Saturday, October 20, 2012

JPG: Maryland Marriage Equality Opponents Distribute Lawnsigns in Spanish // PLUS: Sam Arora Sighting & More

Below Maryland Juice provides a mash-up of a few interesting tidbits regarding marriage equality (Question 6) and LGBT rights.

JUICE #1: ANTI-MARRIAGE EQUALITY FORCES DISTRIBUTE SPANISH LAWNSIGNS - Maryland Juice photographed a Spanish-language lawnsign that the anti-civil rights forces have been distributing. I guess the rightwing "English-only" push in Maryland is on hold until after the election. Notably, a majority of Latinos now support marriage equality: 52% to 32%. See the divisive sign below (caption courtesy of Juice):

JUICE #2: SAM ARORA READER SIGHTING - Meanwhile, if you're curious what's going on with embattled anti-marriage equality Delegate Sam Arora, you're not the only one. After all, 2014 is just around the corner, and Arora's constituents are still demanding an explanation on his civil rights flip-flop. Unfortunately, many of them still haven't had the opportunity to question him. District 19 candidate debates in 2014 ought to be fun! See the quick field report below:
ANONYMOUS READER: Ghost sighting.... Well, not really, but I was at a debate this afternoon at Leisure World for the school board candidates (At-Large and Districts 2 and 4) when who walked in about 2/3 of the way through but Sam Arora! I was hoping to talk to him afterward and ask him about his gay marriage switcheroo - which he has never explained the reasons for to constituents such as myself -- but he left before the debate was over. Not sure why he was there.

JUICE #3: FLASHBACK TO 2010 // VETERAN TEACHER FIRED FROM BALTIMORE CATHOLIC SCHOOL FOR BEING "UNCHASTE" - A Maryland Juice reader has forwarded us an interesting contrast to the current controversy surrounding the suspension of Gallaudet's "diversity and inclusion provost." As you may have heard, the D.C.-based University is weighing the fate of their employee Angela McCaskill, after she signed a petition calling for the marriage rights of same-sex couples to be put to a popular vote. Arguably, McCaskill violated the school's established "credo" of discouraging "behaviors and attitudes that disrespect the diversity of individuals and groups for any reason including ... sexual orientation."

Many have been quick to defend McCaskill, arguing that her private views and behavior should be protected. But when it comes to individual freedom and free association rights, it appears that many on the right are content to err on the side of protecting those who seek to advance discrimination over those who are the victims of said discrimination. As one example, a reader has sent us a story about a veteran teacher at a Baltimore Catholic school who was terminated in 2010 for being "unchaste." When's the last time you heard of a straight person being fired for the same reason? In any case, below see a quick explanation from our reader, followed by a column written by the fired teacher:
ANONYMOUS READER: See the attached copy of the New Ways Ministry newsletter published in Spring 2010.  Below you will find a first person story penned by April Flores, describing how she was terminated from her job as a teacher at the Sacred Heart of Mary School after administrators from the Archdiocese of Baltimore discovered that she had wed her female partner in Washington DC in July 2009.  She describes a humilitating process of going through a "hearing" to try to keep her job, and includes some of the language that was used in the correspondence that was used to terminate her: “behavior that seriously offends the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Baltimore [and I] failed to uphold the moral values of chastity.”

Seriously, they terminated a 25-year veteran teacher, who apparently was valued by the community she served, because the Archdiocese was "offended", and because she was not chaste.  It is not clear how the Archdiocese knew Ms. Flores was unchaste (hard to imagine how they gathered this data), and interesting that we seldom (never ?) hear of heterosexual folks being terminated due to lack of chastity.

Below, read a column by April Flores, a teacher who was fired from Baltimore's Sacred Heart of Mary School in 2010 (via & New Ways Ministry):
APRIL FLORES: I’m Catholic and I used to proudly celebrate Catholic Schools Week; however, due to a collision of my religion and my personal life, I did not participate in this year’s festivities. I devoted over twenty-five years of my life to Catholic education and was only married to my wife, Jennifer Simmons, for one month before the Archdiocese of Baltimore (AOB) involuntarily terminated my contract.
This past July I was told by Michelly Merrick, director of human resources for the AOB, that the Archdiocese learned of my civil ceremony and that they thought it best for everyone that I resign from Sacred Heart of Mary School. I disagree, which is why I refused to resign. In a second meeting with the AOB, they stated that there are similar cases to mine, but those are not being investigated because names were not given. Other employees are not adhering to Catholic moral standards, yet I am the only person punished. How is that just?

Anyone that truly knows me can attest to the fact that I am a selfless, dedicated, and effective teacher who is loved and respected by students, parents, and colleagues. This is evident by the overwhelming support I received from my Catholic community when they learned of my termination. I received only support until I faced a panel of five archdiocesan administrators at an optional hearing, at which my students and parents protested my dismissal.

According to Dr. Ronald Valenti, the superintendent of the AOB, the panel unanimously decided to uphold the decision of the Archdiocese to terminate my contract. In retrospect, I should have questioned the panel and asked them if they believed that Jesus would prohibit a  lesbian from teaching his word or if Jesus would shun me the way the Archdiocese has.

I was terminated because I am guilty of “behavior that seriously offends the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Baltimore [and I] failed to uphold the moral values of chastity.” I understand these claims, but I believe that my termination remains civilly discriminatory, morally wrong, and an enormous disservice to my students.

Catholicism preaches to love everyone despite existing differences; however, I am being castigated for being different. If God loves unconditionally, why can’t we? My termination clearly implies that Catholicism holds that it is sinful to be a lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender individual. How can the Archdiocese terminate me, but justify accepting tuition money from parents of lgbt students?

Some Catholics are outraged and are disgusted with the Church’s stance regarding homosexuality. How long will the Church ignore these congregants? People are seeking change, the Church needs to do so as well. What type of message should be sent? One that is loving, forgiving, and accepting of all people or one where it is socially and religiously acceptable for discrimination to exist?

Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” And Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” There is no Maryland state or federal law that protects lgbt individuals from being discriminated against by religious institutions. I believe that this is an injustice and I am doing my part to be the change I wish to see in the world. I want to see religious institutions waive their rights of discriminating against lgbt individuals; however, this requires people to positively appeal for change.

I encourage everyone, especially Catholics, who are enraged, disappointed, or bothered by this story to appeal for change for our lgbt community. Only then, will I reconsider celebrating Catholic Schools Week.

Maryland Juice again notes that polls consistently show Catholics in America are the most supportive group on marriage equality. But the reality is, that at some point, America will have to have a serious conversation about employment discrimination against LGBT individuals, and to what extent we really do believe that these victims are in a different class of protection than racial minorities, women and other protected groups. The free association and religious freedom arguments are actually more interesting than they seem at first. Is discrimination against LGBT individuals as much a core part of the Catholic Church's mission as hatred of African-Americans is for the Ku Klux Klan? For how long does a group have to argue that they haven't liked LGBT people for it to be considered a core part of their religion or mission. How clearly does it have to be established in their text?

In the meantime, only those who choose to live in the bizarro bubble of rightwing religious extremism seem to have the unbelievable view that it is they who need the greater protection from discrimination. In short, they value not being offended by things as more important than the basic rights of others. It seems to me that they (or rather their leaders) are obsessed with how other people live and maybe they need to stop thinking about it. Remember, there is no right to not be offended in America (unlike in other nations). Has anyone thought about these issues, or are we just pandering to the politics of religion right now? I'm not arguing that we need to trample on religious rights in America, but honestly, the policy justifications for some of these religious arguments are just completely whack.

We've got some tough conversations ahead of us, but let's not hide from them....

No comments:

Post a Comment