Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Gay marriage drama--plus kittens

There's a rally planned at our state capitol in a couple days to protest a proposed amendment to the state constitution that, depending on the final language, could not only define marriage as "the union of one man and one woman at one time" (hmm... would Mormons in this state even blink before voting in favor of that definition?) but could also rule out any kind of legal recognition for domestic partnerships. The state university I've been attending here has allowed me to purchase health insurance for my domestic partner as if he were a spouse: would the university be able to keep allowing that if this amendment passes? I can certainly see how the proposed language could be cited in court to squash it.

I probably won't be able to attend the rally, so I've spent part of this evening sending the following letter to my state representatives and senator:
Dear ------ :

I'm writing to urge you to vote against HB 777/SB 106.

North Carolina has been my home for the past seven years, since I moved here accompanied by my partner of over ten years. Last year, the two of us were legally married in Washington DC. If we were an opposite-sex couple, our marriage would be recognized by the state of North Carolina; because we are a same-sex couple, it is not. Consequently, we live without a host of benefits--and obligations--that accrue under the law to married couples in this state. We've had to go to lengths that heterosexual married couples don't have to go to in order, for example, to try to secure the legal right to make life-or-death decisions for one another in the case of incapacitation.

HB 777/SB 106 reinforces prejudice against same-sex couples in this state. Underneath whatever positive spin its supporters put on it, this proposed constitutional amendment is prejudicial, plain and simple. I plead with you--please say no to this attempt to perpetuate discrimination against couples like my husband and me.
Yes, we're legally married--or as legal as we can get at this point in time. It happened just before New Year's. I didn't post anything about it at the time because my mother was still alive, and I didn't want her to know, since I suspected it wouldn't please her. I was planning to formally announce it to cyberspace in a blog post on our 6-month anniversary. But--cat's out of the bag now.


Also this evening, I signed an online petition for people of faith against LGBT discrimination. When it came time to identify my religious tradition, I put "Latter Day Saint." No hyphen, capital D. It seemed like the most precise way to identify. I think it's the first time I've formally claimed that label.


On a different subject: kitten drama. Another litter was born recently. A couple days ago, some neighborhood kids found them, took them home, parents wouldn't let them keep them--so they just turned them loose again, but not back where they found them. Two have now disappeared as far as I know. A third found its way to our downstairs neighbors. I took it off their hands and kept in the apartment through the rest of the day, with the idea that when I went out to feed the cats in the evening, I'd try to return it to the mother. The kitten was sociable and cute. She spent a good part of the day sleeping wrapped up in a towel, which she evidently enjoyed--she would burrow deep inside it.

That evening I returned her to mom, who after some uncertainty was ready to take her back. But then the kitten didn't seem to want to go back. I'd set her down in front of mom, and she'd turn around and toddle right back to me. It was like a damn Disney movie, and the cussing is because, yes, I admit it, I got misty. Finally, mom got a hold of the nape of her neck and carried her off to their hiding place under the sidewalk. The next morning, as I was walking the dog, the kitten popped right out to say hello, and I beat a hasty retreat. I haven't seen her since; mom seems to have moved her.

However, this afternoon I stepped out of the apartment and found mom standing on the steps, staring at me. Since she's never done that before, I take it to mean she thinks I have her other kittens, which is heart-wrenching. Damn meddling neighborhood kids.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Why is there blood on your skirts, Sharon Slater?

If you don't get the title of this post, read Helaman 9:26-35 and this news story.

I'm so angry, I find it hard to talk about this coherently.

It was not unpredictable, but it's still appalling, to see Mormons forging an alliance with a paranoid, violence-inflaming homophobe like Martin Ssempa.

I can empathize right now with the anger that produces a prayer like this:

Have mercy, O Lord,
on the wicked mob who have driven your people,
that they may cease to spoil,
that they may repent of their sins
if repentance is to be found.

But if they will not, . . .
and if it cannot be otherwise,
that the cause of your people may not fail before you,
may your anger be kindled,
and your indignation fall upon them,
that they may be wasted away,
both root and branch, from under heaven.

(D&C 109:50-52)
The problem is: God doesn't answer prayers like this. He doesn't intervene like this. That's the price we pay for agency. If we don't keep the Sharon Slaters and Martin Ssempas of the world from having their way with gay and lesbian people, no deus ex machina is going to save the day.

But if I thought God answers prayers like this, I would be praying it right now.

Of course, people on their side are praying right now that God will do these things to people like me.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Courage Campaign's "Testimony Video Contest"

The Courage Campaign, a progressive organization in California that's been prominent in the anti-Prop 8 movement, has launched a "testimony video contest" in partnership with Dustin Lance Black, a former Mormon who is one of a handful of gay rights activists to whom the LDS Church has recently made symbolic friendly overtures. They're asking people to submit homemade videos of themselves telling their personal stories, which Black will then review to find the "new face" of the marriage equality movement.

