Archives For LGBTQ

We likely won’t know until June what the outcomes of the oral arguments at the Supreme Court over California’s Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) will be, but it does seem clear that a threshold has been crossed. No matter how narrow (or broad) the decisions will ultimately be regarding the rights of same-sex couples in the United States, many will look to 2013 (and the November 2012 elections) as a time when a cultural corner was turned. When marriage equality was now backed by a majority of Americans, when politicians quickly issue statements to be on the right side of history, and when culturally conservative opponents of same-sex marriage are collapsing.

“In 2004, the campaign to prevent gay marriage was in its heyday. The Bush administration had seeded an initiative banning gay marriage in Ohio to mobilize activists and peel off traditionalist Democratic voters. Democrats nationally were running for cover, and even Howard Dean’s pro-civil-unions stance appeared risky. Now the movement is in a state of total collapse, with every day seeming to bring new converts to the gay-marriage cause and the opposition losing all of its courage.”

For many years Pagans have been on the forefront of the marriage equality debate. As a decentralized movement, one that recognizes many different sources of authority and tradition, we have long accepted that same-sex rites (and rights) were a part of our larger tapestry. As thousands gathered in Washington DC to be a part of history of the making, modern Pagans were there too, adding our voices, our support, to the growing movement for full equality.

Pagans in Washington DC, including Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary, and PNC reporter/author David Salisbury performing a rite for freedom and justice.

Pagans in Washington DC, including Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary, and PNC reporter/author David Salisbury performing a rite for freedom and justice.

“On March 26th and 27th, two of the most historic cases to ever be heard by the Supreme Court of the United States will begin. One case would overturn Proposition 8, which years ago banned marriage equality for all same-sex California citizens. The second trial would overturn DOMA (the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act”). Depending on how the SCOTUS rules, both of these trials could have major nation-wide effects that would change the course of our movement forever. People from all over the country will be arriving here in the District to rally at the trial on Tuesday. A crew of people (including me) will be sleeping outside on the sidewalk of the Supreme Court on Monday night before the rally on Tuesday. That night I will facilitate a ritual calling upon the guardian Goddess of DC and of the United States, Columbia. We will ask Columbia to bring the sword of victory to our work, leading us in the march to freedom and justice. Before the Tuesday rally, I’ll attend an interfaith service with some of my of my coreligionists and people of other faiths. Rev. Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary will be speaking at the service to give a voice from the Pagan perspective. This is all a very big deal.”

Selena Fox and other clergy at a National Interfaith Service in Washington DC.

Selena Fox and other clergy at a National Interfaith Service in Washington DC.

Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary also took part in a National Interfaith Service, where she and clergy from several other faiths blessed more than 30 same-sex couples.

As we get closer to decisions in these cases I plan to showcase Pagan voices on this issue, including national Pagan organizations, activists on the ground, and the experiences of Pagan same-sex couples. Until then, here’s a selection of past coverage The Wild Hunt has done on marriage equality, which includes many important Pagan voices weighing in on the subject.

DOMA Ruling and Pagan Marriage Rites (October 2012)

“A truly pluralistic and secular government understands that allowing one religious paradigm concerning marriage to trump all others is wrong, and undermines the very rights a free society holds sacred. We no longer live in a solely Christian nation, nor did we ever, really, from the very beginning America was built on a dance of power and privilege that sought to establish dominance for one viewpoint. That can no longer stand, and today’s ruling is not only a positive step forward for the rights of same-sex couples, but is also a step forward for all those who would want to bless those unions.”

Christianity and Marriage Equality (May 2012)

“As a non-Christian I have become increasingly frustrated with the game of theological and political ”hot potato” when it comes to this issue. It’s always “those” Christians over there, not the “good” Christians who are “evolving” on the issue. When the Catholic Pope calls for a grand anti-gay-marriage religious coalition, when our country’s most popular Evangelical leader defends himself from the mere perception of tolerance, you simply can’t pretend that opposition to the basic humanity of LGBTQ individuals is some extremist fringe living in the wilderness. The real, unfortunate, truth is that Christianity is working against the lives of gay men and women, save for a small percentage who have broken away.”

On Faith: Is there a marriage crisis in America today? (December 2010)

“It’s telling that the “solution” provided by many to the marriage problem is to roll back freedoms, and enshrine a trapped-in-amber definition of marriage that is as much an artificial construction as any now criticized by the culture warriors. Just as many “traditional marriage” proponents would blanch at the thought of returning marriage to a time of dowries, land transference, political alliances, and women-as-bargaining-chip; so too do young people today recoil at the thought of marriage being limited to the “proper” genders, a vehicle for reproduction, social stability, and maintaining an illusory status quo. A return to a time when private detectives where required to extricate oneself from an unhappy union, and domestic abuses were glossed over for the sake of social order.”

Pagans and Prop. 8 (August 2012)

“Within modern Pagan communities same-sex marriage is almost wholly uncontroversial. Shortly after Walker’s ruling was handed down, several Pagan organizations and noted figures within the movement reaffirmed their commitment to same-sex marriages and praised the decision. Druid group Ar nDriaocht Fein (ADF) said in a statement they “warmly welcome the decision of the court”, and that their organization has “never believed that the institution of marriage could possibly be threatened by the existence of married people of any gender”. T. Thorn Coyle of Solar Cross Temple and Morningstar Mystery School, speaking to those now recoiling from Prop. 8′s overturn, noted that“we are not trying to change your religious beliefs. We are only saying that we have the same civil rights as you do.” Holli Emore of Osireion and the Pagan Round Table said in a message to The Wild Hunt that we are “living in the last days of the kind of bigotry that would presume to dictate such matters, in my opinion.”

