queer morality


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The Well-Read Red on the Old Mole Variety HourLast month, General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, defended the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gay service members by saying that "I believe homosexual acts between two individuals are immoral and that we should not condone immoral acts.” He apparently did not comment on the morality of, say, invading a country and directly or indirectly causing the deaths of approximately 655,000 individuals. That evident contradiction, according to which gay love is bad, but killing is good, is addressed by Chris Hedges, author of American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America in a recent column in Truthdig:

"The radical Christian right . . . has built a binary worldview of command and submission wherein male leaders, who cannot be questioned and claim to speak for God, are in control and all others must follow. Any lifestyle outside the traditional model of male and female is a threat to this hierarchical male power structure. Women who do not depend on men for their identity and their sexuality, who live outside a male power relationship, challenge this pervasive cult of masculinity, as do men who find tenderness and love with other men as equals. The lifestyle of gays and lesbians is intolerable to the Christian right because its existence is a threat to the movement’s chain of command. . . . This hypermasculinity, which crushes the independence and self-expression of women, is a way for men in the movement to compensate for the curtailing of their own independence, their blind obedience to church authorities and the calls for sexual restraint. The images of Jesus often show him with thick muscles, clutching a sword. Christian men are portrayed as powerful warriors. Jesus’ stoic endurance of the brutal whippings in Mel Gibson’s movie The Passion of the Christ presages the brutal, masculine world of this ideology. . . . Jerry Falwell, in a New Yorker interview, said Christ was not a gentle-looking, willowy man: “Christ was a man with muscles,” he insisted. Falwell and Gibson see real men, godly men, as powerful, able to endure physical pain and suffering without complaint. Jesus, like God, has to be a real man, a man who dominates through force. The language of the movement is filled with metaphors about the use of excessive force and violence against God’s enemies. The unspoken truth is that Christian men are required to have a personal, loving relationship with a male deity and surrender their will to a male-dominated authoritarian church. . . . Glorified acts of force and violence against outsiders, against nonbelievers, compensate for this unquestioning submission. The domination that men are encouraged to practice in the home over women and children becomes a reflection of the domination they are taught to endure outside the home. This cult of masculinity keeps all ambiguity, especially sexual ambiguity, in check. It fosters this world of binary opposites: God and man, the saved and the unsaved, the church and the world, Christianity and secular humanism, and male and female. There runs through this radical belief system a dread of disorder and chaos. The belief in a binary universe helps believers avoid confronting the confusion of human existence. Reality, when it is defined in these absolutes, is made predictable and understandable. All configurations of human life that do not conform to [this] rigid [. . .] model, such as homosexuality, are forms of disorder and tools of Satan and must be abolished. A world that can be predicted and understood, a world that has clear markers, can be managed and controlled."

Successful challenges to this movement are unlikely to come through legislative reform alone, any more than an end to racism came through the 1964 civil rights act outlawing racial segregation and discrimination. But legal recognition and rights would certainly be a step in the right direction. You have a chance to participate in such steps this very evening, Monday April 9, 2007, when the Oregon House Elections, Ethics and Rules Committee holds a public hearing on two gay rights acts: the Oregon Equality Act (SB 2) and the Oregon Family Fairness Act (HB 2007). Hearings will be held at 5:30 PM today in Hearing Room E at the Capitol in Salem. The House Family Fairness Act would provide for civil unions between same-sex partners. The Senate Equality Act would provide gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people with protection from discrimination in employment, housing, access to public places and other areas. While antidiscrimination law seems a no brainer (though the exemptions for religious groups raise thorny questions, and have been the subject of much negotiation), civil unions are more complicated. Bonnie Tinker, writing in this month’s Portland Alliance, asks, “How can I support a bill that treats same-sex partners as a separate class and asks us to wear the pink triangle of civil unions? On the other hand, how can I oppose a bill that intends to make things better for lesbian and gay families?” She suggests, “Go to the hearings on HB 2007 and demonstrate outside, or testify inside from a neutral position that they have given us the wrong choices. We need a choice that offers equality.” And Tinker propses several further actions: those in other sex relationships can refuse special rights and wear “the pink triangle of civil unions” along with queer couples; those in legal marriages can testify to the privileges they receive; on forms that ask for marital status, queers in couples might check the box that says “married”; those in legal marriages might check “single” in order to reject special rights. Tinker concludes, “Our acceptance of the caste system of legal marriage rights is a reflection of the depth of heterosexist conditioning in society. It is no longer acceptable. As with any oppression, the first step toward changeis to pay attention ot unconscious and unstated privilege. The next step is to negotiate for change. We are now ready for the next step: non-violent direct action to resist the inequality of legal marriage.”