Monday, November 1, 2010

When "Traditional Values" Are No Longer Tradtional

I was reading a story this morning about a British couple who was told by a review panel that they could not be foster parents because of their anti-gay views. According to the story at Pink News, the couple are Pentecostal Christians who also oppose pre-marital sex and don't recognize the validity of civil unions, the closest thing to marriage the UK offers to same-sex couples.

Like most of Western Europe, the UK has moved way ahead of the US when it comes to LGBT rights. For several years now, countries applying for membership in the European Union, an economic coalition of European nations sharing the Euro as a common currency, have had to meet a laundry list of criteria in order to be approved for membership. One of the most important factors in membership consideration is the issue of Human Rights, including how that country treats its LGBT citizens.

Great Britain has been a founding member of the EU since 1993 (but continues to use the British Pound as its currency). What this means for British queers is that they enjoy a greater degree of civil protection and more legal rights than we do here in the good old USA. This story got me thinking about the meaning of the term "traditional values" and wondering,  at what point do traditional values become outdated values?

Seventeen years is a long time. Most marriages don't even last that seventeen years. LGBT people living in member states of the EU have had more legal rights than US queers for so long, that homophobic attitudes are now considered outdated. Having "traditional values" is no longer a defense for being a bigot, even when your church tells you otherwise. We have much to learn from our European cousins.

One of the major differences between the US and Europe is that Europeans really get the concept of separation of church and state. Once upon a time, the church was all powerful throughout Europe. Kings and Queens were bound by church law under threat of excommunication. That was the primary reason King Henry VIII left the Catholic Church and founded the Church of England, now called the Anglican Church or Episcopal Church here in the states. Europeans know from first hand experience that when the church is involved in government, civil rights are the first thing to go.

We have seen a tremendous amount of progress here in the US for the LGBT rights movement and god knows we've got a long way to go, but it seems to me that defending religious-based bigotry by claiming to have traditional values is no defense. Standing up for the rights of the oppressed, fighting to overturn discriminatory laws that restrict the rights of citizens and fighting bigotry in all its forms is a traditional American value.

Using your religious beliefs as a justification for your bigotry is no longer a traditional value. It is cowardice. The word "homophobia" means an irrational fear of homosexuals or homosexuality. Many anti-gay activists claim they're not homophobes, they're just afraid of the homosexual agenda. They're afraid of what will happen to they're kids in a society that recognizes the inherent, god-given rights of all its people. They're afraid of what will happen if the "homosexual lifestyle" (whatever that is) becomes accepted as normal. Fear is what drives our opponents and, as Stephen Colbert illustrated at Saturday's Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear, they want you to be afraid too.

This country has a long, solid tradition of liberalism that we, as liberals, should not be hiding from. Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment insurance, health insurance, a free press and a free public education, equal pay for women and the end of slavery were all radical liberal ideas that we now take for granted. Remember this when you go into the voting booth tomorrow. Do you want to backslide into the George W. Bush era of "traditional values", or do you want to embrace traditional American values?  The choice is clear.  
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1 comment:

  1. Having been lucky enough to travel through parts of Europe and Canada, I can say honestly that when it comes to "returning" back into this country,back into Virginia, I never really wanted to, if I could have stayed over there I would have. For the short time within some of those very open and accepting countries, my partner and I became spoiled and consumed by the population's "what the heck is the big who you are" atmosphere. Everyone seemed to be looking at us oddly when we said we were from America...a kind of sympathy and humor and contempt rolled into one glance back at us. I was embarrassed to mention it after a short time because we(the U.S.) were so far behind them and yet touted ourselves as being world leaders in human rights etc etc. How do they say "Hypocrisy"...I believe they say "America". Paradoxically and abhorently, I believe our continuous, snails- pace struggle for equality is a result of (some) organized religion's need to feed their greed....yes I can say emphatically the Mormon and Catholic religions to name just two. They exalt themselves and manipulate America through their literal-fear-based biblical perversions, and it works. Acceptance of diversity,nevermind celebration of it, is looked at as evil. We have so far to go here in America, and certianly we are NOT what the world aspires to,or looks up to, in regards to equality for all. In light of tomorrow's elections-prognosis, it is highly questionable that we can continue with any optimism in our quest for GLBT Equality, but we all must ! We will vote tomorrow, and we will find new more effective ways to wage this battle, and we will win !


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