Canada
4 min

Queers should keep the pressure on Obama

How about a protest of his inauguration?

He hasn’t even taken office yet and already Barack Obama is turning on his gay and lesbian supporters.

Obama’s decision to choose evangelical pastor Rick Warren — one of the leaders in California’s anti-gay marriage fight — to deliver the inaugural invocation sends a clear message. And it’s not the one of inclusion and diversity Obama keeps trying to paint it as.

The popular perception is that the Republicans are the party of religious conservatives, but the fact is that Obama won, in part, because he received considerable support from Catholics and Baptists, especially in the African-American and Hispanic communities. And in California, those forces came down solidly against gay marriage.

Warren called gay marriage “a moral issue that God has spoken clearly about.

“For 5,000 years, every culture and every religion — not just Christianity — has defined marriage as a contract between men and women,” Warren wrote in a newsletter to his congregation. “There is no reason to change the universal, historical definition of marriage to appease two percent of our population.”

So Obama’s choice of Warren makes it apparent that he’s playing the numbers game, choosing to placate his anti-gay supporters from the very start rather than reach out to queer voters who vociferously fought for him. As an added bonus, by using a Christian conservative who opposed gay marriage, Obama will also be able to please conservative Muslims, Mormons and other religious types.

Obama is no doubt assuming that queer voters have nowhere else to turn. And while his administration continues to oppose gay marriage, Obama will throw gays a bone, probably overturning Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and allowing gays and lesbians to be killed in Iraq or Afghanistan like everybody else.

Angry, and mostly young, queers and their supporters took to the streets across the US after the passage of Proposition Eight. They wanted to send the message to churches and religious leaders that they weren’t going to take the attacks any more.

Hopefully that attitude will extend to Obama as well. If Obama is made to realize that by betraying his queer supporters, he will invite four years of protests and risk a large chunk of his backing in 2012, he may reconsider which side his bread is buttered on.

It’s probably not easy to mount a high-profile protest of an inauguration. But it sure would be nice to see.

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Christian Horizons’ appeal of an Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) decision from April will be heard in the new year by the Ontario Divisional Court.

Christian Horizons (CH), a Kitchener-based evangelical organization providing care for developmentally disabled people in group homes, was found by the OHRC to have violated the province’s human rights code by firing an employee because she is a lesbian.

The OHRC also ordered CH to stop requiring employees to sign a lifestyle and morality contract that, among other things, prohibits homosexual relationships.

The OHRC tribunal ruled that because CH accepted clients of all backgrounds and because sexual orientation was not relevant to the job, the organization could not discriminate against Connie Heintz.

A number of religious groups — including the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, the Canadian Council of Christian Charities, and the Ontario Conference of Catholic Bishops — are seeking intervener status in support of CH. These groups will argue that the “special employment” provisions of the Human Rights Code permits certain organizations to restrict hiring.

If the appeal is successful, religious charities will be free to hire only those who share their beliefs and to fire those who don’t, like gays.

So what, you might say. Who wants to work for a bunch of homophobes anyway? Well, it’s not that simple. More and more, governments are downloading social services to religious groups. Which means that if you’re gay and you want to work for a charity, it may very well involve working for a church.

More importantly, if the appeal is successful, it’s not hard to guess what the next step will be. Not only will they fire any queers on staff, these charities are likely to take it as a green light to go to the next level and stop accepting queers as clients.

In the economic climate that we’re facing today, it could be disastrous if religious-run shelters or soup kitchens are able to turn away gays.

Now the April OHRC decision did not address the fact that CH is funded almost entirely by the Ontario government or whether it would have made a difference if its clients were exclusively Christian evangelicals. And I’m not a lawyer, so hopefully I’m overreaching. Nonetheless, the implications are extremely worrying.

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The Vatican unleashed the rhetoric over a non-binding UN declaration put forward by the European Union that condemned discrimination “based on sexual orientation and gender identity.”

The Vatican said it opposes the declaration because it would force countries to “de-criminalize” same-sex unions.

Monsignor Celestino Migliore, the Vatican’s permanent observer at the UN, said the church opposes “unjust discrimination” against homosexuals. But apparently the Vatican sees no choice but to put up with the imprisonment, torture and execution of gays around the world because heterosexual marriages are so fragile that millions of them will fall apart if such declarations pass.

The resolution attracted the signatures of only 66 out of 192 member nations. One was Canada’s. Russia, China and members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference all refused to sign. So did the US.

Think things would be different under Obama? I wouldn’t bet on it.

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It’s a bit late to bring this up, but have you been to see Twilight? Or read any of Stephanie Meyer’s bestselling books? Well, Meyer is a Mormon who donates 10 percent of her earnings to her church, which uses it to fund massive anti-gay marriage campaigns in California.

If you’re looking for a good movie about vampires and adolescence, allow me to recommend instead the Swedish film Let the Right One In. It’s wonderfully creepy and poignant, and its creators actually have a mature approach to sexuality.