For even more, check out the “LGBTQ” and “marriage” tag categories. You may also be interested in my coverage of Cascadian “nones” in Washington and how they voted for marriage equality.

Here’s to freedom, here’s to love, here’s to equal rights (and rites) for everyone. More on this topic in the coming weeks.

There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans out there, sometimes more than I can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up.

Cécile Pouilly, spokesperson for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Cécile Pouilly, spokesperson for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

  • In response to the burning of Kepari Leniata in Papua New Guinea, covered here at The Wild Hunt yesterday, Amnesty International and the United Nation’s human rights office have both urged the government to take “concrete” actions to stop witch-killings in the Commonwealth nation. Quote: “We urge the Government to put an end to these crimes and to bring perpetrators of attacks and killings to justice through thorough, prompt and impartial investigations in accordance with international law […] We note with great concern that this case adds to the growing pattern of vigilante attacks and killings of persons accused of sorcery in Papua New Guinea […] We urge the Government to take urgent action to prevent further cases through education, to provide protection to persons accused of sorcery and witnesses of sorcery-related killings, and to provide medical and psychosocial treatment for victims.” Let us hope that the death of Kepari Leniata was not in vain, and this will trigger safeguards against this horror happening again in Papua New Guinea. 
  • The Pagan Newswire Collective bureau in Minnesota reports on the 6th anniversary of the Upper Midwest Pagan Alliance, and debates whether there will be a 7th as membership has dwindled in recent years. Quote: “The organization notes that while over 300 people have been involved with UMPA over the past six years, membership has dwindled and that is prompting leadership to ask members and the community, ‘… does this mean UMPA is no longer needed? We don’t know. This is an opportunity gather for a great meal, entertainment, and to join in and discuss the future of UMPA; either find some new leadership and participation, or dissolve the organization and pass on any funds raised to another non-profit.'”
  • Author and magician Donald Michael Kraig has been named “Acquisitions Editor: Magic(k) and Occult Topics” over at Llewellyn Worldwide and he wants you to write! Quote: “I’ve been fortunate enough to travel all over the U.S. and Europe giving workshops. Everywhere I go I hear the same sort of thing, “I could write a better book!” Whenever I hear people say that I encourage them! “Please do! We need new books and better books all the time.” Some of the people I’ve encouraged have gone on to write numerous popular books. They had the determination to do the work and see it through to the end. I congratulate them!” Congratulations to Kraig on his new role! 
  • Science Fiction blog io9 takes the new film version of The Sorcerer and the White Snake to task for making a religious/supernatural persecutor the hero, when he should have been the villain. Quote: “If [Jet] Li had simply been a villain — or if the movie had allowed him to be –- White Snake could have surpassed a lot of the limitations it sets upon itself; one genuinely interesting performance can make up for a lot of mediocre special effects. In one version of the original Chinese fairy tale, Fahai actually is the villain — although he’s a vengeful terrapin demon who takes the form of a monk, rather than an actual monk. But I can’t help but think that would have been a better choice for everyone.”
  • While I’m on the subject of io9, they review a recent episode of the show Supernatural that apparently had an abundance of OTO/Crowley references. Quote: “Last night’s episode of Supernatural had a lot to offer: a hot lady in a great 1950s dress, several Aleister Crowley references, and at least one trip to the coolest comic book store in the world.” [Hat-tip Invocatio]
  • It seems that Satan totally loves the full moon.
  • What do you do when you rely on the conservative Christian vote, but know that the country is getting more and more religiously diverse? Can you please one without alienating the other? Quote: “The challenge confronting the GOP as it attempts to broaden its base is not limited to Jewish voters. A survey conducted by Pew last year found that more than six in ten (61%) non-Christian affiliated Americans (a group that includes Hindus, Jews and Muslims) agreed that ‘religious conservatives have too much control over the Republican Party.’ Nearly two-thirds of religiously unaffiliated Americans also affirmed this statement. These groups are among the fastest-growing religious communities in the U.S. And if the GOP is serious about appealing to these voters, its candidates must navigate the difficult path of keeping conservative Christians engaged and committed while not appearing beholden to them.”
A fiasidi pauses to say a silent prayer while sweeping the pathway between the shrines for the male Togbui Adzima deity and his wife, Mama Wena in the sacred forest. Photo: Dana Romanoff/The Revealer

A fiasidi pauses to say a silent prayer while sweeping the pathway between the shrines for the male Togbui Adzima deity and his wife, Mama Wena in the sacred forest. Photo: Dana Romanoff/The Revealer

