USC Ally Discussion: Pro-Gay Marriage and Anti-Homophobia Intervention Strategies

I went to this event today. Here's the full description:

Ally Discussion: Pro-Gay Marriage and Anti-Homophobia Intervention Strategies
Featuring Jade Agua, Assistant Director for Asian Pacific American Student Services and Rev. Jim Burklo, Associate Dean for Religious Life
12- 1 pm
WPH 403
On the day the California Supreme court begins to hear arguments about Propostion 8, USC Allies will learn intervention strategies on how to combat homophobia and also advocate for marriage equality. Some topics to be discussed how to use religion in favor of gay marriage and how to start these conversations with our friends and family.
Basically we just talked about the different anti-gay arguments that tend to come up a lot, particularly those that were used during the prop 8 campaign, and the best ways to combat them. I took some notes along the way, so I just wanted to post some scattered thoughts and good quotes.
  • The first thing Jim talked about was how his own homophobia was cured over the course of about 20 minutes, as a result of a close friend coming out to him. It's important to represent ourselves and the gay community as real people so that people can't think of us as "those people up in the Castro"--we're just people like everyone else. Later on, someone mentioned that people associate homosexual couples with sex. They see gay families as an environment where innocent children are surrounded by sex all the time. Seems to me, the solution is probably to make gays seem like ordinary people.
  • When he was growing up, gay rights was a nonissue, in the sense that it wasn't something people thought about or talked about at all. Sometime soon, it will be a nonissue, in that nearly everyone will just agree that same-sex marriage is okay.
  • He believes that the people and the churches will lead this movement. (Obviously not all churches, but some of the more "progressive" ones.) Then the law will follow. This goes against the feeling I had recently, "There's no point in us fighting much more right now. It's the court's move at this point." That was largely an excuse I made to myself anyway, because I was sick of doing campaign work.
  • Jim moved on to talking about the Bible. The type of same-sex relationships we're talking about (committed, monogamous) are never mentioned in the Bible. Jesus himself didn't mention homosexuality at all. He does, however, have something to say about divorce. In any case, progressive Christians are not required to believe everything the Bible says.
  • Jim and Jade did a little role-play, Jade playing a yes-on-8 voter who is uncomfortable going against the Catholic Church. Jim reminds her that even the Catholic church admits that you must listen to your conscience--the voice of God within you--when it is in conflict with the Church.
  • He also emphasizes religious freedom. No one wants there to be an official religion of the state. One of the students in attendance (who was half of an adorable gay couple) points out that this argument must be approached very carefully, because the yes voters want their children to be "free from having the beliefs of others forced upon them." A great point about that: Teaching kids about something is not the same as teaching them that it is good or they should do it.
  • There are a lot of sins in Leviticus that no one would ever seriously suggest we legislate against. I didn't catch the title, but there's a book about someone who tried to follow Leviticus literally for one year. Supposed to be very funny.
  • More on the Bible: St. Paul condemns homosexual relationships. But he also condemns heterosexual relationships, advises everyone not to have sex at all, unless absolutely necessary. He's also completely opposed to marriage and family life. (If I understood correctly, reproduction isn't necessary because the second coming of Jesus is only a few years away.)
  • The slippery slope argument: If we let gays get married, how do we know this won't open the door to pedophilia, incest, etc. The key is to point out that we're talking about consenting adults. Children and animals are not in that category. Also, remind people that those are completely separate, unrelated issues.
  • Jade: "The traditional family is a myth. Somebody made it up in the 50's and they've been promoting it on TV ever since."
  • This is important: According to some study, people don't vote for rational reasons. Their votes are usually based on emotional reasons. This of course goes back to the common complaint that the no on 8 campaign should have used actual images of gay couples. But with that in mind, what are the appeals to emotion that we can make? The suicide rate among GLBT kids is still relatively high. Not that we can change that overnight, but the way the government/society treats them might have something to do with it.
  • http://www.soulforce.org/ is a resource for gay Christians. Jim described it as "PFLAG for evangelicals"
  • Rick Warren is slowly beginning to change his stance. He's removed all the anti-gay language from his website and invited Melissa Etheridge to speak at his church. This was news to me!
  • I think the most annoying argument I hear is that prop 8 is the "will of the people." Democracy is not the same as majority rule. There's a reason we have courts and a Constitution.
  • Jade recommends talking to the yes voters you know, and who may be persuadable, not worrying about the far "right wing" people.
If you have friends who voted yes, and you probably do, talk to them. It's not easy, but it's necessary. No matter what happens 90 days from now, we should continue to fight, and dispell the myths from the campaign that many people still believe.