Friday, August 8, 2003
The Silence of the Sodomites
by Clinton Fein
|Last month the Supreme Court finally issued a decision that legitimized the dignity of certain Americans for whom, depending on which definitions you're applying, sexual proclivities may include penetration (of what remains uncertain) into an orifice more frequently used for the expelling of excrement.
Following the Supreme Court's 6-3 decision in Lawrence v. Texas (and the resultant overturning of Bowers v. Hardwick) on June 26th, the nation's sodomy laws were put out to pasture, where much of the shrill opposition ought to be led as well, if not the publishers of dictionaries. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, published in 2000 by the Houghton Mifflin Company defines sodomy as: "any of various forms of sexual intercourse held to be unnatural or abnormal, especially anal intercourse or bestiality."
The predictable reactions were paraded before the one dimensional media in the predictable formats. The so-called gay community popped champagne corks, giddily celebrating what they termed the most important civil rights ruling in twenty five years. Washington DC based Human Rights Campaign -- a group so ensconced in the political culture there they support candidates who openly oppose the very mission statements they spout to raise funds -- and who had nothing to do with the legal victory belonging to the LAMBDA Legal Defense and Education Fund -- claimed immediate credit as a means to raise more money.
On the other side were doomsday predictions from the pseudo-religious freaks who do little more than demonstrate that their God is just an ineffective, bitter, whining, geocentric crybaby who doesn't have the balls to take out the sinners - gays, civil libertarians and their ilk - but instead throws temper tantrums in the form of Muslims flying into skyscrapers in Manhattan (rather than, say, The Castro district in San Francisco or Amsterdam in The Netherlands). The Gary Bauers, Pat Robertsons, Jerry Falwells publicly lamented but privately rejoiced at the fundraising potential of such judicial extremism.
Justice Antonin Scalia, an openly Opus Dei Catholic, lamented the Supreme Court majority's opinion as an all-but-certain path to the legalization of same sex marriage, which somehow, he concluded, would destroy heterosexual marriage. As if the current fifty percent rate of failure needs any assistance. If anything, gay marriage might improve the rather unhealthy statistics that currently define heterosexual marriage.
In July 1991, former Georgia Attorney General Michael Bowers fired Robin Shahar from her staff attorney position with the Georgia Department of Law for holding a private religious wedding with her lesbian partner. Shahar had clerked for the department the year before, and was offered the full-time job after graduating sixth in her class at Emory Law School. When Bowers learned that she was planning a Jewish wedding with her lesbian partner, he wrote in her termination letter: "This action has become necessary in light of information which has only recently come to my attention of a purported marriage between you and another woman. As chief legal officer of this state, inaction on my part would constitute tacit approval of this purported marriage and jeopardize the proper functioning of this office." In June 1997, Bowers was forced to admit that he had a long-term adulterous, heterosexual affair during the same period. The sanctity of marriage indeed!
The demented, intellectually retarded transvestite that traverses the globe in a satin dress kissing tarmac (while the majority of his organization kisses prepubescent boys in confessionals) last week released a tortured, long winded screed that all but ensures that homophobic Catholics who don't actually kill their children, will instill as much fear and hatred in them to allow them to kill themselves. The Pope, gallivanting in a bullet-proof, bubbled go-cart under the guise of a calling to a higher power, ignored the unspeakable horrors his minions are unleashing on children in the Church, instead pointing his quill at two people of the same sex who love one another, wanting to make a presumably monogamous commitment.
Naturally, far more importantly than the children dying in Iraq, the servicemembers being blown to bits on a daily basis, revelations of cooked intelligence and an economy that's beginning to rival that of a third world country, President Bush weighed in, directing his administration's already overstretched-beyond-historical-comparison staff to investigate codifying the very discrimination the Supreme Court just overturned. The same man who referred to his wife Laura as "the lump in the bed" knows sanctity when he sees it.
Those who have fought battles in the trenches were not that quick to pop champagne following the Lawrence v. Texas ruling.
"When I first heard the decision, I thought -- my god, has it taken this long? Why are we even still dealing with this in 2003?" said Miriam Ben Shalom, a teacher from Milwaukee, Wisconsin when I asked her to convey her initial reaction.
