Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Not What Jesus Would Do

Remember David Benkof, the gay man opposed to same-sex marriage who marriage defenders lurved to reference before he unexpectedly called it quits? In his own words, Benkof claimed to have learned "quite a bit of disturbing information" about the Proposition 8 movement that led him to drop out of the movement. Back in July, however, he refused to divulge specific information. This led to lots of speculation (some of it comically delusional and paranoid).

I wondered aloud if Benkof, who is Jewish, was repelled by the religious intolerance of the Christian Right-fueled marriage defense movement. While I didn't know specifics, it seems I was right. Generally, it boiled down to the alleged religious discrimination of those who lead this predominately Christian Rightist movement.

Writing an op-ed piece for The Black Hills Pioneer, Benkof reveals:

"I believe marriage is between a man and a woman, so I supported the man-woman marriage Proposition 8 in California - until I discovered the Proposition 8 campaign tolerates discrimination against Jews.'s legal counsel, the Alliance Defense Fund, has in effect a 'No Jews Need Apply' policy for legal and even secretarial positions."

Discrimination? From a law firm that busies itself with enshrining discrimination into the Constitution? Wouldn't surprise me.

But seriously, that's a serious charge. Is it true? Does the Alliance Defense Fund, which claims to defend religious freedom, really discriminate on the basis of religion? Benkof alleges:

"They say they're not a law firm, they're a 'ministry' and thus have a right to discriminate against Jews and other non-Christians."

Yummy. If true, I wonder how the supporters of Proposition 8 would feel about this news. Would they even care? I mean, it's no surprise to many of us that the Fundamentalist Christian movement has no use for non-Christian humans. But do the rank and file members of the Prop 8 movement agree?

The only upside to this is that at least the ADF (allegedly) sort of admits that it's not a legitimate law firm. It's a tool of the Christian right. And, judging from its Guiding Principles, I don't think it would claim to be anything else. In my opinion, it's a frightening ministry that seeks to inject its extreme version of Christianity into our legal system and make the rest of us live by its oppressive moral code.

On a related note, from a legal standpoint the structure of nonprofit law is such that it's possible for the Alliance Defense Fund to maintain its tax-exempt status while simultaneously discriminating. No, it doesn't seem fair. With a few exceptions, however, an organization that claims to be a "Church" or a related "auxiliary" of one is legally permitted to discriminate under the Internal Revenue Code and Supreme Court doctrine.

Benkof continues that not only is the Proposition 8 movement discriminatory, many people are just plain old mean-spirited:

"[T]he people defending man-woman marriage in California and elsewhere tend to use really dumb and sometimes offensive arguments. For example, the Web site, used to refer to a same-sex 'family' (their quotes). Reasonable people can differ as to whether two men can form a 'marriage,' but only a jerk would claim two lesbians and their baby are not a family. And do they really have to emphasize this attitude as part of their basic argument to fair-minded undecided voters?"

I applaud the fact that Benkof, who still opposes marriage equality, can still point out how the marriage defense movement often offends the humanity of gay and lesbian families. Various marriage defense groups vilify gay men and lesbians by enclosing our families in those de-humanizing scare quotes. We aren't Real American Families like they, good Americans, are. We are just-pretend families. Less than human. Mocking and de-humanizing our families makes it easier, after all, for people to deny us equal rights.

How is promoting the idea that some families aren't "real" even remotely Christian, loving, or compassionate? If your god tells you to discriminate against people who don't share your religion and to mock other people's families, is it any wonder that so many people do not want your god dictating social policies for the rest of us? It should surprise no one that so many heathen "secular humanists" (among others) reject this profoundly un-loving, judgmental, and intolerant religion.

The Proposition 8 Movement represents a dangerous path for our nation. All citizens, especially those who support Proposition 8, should realize what this movement is about and ask themselves if it is something they can, in good conscience, support. The more I learn about this movement the more I am convinced that once we peel away the distracting layers of lies, misinformation, intolerance, and lack of compassion the movement is without redeeming social value.

[Update: Good-As-You makes a good point. We don't know the whole story. While this sort of behavior wouldn't surprise me, we just have "vague accusations" from one side. I am definitely curious as to how Mr. Benkof got his information. He is welcome to email me for more specifics.]

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