  • The Revealer looks at life in and around the Adzima shrines in Ghana. Quote: “While visitors shape much of the activity in the shrines, they are also homes for the priests, their wives and their children. Since a priest is rarely allowed to leave the proximity of the shrine, his wives take turns staying with him and cooking his meals. The priests’ wives have their own homes nearby, built for them either by the priest or on their own, where they reside intermittently, along with their children or relatives. The priest’schildren visit daily, asking for lunch money and school fees. The shrines are not simply or only religious spaces—they’re households, with children running around, studying for school, preparing meals, washing clothes, and entertaining guests.” This is an amazing piece, please go read the whole thing.
  • Rev. Irene Monroe writes about how Haitian Vodou is accepting of LGBTQ people, even if some of the individual practitioners are not. Quote: “Gay males in Haitian Vodou embrace the divine protection of Erzulie Freda, the feminine spirit of love and sexuality. Gay males are allowed to imitate and worship her. Lesbians are under the patronage of Erzulie Dantor, a fierce protector of women and children experiencing domestic violence. Erzulie Dantor is bisexual and prefers the company women. Labalèn is a gynandrous or intersexual spirit. And LaSirèn who is the Vodou analogue of Yemayá, a maternal spirit, is a revered transgender.”
  • Oh, and Vodou didn’t cause the Superbowl blackout, in case you were wondering
  • At HuffPo ReligionPagan and interfaith minister Wes Isley has an honest question about grief. Quote: “Maybe that sense of spiritual isolation after grief is universal no matter what faith we practice. And maybe I’ll feel more like my old self in six months or so. But what if I don’t? What if I abandon this Pagan path? I’ve already lost my partner; must I lose my faith, too? This brings me to my central dilemma: Whatever spiritual path we choose should be able to sustain us through the toughest of times; if it fails to do so, is it worth keeping? Once before, I changed my faith when it no longer made sense and failed to sustain. Is that about to happen again?” Maybe some of my wiser readers can help him out? 

That’s it for now! Feel free to discuss any of these links in the comments, some of these I may expand into longer posts as needed.

On Tuesday the Obama Administration revealed that they had picked evangelical Christian Pastor Louis Giglio to give the benedition at President Obama’s second inauguration. Giglio had been picked for his work combatting human trafficking, and as a symbolic outreach to a religious community that overwhelmingly voted against Obama’s re-election (much in the same way Rick Warren was tapped to give the invocation four years earlier). However, on Wednesday the blog ThinkProgress did a bit of background work and found a virulently anti-gay sermon Giglio gave back in the 1990s, creating controversy for an administration that had campaigned on LGBT rights and equality. 

Pastor Louie Giglio

Pastor Louis Giglio

“The 54-minute sermon, entitled “In Search of a Standard – Christian Response to Homosexuality,” advocates for dangerous “ex-gay” therapy for gay and lesbian people, references a biblical passage often interpreted to require gay people be executed, and impels Christians to “firmly respond to the aggressive agenda” and prevent the “homosexual lifestyle” from becoming accepted in society.”

By Thursday Giglio had been removed from the program, with most outlets reporting that he had voluntarily stepped down. In the eye-blink between announcement and withdrawal Huffington Post Senior Religion Editor Paul Brandeis Raushenbush asked why Obama continues to try and woo a religious demographic that seems to have its mind made up concerning this president.

“Why does Obama insist on entrusting a representative of this group with this high honor in the first place? White evangelicals seem unlikely to change their opinion of the president, regardless of who is praying at his inauguration. Why try to build a bridge that will lead to nowhere?”

Which lead to the perhaps inevitable lists of Christians who affirm gay relationships that could replace Pastor Giglio. Thankfully, ThinkProgress, at the end of their “who could replace Giglio” post, gets to a very salient point: why does it have to be a Christian at all?

Someone who isn’t Christian – Although a variety of religious voices have been represented in presidential inaugurations in years past (Ronald Reagan’s inauguration, for example, featured a prayer from Rabbi Alfred Gottschalk), more recent inauguration ceremonies have privileged Christian voices. With this in mind, the Inaugural committee would do well to consider picking someone more representative of America’s religious diversity. Possible candidates could include Rabbi Denise Eger, Muslims such as interfaith activist Eboo Patel, or any number of representatives from the Sikh community, just to name a few.”

This simple and obvious point is so rarely spoken when people cover the intersections of religion and politics that I blush at how excited I got when I finally heard it uttered (well, typed, but you get the picture). Far too often when people talk about the “Religious Right” in this country they try to counter it with an (equally Christian) “Religious Left” (which has its own problems). It pits a “lefty” Jesus against a “righty” Jesus in a debate over important moral and religious issues that potentially affect Americans of all beliefs (or no beliefs). It’s a Christian default setting that immediately places all non-Christians on a different tier, feeding off the scraps thrown to us by those who shape our country’s narrative.

Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard

Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, the first Hindu to seve in Congress.

This election was supposed to herald the “end of a white Christian strategy” in national politics, it was an election that saw all those demographic chickens starting to come home to roost. Our Congress now has Buddhists, Muslims, a Hindu, and a “none” among its ranks. If ever there was a time to symbolically show that evangelical Christians don’t have to be exclusively catered to, this is the moment. Or, you could simply wash your hands of the whole affair and make the inaugural ceremony a purely secular event once more.

“As The Washington Post reported today, prayers were added to the festivities in the 1930s. Despite what the Religious Right would have you believe, it’s not like George Washington started these traditions. As I note in the latest Church & State, nothing in the Constitution requires the use of prayers, the phrase “so help me, God” in the oath or the use of Bibles during the swearing in. These things are traditions, and traditions can be changed. As America changes — as our nation becomes more diverse on matters of religion and philosophy and as we seek a country that is truly inclusive and doesn’t relegate anyone to second-class status on the basis of race, creed, gender or sexual orientation – it may be time to reconsider some old practices.”

I agree with Rob Boston at Americans United, it is time to reconsider our old practices and either become truly diverse at ceremonial state functions, or leave the prayers to religious gatherings. The Christian default setting must end, and now is the time to end it.

