Monday, December 29, 2008

Victory for lesbian couple in New Jersey - how long will it be before the religious right starts lying about the issue?

I haven't posted this much in one day for a while.

In New Jersey, a case that has been a flashpoint for and against gay marriage in New Jersey has been decided and it is a victory for our side:

A New Jersey township that is owned by a church probably violated the civil rights of a lesbian couple when it refused to rent an open-air beachfront pavilion to the couple for use in a civil union ceremony, a state commissioner has concluded.

The finding, issued by J. Frank Vespa-Papaleo, director of New Jersey's Division on Civil Rights, said an investigation had determined there was reason to pursue anti-discrimination charges against the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association for denying Harriet Bernstein and Luisa Paster permission to rent its Boardwalk Pavilion for their civil union ceremony.

The pavilion had long been available for rental and use for secular events.

Today's ruling states in part, "When it invites the public at large to use it, the Association is subject to the Law Against Discrimination, and enforcement of that law in this context does not affect the Association’s constitutionally protected right to free exercise of religion."

The ruling -- called a "Finding of Probable Cause" -- does not resolve the civil rights complaint. It means only that the state has concluded its preliminary investigation and determined there is "sufficient evidence" to support a "reasonable suspicion" the anti-discrimination law has been violated.

Bernstein and Paster, who live in Ocean Grove, had applied for permission to rent the pavilion for their civil union ceremony in March 2007, but the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association, which owns the pavilion, denied their request because it said the civil union ceremony conflicted with the religious beliefs of the United Methodist Church (UMC).

While this is a victory for our side, the case has been a rallying point for those against gay marriage. This ruling will, no doubt, add fuel to the fire of their claims that gay marriage does constrict religious freedom in this country.

Except for one thing.

When One News Now and the rest of the religious right start whining about this story, you most likely will not hear these details:

Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association, which is affiliated with UMC, owns the pavilion and all the land in Ocean Grove -- a nearly one-square-mile section of Neptune Township originally founded as a seaside religious retreat. Homeowners there lease land from the church group.

The Association said it was not required to permit civil union ceremonies in its Boardwalk Pavilion based on First Amendment rights.

But in its investigation, the civil rights division found that the Camp Meeting Association had been permitting the public to use the pavilion for weddings and secular events prior to the request from Bernstein and Paster.

The investigation found that the association was even granted a tax exemption for the pavilion from the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) nearly twenty years ago.

The church group was eligible for the exemption under the state's Green Acres law, DEP found, because it said that the pavilion would be open to the public "on an equal basis."

So basically, while the pavilion is the church group's property, the church group has been applying for tax breaks under a state law that requires said property to be open and nondiscriminatory for all.

Seems to me that if you are applying for and receiving tax breaks under a law that requires your property to be open to the public on an equal basis, then you should follow that law.

Whether you are a religious body or not.

UPDATE - Box Turtle Bulletin breaks the situation down with its usual excellent analysis.
2008 in religious right lies Part 1

Ye shall know them by their fruits - Matthew 7:16

The lgbt community must never forget who our real enemies are. Our real enemies are not people of faith who believe that homosexuality is a sin. The real enemies of lgbt folks are ignorance and fear as well as the organizations and talking heads who exploit fear, ignorance for the sake of prominence and who will rely on discredited research and distorted anecdotes to make people of faith think that lgbts are out to get them.

And in 2008, these organizations and talking heads showed their asses often and unashamedly. This list of activities is so large that I have to break it up into two parts. Also, check out my last post on the 2008 Misinformers of the Year for a good laugh at the religious right:

Paul Cameron’s discredited study on “gay criminal habits” is cited as fact by supermarket tabloid magazine National Examiner.

Members of the anti-gay industry (i.e. Concerned Women for America, etc.) claim that a possible outbreak of staph infections amongst gay men in San Francisco is the result of a “politically correct” doctrine of not telling people about the so-called dangers of homosexuality. Some even infer that it is the new AIDS crisis. However, the Centers for Disease Control quickly issue a statement that will hopefully reign in future hyperbole. Amongst other things, the statement says: The strains of MRSA described in the recent Annals of Internal Medicine have mostly been identified in certain groups of men who have sex with men (MSM), but have also been found in some persons who are not MSM. It is important to note that the groups of MSM in which these isolates have been described are not representative of all MSM, so conclusions can not be drawn about the prevalence of these strains among all MSM.

In a show of unmitigated gall, anti-gay industry groups led by Concerned Women for America and Americans for Truth do not address their distortions of the MRSA infection. Instead, they try reverse psychology in claiming that they want to help gay rights group stop the infection.

Concerned Women for America leads the charge of anti-gay industry groups claiming that gay rights groups “strong armed” the medical community to play down the MRSA story. They do not offer any proof of their claims. In addition, Matt Barber (Concerned Women for America) and Peter LaBarbera (Americans for Truth) deny that they linked the MRSA infection to the AIDS crisis in their original spins. However, comments they originally said about the MRSA infection show otherwise.

