Friday, July 31, 2015

Boy Scouts End Ban on Gay Leaders, but Leave Wiggle Room for Religious Beliefs


On July 27, 2015, The Boy Scouts of America ended its nationwide ban on openly gay adult leaders.  Seventy-nine percent of those who participated in a telephone meeting of the national executive board voted in favor of lifting the ban. The Scouts’ volunteer national president and former Secretary of Defense, Robert M. Gates urged this legal change to reflect the growing acceptance toward gays in the United States.

First, gay scouts were outlawed from the BSA.  Then, it was voted that a gay scout could participate as a scout, but not a leader. .  Under the pre-2013 law, an openly gay eighteen year-old Eagle Scout would have to leave scouting forever as he could not be a gay Scout leader. See my blog post at 2015/07/17/Maybe-Just-Maybe,the-BSA-Will-Get-It-Right-This-Time . The new law is a logical step as it is common for Eagle Scouts to become adult leaders when they turn eighteen.

What the New Law Means

Under this newly adopted Boy Scout policy, all Boy Scout offices and all paid jobs will not tolerate discrimination based on sexual orientation.  While the new law sounds ideal and progressive, in actuality, it doesn’t go far enough.

The recent law, similar to the June 2015 Supreme Court Ruling that legalized same-sex marriage throughout the United States, allows “wiggle-room” for religiously sponsored groups. They would have exemptions.  It leaves the decision to individual troops and councils in much the same way as the Religious Freedom Act gives bakers an out for accommodating same-sex couples or marriage license clerks a say as to whether they will marry LGBT couples.

SCOUTING WILL SUFFER

As most Boy Scouts are sponsored by religious organizations such as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter- Day Saints a.k.a. Mormons or the Baptist Convention, the already dwindling Boy Scout enrollment figure of 2.4 million based on 2014 figures will decline even further.

The Mormons have already protested, but haven’t officially voted on the ban as summer recess has interfered.  For more than a century, their church has been deeply invested in Boy Scouts.  The youth program of the Mormon Church is Boy Scouts.  Over twenty-percent of all scouts are Mormon.

With Monday’s decision to allow conservative religious sponsors of local packs and troops to pick their leaders who share their beliefs, you may end up with fewer packs, and heterosexuals as leaders as well as disguised prejudice.

What kind of a message are we sending our youth who are supposed to be learning about values, equal opportunity, and team building?




Friday, July 24, 2015

Fear For Many Parents Will Be Eased

As the straight parent of a gay child, you fear for your child.  Will he/she be beaten up, picked on in school, fired from a job, have to live in certain areas that are designated as gay-friendly just because of his/her sexual orientation? In most of the U.S, states, it is legal to fire and evict a gay person due to his sexual orientation. It’s probably not all that different than a heterosexual parent worrying about their straight child who is black, Hispanic or another minority.  When prejudice rears its ugly head, the LGBT child, and yes, the LGBT adult, will be considered belonging to a minority group and therefore will be targeted.

Add-Ons to Civil Rights Act of 1964

There are civil rights protections in The Civil Rights Act of 1964 yet they do not cover protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. On Thursday, July 23rd, two Democratic Senators Cicilline and Merkley with a co-sponsor Sean Maloney introduced legislation to amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to add sexual orientation and gender identity to its list of already protected classes: discrimination in credit, education, employment, housing, federal financial assistance, jury service and public accommodations.

Compared to the 2013 Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), this federal LGBT non-discrimination Equality Act is much broader.  It covers all areas of law. It had passed the Senate, but was never brought up for a vote in the House by Speaker John Boehner, a Republican from Ohio.

Republicans Fear Squelch of Religious Freedom

By amending the Civil Rights Act, some are afraid that you will weaken the Act itself. Conservatives would rather have the First Amendment Defense Act that would bar the federal government from taking discriminatory action against a person.  If, for example, that person is opposed to same-sex marriage, she would be protected.  This would include for-profit corporations acting in accordance with their religious beliefs.

The Equality Act would settle some of the debates presented by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, passed by Indiana, by adding LGBT protections in public accommodations.  It would also clarify that the federal RFRA can’t be used as a defense for discrimination.

End Results

If the Equality Act goes through, fewer bakery doors will be slammed in the faces of same-sex couples and straight parents may rest a whole lot easier.