One year ago I reported on a lawsuit filed by the ACLU which accused the Salem (Missouri) Public Library with unconstitutionally blocking access to websites dealing with minority religions, and “improperly classifying them as ‘occult’ or ‘criminal.’” In that story I explained that the genesis of content filtering largely began with companies catering to culturally conservative/Christian clients who wanted to protect against what they saw as the excesses and moral decay of our society. As such, these filters often targeted “occult,” LGBT, and even politically liberal sites in addition to violent or adult-oriented destinations. As Nancy Willard, Executive Director of the Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use, noted in a 2002 report, some of the largest web filtering businesses serve both government contracts and conservative religious interests.

shutterstock 41035354

“Some of the filtering companies are providing filtering services to conservative religious ISPs that are representing to their users that the service filters in accord with conservative religious values. Some of the filtering companies appear to have partnership relationships with conservative religious organizations. Some filtering companies have been functioning as conservative religious ISPs and have recently established new divisions that are marketing services to schools. Most of the companies have filtering categories in which they are blocking web sites presenting information known to be of concern to people with conservative religious values — such as non-traditional religions and sexual orientation — in the same category as material that no responsible adult would consider appropriate for young people.”

As web filtering went from being a niche market to a multi-million dollar industry this culturally conservative DNA remained a part of their functionality, with companies purchasing/acquiring site lists that had a clear and identifiable bias instead of building new, secular-minded and politically neutral, lists from scratch. Now, this unfortunate legacy has struck again, this time not at Pagans (so far as I know) but at LGBT and liberal sites within the United States’ Defense Department.

Block notice for “Good as You” (Image: AMERICAblog)

Block notice for “Good as You” (Image: AMERICAblog)

“AMERICAblog has been raising awareness over the past week about a problematic Internet filtering problem at the Pentagon, and rightfully so. Apparently, a preponderance of LGBT news sites have been blocked by the DOD, including AMERICAblog, Towleroad, Good As You, The Bilerico Project, Pam’s House Blend, The Advocate, and the Human Rights Campaign’s blog.”

AMERICAblog also notes that anti-gay advocacy sites like  National Organization for Marriage aren’t blocked, nor are several popular conservative blogs. The Department of Defense sent out a statement that it does not blog LGBT sites, only “personal blogs” but that doesn’t explain how the Advocate and the Human Rights Campaign sites came to be blocked.

“…if the Pentagon doesn’t ban LGBT content, but rather “blogs,” then why did US sailors today discover that the gay newsmagazine, the Advocate – which is not a blog – is banned on military computers found on board the ship the USS John C Stennis (CVN-74), and has been for over a year? And for that matter, if we are to believe the Pentagon today that AMERICAblog, for example, is simply being blocked for being a blog, then why is the prominent Republican blog, Red State, not blocked on the same Air Force computers that block AMERICAblog?  One is gay and progressive, the other is straight and Republican.”

Even if the many of these instances of “overblocking” are innocent, there’s still a lot of blurry ground here, and the DoD’s statement doesn’t do much to clear it up. Is there even a criteria for what a “personal blog” is? Why would Pam’s House Blend be a personal blog, but not Ann Coulter’s site? The bizarre and seemingly biased classifications are only inciting further anger, instead of clearing things up. After further uproar and media attention, the DOD now says they are looking into the matter, and will work with the relevant “components” on fixing the issue.

“I can’t tell you what I’ve been told privately, but I can say that I’ve been speaking to someone knowledgable about this situation and I feel assured that they’re genuinely working on it.”

From what I know about the Internet filtering industry I can tell you that this won’t be the last incident of a government institution blocking access to content that shouldn’t be blocked in the public sphere. Not until government institutions make clear and strict guidelines for what can and cannot be included in a Internet filter on taxpayer-funded computers. There shouldn’t even be a LGBT filtering category, whether it’s enabled or not. Likewise, no filtering software sold to schools, libraries, or government bodies should include religion-oriented filters of any kind. As it stands, the status quo has been that marginalized groups have had to fight a highly secretive industry to get their categories and lists changed, often with mixed results. This is not good enough.

The Internet filtering business is fundamentally broken at its core, because it was initially designed to only serve one very select group of people, to protect them from the rest of the world. It won’t be until the DNA of filtering is re-written to serve a pluralistic, diverse, and ever-changing society that these problems will cease. My hope is that these embarrassing incidents for our government, and lawsuits against misuses of filtering software spark more attention to this problem, and ultimately, force a broader discussion on this topic.

Last night, aside from a few hold-outs, a prevailing consensus formed about the election that won President Barack Obama a second term, and kept the Senate in Democratic control despite unfavorable odds: America’s demographics have shifted.

obama twitter1

President Barack Obama hugs wife Michelle on learning that he was re-elected for a second term in office.

“The white establishment is now the minority,” Bill O’Reilly, one of the network’s most famous personalities, said earlier this evening. “The demographics are changing: It’s not a traditional America anymore.” Minutes later, former Gov. Mike Huckabee would slam his own party for failing to reach out to non-white voters. “I think Republicans have done a pathetic job of reaching out to people of color,” Huckabee said during an appearance on Fox. “That’s something we’ve got to work on. It’s a group of people that frankly should be with us based on the real policy of conservatism.”

But the erosion of “traditional” America wasn’t simply about fewer white voters, it was also about women, and younger voters, who defied the ever-popular notion that they are politically apathetic. It was also about shifting religious demographics too.