In 1975, Miriam Ben-Shalom was a 27-year-old single mother in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She trained with the Eighty-fourth Training Division of the Army Reserves and graduated from drill sergeant's school in Milwaukee as Sergeant Miriam Ben-Shalom. Way before the military's notorious Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy, when asked by her commander if she was a homosexual, Ben Shalom had replied, "Sir, homosexual is an adjective". Of course, discharge proceedings were initiated, and -- as anyone who knows Miriam Ben Shalom could have predicted -- she was not about to take her marching orders without a damn good fight.
Years later, Randy Shilts, journalist and author of the book Conduct Unbecoming, wrote that until well into the 1990s, when people talked about the civil rights of gays in uniform, or the civil rights of gays in the United States, among the names of those whose court cases would be most frequently cited was Ben-Shalom v. Secretary of the Army.
In keeping with the Houghton Mifflin Company's definition of sodomy, Article 125 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) -- which still, today, governs servicemembers worldwide and is not impacted by the Supreme Court ruling -- includes bestiality in their definition of sodomy. It is more specific however with regard to actual anal penetration. Any person "who engages in unnatural carnal copulation with another person of the same or opposite sex or with an animal is guilty of sodomy. Penetration, however slight, is sufficient to complete the offense." According to strictly legal definitions under Article 125, same-sex blowjobs conducted in the absence of a statement acknowledging homosexuality does not actually constitute a conduct violation. Adultery is also a violation of the UCMJ, but rarely enforced, unless it's to rid the service of top ranking females, like former B2 bomber pilot, Kelly Flynn.
Although Ben-Shalom's case was also, prior to Don't Ask, Don't Tell, about speech, rather than conduct, the reality is that for the military -- then and now -- there is no distinction between the two when it comes to homosexuality. The military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy -- a fundamentally flawed farce that demands servicemembers lie to ensure unit cohesion -- remains disastrously in place governing those giving their lives to bring freedom to Iraq and Afghanistan.
On June 26th, 2003, Supreme Court Justice, Clarence Thomas, along with Justice Scalia and Chief Justice Rehnquist, dissented loudly. The basis of Lawrence v. Texas was that police officers were suspiciously and falsely summoned to investigate a burglary at the home of John Lawrence and Tyron Garner of Houston. Finding the two of them in bed together, the men were arrested under a Texas sodomy law. Outraged that the government could barge in and arrest two consenting adults for having sex in the privacy of their own bedroom, the two fought the sodomy law.
Few dared raise the inter-racial overtones inherent in the case. Neither the mainstream media nor gay community discusses elephants. Certainly, the Clarence Thomas's and Colin Powell's of the world don't want their affirmative action poster status marred by its equation with sinners. Former head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell, in 1993, differentiated the "profoundly behavioral" characteristics of homosexuals from the "benignly innate" characteristics of blacks as a reason for retaining the ban on homosexuals in the military.
Clarence Thomas, however, seems to have forgotten the intensity with which he decried privacy violations. When Anita Hill bravely stepped forward in the middle of his 1991 Senate confirmation hearings, and revelations surfaced that he referred to his penis as Long Dong Silver and made off color references to pubic hair on a coke can, the press went ballistic. Records of his porn purchases and video rentals were made public. An embattled and enraged Thomas told the Senate committee that he refused to reveal details about his private life. "Reporters sneaking into my garage to examine books I read. Reporters and interest groups swarming over divorce papers, looking for dirt. Unnamed people starting preposterous and damaging rumors. Calls all over the country specifically requesting dirt. This is not American. This is Kafka-esque. It has got to stop. It must stop for the benefit of future nominees, and our country. Enough is enough," he stormed.
Adversely, without flaunting it - a frequent accusation to support the uneasiness certain people feel when learning about another's sexuality - when asked, Miriam Ben-Shalom wasn't prepared to lie about her private life. She is still paying the price.