Sunday, July 19, 2015

What Your Gay/Lesbian Child Wants To Hear From You


When Your Child Is Gay

For parents, having your child reveal that he/she is gay can be a jolt.  While some may have an easier time accepting the revelation that their child is gay, all parents can take certain steps to ensure they handle the news that convey they love their child, unconditionally.

Offer Acceptance

Make sure your child knows he or she is loved.

First, try to separate your immediate reaction from your love for your child.
Remember that your kid may be nervous about what he has told you and may be afraid that he will be abandoned.
Do not be judgmental.  This is a supreme compliment that your child has revealed his sexual orientation to you.
You are the parent.  Put your child first.
Just Listen without interrupting.

What to Say

Say “I love you no matter what, and I am still your parent”
It’s o.k. to say you’re worried, but also say you can adjust. Ask for his/her patience. Remind your child that you will learn to accept his/her sexuality. Tell him that it isn’t your feelings for him/her that you are questioning, it is understanding about his/her sexuality.
Remember that this is a process.  Don’t expect that one conversation will resolve everything. Keep the dialogue going.
Ask your child to help you learn more about homosexuality.  This is one area where he knows more than you. Educate yourself on what it means to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

Family Resources

Excellent Resource is PFLAG (Parents for Lesbians and Gays), a national umbrella of parent organizations. These are seasoned parents who are helping other parents who are going through it all.
American Psychological Association can provide recommendations for books and therapists for consultation.
Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State has support materials for parents that are downloadable.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Maybe, Just Maybe, the BSA Will Get It Right This Time


On July 27, 2015, the Boy Scouts of America’s ban on gay scout leaders may be lifted.  The resolution was approved by a 17-member Executive Committee last week and if ratified, will become official policy immediately.

This ban is a carry-over from May 23, 2013, when the BSA Council approved a half-measure that would allow openly gay scouts in troops into the organization, but ban gay Scout Masters. For more history, see my blogs on the topic http://www.straightparentgaykid.blogspot.com/Boy-Scouts-Take-Baby-Steps-for-Gay-Youth/2013/5/29/ and http://www.straightparentgaykid.blogspot.com/Boy-Scouts-of-America-Speaks-with-Forked-Tongue/ 2013/4/24/.

All Those In Favor Of Lifting the Ban

It is common for Eagle Scouts to become adult leaders when they turn 18 in the Boy Scouts of America whose enrollment in scouting is 24 million.

Former Secretary of Defense and President of the Boy Scouts of America Robert Gates said earlier this week that “we cannot ignore the social, political and judicial changes taking place in our country. We must deal with world as it is.”

With the Supreme Court legalizing gay marriage throughout the United States and various polls showing greater acceptance of the LGBT population, Boy Scouts should reflect these changes.

 A local troop in Converse, Texas has called on BSA “to reject the BSA anti-gay policy on adults.  A Change.org petition from that troop has 135,000 signatures.

Gaffe from Presidential Hopeful Scott Walker

Republican Governor Scott Walker, a former Eagle Scout, of Wisconsin recently expressed support for a ban on gay Boy Scout leaders because it “protected children.”  He later “covered his tracks” by clarifying that the decision on the ban of gay Boy Scout Masters was “up to the Boy Scouts.” He didn’t supposedly mean that children needed “physical protection” from gay scoutmasters, but rather protection from debate over the ban.

Over a decade ago, The American Psychological Association has dismissed the idea that gay people pose a threat to kids.  Yet this myth of the gay Scout Master as a pedophile has persisted.

Even Rob Schwarz-Walder, the spokesman of the Conservative Family Research Council, said in April 2013, “it makes no sense to have a different policy for youth and adults because men who become Scout leaders usually start out as scouts.”

Conditions In New Legislation

The prospective employees of the national organization could no longer be denied a staff position on the basis of sexual orientation.
Gay leaders who were previously removed from scouting because of the ban would have the opportunity to reapply for volunteer positions.
The new law would allow “wiggle-room” for religiously sponsored groups.  Many troops are sponsored by churches.  These would have exemptions.

Girl Scouts Have Always Seemed More Inclusive

The Girl Scouts of America have no rules against gay leaders.  In May, the organization announced that it would accept transgenders.  True to their beliefs, when a donor tried to give them a $100K donation if they would not help transgender girls, the Washington Girl Scouts refused the offer!

