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Budget, schmudget!

Published:Sunday | May 27, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Humanity won when Barack Obama publicly endorsed gay marriage.

It was also a brilliant, carefully planned and ruthlessly executed political manoeuvre. Make no mistake, in one stroke, President Obama has converted this November's election from the impending referendum on the economy (which he could easily lose) into a choice between a civil-rights champion and an advocate for a constitutional ban of all gay rights who, as an adolescent, assaulted a gay student. Want to know who'll likely win that one? Ask Beenie Man.

And remember Goodman's Law: Don't ask if it's about the money. It's ALWAYS about the money. Seventeen per cent of Obama's fund-raising organisers are gay. His Wall Street campaign contributions have dried up and Jewish backers are unhappy that Middle East policy emphasises fairness over blind Israeli support. So, by bringing gay marriage out of the closet, he's better positioned politically; likely to energise fund-raisers and the youth; and reduced his opponent to a suspicious, stammering simpleton.

The good news is it was also the right thing to do. It's easy for Christian automatons, relying on selective Old Testament dogma, to disguise hatred as preaching. These programmed zealots probably don't realise their message is hate because, after all, it's 'the Word of God', isn't it? No, it isn't. It's the bigoted word of some benighted denizen of the dark, desperate past claiming divine inspiration. If this bigotry is indeed divine, it's easy to teach innocent children such vile loathing for fellow humans, to the point that some will develop violent tendencies towards these objects of revulsion. Who can blame such zealots? It's written.

But, lest we forget, we're all humans first, albeit with diverse characteristics. Can we feel what it was like to be black in South Africa when the most fundamental law gave blacks no greater value than dogs? Remember how 'normal' it was for redneck moralists in America's Bible belt to express and act upon their evil loathing if a black man was seen kissing a white woman? Does anyone relying on this 'marriage between one man and one woman' remember it was widely illegal for black and white to marry?

When churches advocate 'one man and one woman' marriages, they lie. It's hooey! Horseradish! Crap! In Muslim theocracies, polygamy is legal; Muslim men can marry non-Muslim women; but Muslim women can't marry non-Muslim men. Israel doesn't allow inter-religious marriages, and, recently, the Knesset voted down a bill to end this discrimination by 39 to 11 (only 50 of 120 members voted). Christians have been hounded from homelands like Pakistan. Female rape victims are brutally punished and ostracised. Adultery is a capital offence in many countries. Kansas Governor Sam Brownback just signed into law a bill permitting pharmacists and doctors to deny women access to contraception.

Misguided 'word'

All in the name of the same 'Word' that promotes burning homosexuals as abominations. Yet, don't we find it odd that Jesus never once had the time to expli-citly mention homosexuality, let alone condemn it?

Instead, remember these prophetic words (Matthew 35:34-40):

"... The King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation ... . For I was hungry; you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty; you gave me ... drink; I was a stranger, you invited me in; I needed clothes; you clothed me; I was sick, you looked after me, I was in prison, you visited me."

Then the righteous will answer, "Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?"

The King will reply, "Truly, I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."

The difference between the righteous and the self-righteous is the former will help the least among us without comment, condition or agenda. The self-righteous condemn others in order to validate their own pathetic lives. To the self-righteous, it serves a hungry, thirsty, naked or imprisoned gay right. The righteous understand it's all about respect for humanity.

"What you want

Baby, I got

What you need

You know I've got it

All I'm askin'

Is for a little respect ... ."

Can you put yourselves in the shoes of mixed-race lovers in 1950s Alabama? Can you feel the public disapproval, contempt and hatred? Can you feel the noose tightening around the offending man's neck? What was his crime? He was just one man loving one woman. Yet, from the turn of the 20th century, white American pastors 'preached' white racial superiority and segregation while embracing marriage as 'between one man and one woman'.

Can you put yourselves in the shoes of a Palestinian woman in love with a Jewish man in Israel today? Or a Muslim woman found making love with a Christian man in Iran? What's your view of the legal and religious 'rules' that convert their love into perversion? Can you feel the hot earth as it's packed around her chin to keep her buried alive? Can you feel the stones as they strike her undefended face?

Can you respect her feelings even if you don't approve?

