Lobbying for Marriage Equality in New Jersey

gaypridemarchT-blue copyThe Web Goddess and I are headed to Trenton Monday morning to lobby for pending legislation that would legalize same-sex marriage in New Jersey.  We’ll be car-pooling with friends both gay and straight from St. George’s Episcopal Church.

I’m covering the event for Maplewood Patch, a charter member of the Maplewood BlogolopolisTM.  Patch already has my preview story posted.

I’ll be wearing the snazzy T-shirt at left, designed by the Web Goddess of course, and available from Cafe Press.

This week is the last chance for at least four years to establish marriage equality legislatively in New Jersey.  If the state Senate Judiciary Committee votes the bill out of committee Monday, the full Senate is likely to vote on Thursday.  Democratic Governor Jon Corzine has said he would sign the bill.  Republican Governor-elect Chris Christie has said he would veto it.  At the committee hearing, the Right Reverend Mark M. Beckwith, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark and the Web Goddess’s boss, will be testifying in favor of the bill.

Resolved: Western Civilization is Morally Superior to Certain Other Cultures. Discuss.

Sir Charles Napier had it right: Change the culture!

Sir Charles Napier had it right: Change the culture!

One of my favorite lesbian clerics (yes, I have more than one such favorite), the Rev. Elizabeth Kaeton, has a post on her Episcopally renowned Telling Secrets blog about an op-ed last week in which an Anglican bishop in Uganda urged passage of…

… the proposed “new” law in Uganda which calls for capitol punishment for the “crime” of what they call “aggravated homosexuality.”

Translation: Anyone who is open and honest about being an LGBT person.

Digging into the original op-ed, I find that even though the bishop in question supports the comprehensive anti-gay legislation in question, he doesn’t actually WANT to kill gay people.  He wants scientists to cure them.  I suspect this qualifies him as a liberal by Ugandan standards.

Anyway, since most of you won’t actually click the link to Mother Elizabeth’s blog (I double-dare you!), I’m taking the liberty of reprinting here the comment I posted on her blog:

Kirk Petersen said…

Elizabeth, I agree that it’s about power. Power matters, and the culture of the power-holder matters.

Some cultures are morally superior to others. As tolerant people it makes us uncomfortable to hear that, but it’s been true for centuries.

In the 1840s, when India was a British colony and General Sir Charles Napier was its President, a group of Hindus complained to him about the prohibition of suttee — the practice of burning widows alive on their husband’s funeral pyre.

His reply? “You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom. When men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we shall follow ours.”

To stave off any tedious “Wikipedia is not authoritative” arguments, I tracked down a scholarly reference, one of many: http://www.eppc.org/publications/pubID.2636/pub_detail.asp

If you Google “Charles Napier ‘burn widows’” you’ll get 22,000 hits.

Yes, the British have to answer for some despicable actions over the centuries…. but they also seeded Western values around the world. Eventually those values may take hold in Uganda.

Long-time readers of All That Is Necessary may realize that this discussion has implications for Islamic Fascism.

If you’d like to argue the other side of the “resolution” in the headline, I’d love to hear from you in the comments.  I will be at least as civil as you are.


Abortion Should Be Safe And Legal — But It Stops A Beating Heart

The abortion issue lends itself to extremism.  The only logically consistent positions are at the extremes.

The Rev. Katherine Ragsdale

The Rev. Katherine Ragsdale

The pro-life extreme can be summed up in three words: “Abortion is murder.”  The pro-choice extreme is more complicated.  The mainstream pro-choice movement’s rallying cry of “keep abortion safe and legal” doesn’t come close to being extreme.  Something can be safe and legal and yet still be morally ambiguous.

Activist Florynce Kennedy came closer to a pithy expression of pro-choice extremism when she said “if men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.”  But the line has a chuckle-inducing quality that keeps it from being nearly as powerful as “abortion is murder.”  Besides, she’s not actually saying that abortion IS a sacrament — she’s making a hypothetical statement that may, I think, have some validity.

Here’s how I’ve always articulated what I think of as the extremist pro-choice position: “A woman’s right to an abortion trumps all other considerations.”  A pithier version: “Abortion rights are absolute.”

The overwhelming majority of Americans come down between the two extremes.  Personally, I think Bill Clinton had it just about right when he said abortion should be “safe, legal and rare.”  But that formulation is deliberately imprecise — it can’t serve as a clear roadmap to legislation.  Bill Clinton supported laws requiring parental consent and a 24-hour waiting period.  Other generally pro-choice people would draw the lines in  different places, but most would still draw lines.

Here are two clear roadmaps, each of them logical and internally consistent:

  1. Abortion is murder.
  2. A woman’s right to abortion trumps all other considerations.

Although there are people who advocate one direction or the other, for most of us those maps take us places where we do not want to go.  If abortion truly is murder, then yes, a woman should be forced to bear her rapist’s baby, even in the case of incest.  If abortion rights are absolute, then third-trimester abortions for gender-selection purposes cannot be ruled out.  I reject both of those positions, and I am grateful that I am not, myself, empowered to decide where the lines should be drawn.

These thoughts are all occasioned by reports that the Rev. Katherine Ragsdale, the newly named dean of the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, MA, apparently has insisted from the pulpit that “abortion is a blessing, and our work is not done.”  She also stated that abortion providers and pro-choice activists are “engaged in holy work.”

Hat tip to a force of nature

Hat tip to a force of nature

I learned of this from reading the blog of the Rev. Elizabeth Kaeton, an Episcopal priest from a nearby township in New Jersey.  This post actually started its life as an extended comment on her blog.  I’ve jousted with Mother Kaeton in her comments in the past, and I realized this time that it made more sense to lay out my thoughts on my own site.

Before today I had never heard of the Rev. Katherine Ragsdale, and I have no opinion about whether she is a good choice for Dean of EDS. She doesn’t look like an extremist in the photo above from the EDS website, and I won’t pin that label on her.

But I’ll pin it on that particular sermon.  Her insistence that “abortion is a blessing” is, I think clearly, well outside the mainstream, even among supporters of abortion rights.  I think Dean Ragsdale does the pro-choice cause no benefit by making that proclamation, and I’m glad she has removed it from her website.

Dean Ragsdale was villified by a ham-handed conservative blog as “a lying baby-murdering witch” (I’ve inserted the essential hyphen), which was what set Mother Kaeton off on what she herself described as a rant.  The anonymous ham-handed blogger does the pro-life cause no benefit either.

This is not to imply moral equivalence.  The anonymous blogger’s headline is disgraceful, and arguably an incitement to violence against a single individual.  Dean Ragsdale’s sermon is merely wrong-headed, and contemptuously dismissive of the views of, I believe, the vast majority of Americans.

People are complicated.  I voted for McCain and I market this blog as the ruminations of a “red voter in a blue state.” But I’m not a social conservative, and I join Mother Kaeton in standing proudly to the left of President Obama on the issue of marriage equality for same-sex couples.

Issues also are complicated, and reasonable people can differ.  In the case of abortion, far too often the battle lines are drawn by unreasonable people.  Most of us prefer a middle way.