“I have always said when I accepted the Lord, I became more tolerant of others”


The legislature of Washington (the state, not the capital) in the US will vote soon to become the seventh state recognizing same-sex marriage. The deciding vote will come from State Senator Mary Margaret Haugen, who announced her commitment yesterday, after long deliberation. Here is what she said:

“For several weeks now, I have heard from the people of my district. They’ve shared what’s in their hearts and minds.

“I have received many letters, emails, phone calls, very heartfelt, from both sides of the issue. I’ve also received a number of very negative comments from both sides.

“For some people, this is a simple issue. I envy them. It has not been simple or easy for me.

“To some degree, this is generational. Years ago I took exception to my parents’ beliefs on certain social issues, and today my children take exception to some of mine. Times change, even if it makes us uncomfortable. I think we should all be uncomfortable sometime. None of us knows everything, and it’s important to have our beliefs questioned. Only one being in this world is omniscient, and it’s not me.

“I have very strong Christian beliefs, and personally I have always said when I accepted the Lord, I became more tolerant of others. I stopped judging people and try to live by the Golden Rule. This is part of my decision. I do not believe it is my role to judge others, regardless of my personal beliefs. It’s not always easy to do that. For me personally, I have always believed in traditional marriage between a man and a woman. That is what I believe, to this day.

“But this issue isn’t about just what I believe. It’s about respecting others, including people who may believe differently than I. It’s about whether everyone has the same opportunities for love and companionship and family and security that I have enjoyed.

“For as long as I have been alive, living in my country has been about having the freedom to live according to our own personal and religious beliefs, and having people respect that freedom.

“Not everyone will agree with my position. I understand and respect that. I also trust that people will remember that we need to respect each other’s beliefs. All of us enjoy the benefits of being Americans, but none of us holds a monopoly on what it means to be an American. Ours is truly a big tent, and while the tent may grow and shrink according to the political winds of the day, it should never shrink when it comes to our rights as individuals.

“Do I respect people who feel differently? Do I not feel they should have the right to do as they want? My beliefs dictate who I am and how I live, but I don’t see where my believing marriage is between a man and a woman gives me the right to decide that for everyone else.

“I’ve weighed many factors in arriving at this decision, and one of them was erased when the legislation heard today included an amendment to clearly provide for the rights of a church to choose not to marry a couple if that marriage contradicts the church’s view of its teachings. That’s important, and it helped shape my decision.

“My preference would be to put this issue on the ballot and give all Washingtonians the opportunity to wrestle with this issue, to search their hearts as I have, and to make the choice for themselves. But I do not know that there are the votes to put it to a ballot measure. So, forced to make a choice, my choice is to allow all men and women in our state to enjoy the same privileges that are so important in my life. I will vote in favor of marriage equality.

“I know this announcement makes me the so-called 25th vote, the vote that ensures passage. That’s neither here nor there. If I were the first or the seventh or the 28th vote, my position would not be any different. I happen to be the 25th because I insisted on taking this much time to hear from my constituents and to sort it out for myself, to reconcile my religious beliefs with my beliefs as an American, as a legislator, and as a wife and mother who cannot deny to others the joys and benefits I enjoy.

“This is the right vote and it is the vote I will cast when this measure comes to the floor.”

Nigeria: No marriage here, move along please

I was for it because I was against it: Nigeria's Senate President David Mark

A Nigerian Senate committee held hearings Monday on the “Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Bill.” This product of moral panic would provide criminal penalties for engaging in, solemnizing, or “aiding and abetting” a same-sex marriage — all quite unnecessary, since Nigeria’s colonial-era sodomy law already penalizes homosexual conduct sternly.

Nigeria’s politics often have a slightly mad quality. The hearing was no exception, since some participants seemed to have no idea what the bill was about, believing they were there to oppose a proposal for same-sex marriage, not support a ban against it. The Catholic Church mobilized in this addled fashion; Catholic Women of Nigeria (CWON) claimed it sent women from “36 states of the federation” who “converged in Abuja to march to the assembly.”

Speaking in a telephone interview, the CWON’s national president, Mrs. Felicia Onyaibo, said the women will this morning match to the National Assembly to hand in a letter of protest to the Senate President, David Mark, condemning the initiative, and urge him to discard such bill, as it is not in the interest of the nation and dignity of marriage.

“We are also extending invitation to the male counterparts to support us in this protest. They can join us in the protest today so that we can help fight this ill initiative, which is aimed at destroying marriage values and its dignity,” she said.

Other news stories lent credit to the same notion. But no one has offered a bill to legalize same-sex marriage in Nigeria; no one in Nigeria has suggested it. Imaginative Christian soldiers, these souls are girding their loins and going off to war against a figment, a fiction, a ghost.  As a statement by bill opponents explained a month ago,

We as human rights defenders are aware that not a single gay group has asked for the right to marry. Our advocacy is not directed at that.  We are advocating for tolerance and respect for everyone irrespective of his or her sex, gender, age, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation and gender identity, etc.

The spectral ability of same-sex marriage to induce a panic even in the absence of anyone proposing it has been repeatedly shown worldwide, and is worth deeper consideration. In this case, the bill would be largely a symbolic insult to the same-sex loving population, but one with practical ramifications — a bullying threat to public activism, and an affirmation that they have no place in Nigeria’s diverse array of communities and cultures.