"R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Find out what it means to me

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Take care, TCB."

The gay experience

Before attempting a rational decision on gay marriage, you must try to feel the life of a gay person. The best description of gay life is by Andrew Sullivan, a conservative and openly gay Republican blogger, writing for Newsweek:

"The core gay experience throughout history has been displacement, a sense of belonging and yet not belonging. Gays are born mostly into heterosexual families and discover, as they grow up, that for some reason, they'll never ... have a marriage like their parents' or their siblings'. They know this before they can tell anyone else, even their parents. This sense of subtle alienation - of loving your own family while feeling excluded from it - is something all gay children learn. They sense something inchoate, a separateness from their peers, a subtle estrangement from their families, the first sharp pangs of shame. Then, at some point, they find out what it all means. In the past, they often would retreat and withdraw, holding a secret they couldn't even share with their parents - living as an insider outsider."

Can you imagine feeling forced to lie about your fundamental being to your own family which loves you unconditionally? Can you imagine growing up surrounded by images asserting you're a pervert? Perhaps our moral leader of the righteous crusade against homo-sexuals, Saint Shirley, has never imagined such a dilemma. It's wondrous to be so pure and so sure.

On the other hand, shameless sinners like me imagine a world where all humanity is respected and alternative orientation tolerated rather than routinely condemned based on religious dogma.

"Imagine there's no heaven

It's easy if you try

No hell below us

Above us only sky

Imagine all the people

Living for today ...

Imagine there's no countries.

It isn't hard to do.

Nothing to kill or die for

And no religion too.

Imagine all the people

Living life in peace ...

You may say I'm a dreamer

But I'm not the only one.

I hope someday you'll join us

And the world will be as one."

If you can imagine this, it can happen. But, in Jamaica, we continue to deliberately disrespect fellow humans simply because they're different. It all began with one English judge, Lord Penzance, in 1866, who, during his judgment in Hyde v Hyde (where a converted Mormon sought to divorce one of his wives for adultery), decided to 'define' marriage. He expressly found his meaning "in Christendom", not law. Since the Marriage Act has never so discriminated, this was an ugly example of judge-made 'law'.

That act doesn't define 'marriage' but provides for "persons intending that a marriage shall be solemnised between them"; or "persons intending marriage" without gender requirement. Ministers of religion asked to conduct marriages may refuse if it is "contrary to the rules of the religious denomination to which he belongs", but civil registrars can't.

So, one English judge succeeded, insofar as marriage was concerned, to convert many nations from democracies into theocracies. Then, recently, our Parliament's opportunity to remove Church from affairs of State was badly fumbled.

Character contradicts ethos

Jamaica's Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms guarantees new, specific and (for the first time, at last) justiciable rights. The charter's premise is: "All persons ... are entitled to preserve for themselves and future generations the fundamental rights and freedoms to which they are entitled by virtue of their inherent dignity as persons [my emphasis] and as citizens of a free and democratic society." It mandates "all persons are under a responsibility to respect and uphold [again, my emphasis] the rights of others recognised in this chapter."

Fundamental rights include "the right to equality before the law" and "the right to freedom from discrimination on the grounds of being male or female ...".

If we're to take these 'rights' seriously, marriage officers refusing to marry gay couples because one isn't male or female would breach the charter. Gay couples could sue. Priests who refused would have to show the "rules of the religious denomination" (not dogmatic Old Testament condemnations) which their acquiescence would violate. Since we know of gay priests/ministers in every denomination, I wish them good luck with that.

Yet, buckling under an intense lobby from the Christian (Self)Right(eous), Parliament included Section 18(2): "No form of marriage ... other than the voluntary union of one man and one woman may be contracted or legally recognised in Jamaica", making our new Charter of Fundamental Rights the world's first to expressly legislate discrimination and breach its own provisions. In the US, this blatant churchification of law would be unconstitutional. As our Constitution is being breached by our Constitution, how will Jamaican courts interpret this unholy merging of Christian dogma and state affairs?

Lyrics used are from musical genius Otis Redding (Respect, a song forever linked to Aretha Franklin, probably the best female pop singer) and philosophical giant John Lennon (Imagine).

Peace and love.

Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.