Bible or no Bible, the bigotry of opposing gay marriage obstructs our overall pursuit for equality.
When I was many years younger, I had shared with a group of men how I was bothered that a woman I was attracted to thought I was gay. Most of them nodded and shared their past insecurities whenever doubt was cast on their masculinity. I felt better afterwards until another man challenged me about my discomfort. He took pride in being gay and felt no sympathy for me.
I realized that I had made no time to reflect on my own prejudices. My “opening up” reinforced an environment already unfriendly towards gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgenders.
A closer examination of the qualities which label a man as “gay” reveals these are the same attributes used to characterize women.
Despite advances in women’s rights, the world of work and politics still largely defines “feminine” qualities as signs of weakness. Mainstream society perceive and label both lesbians and gay men as deviants for violating “traditional” gender roles. The link between sexism and homophobia are clear. Women’s rights cannot advance as long as homophobia continues. More than half of our nation will remain behind.
For all of us, history tears down the “religious” blinds concealing the danger in the Californian anti-same-sex marriage initiative Proposition 8. Scholar Bryant Yang drew parallels between the discourse surrounding anti-Asian sentiment and anti-miscegenation in the 1700s and 1800s and the current language used in opposing same-sex marriage.
In the 1700s and 1800s, men mainly constituted the major waves of Asian immigrants entering the US . Consequently, relationships developed between some Asian men and white women. At the time, many white people viewed Asian men and white women marriage as a threat to society. Anti-miscegenation laws became part of a larger effort to exclude and further disenfranchise Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and African Americans.
Opponents of interracial marriage cited Christian Bible scripture to support their views. Most notably, they refer to the story of Phinehas who saved Israel by thrusting a spear through a Israelite man and his Moab woman lover. Bryant includes in his analysis several court opinions issued by judges quoting similar Bible passages. One example is a 1871 Tennessee court who upheld anti-miscegenation laws because “[marriage] is an institution of God, and a very honorable state…’Thou shalt not,’ said Abraham, ‘take a wife unto my son of the daughters of the Canaanites’…The laws of civilization demand that the races be kept apart in this country.”
Interestingly, more passages in the Bible can be interpreted as justifying racism than the sum total of eight references to homosexuality, none of which made directly by Jesus Christ (Of more curious note, Dr. Virginia Ramey Mollenkott notes that the term homosexual did not exist in all languages until the 1890s).
Oddly enough, there are hundreds of biblical citations, especially by Jesus Christ, condemning greed and supporting an equal distribution of the wealth. Yet, feelings towards the rich does not match the venom against Lesbians/Gays/Bisexuals/Transgenders (LGBT). How can more people easily support a ban on same-sex marriage than a limit on corporate greed? In fact, some aspire to that particular sin while feeling defensive if their own sexuality is doubted.
The same line of thinking antagonistic towards interracial marriage and people of color follows the same logic hostile to same-sex marriage and LGBTs.
I find in the Bible most relevant, in Chapter 7 of the Gospel of Mark, a scene in which Jesus challenges the Pharisees who criticize him for violating biblical tradition. Christ responds, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’ You leave the commandment of God, and hold fast the tradition of men.”
Christ utters the ultimate commandment, “”So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 7:12).”
We will never advance until we realize that ultimately we are all gay.
Originally published by the Asian American Action Fund.
John Delloro is the Executive Director of the Dolores Huerta Labor Institute, LACCD and currently sits on the Legal Advisory Board of the Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance (KIWA) and the Board of Directors of the PWC. He was one of the co-founders of the Pilipino Workers Center of Southern California (PWC) and served as the president of the Los Angeles Chapter of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA). For the past decade, he also worked as a regional manager/organizer for SEIU 1000, Union of California State Workers, a staff director/organizer for SEIU 399, the Healthcare Workers Union, and an organizer for AFSCME International and HERE 226, the hotel workers union in Las Vegas.
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