Friday, July 10, 2015

5 things you shouldn't say to your Gay Child

5 Things You Shouldn’t Say To Your Gay Child

Despite this country’s acceptance of gay marriage, many parents are thrown off-kilter when they find out their child is gay.  Without preparation for this often-surprising news, it’s easy for even the most loving parents to blurt out the wrong message.  Not intended, the retort ends up sounding insensitive, particularly to a child who is looking for unconditional love.

Here are some common zingers that shouldn’t be part of your vocabulary.

Are you sure you’re gay?  You’re too young to Know.
 
With kids coming out younger and younger (even in middle school), your child could know he’s gay even before he started first grade.  Or even before he/she lost their virginity.  Still others may be just experimenting and in time will know what their sexual orientation is.  In any case, it’s important to take your child seriously.  Questioning his sexual orientation smacks of denial and accepting his word as the truth.

You just don’t seem that gay to me!

Gays come in all sizes and shapes.  Just look at television or the news and you will see a variety of gays, from gridiron football defensive Michael Sam, to Grammy-award-winning Sam Smith, to CEO of Apple Tim Cook, to Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin.  
These achievers do not fit the stereotypical image of a buff fashion-conscious, less masculine/feminine image with a lisp and a swagger.  There’s no one way to “seem” gay.

You’re too Feminine to be Gay!

Just because you’re a lesbian doesn’t mean you’re going to be in the military, teach gym or become a cop.  Not all lesbians are “butch,” with crew cuts, baggy pants, leather jackets and riding on motorcycles.  Some are “femme.”  Think Chely Wright or Ellen Page.  Both wear makeup, have long hair, and look as if they could pass as heterosexual, but they aren’t. Because your daughter may look girly, don’t expect her to be cisgender (heterosexual).

How can you Do This to me?

This isn’t about you.  Your child is not doing this to you.  He/she does not want to disappoint you and knows his coming out is probably destroying your dreams of his future.  Many studies point to the fact that homosexuality is inherited and cannot be changed through reparative or conversion therapy.
Don’t heap guilt on your child; he/she didn’t cause their sexual orientation nor did you!

Don’t Tell Uncle John!

Until your immediate family has come to terms with having a gay child, there is no need to tell anyone!  While there is no shame, there may be relatives who disapprove of your child’s orientation.  Until you can enlighten them and speak of his/her differences in a positive light, it is better to wait!  PFLAG (Parents for Lesbians & Gays) http://www.community.pflag.org/getsupport as well as the Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State familyproject.sfsu.edu has materials for parental support. And remember, you can always readdress your remarks and apologize for "flying off the handle."

Of course, you should always get permission to tell anyone; after all, it’s your child’s story, not yours.  So, find out whom your child wants you to tell.  He/she may want to divulge themselves as they are better equipped to answer the questions that may arise!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Government's "To Do" List

“When all Americans are treated as equal, we are all more free” – Obama

Last month, the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in every U.S. state.  It was a long time coming, but reflected the majority of poll takers and the growing acceptance of same-sex marriage.  With the victory now behind us, this country cannot rest on its laurels as there are many LGBT issues that have gone unresolved.

Discrimination

Twenty-nine states lack laws banning sexual orientation discrimination and even more (thirty-two) don’t prohibit it when it comes to gender identity.  There is still no federal law banning discrimination against LGBT Americans in employment, housing, public accommodations, education, and credit, as well as in federal lending and jury service.

The only federal antidiscrimination protections exist in the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) that includes a broad exemption that allows discrimination by a “corporation, association, educational institution or institution of learning, or society” owned by a religious institution (most likely the ones who would discriminate.)  ENDA’s religious exemption is much broader than that of the 1964 Civil Rights Act’s Title VII.

Surveys Report Unfair Treatment

In 2013, a Pew Research survey found that 21% of LGBT participants had been treated unfairly by an employer in hiring, pay or promotions. That same year, the Williams Institute, a think tank at UCLA, reported that between 15% to 43% of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers have experienced being fired, denied promotion or harassed. A Gallup survey, also in 2013, found that 35% of LGBT adults reported annual incomes below $24,000 compared to 24% of the general population.

Conversion Therapy

In the majority of U.S. states, conversion or reparative therapy is regularly practiced. Although it was outlawed in California, New Jersey and Washington, religious institutions still use its gay-to-straight ideology that has proven to result in depression, low self-esteem, even suicide in its LGBT population looking to convert. Even one of its proponents, Robert Spitzer, M.D., disclaimed the benefits of reparative therapy.

