionally, there were seven hundred bankruptcies in King's district last year caused primarily by medical costs. But at least he got his vote in.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

How Has Marriage Equality Affected the Dutch?

Here is a link to an interesting interview with M. V. Lee Badgett, who is both the director of the Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law & Public Policy at the UCLA School of Law and a professor of Economics at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. She is the author of “When Gay People Get Married: What Happens When Societies Legalize Same-Sex Marriage". Marriage equality has been legal in the Netherlands since 2001 and that country also essentially had civil unions for both gay and straight couples since at least 1998.

Through her research, she found that very little has happened since marriage became an option for gay couples nearly a decade ago. Marriage and divorce rates have not changed. Both straight and gay couples tend to choose marriage over civil unions. The biggest change has been how people, both gay and straight, view gay people. Gay couples are seen mostly as equal to straight couples (outside of equal parental and adoptive rights) and there appears to be a push for gay couples to formalize their relationships by friends and family.

From the interview's closing paragraphs:

Q. What is the “take away” for those who are debating these questions in the U.S.?

A. The big point is that all of the evidence suggests that same-sex couples will fit right into our current understanding of marriage in the U.S. Marriage itself will not be affected. Dutch heterosexuals appear to have adapted to the legal change by changing how they see same-sex couples, not how they see marriage. Now they see gay couples as people who should get married, and they are happy to remind their gay and lesbian family members of that fact!

We also see why the word “marriage” matters. The Dutch same-sex couples I interviewed saw their civil union-like status as “a bit of nothing,” as one person called it, or as a political compromise that an accountant might invent. Only marriage has the social understanding to back up the legal status, and the social meaning is as important as the legal rights. Civil unions just don’t have that social meaning. One woman I interviewed put it this way: “Two-year-olds understand marriage. It’s a context, and everyone knows what it means.”

Finally, as in Europe, in the U.S. we see the most liberal states — the most tolerant of homosexuality, the least religious, and the ones with more family diversity — taking the earliest action through courts and legislatures to legally recognize same-sex couples. That’s not surprising, of course, but it suggests that we’re going at about the right pace for social change.

I found this clip yesterday on Youtube. It's a vintage segment from Sesame Street asking the question: What Is Marriage? Check it out:

Gay DPs Can't Even Bury Their Dead Without Offending the GOP

This is pretty gross. Rhode Island's governor, Donald Carcieri (R), just vetoed a new legislative bill that allows gay people the ability to make funeral plans for their deceased domestic partners. In his veto stated, Governor Carcieri stated "This bill represents a disturbing trend over the past few years of the incremental erosion of the principles surrounding traditional marriage, which is not the preferred way to approach this issue.

"If the General Assembly believes it would like to address the issue of domestic partnerships, it should place the issue on the ballot and let the people of the state of Rhode Island decide

This bill had nothing to do with marriage. This bill had everything to do with granting our families the legal ability to honor our deceased loved ones' burial or creation wishes. Is heterosexual marriage so weak that it can survive the inclusion of domestic partnerships in the list of people legally capable of making funeral decisions?

This veto is nothing but vile and mean-spirited. And it further clarifies that the GOP is no friend to the gay community, despite the pathetic mewings of tools like the Log Cabin Republicans or GOProud.

Shame on you, Governor Carcieri.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Loving the Disabled Jesus

I found this beautiful series of photographs today while web-surfing: The Last Supper as portrayed by a series of models with Down Syndrome. The top picture is difficult to make out, but I have included a larger image of one of the picture's segments at the tail of this blog entry.

I was reading a series of pull-quotes in one of Biblical Witness Fellowship's newsletters a few years ago and one of those pull-quotes referred to the "Disabled Jesus" (or something to that effect). Essentially, the quoted person observed that Jesus didn't fully become the Christ until he became broken and disabled. It was an interesting comment that I still like to ponder from time to time.

I have written before about people with disabilities in the church and how we as a members of the church fail when confronted with individual's special needs, be they physical, developmental, or mental. My own church used to tout itself as extremely accessible until a regular church member, who ambulates by wheelchair, began laughing and pointed out that there was no way for someone in her position to actually get to the toilets due to spacing both leading up to and within the bathrooms (this has since been addressed).