“Romney has been winning in battleground states among white evangelicals, white Catholics, and weekly churchgoers. But it wasn’t enough to give him a victory. In Pennsylvania, for example, while Romney won white Catholics and white Protestants, Obama won among Catholics as a whole, the unaffiliated, and non-white voters. […] A recent Pew survey found that there are now equal numbers of white evangelicals and unaffiliated voters, and a Public Religion Research Institute poll found similar results. I noted at the time of the PRRI survey that the bulk of Romney’s base was coming from white conservative evangelicals, mainline Protestants, and Catholics, while Obama’s ‘support comes from a more diverse group: 23% from the unaffiliated, 18% from black Protestants, 15% from white mainline Protestants, 14% from white Catholics, 8% from Latino Catholics, and 7% from non-Christians. Romney draws just 3% of his base from Latino Catholics, 2% from non-Christians, and an unmeasurable portion from black Protestants.'”

Did you catch that? The religiously unaffiliated are about the same size as white evangelicals, the demographic that politicians from both parties have wooed for decades now. During the run-up to the election I noted that both parties need to do a better job in reaching out to the very real pluralism and diversity that is religion in the United States.

“The problem is that both parties have been slow to embrace real pluralism and religious diversity in their one prime-time 3-day infomercial to the American people (and in certain senses, the world). This may not be a problem for this election cycle, but it is increasingly going to be an issue as that slow demographic shift keeps on shifting, and more states start to be evenly divided between Christians on one side, with “nones” and “others” on the other. The “unchurched” (non-Christian) vote is going to be a real thing in the years to come, and we’re a frustratingly diverse demographic. Asian-Americans are a key growth point for non-Abrahamic religions across the country, while a whopping 12% of state residents are adherents of a New Age, Pagan, or esoteric faiths in Colorado, with another 20% fitting into the “none” category. These are growing populations that can’t be ignored forever.”

The unaffiliated were a big chunk of Obama’s religious support, and a whopping 70% of “nones” and 74% of “others” (which would include us Pagans) voted for the President last night. For all the analysis focused on race or gender last night, it’s also disastrous for any candidate to so completely alienate non-Christian voters (it should be noted that Obama also garnered nearly 70% of the Jewish vote as well, despite efforts to undermine that support).  The more pluralistic and religiously diverse American becomes, the harder it will be to ignore non-Christian voices.

Sifting through the results from last night you can start to see the realignments. Hawaii sends the first Buddhist, Mazie Hirono, to the US Senate, and the first Hindu, Tulsi Gabbard, to the House.

TulsiMazie

Tulsi Gabbard & Mazie Hirono of Hawaii.

“Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), a practicing Hindu of the Vaishnava tradition, campaigned on her experience as a former Honolulu City Councilwoman and Iraq war veteran. Her landslide win was expected after she became the Democratic party’s candidate following a primary victory in the state’s second district in July. She replaces Mazie Hirono, a Buddhist, who subsequently won Hawaii’s vacant Senate seat.  “Gabbard is an incredibly inspiring leader whose political rise is a testament to the greatest ideals of American pluralism,” said Aseem Shukla, co-founder and Board member of HAF.”Hindu American Foundation (HAF)

Meanwhile, New York’s 6th Congressional District was handily won by Democrat Grace Meng, beating out Dan Halloran, a conservative Republican, Tea Party politician, and Heathen.  While Halloran, himself a non-Christian, didn’t have an issue reaching out to non-Christians per se, he had an uphill demographic climb in the Democratic-leaning district, one where Asian Americans are increasingly seen as vital if you want to win (a demographic that accounts for much of the growth in non-Christian faiths in America). Meng becomes the first Asian-American to be elected to Congress from New York. The Halloran-Meng face-off itself is something of a harbinger of the future, where racial and religious minorities are a given in both parties, with both vying for votes in an ever-diverse electorate.

Last night was also a historic night for same-sex marriage rights.  Maine and Maryland both legalized same-sex marriage by popular vote, reversing an ongoing electoral trend that favored social conservatives. Now, this morning, it looks like Washington will join them, a race decided by the religiously unaffiliated majority in that state.

“When I wrote my initial piece, I asserted that “if Cascadian nones are truly the New Age, nature religion, do-it-yourselfers that researchers assert, then this could be a preview for what a truly post-Christian pluralistic political struggle will look like.” So, with the clock ticking down on the November elections, where do we stand on this ballot initiative that would potentially stop gay marriage in Washington state?  A September 10th poll says that 56% of Washington voters support upholding legal same-sex marriage in their state, while only  38% favor eliminating equal marriage rights, 6% are undecided. This is remarkable data, even in a traditionally “liberal” state like Washington, as voter referendums on same-sex marriage have always favored limiting legal marriage rights to opposite sex couples.”

In that piece from September I said that: “it’s Washington that I’m most interested in because of the trends that point to the “nones” in the Pacific Northwest being more like “us” Pagans in inclination and spiritual orientation. If you want tea leaves to read over what a “Pagan” vote might look like, this might be our chance to witness it in action.” If you also factor in the vote to legalize marijuana, and the general “blue” trends in that state, I think my analysis holds up.

The good news didn’t end there. Minnesota also rejected a constitutional amendment that would have banned gay marriage, a ballot strategy that has always worked for anti-gay groups in the past. For the many Pagans who affirm and bless same-sex unions this is a big step torward ending the hegemony of Christian morality dominating the conversation on issues like this.