An anti-gay industry group in Maryland hoping to get petition signatures against a law protecting the transgender community from discrimination are the recipients of an “interesting” media opportunity. They had complained that new law could lead to men “dressed as women” entering women’s locker rooms and bathrooms. Conveniently, there is a report of an incident of this situation taking place at a local gym. However it is highly suspicious. The woman reporting the incident just happens to be a member of the group attempting to get petition signatures. For this reason and others, the incident is dismissed by many as a publicity stunt. However the stunt and claims are successful. The group forces a referendum on the bill.

National Gay and Lesbian Task Force head Matt Foreman says in a speech that the gay community must take more of a responsibility in fighting AIDS. He says that AIDS is a gay disease. Despite the fact that NAACP member Julian Bond has said pretty much the same thing about AIDS and the black community, members of the anti-gay industry trumpet Foreman's speech as proof that homosexuality leads to AIDS.

Concerned Women for America member Matt Barber claims to reveal the "gay agenda." His "revelation" is an old one; it is the claim that the gay community is trying to take over America through points of attack from After the Ball, a book that many lgbts have never heard of.

An article in a Focus on the Family magazine cites the 1984 book The Male Couple to make the case that gay relationships involve promiscuity. However the article does not give the name of the book. This means of course it omits the caveat by the authors of The Male Couple that their research was not meant to be the best representation of all gay couples.

Focus on the Family member Glenn Stanton says that there is a "clear consensus" among anthropologists that "A family is a unit that draws from the two types of humanity, male and female." Stanton, who is not an anthropologist, is quickly challenged by legitimate people in the field such as American Anthropological Association. They call his claim a "gross misrepresentation of the position of the anthropological community on gay marriage"

Deerfield High School is accused by the anti-gay industry of "indoctrinating students into the homosexual agenda." This accusation involves a book, Angels in America, that was recommended as an assigned book in a senior AP English class. The book details the early days of the AIDS crisis and contains sexually graphic language. However, many lodging the accusation against Deerfield omitted that the book was not required for reading. Also, parents had to opt-in their children in the class, which means they knew fully well what the reading choices would be.

Oklahoma State Representative Sally Kern gives a talk to a local Republican group where she says homosexuality is worse than terrorism. She also cites Paul Cameronesque statistics on the alleged gay life span and claims that gays are trying to "indoctrinate" two-year olds.

In defending Sally Kern, Concerned Women for America brings up the 1987 book After The Ball. The organization accuses the gay community of relying on tactics in the book to "bully" Kern. The organization also does not give any proof as to an orchestrated plan by the gay community to do such.

Mary Frances Forrester, wife of a North Carolina state representative, writes a column for a right-wing publication in which she pushes forth the hackneyed claim that gays are plotting to undermine "Christian values." In her column, she cites the work of discredited researcher Paul Cameron. She also cites the Michael Swift piece from 1987, omitting the part of the piece that clearly called it satire. She even gets Michael Swift's name wrong, calling him "Mark Swift."

Concerned Women for America accuses Human Rights Campaign head Joe Solmonese of potentially "risking lives in pursuit of a political agenda." The organization claims that Solmonese "recklessly" demanded that the Food And Drug Administration's ban on blood donations by men having sex with men be lifted. However the group omits that Solmonese was merely commenting on testimony by American Red Cross, the American Association of Blood Banks and America’s Blood Centers that the ban should be lifted. Concerned Women for America also does not comment on these organizations' testimony. The press release sent out by the organization focuses solely on attacking Solmonese.

Janet Folger, in a column defending Oklahoma Rep. Sally Kern's statements about homosexuality, refers to a 1997 Canadian study as proof that gays have a short life span. However, in 2001 the authors of the study complained on record that the anti-gay industry have been distorted this study.

Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council, in an interview about immigration laws denying the foreign partners of gay Americans the ability to immigrate to the U.S. unlike their heterosexually-married counterparts, says that he would prefer the United States deport gays and lesbians. He later apologizes for the comment.

Oklahoma Rep. Sally Kern writes a letter to the editor to a local newspaper defending her comments about homosexuality. Amongst other things, she cites a study by Paul Cameron. She also distorts the 1997 Canadian study as proof that gays have a short life span. She does this despite the fact that in 2001 the authors of the study went on record complaining how it has been distorted by the anti-gay industry.

Matt Barber of Concerned Women for America falsely claims that "multiple studies have established that homosexual conduct, especially among males, is considerably more hazardous to one’s health than a lifetime of chain smoking." Barber also refers to the 1997 Canadian study to claim that gays have a short lifespan. He addresses the 2001 complaint by the researchers of the study regarding the misusage of their work. Barber tries to dismiss the complaint as "worthless fluff." He also says that the researchers were under "tremendous pressure" to complain. However, he neglects to go into detail as to what pressure was "exerted" on the researchers. He is taken to task for this distortion on many left-wing and right-wing webpages and blogs.

Conservative columnist Kevin McCullough falsely claims that ENDA (Employee Non-Discrimination Act) would make it difficult for churches to fire youth ministers found to be having inappropriate relationships with young boys in church programs.

Coming tomorrow - things really get ugly.