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Religion Last Updated: May 26th, 2006 - 01:00:58

June 6, 2006: An appropriate date
By Mel Seesholtz, Ph.D.
Online Journal Contributing Writer

May 26, 2006, 00:56

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The Marriage Protection Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is scheduled for a vote in the Senate on June 6, 2006. That�s 6-6-6, an appropriate date indeed.

Forget the disaster in Iraq. Forget the enormous -- and still growing -- deficit. Forget that the government is spying on private citizens. Forget the Abramoff scandal (that involved prominent figures in the Christian Right). Forget that education is failing miserably. Forget that 43 million Americans have no health insurance. Forget the homeless. Forget the poor. Forget that every program of the �values voters�� president has failed miserably.

All energies, monies and political lobbying must once again be focused on preventing a small percentage of 2-4 percent of the population from entering into the state-sanctioned civil union called �marriage.�

The Christian Right is again playing the homophobia card as they crank up new efforts to write discrimination and religious dogma into the U.S. Constitution. The call has gone out:

Volunteers Needed to Protect Marriage

A grassroots effort is under way to tell U.S. senators that America wants marriage constitutionally protected.

A coalition of pro-family groups is looking for volunteers to tell senators that America overwhelmingly supports an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

The article was written by Wendy Cloyd, assistant editor of Focus on the Family�s CitizenLink newsletter: �If you�d like to volunteer to help get the federal Marriage Protection Amendment passed by Congress, visit this Web site and click on the button that says �We Need Your Help -- Volunteer Form.�� The web site referenced is that of The Arlington Group, but Ms. Cloyd�s article concluded with this parenthetical: �(Paid for by Focus on the Family Action.)

Focus on the Family Action is the �official� political arm of James Dobson�s syndicate. Michael Crowley, senior editor at the New Republic, called Dobson �The religious right�s new kingmaker.� In �James Dobson: Focusing on Himself,� Brian Elroy McKinley used the �kingmaker�s� own words to show how Dobson has set �himself up as the moral authority of the nation.�

Dr. Dobson made his own anti-gay fanaticism abundantly clear in his 2004 book Marriage Under Fire in which he offered 11 �reasons� to oppose same-sex civil marriage. According to Dobson, if gays and lesbian are allowed to legally marry, �The culture war will be over, and the world may soon become �as it was in the days of Noah.�� How�s that for fanatical?

Dobson�s other 10 �reasons� are just as ludicrous and are debunked in �Out of Focus on the Family: A Response to Arguments Against Same-Sex Marriage,� Popular Culture Review, 16:1 (February 2005), 45-75.

Despite calling themselves �mainstream,� these high-profile fanatics are not.

From The New York Times:

An interfaith coalition of clergy members and lay leaders announced a petition drive on Monday aimed at blocking a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. . . .

About 35 representatives of the coalition, Clergy for Fairness, said at a news conference that more than 1,600 clergy members had signed an online petition against the amendment. The group�s Web site has postcards that lay people can print out and send to members of Congress. . . .

Among those represented by the coalition are clergy members and groups affiliated with mainline Protestant churches; the Interfaith Alliance; Jewish groups including the Anti-Defamation League, the Union for Reform Judaism and the National Council of Jewish Women; Sikh groups; and the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations. . . .

�When one group is singled out for discrimination, it�s not long before other groups will be singled out, too,� said Rabbi Craig Axler of Congregation Beth Or in Maple Glen, Pa. �It�s the first time we see the Constitution in danger of enshrining discrimination against one party, one class, and to remain silent as a Jew is unconscionable.�

The same was reported elsewhere even more bluntly:

Clergy opposed to a constitutional ban on gay marriage say social conservatives who support the proposed federal marriage amendment are bigots.

Several dozen Christian and Jewish leaders held a news conference on Capitol Hill, where they're lobbying senators to reject the amendment when it comes up for a vote about two weeks from now.

The measure defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman is supported by Roman Catholic bishops and the Southern Baptist Convention.

But Rev. Paul Simmons said the amendment �has the smell and feel of Salem,� comparing its supporters to the colonial Puritans who burned witches.