That particular public relations aim pretty much rigs the contest in favor of affluent professionals who are conventionally masculine and feminine (no gender transgressiveness or ambiguity, please!), since despite the horror it generates on the right, the LGBT movement has become quite conservative in its understanding of what counts as "respectability." But that's not the main point I wanted to make here.

What intrigued me about this initiative is the way that Black overtly invokes the LDS practice of bearing testimony. In a video promoting the initiative, he describes how growing up Mormon, he was encouraged to bear his testimony in front of the congregation, which, he explains, means "getting up in front of everybody you know and saying what it is you know to be true."

One of the aspects of Mormonism that has always made me proud of the faith is this practice--this very democratic notion (at least in theory) that everyone is entitled to stand at the pulpit and declare the truth as they have come to understand it. When I first started speaking at rallies back in the run-up to the Iraq war, I was conscious that I was doing the same thing I had done back in my days as a missionary: publicly proclaiming the truth as I knew it. Whatever radical critique there is to be made of the LGBT movement today, it tickles me to see this Mormon ideal being placed in the service of progressive politics.

Sunday, May 22, 2011


Your Heavenly Father knows that you have need of all these things.
(Matt. 6:32)

It's not that I believe in providential intervention—that would absurdly, even atrociously, presumptuous in a world where so many people don't get what they need. I'm fortunate, in the sense of lucky, and my soul's natural response is a feeling of grateful relief. So I give thanks.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Thanksgiving for Community House

Earlier this week, the Chapel Hill town council passed a vote that allows Community House, a transitional housing facility, to proceed with plans to build a new location. The Episcopal church that Hugo and I attend has been part of the interfaith coalition supporting the move, which has been opposed by some residents of the neighborhood where the new facility will be built.

I give thanks that the vote passed, and I pray that residents' continuing concerns can be effectively addressed as the project moves forward. I pray for those in my community who have lost their homes or are in danger of losing their homes.

The lowly will thrive and progress,
and the Lord will give them joy;
the poor will rejoice in the Holy One.
(2 Nephi 27:30, adapted)

Monday, May 2, 2011

Osama bin Laden is dead

Rejoice not when your enemy falls,
lest the Lord see it and it displease him.
(Prov. 24:17-18)
I say this as someone who has fantasized perfectly seriously about celebrating the (hopefully imminent) death of a certain apostle with champagne and a rousing chorus of "Ding, dong, the witch is dead."

That's a shameful thing to admit—and that's precisely my point.

I had mixed feelings when I heard that bin Laden was dead. Relief, of course. But also regret that the justice administered was vigilante justice, not legal justice in an international court.

But then I saw footage on the news of people basically dancing in the streets outside the White House, and I thought: This is perverse.

This is not an occasion for celebration. It's not an occasion to be waving our flag and chanting, "USA! USA!"

This man's death doesn't end jihadism. His death doesn't bring back the dead—in this country and others; all the dead on all sides of the conflicts unleashed by and leading up to 9/11. His death doesn't undo the abridgment of civil liberties or the outright atrocities that agents of this country have committed, and in some ways are still committing, as the fallout of 9/11.

People are cheering and chanting the death of Osama bin Laden because they feel avenged. I can empathize. There are people whose deaths I will be tempted to cheer and chant. And it's wrong.

I'm speaking here of Americans in general. I'm not going to presume to speak to the pain of individuals who lost loved ones at 9/11 or in the wars.


God of justice, God of life—

This was far from an ideal ending, though maybe it was the best that could be had.

If I pray that good may be brought out of this, does that make me complicit in what was done? I'd like to be clean from the blood, but maybe that's wishful thinking. Maybe it's supercilious.

I pray for all who have suffered, all who have lost loved ones, or homes, or limbs, or have been tortured, or imprisoned without due process, or suffered any kind of loss, because of 9/11, and the wars that followed, and the further terrorist attacks that followed.

I pray for all the dead, including your son, Osama bin Laden, whom you love and who has gone home to you. I have faith that's true, but I'm also sensing the cost required to make that statement true.

I pray for my enemies, though I don't know what to say more concretely than that.

In Christ's name, amen.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

SLC March for Immigrants' Rights

March For Immigrants’ and Workers’ Rights Tomorrow May 1 In Down Town SLC
(God bless the Mormon Worker!)

If I have my time zones correct, this march is just about to begin. What a great way to observe May Day—and, may I say, the Lord's day. I mean that seriously.

"Inasmuch as you do it to the least of these,
you do it to me."
(D&C 42:38)