In the Navy:Official Disapproval,Sensitivity in Bereavement.

In the Catholic Church, many people will know that in spite of official disapproval from on high, and outright hostility by some individuals in the church, very often parishes on the ground can be truly welcoming and accepting, with acceptance and full inclusion from both parishioners and parish priests. That was certainly my experience at Holy Trinity Parish, Braamfontein, Johannesburg -and is the experience of many others at countless parishes around the world.

A story from Chicago Sun Times demonstrates that this disconnect between official disapproval and practical warmth on the ground also applies in other formally homophobic institutions, in this instance the US marines. In spite of the policy of DADT which was still in force last June, and notwithstanding the vicious persecution that some gay servicemen experienced under that policy, the widowed husband of one Marine, John Fliszar,  found exceptional co-operation from the Naval Academy officials when he approached them for help in executing the dead man’s wish to have his ashes  interred in the Naval Academy.

I enjoyed imagining the confused expressions of these officials when they were first approached by the widowed husband, Mark Ketterson:

The memorial coordinator asked about his relationship to the deceased. Ketterson said that John Fliszar was his husband.

“They were always polite, but there was this moment of hesitation,” Ketterson recalled. “They said they’re going to need something in writing from a blood relative. They asked, ‘Are you listed on the death certificate?’ ‘Do you have a marriage license?’ ”

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Come Out, For Christmas?

I’m not the only one arguing for the repeal of the Catholic Church’s own version of DADT.  At the Washington Post, Anthony Stevens-Arroyo makes the same point, adding an argument that I ignored. In days gone by, he says, a Catholic family gathering for Christmas might have quarrelled over a young family member’s improper relationship:

But if families back then anguished over whether or not a ne’er do well nephew was invited to dinner because his relationship to his “girl-friend” was considered scandalous, the debate would have ended if the name of his partner was “Charles” and not “Charlene.”

I’m fascinated by the qualifier of “days gone by” for family disapproval of (presumably) unmarried heterosexual relationships. Is this a tacit admission by Arroyo that modern Catholic families accept the unmarried sexual relationships of their near and dear – as long as they are of the opposite-sex variety?  For divorced relatives embarking in new relationships or second marriages, he makes it explicit:

Many Catholics accept divorced and remarried relatives at a Catholic Christmas celebration, because “…at least they are happy again.”

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When Will the Catholic Church Repeal Its Own DADT?

My colleague Bart and I clearly think along the same lines. This was his response to my post on the repeal of DADT:

When is the Catholic Church going to follow suit? The way the Church leadership is dealing with the issue of the gay clergy within its ranks is similar in many ways to the DADT story in the American military. When will the Church enter the 21st century?

As his comment came through, I was halfway done with preparing a full post on precisely this theme. It was this observation by Rep Tammy Baldwin that initially set me thinking:

Integrity is a hallmark of military service. Yet, for 17 years, we have had a statutory policy that requires some in our military to conceal, deceive, and lie.  This is an inexcusable affront to all who wear the uniform.

Change a word or two, and precisely the same thing could be said about gays and lesbians in the Catholic Church. If it is true (and it is) that integrity is a hallmark of military service, so it should be even more so in the Church. DADT in the Catholic church most directly affects our gay priests, presenting them with a major challenge in any attempt to live honest lives of integrity. This is the continuing theme of Bart’s own excellent series on gay priests and his personal struggles with coming out, so I leave the discussion of DADT and priests entirely to him (the next instalment will appear tomorrow morning).

However, Catholic DADT also affects all gay and lesbian lay people, and it this aspect that I address here.

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US Military Catches Up With Rest of World, Enters 21st Century.

Perhaps the most telling aspect of this is the final margin – 65 to 31 – and the eight Republican senators who voted for repeal.

The evidence has been growing for months, and this is the most conspicuous result so far: some Republican politicians are realising that homophobia is no longer a sure vote-winner, and may be willing to come down on the side of justice/or common sense.

Bill Browning at Bilerico:

Legislation was passed in Congress not in spite of including pro-gay portions; it was passed specifically in support of our civil rights. This item will be the tipping point that vastly accelerates our community.

This has huge implications for the prospects for advances on gay marriage/civil unions next year, notably in New York and Colorado.

Obama to sign law ending military gay ban

The Associated Press – ?8 minutes ago?

WASHINGTON (AP) — In a historic vote for gay rights, the Senate agreed on Saturday to do away with the military’s 17-year ban on openly gay troops and sent 

Six Republicans push ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ over the top

Politico (blog) – Shira Toeplitz – ?24 minutes ago?

Scott Brown and Lisa Murkowski are among the Republicans who voted to end debate. | AP Photos Close By SHIRA TOEPLITZ | 12/18/10 2:24 PM EST Updated: 

Senate votes to repeal ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’

Washington Post – Ed O’Keefe – ?35 minutes ago?

After the House voted to repeal the policy in mid-December 2010, the Senate took on the issue in an unusual Saturday session. By Ed O’Keefe The Senate voted 

U.S. Senate acts to end military ban on gays

Reuters – ?36 minutes ago?

WASHINGTON Dec 18 (Reuters) – A majority of the US Senate on Saturday voted to repeal the ban against gays serving openly in the US military. 