Justice Thomas dramatically termed the revelations about his private life "a high-tech lynching." Seaman Allen R. Schindler, Jr. didn't get to characterize what was in fact a relatively low-tech lynching. It was a good, old-fashioned gay bashing that left him dead, his brains splattered in a restroom in Sasebo, Japan. On October 27, 1992, his shipmate, Terry Helvey, brutally murdered him -- an attack so vicious that he destroyed every organ in Schindler's body. A tattoo on his arm was the only way Schindler's mother, Dorothy Hajdys, could identify her son. The medical examiner compared Schindler's injuries to those sustained by victims of fatal airplane crashes.
Terry Helvey blamed his actions on the Navy, insisting that he was following unspoken orders to show the Clinton administration how they felt about openly gay servicemembers following implementation of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy - the first and most damaging legislation Bill Clinton introduced. The Silence of the Sodomites. A destructive military culture tailored to breed hatred and animosity toward gay people.
In 1999, PFC Barry Winchell followed Schindler. Like Clarence Thomas, intimate details about his private life emerged. He wasn't arrested for being a sodomite however. He was savagely bludgeoned to death with a baseball bat by fellow 101st Airborne troops as he lay sleeping in his bunk at Fort Campbell, Kentucky in the service of his country. Not for being gay, mind you, but for simply suspected of being gay. Pvt. Calvin Glover got a life sentence for swinging the bat and Spc. Justin Fisher entered into a plea bargain and was sentenced to 12 1/2 years behind bars. An investigation following Winchell's murder revealed a climate of underage drinking, homophobia and anti-gay hostility ran rampant at Fort Campbell under former commanding general Maj. Gen. Robert T. Clark, who commanded Fort Campbell from February 1998 to June 2000. Clark was nominated for promotion to lieutenant general and command of Fifth Army by President Bush in October 2002.
Religious dogma has deathly consequences as well.
Matthew Shepard was violently gay bashed and crucified, literally tied to a wooden fence and left to die for the sin that compassionate conservatives like John Paul II and George W. Bush define as his mere existence. The Pope's recent angry tirade doesn't address how to avoid the kinds of dangerous mistakes that would result in the violent and senseless murder of Gwen Araujo, a transgendered teen or Barry Winchell. Winchell's parents, Wally and Pat Kutteles, can expect as much sympathy from the deranged and drooling drag queen in the Vatican as the children molested by his wayward priests received. All in the service of God. The unmasked face of faith-based governance.
As gay Americans celebrate the legal recognition that their relationships are defined by more than just sex, those Americans serving their country, liberating everyone else, remain second class citizens, forced to lie about who they are, not only to avoid being discharged dishonorably for being authentic, but in many cases, simply to save their lives.
For gay servicemembers from Colorado, braving sandstorms, intense heat, grenades and the harvest of an unplanned and unprepared quagmire (let's call a faggot a faggot), the thanks they will get upon their return - should they live - is in the form of a proposed constitutional amendment by a newly elected amateur representative to ban gay marriages.
Flaunting her heterosexuality, Republican Marilyn Musgrave introduced a bill that would effectively outlaw gay marriages nationwide. Is this another Michael Bowers? Is she too, having adulterous sex with someone in her office? Adulterers Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich supported the Defense of Marriage Act. Politicians who raise their voices the loudest usually have the filthiest laundry. Marilyn Musgrave is big on guns though, and claims to support smaller government. Perhaps one day she'll learn that honesty and integrity in her own marriage, if not therapy, are all that's necessary to strengthen it, not a constitutional amendment.
"If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything…All of those things are antithetical to a healthy, stable, traditional family," blurted Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania in an interview with The Associated Press before the Texas sodomy case was decided. As if such offenses are germane to homosexuality alone. Or have been deterred by government and religious sanctioning of heterosexual marriage.
Undaunted by the criticism, Santorum offered a tortured justification -- the standard catch phrase used by religious people to discriminate. "I have no problem with homosexuality. I have a problem with homosexual acts. As I would with acts of other, what I would consider to be, acts outside of traditional heterosexual relationships. And that includes a variety of different acts, not just homosexual. I have nothing, absolutely nothing against anyone who's homosexual. If that's their orientation, then I accept that. And I have no problem with someone who has other orientations. The question is, do you act upon those orientations? So it's not the person, it's the person's actions. And you have to separate the person from their actions."
