Barack Obama’s victory in the US presidential election does provide some cause for celebration. But anyone who thinks it’s going to make a significant difference to queer lives should think about California and religion.
As everybody knows by now, California voted, by a margin of 52-48 percent, to ban same-sex marriage by approving Proposition 8. The result, and the heavy involvement of churches, does not paint an encouraging picture when it comes to potential progress under an Obama administration.
According to CNN, the Mormon church may have contributed as much as half the money raised by the anti-gay marriage side and mounted a massive advertising blitz. But as well, the Baptist and Roman Catholic churches in California campaigned heavily in favour of Prop 8, actions that played a major role in the overwhelmingly anti-marriage vote recorded by the black and Hispanic communities.
“For the past few weeks, Latinos have called in to my radio show, horrified at the idea of same-sex marriage,” wrote Fernando Espuelas, the host of a Spanish-language radio show in Los Angeles. “Callers said they would vote for Obama for change — and for Proposition 8. They told me that the future of their family was at stake. Biblical passages were quoted, divinely inspired indignation given voice. The vision of a collapsed society, where men abandon their wives in droves to ‘become gay,’ consumed these callers.
“Is this simply a case of cognitive dissonance? By now, the media has reported the importance of the Latino vote to Obama’s win in such key states as Florida, New Mexico and Colorado. President-elect Obama, by some early estimates, garnered the largest share of the Latino vote of any candidate in history, carrying it by more than 2 to 1 over John McCain.”
Now, I’m not blaming blacks and Hispanics for the passage of Prop 8. There’s plenty of blame to assign, including to the anti-Prop 8 campaign itself, and to whites, Asians and atheists. But the link between religion and a significant part of the anti-marriage vote is unavoidable.
Obama did better among Catholic voters than any Democratic candidate since JFK, in large part because Catholicism is so big among Hispanics. And he did so well among black voters, not just because of his own ethnic heritage, but because of his ties to the Baptist church, which is so big in the African-American community.
In California, many black and Hispanic voters saw voting in favour of Prop 8 as part of supporting Obama. Obama technically opposed Prop 8, saying “I detest the bashing and vilifying of gays and lesbians.” But he also made it abundantly clear that he believed marriage should be exclusively between a man and a woman, and refused to campaign in any way against Prop 8.
The point is that two minority groups — African-Americans and Hispanics — for whom religion plays a major part were a major factor in getting Obama elected. Do you think he’s going to do anything significant that might annoy the Baptists and Catholics in those communities? Whose issues do you think will take a back seat when Jan 20 rolls around, and it comes time to enact a legislative agenda?
Obama needs the religious vote in America and he’s not about to go against it anytime soon.
But, hey, there is one area where Obama might actually take action. He might actually repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Now that US armed forces are running out of soldiers to die in Iraq and Afghanistan, the American people and the Pentagon are starting to think that maybe queers should be allowed to serve as cannon fodder as well.
Continuing on the American theme, ads running on public transit buses in Washington, DC are asking, “Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness’ sake.”
The American Humanist Association (AHA) is spending $40,000 on the ads, which will run through December.
“Our reason for doing it during the holidays is there are an awful lot of agnostics, atheists and other types of nontheists who feel a little alone during the holidays because of its association with traditional religion,” AHA spokesman Fred Edwords told the Associated Press.
Edwords said the ads aren’t intended to argue that God doesn’t exist but that “We are trying to plant a seed of rational thought and critical thinking and questioning in people’s minds.”
In October, the British Humanist Association ran ads on London buses saying, “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”
The Associated Press quoted American Family Association president Tim Wildmon as saying about the Washington ads, “It’s a stupid ad. How do we define ‘good’ if we don’t believe in God? God in his word, the Bible, tells us what’s good and bad and right and wrong. If we are each ourselves defining what’s good, it’s going to be a crazy world.”
Well, bring on the crazy, I say.
In further wacky American religious news, some group called “The Summum,” who practise mummification are taking the town of Pleasant Grove, Utah to the US Supreme Court.
The Summum want the right to erect a granite monument in a public park outlining their seven principles of creation, known as The Aphorisms: Psychokinesis, correspondence, vibration, opposition, rhythm, cause and effect, and gender.
The group, which is recognized as a tax-exempt church, claims that because a monument to the 10 commandments was erected in the park in 1971 by a private group, the town — which has strong Mormon roots — is depriving them of their free speech rights.
Personally, I don’t believe there should be any religious displays on public space. But at least the Summum believe in hairless blue aliens rather than God. And while I’m not sold on mummification, I am taken by the Summum’s contention that “copulation” played a key part in the creation of the universe and that the way for body and soul to evolve is through “sexual ecstasy.”
Now that’s my sort of proselytizing.