Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Maine Voters Fell for Outright Lies and I am Angry

Maine was one of a handful of states that held state-wide election voting. New Jersey and Virginia elected new Governors while Washington state and Maine voted on state-wide referendums affecting the GLBT community. Other states, including Idaho, held local elections for City Council seats.

Earlier this year the Maine Legislature passed, and Maine’s governor signed, a new law granting marriage equality in the state. This opened marriage up to any two consenting adults without regard to gender or sexual orientation. So the Religious Right launched a ballot initiative to overturn that law.

By using many of the same tactics that successfully passed Prop 8 in California last year, and by using much of the same inaccurate, deceptive, dishonest and alarmist rhetoric, these same forces cowed Maine’s voters into overturning marriage equality in that state. This is a bitter defeat that the GLBT community throughout the United States needs to be concerned about, and unhappy with. Every successful denial of any part of GLBT civil rights strengthens the opposition and encourages them to be even bolder in future campaigns.

I am also angry with President Obama for staying silent in the weeks before this election. Indeed, he could have helped strengthen the supporters of marriage equality in Maine (and elsewhere) by using the power of the Executive Order to suspend the Federal Defense of Marriage Act while mandating its repeal by Congress. He could have spoken out and stressed that the Maine overturn effort was both unacceptable and wrong. But he did not.

As a result, people like Harry Knox, the Human Rights Campaign’s religions and faith program director wondering (among other things) “Am I human?” “Am I an American?” No American citizen, regardless of who or what they are should ever be forced to feel that way.

To hear the vitriol-infused opponents of GLBT civil rights protections put it, they are taking a stand to preserve the sanctity of marriage and to preserve America as a Christian nation. I don’t get it. The version of Christianity I grew up knowing is grounded deeply in truth, honesty in all dealings with your fellow man, and a non judgmental approach to life. In addition, even as a child I was taught that the Devil (by whatever name you choose to call him) is the father of all lies.

They claim that because the US is a Christian nation, and has been a Christian nation from its inception, they must support continuing discrimination and oppression based on factors they disapprove of. By taking this stand they negate a direct statement about the nature of the US found in the Treaty of Tripoli, ratified in 1797, and written by President George Washington’s administration. The preamble of this document asserts that "the government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion." Ergo, the United States has always been a secular nation open to all faith traditions and varieties of religious beliefs.

An excellent and comprehensive look at the question “is America a Christian nation?” can be found at the Freedom From Religion Foundation website. The more the religious right uses the Bible as a weapon against the GLBT community, the more strongly I feel like becoming a member of that organization.

The religious right claims that they are fighting to keep America solidly Christian. Yet, given their open embracing of all forms of dishonest rhetoric and behavior, frequently stooping to using outright lies to get their way, I am beginning to wonder. Given the New Testament’s description of the Devil as the “father of lies”, is the US becoming more securely Christian, or is it becoming more Satanic?