There are many other instances I can pull up here, Colorado going blue (and legalizing pot), the influx of women senators, the overreach of social (Christian) conservatives, but I’ll simply end with this point: I think we’re going to see a lot more elections that look like this one. That doesn’t mean that Democrats automatically win all the time, or that Republicans are always doomed to lose, just that the playing field will never again be like it was in the 1980s or 1990s. The slowly shifting demographics have started to turn a corner, and savvy politicians, no matter what their political orientation, will adapt to these emerging realities. Yes, that means reaching out to racial minorities, and women, and younger voters, but it also means reaching out to the “nones” and the religious “others” instead of banking everything on the evangelical Christian vote (or the Catholic vote for that matter).

Welcome to the beginning of the post-Christian American future.

The Second Circuit Federal Appeals Court has today issued a ruling striking down the controversial Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a federal law that defines marriage as (only) between one man and one woman. Even more striking, according to ThinkProgress, is that the opinion, penned by Chief Judge Dennis Jacobs, a deeply conservative appointee, is so sweeping in its decision.

Chief Judge Dennis Jacobs

Chief Judge Dennis Jacobs

“Jacobs is not simply saying that DOMA imposes unique and unconstitutional burdens on gay couples, he is saying that any attempt by government to discriminate against gay people must have an “exceedingly persuasive” justification. This is the same very skeptical standard afforded to laws that discriminate against women. If Jacobs’ reasoning is adopted by the Supreme Court, it will be a sweeping victory for gay rights, likely causing state discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation to be virtually eliminated. And the fact that this decision came from such a conservative judge makes it all the more likely that DOMA will ultimately be struck down by the Supreme Court.”

In essence, the writing is on the wall, the battle over whether same-sex couples will be able to legally marry their partner is all but won by those who believe in marriage equality. So even if the various same-sex marriage initiatives going to the ballot box this November end up restricting marriage rights/rites, it seems increasingly likely that a Supreme Court decision will eventually trump them all. This is as it should be, because the basic inherent rights of individuals to form social contracts, and have those contracts be legally binding, to have their unions recognized by hospitals, courts, and the government that claims to represent them, should not be put to a popular vote. Otherwise you cater to the whims and prejudices of the majority, and in the process you end up privileging the religions that oppose same-sex unions.

“…as a Christian, I think it is time to admit who bears responsibility for atrocities like Amendment One and all other anti-LGBT legislation. It’s Christianity. I might want to say I’m not like those Christians over there who stood for Amendment One and other such legislation. But they are my brothers and sisters in the faith, no two ways about it. I might want to say those Christians don’t represent what Christ stood for. But I bet they would say the same thing about me. I can try to split hairs and divide the Christian community so I don’t have to think about the hate my faith tradition has spawned and let loose in the world like a legion of demons. But I can’t say any of that with a shred of integrity.” – Episcopal postulant David R. Henson

The fight for the equal rights and treatment of same-sex couples ultimately benefits the religions that support those rights, and destabilizes the ones that don’t. So it’s little wonder that opposition to same-sex marriage is regularly portrayed as a struggle against “paganism” by those who feel especially threatened.

“Marriage may be done for this culture in certain sectors, in certain pockets, but marriage most certainly is certainly not done because it is the God-ordained institution that mirrors the analogy of Christ and His church, it is the human institution that most closely reflects the heart of God the Father in Christ Jesus our Lord. That’s why they’re attacking it, they don’t know that that’s why they’re attacking it, they’re attacking it because they’re looking at all the advances in medical technology. I can have a baby without a man, so why do I need a man? I can earn more than a man, so why do I need a man? You can have a baby by adoption, and you can do it with a same-sex partner, so why do you need marriage? This is exactly what the pagans did, way back when, this is exactly what they did: destroy marriage. It’s shaking a fist in the face of God.” – Christian radio host Janet Mefferd

Within modern Pagan communities, support for legal same-sex marriage has been strong for years, with luminaries like Starhawk and organizations like the Covenant of the Goddess showing their support.

“Covenant of the Goddess has, since its inception in 1975, had clergy willing to celebrate the religious if not the legal joining of two members of the same gender. While we respect the right of the individual clergy within COG who may choose not to perform such a ceremony, we are in support of marriage between two committed adults of any gender, and a majority of our celebrants are willing to perform such ceremonies.”

A truly pluralistic and secular government understands that allowing one religious paradigm concerning marriage to trump all others is wrong, and undermines the very rights a free society holds sacred. We no longer live in a solely Christian nation, nor did we ever, really, from the very beginning America was built on a dance of power and privilege that sought to establish dominance for one viewpoint. That can no longer stand, and today’s ruling is not only a positive step forward for the rights of same-sex couples, but is also a step forward for all those who would want to bless those unions.

[Don’t forget, we’re in the midst of The Wild Hunt’s Fall Fund Drive! If you want to support this service, please help spread the word, or make a donation today! Thanks to everyone who has donated already!]

This past Saturday California Governor Jerry Brown signed bill SB1172 into law, banning controversial “conversion therapies” for homosexuality if the patient is a minor. In a statement, Brown condemned these therapies as “quackery” that create, rather than solve, mental health issues.

Gov. Jerry Brown

Gov. Jerry Brown

“This bill bans nonscientific ‘therapies’ that have driven young people to depression and suicide. These practices have no basis in science or medicine, and they will now be relegated to the dustbin of quackery.”

California is the first state to ban conversion therapy (also known as “reparative therapy”) for minors despite the practice being considered harmful by several mainstream mental health organizations. The American Psychological Association said, in a report from 2009 that “efforts to change sexual orientation are unlikely to be successful and involve some risk of harm, contrary to the claims of SOCE practitioners and advocates.”  Despite essentially every mainstream health organization, from the AMA to the American Academy of Pediatrics, criticizing these therapies, the practice endures, even for minors, thanks to the assertion in certain religious communities that homosexuality is a sinful disorder that can be treated.