I see that the United Church of Christ has its own ministry devoted to disability issues (aptly called the United Church of Christ Disabilities Ministries). They urge UCC churches to go through a process of becoming A2A ("Accessible To All") designees. Its interesting to bop about that website, but I am left wondering how active it actually is. I cannot remember ever hearing about A2A churches within the UCC before. Some of the resources on the website are extremely dense. I want to print some it off sometime to read and eventually review.

Let me close by linking to an interesting sermon by Rev. Jim Vander Laan from the Christian Reformed Church. It relates the parable of the great Banquet Hall from Luke 14 where the one king tried holding a party for his friends, but everyone was too busy to come. So instead of packing up the wine and cheese, he opened up his doors even more to everyone in his community. Rev. Vander Laan relates this parable to the modern day church's invitation and acceptance of those among us who are poor and disabled. Give it a read:
... (T)aking the host in the parable to be God turns the poor, blind, crippled and lame into figurative representations of gentile converts instead of actual disabled and poor people. The man with dropsy was a real man, and Jesus means real people with disabilities when he tells his host to invite "the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind." So too the poor and disabled people in the parable represent real people with real disabilities who are really poor.

Jesus had compassion for real disabled people. In fact, he gives them special attention and promises them the sure hope of the resurrection and the transformation of their bodies. We too should follow his example. No matter how we understand the parable of the great banquet, Jesus' words are crystal clear, and they are for us, when he says, "But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they can not repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous." May the Lord give us the grace of his Holy Spirit so that we may share ourselves and everything we have with those in need. Then we will be ready for dining with Jesus when the time comes.

Wedding Planning: Update #2

We finally got the invitations printed out, individually decorated, and mailed out! One more thing to check off the list! I ended up copying a generic form of the invitation template and putting one copy into each of my co-worker's mail boxes (I finally decided that I need to invite all or none -- I went with all). I guess the wedding was the talk of the office, though only one person spoke with me about it and that was to ask if we are registered anywhere.

I guess we're going to do a small registry at Target. It seems silly for a couple that's been together for 15 years to ask for gifts. We decided to do a wedding-version of a memorial. Monetary gifts to charities of our choice: Mark favors the Iowa City Crisis Center. I favor Faith United Church of Christ. D' favors Pilgrim Heights. And Leslie...? Well, he'd rather pocket the money. We'll have to work on that.

This week's goal: pick out hymns for our pianist. Most likely, we won't have a soloist. So we need to make sure that our hymns are chosen with extra diligence.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

But At Least You Can Get High...

As everyone and their dog is likely aware, there were elections last Tuesday and Maine voters narrowly rejected a legislative-passed marriage equality law, while also approving a referendum allowing the distribution of marijuana. Groups like NOM and the Catholic Diocese of Maine lied, lied, and then lied again about the effects of marriage equality (such as how your kids will be force-fed gay sex lessons between snacktimes in kidergarten), but they have no problem with the legal distribution of what is widely acknowledged by law enforcement agencies to be a gateway narcotic.

Marriage equality has been legal in Massachussettes for over five years. I might have missed something, but we haven't seen the scare stories materializing in that state. If I am missing something, let me know through the comments.

Referendum 1 could have failed (as could've Prop 8) last November and the anti-family forces of NOM and the Catholic Church and the LDS and all those voters would have woken up with some possible disappointment, but with no real effect in their lives. Their families wouldn't have been actually affected. Their stability wouldn't have been disrupted.

But families like mine HAVE been negatively affected by Ref 1 and Prop 8. Our families have been disrupted by popular vote. Our families got to wake up not knowing if our marriages would be annulled. We woke up without the ability to legally formalize our relationships.

People want to accuse gay people of sleeping around and spreading stuff like AIDS? Then why vote to repeal our marital efforts?

People want to accuse gay people that we can't commit to monogamy? Then why are you voting to repeal our marital efforts?

People want to accuse us of being hedonists? Then why are you voting to repeal our marital efforts?

I'm in the process of planning a wedding to legally solidify my own family here in Iowa and I wonder if it's even worth the time or money. Granted, it's more difficult to amend our state's constitution, so the soonest that this will come to the voters will be 2012 so there's hope that my fellow Iowans will have 3.5 years to see our families and to experience the effects of marriage equality on their lives.

I don't understand why we accept that the legalization of our families has to go to pubic vote. Why not bring health care reform up for public vote? Why not bring up the legalization of abortion for public vote? Why not bring up immigration control for public vote? Maybe it's because I live in Iowa and it's almost unheard of to have public referendums like this on the ballot, but I don't see the point in them. What's the point of having representative elected on our behalf?

