"Let us make man in our image, after our likeness...in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them" (Gen.1:27)

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Maryland's Common Sense Judge

On January 20, 2006, Baltimore circuit court Judge M. Brooke Murdock struck down the Maryland statute which had explicitly banned same-sex marriages, finding this 1972 statute in violation of Maryland's Constitution. In part, she wrote:

  • "This Court, like others, can find no rational connection between the prevention of same-sex marriages and an increase or decrease in the number of heterosexual marriages or of children born to those unions..."

  • "When tradition is the guise under which prejudice or animosity hides, it is not a legitimate state interest."

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Bill of Non-Rights

Yesterday all employees in my thirty-person office participated in an HR seminar on harassment in general, and sexual harassment in particular. The two-hour presentation reviewed what harassment is, company policy and procedures, and applicable federal law. It felt good to see "sexual orientation" listed among the protected classes that at least my employer recognizes as part of its anti-harassment policy. Shortly after the seminar ended, I was walking out of the little deli nearby with my tuna sandwich and saw the headline of the Washington Post: Gay Marriage Ban Advances Toward Va. Referendum. The contrast between the purpose of the seminar, ensuring that the rights of ALL people are respected in the workplace, and the headline about efforts to constitutionalize discrimination against gay people, couldn't have been more striking.

Some lawmakers in both Virginia and Maryland are advancing proposals to amend their respective state constitutions to ban same-sex marriages. The proposals would place before voters a ballot question seeking to include the prohibition in their constitutions' Bill of Rights. How a law which doesn't actually confer or recognize a right, but in fact does the exact opposite, can be considered part of a "Bill of Rights" is beyond me ... but that's another matter. Living in the Washington, DC area and being regularly exposed to the politics of Virginia and Maryland, these efforts do not come as a surprise. What struck me, however, was realizing that these discriminatory proposals have such support not only among some lawmakers, but also among many Virginia and Maryland citizens.

On the heels of the morning's anti-discrimination presentation, it occurred to me more bluntly than it ever had before that some of my co-workers are quite probably among those constituents who would support these constitutional bans. Some probably think of gay people as "less than" and thus worthy of being discriminated against. What could be more hostile than that?

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

First Encyclical to be Released Today

At noon today, the Vatican is scheduled to release the first encyclical of Pope Benedict XVI. With the Latin title, Deus Caritas est, the press release announcing encylical states that, "The Pope affirmed that his Encyclical 'seeks to show that the very personal act of love must be expressed within the Church also as an organizational act. If it is true that the Church is an expression of God, it must be true that love becomes an ecclesial act.'"

If the document in fact makes this connection, i.e. between the personal and the organizational, then that will be a good thing. It is a fundamental tenet of Catholic belief and practice that faith is not something private, but must express itself outwardly all dimensions of life.

(A synopsis in Italian is already available.)

Quote for Today:

"It helps me understand the strength we have today, but it doesn't help me understand the brutality of slavery" - An unnamed African American woman interviewed in NPR story about descendants of slaves returning to visit Africa.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Just v Legal

This evening I watched the movie, "Paragraph 175." It documents the story of homosexuals, mostly men, during the horrific years of Nazi rule in Germany and occupied France. Pierre Seel, the man whose obituary inspired my first post here and lone Frenchman featured in the multilingual film, tells of the atrocities he witnessed and experienced in the Nazi camp at Schirmeck. After an emotional outburst, he pauses for a moment, seems to recollect himself, and says simply, "I am ashamed for humanity."

Paragraph 175 was a perfectly legal statute that had been on the German law books since 1871. Although little enforced in the decades prior to the rise of Hitler and Nazism, it became the tool by which thousands of homosexual men were sent to concentration camps or other prisons, without benefit of trial, often simply for "suspicion" of being homosexual.

I couldn't help think of this in light of what is happening these very days in Washington. The Senate Judiciary Committee seems well on their way to approving the nomination of Judge Samuel Alito as a Supreme Court Justice, replacing retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. These highly covered hearings have certainly helped educate the American public, as even non-lawyers now are familiar with terms like "stare decisis" and should know the meaning of constitutional precedent in legal parlance.

I have beeen struck by the fact, however, that while there is much talk of law during these hearings, there is precious little talk of justice. Justice, one of the four cardinal virtues in western thought, is so significant that it is the very title we give to those who sit on our nation's highest court. And yet, justice seems to be less on the minds of senators than whether or not Judge Alito might rule in favor of overtuning Roe v. Wade. Yes, Roe is an important case ... but isn't the picture much bigger than that? Isn't justice what Justices should be concerned with and what potential Justices questioned about, even more than issues like a statute's contsitutionality, legal precedent, and congressional intent? I'm not a lawyer, but it seems to me that all legal proceedings should result in justice. Thus, it gave me pause when Judge Alito made that statement that, ""Results oriented jurisprudence is never justified" in response to one senator's question about his judicial philosophy. Isn't it quite possible that a decision be quite legal, but not necessarily just? Shouldn't we be just as interested in the result of a court case as we are in the process that gets us there? The Dred Scott decision comes quickly to mind.

How would Samuel Alito have ruled had he been serving on the Court in 1857 when the justices ruled 7-2 that the constitutionally protected "property rights" of southern slaveholders outweighed Dred Scott's claim to freedom? What would Samuel Alito (or any current Justice for that matter), do when faced with an unjust law? What would he do if faced with a case involving a law like Paragraph 175?

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

A Pastor's Comments ....

..... on the CCE "Instruction" -- Seattle Archbishop Alex Brunnett provides some sensible and pastoral thoughts on the Vatican's latest salvo against gays.