Meanwhile, at Monday’s meeting of the Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, opponents of the bill were given only two slots to speak, while proponents (that is, opponents of non-existent same-sex marriage) were given many more. The Senate President appeared at the hearing and “openly rejected the proposal for same sex marriage in the country,” which nobody proposed:

“It is incomprehensible to contemplate on same sex marriage. I cannot understand it. I cannot be a party to it. There are enough men and women to marry each other. The whole idea is the importation of foreign culture, but this one would be a freedom too many. We cannot allow our tradition and value system eroded.

“It is offensive. It is repugnant. I will preach against it and we must stand up to reject same sex marriages in Nigeria. I do not think any religion support this. I don’t know where this whole idea of same sex marriage comes from.”

The Daily Times notes that the “senate president’s disposition on the bill is a strong indication of its fate. It suggests that the bill, which has failed at two consecutive sessions in the House of Representatives, may finally be passed into law by the Senate.”  But the paper adds, “the little population of public homosexuals in Nigeria – with help from the international community – have been able to put up a strong resistance to the promulgation of any law directly against the act [of same-sex marriage].”

Aside from the question of international help, of which there’s been not so much, this is true. Activists in Nigeria managed to quash the early bill in 2006 -7 essentially on their own, by organizing, appearing at hearings, and speaking out when everybody believed they would be too intimidated to appear or to raise their voices. Courage to them as they face the same ruckus and rhodomontade for another round.

Rogue bishop evicts nuns

Archbishop Nolbert Kunonga in full antichrist drag

Really, this is only for the sake of the headline.  Nolbert Kunonga, the onetime Anglican bishop of Harare in Zimbabwe, was excommunicated four years ago for sermons that incited violence on behalf of Robert Mugabe’s ruling party. Calling Mugabe a “prophet of God” helped him get the police on his side, and he seized the Harare cathedral and a good many church resources in the process.  And he managed to find a highfalutin excuse for the expropriation, attaching himself to the anti-homosexuality brigade in the Anglican church.   Thus he is not a thug and thief backed by a dictator’s power, in his own eyes and those of his adherents; he’s a persecuted crusader against perversion.

He now claims to be an archbishop, and therefore the peer of the Archbishop of Canterbury. The latter is visiting Zimbabwe next week. Since he is likely to express some animadversions against the Mugabe regime’s violence, Kunonga naturally objects: “He is coming to represent neo-colonialism. He is coming to lobby for homosexuality.”

The Anglican Church in Africa is of course in origin a colonial church, and as long as Kunonga wears some version of its robes he too can be called part of a neo-colonial system; people who live in glass cathedrals shouldn’t throw scones.  The homophobia he spews is equally a funded product of forces outside Africa, spawned by US right-wing donors promoting an Anglican schism.   The folks abroad who back Peter Akinola, Nigeria’s rabid prelate, have so far not openly embraced Kunonga, because his affiliations with a dictator are a little too toxic for their tastes.  But he’s the logical embodiment of their ambitions.

Meanwhile, Kunonga’s latest move has been to grab control of a church orphanage — undoubtedly a donor magnet — and kick out the nuns who ran it.

Sister Dorothy, one of the three nuns in charge of the care of orphans at the Shearly Cripps home near Murewa, [said that] local officials and followers of Kunonga told the orphanage staff they were under orders to leave because they “support homosexuality.” … Local officials in this longtime Mugabe party stronghold showed an unsigned court eviction order when the caregivers were bathing, feeding and giving medication to children last week, she said … Visitors to the orphanage have since reported that children appeared not to have received regular meals and it was not clear whether qualified replacement staff were at the historic Shearly Cripps home.

Come on; kids don’t need food, they need heterosexuality. And obviously those weren’t real nuns, just a bunch of pederastic drag queens. Having shut down the local branch of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, what will Kunonga do next? Such a poster boy for traditional morality surely has some new defense of virtue up his capacious sleeve. Anglican schismatics everywhere will be breathlessly waiting.

They’re back

Senator Domingo Alaba Obende, sponsor of the "anti-same-sex marriage" bill

It’s back: the Nigerian Senate has reintroduced a bill providing criminal penalties for engaging in, solemnizing, or “aiding and abetting” a same-sex marriage.  Never mind that Nigeria already has a sodomy law, surviving from British colonialism, which provides draconian penalties for any same-sex sexual activity.  If this bill passes, it’s going to be worse rather than better if you undertake sex under the penumbra of marriage. Go figure.

This is a slightly stripped-down version of an original bill brought forward by the then President in 2006, out of pure political opportunism. It was promoted in those days by Nigeria’s Anglican archbishop Peter Akinola, a US-supported right-winger trying to use the issue of homosexuality to bring about a church schism for his own opportunistic reasons. The proposal never attracted quite the international outrage that the only-slightly worse legislation in Uganda drew, perhaps because Nigeria in its vastness is simply too confusing a proposition for many Western activists. It was defeated then through the courage of Nigerian activists who fought it tooth and nail–including finding their way to the capital, Abuja, on 48 hours’ notice for a last-minute parliamentary hearing that had been scheduled deliberately to exclude them.

It’s going to take all their hard work to beat back the bill again this time. Send your moral or, if you’ve got any, material support to Nigeria’s International Centre for Reproductive Health and Sexual Rights and the Initiative for Equal Rights, which will be spearheading the fight against this disastrous proposal.