The truth is that I don't trust my neighbors. The majority doesn't care if my family or families like mine are legally harmed by denying us marriage equality. They don't care if their pastors aren't actually being jailed or that their churches aren't being closed when they don't perform wedding ceremonies for gay couples (despite the lies and the rhetoric). The lies give them justification to vote against others' families. And the lies don't matter as long as your campaign wins on Election Day.

But at least they can toke up after voting against gay families.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Health Care Reform

Another batch of protests on Washington DC by a bunch of folks who apparently like their health care, who apparently have enough time to leave work for yet another revolt, and who apparently enjoy the current system that ignores the medical needs of many of their fellow citizens. My prediction is that nothing will change. The Democrats are making the bill too complicated and the Republicans are being too obstructionist.

Every day, I get to handle intake appointments with elderly and disabled individuals who are afraid of the federal government getting their hands on the health care system when they are perfectly happy with their Medicare and Medicaid health coverage (which happens to be funded through the federal goverment). Additionally, I get to listen to stories of people who have no health insurance coverage and who can't get health insurance coverage or who thought that they had health adequate health insurance coverage before becoming sick. It's stupid, but everyone's so intent on making the other look stupid or ineffective that nothing ever gets done.

Anyway, over in DC we have Representative Todd Akin of Missouri making potshots against "liberals" by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. Apparently, it makes people like me break out in hives. Then again, Rep. Akin can't even recite the Pledge without screwing it up. This must be an example of the federal incompetence that I keep hearing about:

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Intelligent Design

The following joke isn't original, but it made me chuckle:

Three first year engineering students were sitting around talking between classes when one brought up the question of who designed the human body.

One of the students insisted that the human body must have been designed by an electrical engineer because of the perfection of the nerves and synapses.

Another disagreed, and exclaimed that it had to have been a mechanical engineer who designed the human body. The system of levers and pulleys is ingenious.

"No," the third student said, "you're both wrong. The human body was designed by an architect. Who else but an architect would have put a toxic waste line through a recreation area?"

I've never understood the fervent debate between evolution and intelligent design. I guess I see the creationism vs. evolution issue, but ultimately it seems like a lot of pointless bickering over one religion's creation stories and scientific theory. You ultimately cannot prove either concept and I don't know that it's essentially that we prove either concept. Outside of the whole carbon-dating process, dinosaur and prehistorical mammal fossils, etc.
My favorite Intelligent Design theme park is the Creation Museum in Petersburg, KY. I'd heard of it before, but would never get Mark to let the boys go to it. I was watching an episode of the Duggers' program on TLC several months back and finally got a glimpse of the museum. It was interesting to see how they smooshed dinosaurs into Biblical story. It was also interesting to listen to the kids recite anti-evolution rhetoric, almost word for word between each of the 17 or so kids interviewed by TLC producers. It was also interesting to see that only one Intelligent Designing principle was asserted in the museum, as the museum told the story of Christ's birth and ascension. Which is cool.
Intelligent design has always seemed like the religionist attempt at cloaking evolutionary theory in Christian creationism. On the surface, it makes sense. The universe sprang from something. Life and the environmental systems that support life came from something. But ultimately, intelligent design isn't science. It's religion trying to fit itself into science. The question I'm left with is which intelligent designer are we going to teach in public high school biology classes if our school system begins pushing the issue?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Wedding Planning: Update #1

I have had some ups and downs this week with regards to our wedding planning. The invitations still are not ready, though I have finally come up with the basic design. We decided to go with a 'Winter Wonderland' theme. The hard part has been finding paper that goes with our color scheme, which Mark finally accomplished today. The plan is to finish work on the designs Thursday evening and have everything printed out and ready to mail out Sunday afternoon.

I checked in with my preferred vocalist. Turns out that she will not be in town during the week of the wedding, so she is not an option. I need to come up with an option #2, but honestly I have no clue who would be a good soloist. At this point, I'm thinking about having D' sing his rendition of "I Want a Hippopatamus for Christmas"!

Last week, we ordered my wedding ring and it finally arrived. Check it out!

And lastly, I went to the eye doctor today and got my prescription looked at. This is the design of eye glasses that I'm thinking of getting. I like the blue color, but realistically I need a black design.
So this is where we're at. This week's goal is obviously to finish and send out the invitations. Secondarily, we are going to fight things out with regards to our outfits.