However, not all religious communities feel this way, and many have bravely changed course on this issue, or have always been allies in the struggle to acknowledge homosexuality as a normal and healthy orientation. It’s no secret that modern Paganism as a movement has been largely welcoming of LGBTQ individuals, especially in the last 20 years we have been open towards creating “alternatives” to the modern rigid constructions of social contracts envisioned by conservative Christians. So it comes as no surprise that one of the key groups working towards the passage of this law, Gaylestaa LGBTQ Psychotherapy Association, features a co-president who also happens to be a Reclaiming priestess: Deborah Oak. At her recently revived blog Branches Up, Roots Down, she expressed her pride and joy at this victory.

Deborah Oak

Deborah Oak

 “I am proud. Two years ago I became a Board member for Gaylesta, the biggest and first LGBTQ psychotherapy association in the country. I came on as the chair of the new advocacy committee, and last year became Co-President. After years of activism in anarchist groups, I have learned a new way of activism, and also deepened my understanding of  leadership.  Legislative politics doesn’t have the same panache as direct action politics, but it certainly can be as powerful. Gaylesta, a volunteer association  was instrumental in getting this bill both created and passed. I’ve always believed that being a therapist was being an agent of change and my work with Gaylesta has proved to be integrative. Being an activist within my profession is satisfying. Good therapy can save lives.  Bad therapy can destroy them. Today, the world just got a little safer for LGBTQ youth.”

This is magic, the kind that creates change in the lives of thousands overnight. With communities working in chorus, and with the stroke of a pen, a form of child abuse is eliminated in California. Because Pagans are a part of this spell, this interwoven expression of change and love, we get to claim a proud part in this victory. We too get to dance in joy that an injustice to our brothers and sisters who are gay or lesbian, or bisexual, or transgendered, will end. We get the opportunity to collective affirm their humanity, and our interconnectedness to them. Magic.

Thank you to all who have fought for this change, and thanks to Deborah Oak, who was a part of the nascent Pagan blogosphere back when we were but a handful, and who now shares this joyous news with us.

Back in June I wrote about how a initiative in Washington state on the issue of same-sex marriage could see the first real test of a post-Christian majority at the ballot box. More than half of Washington’s citizens don’t belong to any formal religion, becoming part of the demographic known as “nones,” and these “unchurched” have increasingly gotten more and more attention as their numbers swell. In addition, nones in the Pacific Northwest have their own special character according to the authors of “Cascadia: The Elusive Utopia,” they are “eclectically, informally, often deeply ‘spiritual.’” Specifically, New Age and nature-oriented spirituality loom large among “nones” here.

“According to the just-published “Cascadia: the Elusive Utopia.” … a lot of these “nones” in the Pacific Northwest are actually very spiritual, walking a path of their own making, but not into organized religions and churches. Sociology professor Mark Shibley of Southern Oregon University wrote the lead essay called “The Promise and Limits of Secular Spirituality in Cascadia.” “This region is different. The people here are not as connected to religious institutions,” he says. The alternative spirituality here shows itself in two main ways, Shibley notes: “nature spirituality,” such as you see in the secular environmental movement, and the more well-known New Age spirituality, where the gaze is shifted inward.”

When I wrote my initial piece, I asserted that “if Cascadian nones are truly the New Age, nature religion, do-it-yourselfers that researchers assert, then this could be a preview for what a truly post-Christian pluralistic political struggle will look like.” So, with the clock ticking down on the November elections, where do we stand on this ballot initiative that would potentially stop gay marriage in Washington state?  A September 10th poll says that 56% of Washington voters support upholding legal same-sex marriage in their state, while only  38% favor eliminating equal marriage rights, 6% are undecided. This is remarkable data, even in a traditionally “liberal” state like Washington, as voter referendums on same-sex marriage have always favored limiting legal marriage rights to opposite sex couples.

 

Further, Washington isn’t alone in making history with a popular vote for same-sex marriage instead of against it. Maine, Maryland, and Minnesota are also poised to make breakthroughs on this particular issue if the latest polls are to be believed.

Polling numbers suggest a majority of voters support legalizing same-sex marriage on the ballots in Maine, Maryland and Washington, while Minnesota straddles the fence. Should any of the states approve the ballots, it will be the first time gay marriage passes by popular vote as opposed to going through the courts or legislature. “We’re feeling positive. The reality is, we haven’t won a ballot measure on marriage yet,” Human Rights Campaign state legislative director Sarah Warbelow told NBC News. “I think it’s very reasonable and realistic to expect that we’ll win one or more of these ballot measures; certainly the polling suggests that all four are … a possibility.”

Sticking with my “nones” theory, 25% of Maine residents are religiously unaffiliated according to the Pew Forum, while the 2010 US Religion Census shows that area also dominated by the “unchurched.” Likewise, Maryland’s numbers are also highly religiously unaffiliated (you can download a larger version of the map below here). So, like Washington, they could prefigure a “post-Christian” vote in terms of hot-button social issues like gay marriage.

However, it’s Washington that I’m most interested in because of the trends that point to the “nones” in the Pacific Northwest being more like “us” Pagans in inclination and spiritual orientation. If you want tea leaves to read over what a “Pagan” vote might look like, this might be our chance to witness it in action. Of course, this vote could go the other way, as elections are largely about who’s more motivated, and opponents to same-sex unions are often highly motivated and well funded. Also, with this being a presidential election year, enthusiasm for the candidate(s) who supports same-sex marriage will also be a factor. Still this is a very good sign that a demographic tide may have turned in Washington. We’ll check back in as new data emerges.