Rev. Kenneth Samuel, a Georgia pastor and NAACP officer, said many black pastors oppose gay marriage because they�ve been �bought out� with faith-based initiative money. [links added]

Rev. Simmons, a Baptist minister and University of Louisville professor, also made another astute observation: �There is a broad and profound opposition to the proposed amendment among religious people. . . . The thunder of the Religious Right should be resisted as misguided and prejudicial.�

And that political �thunder� has been loud. The strategy was concocted by Karl Rove, America�s Machiavelli, and propagated by zealots such as James Dobson and his Focus on the Family syndicate, Lou Sheldon and his ultra-homophobic Traditional Values Coalition, and Tony Perkins whose Family Research Council sponsored the theocracy-on-parade Justice Sunday events (JS I, JS II, JS III). The Rovean anti-gay strategy brought funds flowing into their homophobic coffers, increased their political clout, and reselected the dividing-Uniter-turned-Decider, who has been busy destroying the country ever since.

Proponents of the Constitutional amendment say they�re �protecting marriage,� as Mat Staver -- in his usual irrational form -- recently claimed in a New York case: �The Liberty Counsel leader contends that recognition of marriage between people of the same sex would result in �the abolition of male and female by making gender irrelevant.��

What is this man talking about? Is he suggesting same-sex marriage would cause the extinction of heterosexuality, nullify heterosexuals� sexual desire and change human physiology? Does he really think same-sex marriage would make all heterosexuals psychologically and physically impotent?

He and his ilk claim to be �protecting marriage.� From what? From whom? From people fighting for the right to get married?

If �traditional marriage� is threatened, it certainly isn�t by same-sex couples. The institution may, however, be threatened by heterosexuals, Britney Spears, and �born-again� Christians: �among married born again Christians, 35 percent have experienced a divorce. That figure is identical to the outcome among married adults who are not born again: 35 percent.� The Christian research-marketing Barna Group�s report also documented that �nearly one-quarter of the married �born agains� (23 percent) get divorced two or more times.�

Sen. Sam Brownback -- a Republican from Kansas, the state that redefined �science� -- pleaded for the passage of the Marriage Protection Amendment, which even he admits is doomed. Perhaps the senator should looks at recent polls that document the Marriage Protection Amendment is at the bottom of Americans� list of priorities.

Nevertheless, as Jay Brown of the Human Rights Campaign noted, the Rovean strategy is still at work: �The Federal Marriage Amendment consistently ranks dead last on a list of voters priorities but that won�t stop Congress from using this discriminatory amendment as a political ploy going into the elections.� Confirmation of Mr. Brown�s insight came in a May 5 report from �Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele is coming under fire for using same-sex marriage as a tool to garner support in his bid for a US Senate seat.�

Following in the footsteps of Staver, Brownback and Steele is Bishop Harry Jackson, senior pastor of Hope Christian Church, in Lanham, Maryland, who made some interesting statements when he used same-sex marriage as a political ploy to justify discrimination:

�There is a Judeo-Christian basis for all of our laws in America, and marriage came from the Church -- in a sense -- to the secular society,� he explains. �We believe that marriage is a sacred right, not a civil right . . ."

The bishop may want to read some history books. The civil institution we call �marriage� predates �the church.� Historically, �the church� simply glommed onto an existing secular institution and added its own dogma to enhance its social and political control, and the financial benefits that control brought.

How politically co-opted -- and utterly reprehensible -- for Bishop Jackson, an African-American, to forgot that many who employed his �thinking� used a �Judeo-Christian basis� to argue for slavery and to justify segregation in the name of �morality.�

But that �thunder� should be heard and welcomed, as a death-knell. Rev. John Shelby Spong explained why:

No prejudice is ever debated that isn�t already dying. The reason we debate a prejudice is because it isn�t holding anymore. We saw black people as being less than human. But we began to see them as human beings. It took a while to work that out. We used to define women as dependent, weak, emotionally hysterical, incapable of bearing responsibilities. Women began to challenge that in the 20th century. The same thing is happening with gay people.

The Senate debate will, no doubt, be filled with sanctimonious ranting from the likes of Rick Santorum, whose political future looks as bright as the Marriage Protection Amendment�s. And, no doubt, the Christian Right will continue its anti-gay campaigns, but they�re losing. You can hear the thunderous death-knell now . . .

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