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Beliefs about homosexuality;
Unstated reasons to deny equal rights to gays and lesbians;
A homophobia fighter

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Beliefs about sexual orientation:

Conservatives within all of the major religions in North America, whether Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, or other are generally opposed to equal rights and protections for gays and lesbians. But essentially all of the politically-active organizations opposing equal rights are either overtly conservative Christian associations, or organizations that are composed almost entirely of conservative Christians. One can often identify the groups by their names, which usually include the words "Christian" or "family." So, the organized political battle for and against equal rights for gays and lesbians is not between homosexual and heterosexual groups; it is between homosexual and conservative religious groups.

The following chart indicates differences in beliefs between those who are very conservatives and very liberal. There are at least four additional positions held by many people and groups between these two extremes. The chart is, of necessity, somewhat brief and simplistic:

Beliefs Most very conservative faith groups and social action groups Most gay, lesbian, religious liberals, medical and mental health professionals, human sexuality research groups
Nature of homosexuality A choice; what some people do. An orientation; what some people are.
Can gays become straight? Yes, through therapy, prayer and as a result of being "saved." No. Homosexuality is unchangeable in adults.
Cause(s) of sexual orientation One's upbringing; being molested as a young person; being exposed to gay media. Genetics, triggered by an unknown environmental factor in early childhood
Criminalization of homosexual behavior Various beliefs, from strongly favored to opposition. Opposed
Marriage for gays & lesbians Opposed. Various; trending towards acceptance.
What determines sexual sin? Both homosexual acts and  desires are intrinsically sinful. The nature of the relationship, and the safety of the act.
What gay or lesbian sexual activity is sinful? All homosexual acts are sinful. Coercive, manipulative or unsafe sex is sinful -- for both gay and straight.
Bible statements about gay sex Many passages condemn it. Bible condemns homosexual rape, prostitution, orgies, sex in Pagan temples, sexual activity against one's nature.
Why was Sodom destroyed? Homosexual activity. Lack of charity towards strangers, including rape.
Same-sex relationships in the Bible None. A few.
Heaven, Hell All sexually active homosexuals will go to Hell. For those who believe in Heaven and Hell, they believe that homosexuals and heterosexuals will be treated equally.

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Unstated reasons for denying equal rights to homosexuals and others

bulletFear of being marginalized: North America is evolving into a society which treats heterosexuals, homosexuals and bisexuals as three different, natural and valid sexual orientations. Gays are becoming a protected group of people, just like African-Americans, females, Muslims, Germans, Roman Catholics etc. People who remain anti-gay will begin to be considered bigots by the general population. In the words of one conservative Christian, "I don't want the federal government to marginalize me or the millions of others who share my beliefs."
bulletThe need to hate: Some people with low self-esteem appear to need to identify some minority that they can hate and feel superior to. Over the past 50 years, African-Americans, Communists and now gays and lesbians have fulfilled this role in sequence. If their religious faith supports bigotry against that minority, then they are given additional justification for their hatred. Many churches teach that one must love the homosexual while hating the homosexuality; this message is sometimes lost on the membership; they end up hating both the homosexual and the homosexuality. If you disagree with this statement, just look at the faces contorted with rage at any meeting or demonstration attended by those opposed for equal rights for homosexuals.
bulletFear of their own sexuality: A study at the University of Georgia showed that most men, who the researchers defined as homophobic, experienced significant sexual arousal when watching a homosexual movie involving sex between two men. Their rate was more than double the rate of non-homophobic men. Latent homosexual desires, of which the men may not have been aware, may be a cause of homophobia which may lead to a desire to deny equal rights to gay males. More details.

This essay continues below.

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Story of a fighter against homophobia:

Rhea Murray is a member of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG). She has given permission for the dissemination of this essay on the Internet. She writes about her efforts in support of GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transsexual) people in the US:

"To all those who have been in the trenches and feel the stress of burnout:

Burn-out is a problem that afflicts many dedicated people. I think the risk of burn-out is less likely when you are closer to the battle line. I have been asked to speak at many different large metropolitan areas in this last year. One thing I continuously encounter is shock at the horror stories that is daily life for GLBT people and their families in the heartland of our country. I know that homophobia, hatred and fear abound in all communities. But for many small communities across the nation this is still 1950's...with the 1950's mindset.

I have done 15 speaking engagements this last year. I still have not conquered my fear of public speaking. Each engagement is a gut-wrenching war with my number one phobia. Sometimes I whoop the dragon; sometimes it whoops me. Rumors has it that my ex-minister is threatening to file a libel civil suit against me for telling my story.

My home has been broken into twice within the last six weeks. Nothing is ever taken. It is as though someone wants us to know that their menacing presence has been here. The police asked if we had any enemies. Now we are beginning to receive harassing phone calls with a mechanized voice. I am having personal crisis issues going on in my life. My response to all this...well, I plan to take a huge step in being more out in my community by approaching all the local newspapers about our chapter's presence in their community and to promote the hotline number for the national Family-to-Family hotline.

Why? This last year I have personally dealt with the following:

bullethomeless, abandoned by family, teenage lesbians living in a storage shed in the dead of winter - one was pregnant;
bulletJimmy being denied access to his dying, beloved Jamie;
bulleta desperate search for a teenage boy who was attempting suicide - luckily we reached him at the very moment he was taking an Xacto knife to his wrists;
bulleta teenage boy who was forcefully committed to a mental hospital, when his parents discovered he was gay;
bulletanother boy who was made to crawl on his hands and knees and beg forgiveness, so his parents would allow him to continue to live with them - his parents have forced a life of total isolation on this fine, young man who was just beginning to bloom into his affirming self;
bulleta seventeen year old sitting in my living room who just had the hospital bind his wounds from a recent gaybashing to have me help bind the more permanent wounds on his dignity;
bulleta fifteen year old lesbian whose parents changed the locks on their home to deny their daughter even her personal belongings;
bulletdealing with the realization that my Eddie who is dying of AIDS has to be driven over an hour to find a hospital who won't mistreat him; and lastly,
bulletthis weekend a gay youth in my son's support group decided life had become too unbearable and flung himself out of a speeding car.
Their faces, their eyes, their stories haunt me. They build a fire in my belly...a fire so intense that it threatens to consume me, if I do not take action. These are our children, our brothers, our sisters. They are bleeding. They are dying. And they are bleeding and dying in a world that does not give a damn about them. They need us. Oh, God, how they need us.

Please take the much deserved respite to ease the burden of burnout. But please do not forget their plight and those of us on the front lines who have no one to step in, if we have a need to step down. Our respites come in small victories that are few and far between. Rest, relax and then come back with renewed vigor to fight. For this indeed is a war...a war in which the only bodies that lie at our feet are those of our GLBT loved ones.

Forgive me. It is not I who speaks but the fire that burns within.

Love and peace,
Rhea Murray "

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Copyright © 2005, 2004 and earlier by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2005-FEB-17
Author: B.A. Robinson

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