There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans out there, sometimes more than I can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up.

Christina Oakley-Harrington

Christina Oakley-Harrington

That’s it for now! Feel free to discuss any of these links in the comments, some of these I may expand into longer posts as needed.

Pagan Community Notes is a series focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. Reinforcing the idea that what happens to and within our organizations, groups, and events is news, and news-worthy. My hope is that more individuals, especially those working within Pagan organizations, get into the habit of sharing their news with the world. So let’s get started!

Witch School Ends the Reality Television Gravy Train: Yesterday Witch School International, the largest online learning institution for Wicca and magical studies, announced that it would no longer offer its services to reality television production companies for free, listing a number of deficits in the approach and methodology of such initiatives. Witch School CEO Ed Hubbard closed the statement by blasting companies that are “unwilling to place resources in our community’s hands, which would allow us to help win over the Networks. Instead we are treated like a free resource, as prop toys to be put away and abandoned when they are done with their failed presentations.”

Witch School CEO Ed Hubbard.

Witch School CEO Ed Hubbard.

As of today, Witch School International and CEO Ed Hubbard will no longer accept inquiries from Television and Movie Production companies. While Witch School has been involved with reality shows in the past, they are no longer interested in pursuing or being involved in any form of reality show. According to Ed Hubbard, “We will no longer be a free resource, which is how we have been used continuously by production companies in the past. We have provided everything from simple answers to detailed development packages, including the casting of sizzle reels. In all those requests, we absorbed whatever costs were incurred, and at no point were we offered remuneration or consideration for our cooperation. When a project died, we were never informed. This level of disrespect for us as a community has become too much to bear. Witch School will no longer be offering these services freely to any production companies.”

Since 2006, Hubbard estimates that Witch School has participated in “22 production company inquiries, 14 pre-development projects, considered 6 different holding agreements, and participated in 3 sizzle reels.” None of these resulted in an aired series or special. Hubbard also points out that many hold a misconception of Salem being the “Witch capital” of the world, when in reality it is the “Halloween capital,” with no “Witch Lifestyle Community present in any way.” As for the future? I would point out that the release said they would no longer consult or work for free. So there’s still the possibility of a Witch School-based reality show, but only if production companies are willing to pay for the privilege.

Goddess Without Borders Coming This Samhain: Lady Yeshe Rabbit, head of the Bloodroot Honey Tribe, has annoucned a new initiative called “Goddess Without Borders” that seeks to build an inclusive Pan-Dianic community by creating a joint resource in honor of the Goddess.

Lady Yeshe Rabbit. Photo: Greg Harder.

Lady Yeshe Rabbit. Photo: Greg Harder.

So, our Pan-Dianic elves (very fashionable elves, by the way) have been working away in our secret lair, fomenting revolution. Our crack team of cis-and trans- witches have been building a body of work that we are going to be making available, completely free of charge, in an online forum as of this coming Samhain. Our mission in this work is to provide a free website where individuals of all backgrounds may submit and publish their own, uniquely-designed altar workings, experience-specific rites of passage, general ritual outlines, spells, and other magical expressions in honor of the Great Goddess (who is whole and complete unto Herself). I am glad to say that Melissa Murry, our shero from PSG, has also been introduced to our team of ritual writers this week.

The “Goddess Without Borders,” project will be located at PanDianic.org by Samhain. In planning this project it was crucial to us that we make everything on the site completely free of charge. We are well aware that many pagan men and women, both cis- and trans-, struggle to gain access to the financial resources required to attend large festivals and conferences. By posting our rites online, allowing others to share their own, and making it all free, we intend to ensure that everyone has access to these documents. There is also the matter of transparency and representation. Much trust has been lost in this period of conflict. In order to establish good faith, we are committed that no single individual or group becomes “the voice” of this movement. So much around this issue has to do with language, words, and personal expression. We feel it crucial to maintain a forum where all are completely free to bring their own voices.

A call for participation, including guidelines, will be sent out in August. Then, a full launch during PantheaCon 2013, where a number of workshops and presentations based around the initiative are planned.

Modern Witch Magazine Releases Second Issue: The second issue of Modern Witch Magazine, produced by Devin Hunter and Rowan Pendragon, was released in print-on-demand format on June 21st. You can also obtain a digital download. This volume contains contributions from David Salisbury, Storm Faerywolf, Tim Titus, and Lady Yeshe Rabbit.

“After the release of volume one readers from all over the world let us know that Modern Witch Magazine was not only invited into their homes but their circles and temples as well.  We knew that we had done something good and from the sound of it our readers did too! The creation of volume one was without a doubt a birthing for us and as we began to unfold the concepts behind Modern Witch Magazine Volume 2 we knew one thing was for certain, this magazine would continue to be more than just another magazine.”

You can read more about this issue’s contents, here. Print-on-demand and digital publications seem to be the direction periodicals like this are increasingly traveling. Largely labors of love that operate on a shoestring budget, catering to specific niche audiences. With the rise of the iPad, Kindle Fire, Nexus 7, and other tablets, will we see a new blooming of (Pagan) magazine culture? One dominated by digital product, with physical copies a collector’s luxury?

In Other Community News:

That’s all I have for now! Are there blogs, podcasts, or other Pagan news sources you think I’m missing out on? Please leave links in the comments, and if there’s news in your community be sure to share it!