Senate Votes To End Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

Huffington Post – ?47 minutes ago?

WASHINGTON — The Senate voted 65-31 on Saturday to end Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, defeating a 17-year policy of banning gay and lesbian service members from 

Senate repeals ban on gays openly serving in military

CNN International – Ted Barrett – ?48 minutes ago?

By the CNN Wire Staff Washington (CNN) — The military’s prohibition of openly gay people serving within its ranks is one step closer to ending, 

Senate votes to repeal ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’

Los Angeles Times – Lisa MascaroMichael Muskal – ?52 minutes ago?

The 65-31 vote means gays and lesbians will be able to serve openly in the military without punishment after President Obama signs the bill. Sen. Related articles

Military Transitions: Australia Supports Transitioning Soldier

While the US continues to dither over DADT, its military allies have moved way beyond lesbian and gay inclusion, to providing also for transgender service – and full support during the transitioning process.  News from Australia is that military authorities there will not only allow a transitioning soldier to continue to serve after transitioning, they will provide full support during the process (including state funding for the surgery). I known of at least one similar case from South Africa – I am certain there are others elsewhere.

Somewhere along the line of modern history, the myth arose that only hetero males could make good soldiers – completely overlooking the evidence from around the world that in some societies, women, gay men, and transgender people have frequently served with distinction.  Classical Greek history and literature are littered with pairs of military lovers, including the renowned Sacred band of Thebes, which was exclusively composed of such pairs. Similarly, the famed Japanese Samurai mentored younger men who served also as sexual partners. Many African societies had entire regiments of fighting women, including the Amazons of Dahomey and Shaka’s Zulus in Southern Africa. In North America, the widespread institution of the berdache included many instances where biological males adopted female dress and roles – but also fought with distinction in military battles. It is good to see how so many countries in the modern world are putting historic myths and prejudices aside, to focus only on service members’ abilities, and not their genital or psychosexual characteristics.

When with the US finally follow suit?

Tammy (left) and Bridget Clinch.

From the Australia Herald Sun:

Sex-change case through Defence

DEFENCE force chiefs will pay for the sex change operation of a soldier who wants to return to work.

Army Captain Matthew Clinch, who served twice in East Timor, will become Bridget Clinch after gender reassignment-realignment surgery, funded by taxpayers.

Victorian RSL president Maj-Gen David McLachlan said he was surprised the Army was picking up the tab.

“It seems a little odd that they would allow such an abnormal situation get this far,” Maj-Gen McLachlan said. “The soldier involved would be putting themselves in a situation where they would be subjected to all sorts of peer pressure.”

Asked if paying for the surgery was a good use of defence funds, he said: “It’s unusual.”

Capt Clinch is in Brisbane with partner Tammy and two daughters on extended sick leave from her job as second-in-command of the army’s Adventurous Training Wing based at Wagga in southern NSW, but wants her former job back.

Appearing on Seven’s Sunday Night last night the decorated East Timor veteran, who did two tours of duty with the Townsville-based 1st Battalion, said she’d always felt like a woman locked in a man’s body. “There is no difference between what I can do and what any other female can do once I’ve finished all of my treatment,” Capt Clinch said. Tammy, who also trained as an army officer and describes Capt Clinch as her “knight in shining armour”, is angry the military took so long to agree to fund the treatment.

“Matt was a good army officer, I think that Bridget will make a better army officer, they just need to realise it.

“I saw my partner suffering really badly and I helped him. It was hard though because I was helping destroy the outside bit of the man I loved.”

Read the full report

Recommended Books

Naphy, William: Born to be Gay: A History of Homosexuality

Roughgarder, Joan: Evolution’s Rainbow: Diversity, Gender, and Sexuality in Nature and People

Court Affirms: DADT Discrimination is Unconstitutional

In yet another court setback for legislative discrimination, a federal judge has found that the US military ban on openly LGBT servicemen and women is discriminatory, unconstitutional – and counterproductive.

From the Washington Post:

U.S. District Judge Virginia A. Phillips said the government’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy is a violation of due process and First Amendment rights. Instead of being necessary for military readiness, she said, the policy has a “direct and deleterious effect” on the armed services.

 

 

Memorial to the Sacred Band of Thebes - Renowned for their valour, and exclusively comprising pairs of lovers.

 

Three things strike me about this verdict – its obvious common sense, the plaintiffs, and how it highlights the total absence of evidence for the case against equality. Read the rest of this entry »

Queer Rights, In The courts: GOP To The Rescue?

With LGBT issues prominent in an increasing number of court cases, we are accustomed to hearing conservative outcries about “activist” judges “legislating from the bench”. However, an examination by Joshua Greene at the Atlantic of the key judgements holds a surprise: the judges involved are not democratic activists, but conservative judges appointed by GOP presidents and governors. This should not surprise, of course. The issues are not only”civil rights”, but also two deeply important conservative principles. The first has already been highlighted by the recent DOMA judgement, that federal government cannot overrule states’ rights in their areas of competence. The other is parallel to this, at an even more basic level: government has no business interfering in people’s personal lives. What can be more personal than our love lives?

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