The "love the sinner, hate the sin" charade was echoed just last week by President Bush, who coyly confessed "we are all sinners" when asked his view on homosexual marriage, which he suggests ought to be constitutionally prohibited. Given his administration's desecration of the constitution, it is hardly an unexpected tack.
Similarly, the Pope offered this gem of compassion to help parents guide their frightened children who have no control over the inclinations of their young flesh. "Sacred Scripture condemns homosexual acts 'as a serious depravity. This judgment of Scripture does not of course permit us to conclude that all those who suffer from this anomaly are personally responsible for it, but it does attest to the fact that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered'. This same moral judgment is found in many Christian writers of the first centuries and is unanimously accepted by Catholic Tradition."
Allowing his flock to be sheltered for shattering the faith and abusing the trust of young, vulnerable and confused children by the sickening, pedophilic byproduct of his misguided hogwash is what is intrinsically disordered, if not morally repugnant, and in the secular world, a crime against humanity. "Love the sinner, hate the sin," is not going to change a thing. Serial killer, Jeffrey Dahmer, also loved children.
There is a long way to go before human spirit emerges from the Dark Ages. Pontiffs and Presidents appear incapable of understanding the evolution of mind and reason. "God said so," wouldn't and shouldn't cut it in a court of law. The entire theoretical underpinning of the Pope's latest hit list, mobilizing Catholic politicians to look away from the Church pedophiles they're paying millions to shelter and instead scapegoat abandoned or abused children (presumably born of heterosexuals) who might have an opportunity to be raised in a loving home by two people who happen to love each other enough to make a sacred commitment.
The striking down of an old sodomy law is one small step in what is really a long, difficult education process.
Miriam Ben Shalom, who is still paying off her $55,000.00 legal fees without a penny of help from the gay groups holding celebratory fund-raising dinners, was less sanguine.
"I just got up and went to work like I usually do. I don't have time to celebrate. I have bills to pay... What's the matter with me? I am not grateful. I am sure that I should be, but can anyone tell me why I should be grateful that it has taken this long for my right to privacy to finally be legal? My humanity to not be criminal? Can I serve my country again? Can I come home? "
"I can't be joyous," she continued. "I am too busy watching the theocratic right and wondering what axe will fall next …who will be the next victim…the next body on the fence. For those who can celebrate -- do so. But watch your backs."
Perhaps she has a point. Or maybe it's time the victims turned the tables once and for all. After all, if you're out there dying for your country or paying your taxes, surely you deserve the same rights afforded to everyone. If the government insists on inserting itself into the governance of relationships, it has to be equal and inclusive. If the word marriage constitutes the essence of the argument, call gay marriage something else - just not sodomy.
The Lawrence v. Texas ruling did nothing to change the criminality or consequences of Article 125 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The only thing that has changed since Miriam Ben Shalom challenged the Army is the military's blatant denial that gays even serve. Right now gay servicemembers who are fluent in Arabic, despite urgent translator shortages, are being discharged for being gay, endangering the lives of Americans and thwarting the potential to curtail terrorist acts.
For the Commander in Chief and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to place a biblically-based, proven-to-be-unworkable policy ahead of national security is nothing short of treasonous. It makes the purported War on Terrorism a sham, and is far more revealing than the sixteen words the President read from a teleprompter in his State of the Union address.
Perhaps a mutiny of the sodomites is in order. If every gay servicemember came out of the closet, the policy would have to be struck down, because the system couldn't handle it. Nor could America's national security or its overflowing imperial responsibilities.
Right now, in a new and dangerous era of pre-emptive colonization, the supposed leader of the free world is moving to ensure that some of the men and women fighting for her freedom (and imperialism) cannot marry someone of their choosing. For gay servicemembers, there are only two choices. Lie or die.
Gay servicemembers have a duty. Upon offering their lives in the service of their country, -- furnished with training, arms and ammunition to ensure their success-- they swear to uphold and protect the Constitution against enemies foreign and domestic.
There seem to be an awful lot of enemies, foreign and domestic, these days.
Clinton Fein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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