Once you start shaking out the socks all sorts of toe fuzzies fall out

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

President Bush has spoken out against gay marriages , a move applauded by religious conservatives in this country and elsewhere. Some would say that he’s doing so in order to keep the loyalty of the fundamentalists within the Republican party. I can’t help thinking that it’s also because he’s trying to redirect conversation away from Iraq, the economy, and other things going bump in the night for him.

His discussion about having White House lawyers find a way of defining marriage to be for heterosexuals only is ludicrous – exactly what does he think he can do with White House lawyers? But I’m saddened to see so much Congressional effort in this regard when we’re faced with so many other issues our elected officials should be focusing on. I guess it’s easier to force one’s way into bedrooms than to face and fix real problems.

The Vatican has also called against gay marriages in this country, issuing a 12-page document on the issue. According to the Kansas City Star’s report on the document:

Gay adoptions “mean doing violence to these children, in the sense that their condition of dependency would be used to place them in an environment that is not conducive to their full human development,” it said.

The document calls on Catholic politicians to vote against laws granting legal recognition to homosexual unions and to work to repeal those already on the books.

“To vote in favor of a law so harmful to the common good is gravely immoral,” it said, although it did not specify penalties for Catholics who do.

Considering the Catholic Church’s recent problems with child molestation, one pauses when one reads a document saying that that gay adoptions are doing violence to children. I have to contrast the documented damage that has been done to children in the name of religion and by the religious over the years with such unsubstantiated claims of ‘violence’ on the part of gay parents – where is the proof? The statistics? Where is the documentation?

No, the damage being done ‘to’ the children of gay couples lies primarily in that they are new souls being raised to think for themselves, to question the dogma, to reject the blind reliance on faith, and most of all, to reject the status quo that forms so much of the foundation of the Religious Right.

I sometimes wonder if I support the right for gays to marry because I’m a feminist, or am I a feminist for the same reason I support gays being able to marry, and raise children – people’s potential should not be limited because of antiquated laws and beliefs narrowly interpreted and enforced by those with the most to gain. Too much oppression, violence, and bigotry has been committed in the name of “God”, no matter the names used to represent “God”; and the logic behind most of the oppression just doesn’t make sense.

For instance, where is the harm to society in two gay people being allowed to celebrate their love with a ceremony, as well as being treated as a couple in the eyes of the law? This doesn’t prevent heterosexual couples from sharing the same privilege. It doesn’t force homosexuality on anyone. It’s not going to suddenly make straight kids accept gayness into their lives. Why do we care so much for what happens between two adults who are in love?

The people who are anti-gay marriage remind me of the anti-abortionists – the same moralism, the same sense of ‘righteousness’. The anti-abortionist argue vehemently against abortion, and cry for the unborn children – but if they’re that concerned about children, why are there unwanted children still in this country? Why are there still children desperate for a home, or who are abused, hungry, and neglected? I’ve never understood a group of people who seem to care more for unborn children then they do the ones that are already here, and base their spurious reasoning for their actions on ‘God’.

(A loving God, at that, as they wire yet another abortion clinic with a bomb, or string another gay kid up to die in the desert.)

What started this chain of thought – gay marriage and feminism – wasn’t that Sheila recommended me for inclusion in the Ms. Magazine weblog roll (thanks, Sheila – get better); it was because while reading the reports of our President’s new moral commitment, I was also reading an excellent set of weblog writings having to do with feminism and religion, starting with Alas, a blog’s What to do with those “I’m not a feminist, but…, followed by Noli Irritare Leones, Why I call myself a feminist, and bean at Alas’s response.

In the first essay, bean discussed a really lovely Guardian piece about the truth behind feminism, not the stereotypes. According to Zoe Williams, the author of the Guardian piece, feminists are not, “…the humorless, lentil-eating battle-axe who won’t swallow and the power-dressing, self-seeking career bitch who uses the movement to justify and advance her relentless amassing of cash”. As bean reminds us, it is because of the bad, bad Feminists that we have the right to vote, to read and write, to not be property of some man, and, most importantly, to have control over our own bodies.

Sappho at Noli Irritare Leones answered with why she calls herself a feminist, even though at first glance this may seem to contradict her Christian beliefs:

Why do I call myself a feminist? After all, I’m an actively churchgoing Christian (which some would see as at odds with being a feminist). I have reservations (for men and women) about “free sex” (and lots of people say “feminism and the sexual revolution” as if they were pretty nearly the same thing). I’d like to see a world with fewer divorces and fewer abortions; shouldn’t I then reject feminism as the cause of divorces and abortions?

She cites reasons including gratitude that she may vote, go to school, have the right to use birth control, work in traditional male fields, protection against rape and abuse, and other fruits of early and contemporary feminist efforts (forget about these at times, don’t we?) At the end, the final reason she gives is:

…because as a Christian I believe that both men and women are in the image of God, that both are called to humility, service, and willingness to “wash feet” as Jesus did, and that both men and women are also called to not put our light under a bushel, sometimes to be Priscilla to someone else’s Apollos, and generally to share our gifts.

(The reference to Priscilla and Apollo is based on the biblical story of the 13 year old Priscilla who would not worship Apollo and was ultimately beaten, sprinkled with boiling oil, starved, thrown to the lions and ultimately beheaded for her ‘impiety’.)

What a marvelous way of looking at the issue: God gave you talents, skills, and intelligence – you have a moral duty to exercise them regardless of your sex. This means being a great nurse or stay at home parent, even if you are a boy; or being a great software engineer (ahem), CEO, and President, even if you are only a girl.

Bean from Alas responded to the new thread of feminism and religion, providing the following in addition to other good points:

Feminists believe in the maintaining (or bringing about) legal and financial access to abortions. However, the majority of feminists also want to see a reduction in the number of abortions. The difference between feminists views on reducing this number and conservative views are that for feminists, rather than reducing access to abortions, they simply want to reduce the need for them – through better access to sex education and birth control.

I agree totally. Might surprise people to know that though I’m pro-Choice, I think abortions should be the choice of last resort. I believe women and men should practice safe sex, use birth control, or practice abstinence. However, sometimes these fail, or mistakes are made, or a woman is raped; in which case women have the right to safe abortions, rather than having to depend on some fake doctor with a dirty kitchen table and spoon. They should consider all the alternatives, first; but they shouldn’t be denied any of them.

Certain gay rights supporters might wince that I brought feminism and pro-Choice into a discussion of gay marriage; and there are feminists who will wince because I bring the topic of gay marriage into discussions about a women’s body and her right to control it. However, at the root of both is the question of religion, and people using religion as a hammer to flatten diversity, to punish the different, and to beat down equality. Regarding feminism and gay rights, I can’t see supporting the one without supporting the other – not because I am a blanket liberal and therefore I have these issues that I must believe and support to stay a good stereotypical liberal; but because fundamentally I believe it’s the right thing to do.

When I see religion being used to force government intervention with either, I will speak out. Even if this discussion does make a good topic to sidetrack folks away from talking about Iraq and a certain Presidential address that mentions non-existent nuclear weapons; and rising unemployment; and disenchanted and abandoned service people; amd corporate fraud and lack of accountability; and ‘terror betting’; and a growing health care crises…

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