Be Fair to Kerry
May 16, 2004
To the Editor:
I just read Paul Schindler’s column on John Kerry, which falsely claims that he “threw crumbs to the crowd” by bashing gay marriage in front of a crowd in Louisiana. (“John Kerry Should End Campaign,” May 12-18.) In fact, Kerry didn’t mention gay marriage in his speech in Louisiana. He answered a direct question from the Boston Globe (over the phone, I assume) while he happened to be in Louisiana.
To play this up into some kind of anti-gay stump speech is a severe distortion. I understand that you disagree with the man, but I think that if you have any concern for journalistic accuracy, you’ll want to correct this huge misrepresentation of what happened.
Karen van Hoek
Ann Arbor, Michigan
The Swinging Saudi Pendulum
May 12, 2005
To the Editor
I just read Nathan Riley’s piece on the arrests and severe sentences of men at a gay wedding in Jeddah (“In Saudi Arabia, Gay Torture Goes Unchecked,” May 5-11). The article overlooked some significant background.
Jeddah was perhaps the most liberal city in Saudi Arabia. For many years the dean of the consular corps in Jeddah was the French consul who lived there with his male companion of many years and threw the most extraordinary New Year’s party every year to which he invited three groups in about equal shares—the cream of Jeddah society, the diplomatic corps and the gay community. People ate, drank, rubbed shoulders and formed a single community. Everyone there seemed tolerant of—and actually enjoyed—the large gay presence. There was no closet for high status gays—at least not for Saudis and Westerners. People could party in their homes or cruise in the right part of the beach. If someone was caught by the religious police, there might be a problem, but there were several times when the civil police warned the gays on the beach of the approach of the religious police or even intervened after an arrest.
There was a sacrificial lamb, however—the imported workers. If they were found cruising or sexually active with another of the same gender they would be imprisoned and deported or even executed. These people of color, even though they were Muslims, were badly treated.
What is truly remarkable about the arrest of the 110 is that according to other accounts these were all Saudi men, a protected class. The reports do not make clear whether the police were civil or religious, a distinction that Westerners often miss.
These arrests show how far the pendulum has swung in 12 years. In 1993, many people in Jeddah were excited about CNN on their satellite and were learning about gays and lesbians in the West. The people of Jeddah and some other liberal communities actually seemed to try to provoke the religious police into making outrageous arrests so that the king might reduce their powers. Now threatened by new calls for purity, the crown prince has done away with sacrificial lambs and is instead destroying the gay community—Saudi and foreign.
Dennis W. Mack
Upper West Side
Taking On Scalia
May 12, 2005
To the Editor:
I just wanted to thank Mr. Eric Berndt for making a brave and bold statement by confronting “Justice” Antonin Scalia (“Bluntness for Scalia,” by Duncan Osborne, Apr. 28-May 4). As an older gay man who is in his 50s, I sometimes lose heart, but reading about you has renewed in me a hope for the future of gay men and women. Speaking truth to power always requires courage, but more than that, it requires heart. You have both. Kudos.
Progress Possible, Even Under Benedict
May 17, 2005
To the Editor:
As the Catholic bishops of the United States gather in Chicago for their spring meeting June 16 to 18, the Rainbow Sash Movement is renewing its call for dialogue (“No Benediction, Dark Days Ahead,” by Paul Schindler, Apr. 21-27). This is a an opportunity not only to dialogue, but is a teaching moment for the bishops to explain to Chicago’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community the church’s traditional exclusionary stance on gay rights, if the bishops have the courage.
The Rainbow Sash Movement believes that gay rights in the areas of benefits and opportunity are, indeed, a significant element of the “gospel of life” teaching advocated by the late Pope John Paul II. We would remind our bishops that not all gay and lesbian causes fall outside the church’s doctrinal bounds.
Some who believe in Biblical literalism find sanction for their anti-homosexuality there, but selectively ignore Biblical injunctions to execute people who work on the Sabbath (Exodus 35:2) and to crack down on those who get haircuts (Leviticus 19:27) or who wear clothes with more than one kind of thread (19:19). There’s no Biblical mention of lesbianism—are we to think that male homosexuality is wrong but female homosexuality is not? The bishops realize that Biblical literalism is not our tradition, and yet we are met with silence for political benefit.
The Rainbow Sash Movement is asking the Catholic bishops of the United States to be logical and fair. It is neither logical nor fair to deny any one access to five things—income, education, health care, housing or justice—on the basis of his or her race, sex, creed, color or sexual orientation.
In memory of the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago, it is appropriate for us to call for a common ground.
Rainbow Sash Movement Chicago
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