Hate Crime Laws

Currently, fourteen states with hate crime laws don’t include sexual orientation or gender identity . Six states have no such protections at all.  According to journalist, Radio Show host and author of It’s Not Over (2015), Michaelangelo Signorile, “homophobia hasn’t simply persisted, it has become more public and more violent in response to the increased visibility of gay and transgender people that wins such as marriage equality have brought.”

Health Disparities

The first federal health survey to include gay, lesbian, and bisexual people, in 2014, showed that lesbian and bisexual women had higher obesity rates than straight women , higher rates of psychological stress among bisexuals, and higher rates of smoking and binge drinking among all three groups compared to heterosexuals.

A Kaiser Family Foundation report in 2014 concluded that 47% of gay men have not told their doctors about their sexual orientation.  Many medical doctors were not  trained in medical school about issues surrounding the gay population. Fifty-six of gay men have never suggested an HIV test for their patients.

Diagnosis rates have risen among young gay and bisexual men while the Centers for Disease Control has cut its HIV-prevention budget over the years to gay men.  A majority of those with HIV are unaware of their status.  In order to donate blood, LGBT donors are expected to abstain from sex for a year before donating.

The Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State shows that LGBT teens who would rather live on the streets than be shamed at home account for 40% of the homeless even though they are believed to represent less than 10% of all teens.

As you can expect, these rejected teens have less self-esteem, greater depression than their heterosexual contemporaries as well as a higher suicide rate.

Full Parental Rights

Often, with gay couples, only one parent is able to adopt a child or is often turned away  by an adoption agency’discriminatory policies couched in religious exemptions. Toward that end, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (New York) reintroduced The Every Child Deserve A Family Act, a bill that would bar adoption and foster care agencies that receive federal dollars from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation.

Currently, only seven states ban discrimination based on sexual orientation in adoption and only five explicitly ban discrimination in foster care.

Fighting for LGBT Rights

These are just some of the issues that need to be worked on for full equality.  As it stands now, as Chad Griffin of the Human Rights Campaign points out, it is possible for a gay person to get married in the morning, and by the afternoon, be fired from his job, and evicted from his apartment, just because of whom he loves.



Monday, June 29, 2015

Same-Sex Marriage is a Constitutional Right



In 2013, The Supreme Court struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act (defining marriage as between a man and a woman), requiring federal agencies to recognize same-sex marriage performed in states where it is legal.  Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote that decision in 2013 as well as last Friday, struck down restrictions in thirteen states that didn’t allow gay marriage.

Kennedy’s rationale was “the right to marry is a fundamental right inherent in the liberty of the person, and under the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment, couples of the same sex may not be deprived of that right and that liberty… There is dignity in the bond between two men or two women who seek to marry and in their autonomy to make such profound choices.”

The Constitution Evolves

“…without recognition, stability, and predictability that marriage offers,
 writes Kennedy, “ the children of these couples suffer the stigma of knowing their families are somewhat lesser.”

“The constitution’s power and endurance rest in the Constitution’s ability to evolve along with the nation’s consciousness,” states Kennedy. In a spring Wall St. Journal/NBC News poll, 77% of Americans said they personally know or work with someone who is gay or lesbian, up from 62% in 2004.

Those Who Dissented

With Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayer in accordance with Kennedy,  and Justices Thomas, Roberts, Jr., Alito, Jr. and Antonin Scaila dissenting, the high court’s 5-4 ruling reflected the country’s shift in public attitudes toward gays and lesbians.

Unlike Kennedy, religious groups do not interpret the constitution as a living, evolving document, but as the Framers originally intended it.  More conservative and religious justices and a number of religious groups are annoyed at Kennedy for failing to mention The First Amendment’s “free exercise” clause.  Religious rites aren’t limited to preaching and teaching , but also entail an individual’s and organization’s “free exercise” of faith, a wide swath of activities that run from sacred ceremonies to performing charitable works and running business according to religious principles.

Evangelicals, who make up about 25% of the country’s population, pledged to fight the legal implications of Friday’s rulings. Kennedy, however, states in his majority opinion, that “it must be emphasized that religions and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned.”

The Future of Same-Sex Marriage
No doubt, the Conservatives will keep fighting.  In the interim, gay couples, some who have been together for over thirty years, will feel respect and dignity. As one of the plaintiffs Jim Obergefell who was denied signature on a death certificate of his ailing spouse, testified, after the ruling was announced, “ I started to feel a lot more like a full equal American at that moment.”