Sunday, February 28, 2010

Out and About - February 2010

Well, it’s certainly been a month of contrasts!

The most obvious of these contrasts was experienced when I went from summer in Australia . . .

. . . to winter in Minnesota.

I’m not complaining, mind you. I had a wonderful sojourn in my homeland, but it’s good to be back in my other home, and involved in my work with both CPCSM and the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform. Plus, by all accounts, I missed the worst of the winter!

Above: My hometown of Gunnedah in New South Wales, Australia - Saturday, February 6, 2010.

Right: With high school friends Lisa and Sue.

For more about my February 2010 visit to Gunnedah, click here.

Above and left:
My friend Raph, with whom I spent a great day roving the mid-north coast on Tuesday, February 9, 2010.

Above: My nieces Sami and Layne at a special dinner to celebrate their birthdays.

Above: My parents, Gordon and Margaret Bayly - pictured at Port Macquarie’s Town Beach on St. Valentine’s Day.

Above: At one of my favorite spots in Port Macquarie - a rock platform at the south end of Town Beach (and just below Swallows’ Ledge).

This special place inspired two previous Wild Reed posts (see here and here).

Hey, nice ass!

Above and left: Toward the end of my time in Australia, my brother and his family bought two donkeys. I visited these gentle and friendly creatures on Sunday, February 14, 2010.

Above: Sami with one of the donkeys.

Above and below: My last night in Australia - Monday, February 15, 2010.

Pictured above (from left): my niece Sami, my sister-in-law Ros, Dad, Mum, my brother Tim, and my niece Layne.

Above: With my younger brother and his family - Monday, February 15, 2010. (See also the previous Wild Reed post, The Bayly Family - January 2010.)

Right and below: Farewell Australia . . .

. . . hello USA!

Above and left: My home in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Above: My snow-filled backyard!

Above: Back at work!

On Monday, February 22, 2010, I attended the Minnesota House of Representative’s hearing on marriage equality.

For more about this event, see the previous Wild Reed posts Have Message, Will Be at Capitol and MN Legislators Hear from Supporters and Opponents of Marriage Equality.

Above: The thing I dislike most about winter in Minnesota: the treacherous ice!

Above and below: Minneapolis in winter.

Above: A sign of spring: open water on the Mississippi!

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Out and About - November 2009
Out and About - October 2009
Out and About - September 2009
Out and About - August 2009
Out and About - July 2009
Out and About - June 2009
Out and About - May 2009
Out and About - April 2009
Out and About - February-March 2009

Two Attorneys Discuss Same-Gender Marriage

“There are certain rights that are so fundamental
that the Constitution guarantees them to every citizen
regardless of what a temporary majority
may or may not vote for.”

Attorneys David Boies and Ted Olson recently appeared on the PBS show Bill Moyer’s Journal, where they discussed why bans on same-gender marriage are unconstitutional.

Following are excerpts from this discussion, with thanks to Michael-in-Norfolk for bringing this conversation to my attention via his


Ted Olson: We’re not advocating any recognition of a new right. The right to marry is in the Constitution. The Supreme Court’s recognized that over and over again. We’re talking about whether two individuals who will be – should be treated equally, under the equal protection clause of the Constitution. The same thing that the Supreme Court did in 1967, which recognized the Constitutional rights of people of different races to marry.

At that point, in 1967, seventeen states prohibited persons from a different race of marrying one another. The Supreme Court, at that point, unanimously didn’t create a new right, the right was the right to marry; the Supreme Court said the discrimination on the basis of race in that instance was unconstitutional.

David Boies: If you didn’t [sometimes] tell the majority of the voters they [are] wrong under the Constitution, you wouldn’t need a constitution. The whole point of the Bill of Rights and the 14th Amendment is to say, “This is democracy. But it’s also democracy in which we protect minority rights.” The whole point of a Constitution is to say there are certain things that a majority cannot do, whether it’s 52 percent or 62 percent or 72 percent or 82 percent of the people. They can’t say, for example, that blacks and whites can’t go to school together – even though 82 percent of the people may think that. They can’t say that women aren’t allowed to vote, or are not allowed to work in the workplace, or not allowed equal rights or equal wages – even though a majority of people might vote that way in some places.

There are certain rights that are so fundamental that the Constitution guarantees them to every citizen regardless of what a temporary majority may or may not vote for. And remember, what Ted said is very important. Nobody’s asking to create a new constitutional right here. This is a constitutional right that has already been well recognized by the Supreme Court.

But what the Constitution says is that every citizen gets equal protection of the laws. It doesn’t just say heterosexuals. . . . the 14th Amendment was passed just after we got rid of slavery, which prohibited slaves from getting married. And one of the things that happened when slavery was abolished was large numbers of African Americans rushed to get married, because they viewed this as one of the most important human relationships. And they viewed the recognition, the sanctioning of that relationship as critical to their ability to live together as a family.

And the same thing is happening with gays and lesbians in our society today. We’re saying to these people, “You are somehow less than human. We’re not going to give you all of humanity’s rights.” Because remember, if we recognize them as human, if we recognize them as full citizens, the Constitution guarantees that they have equal protection of the laws. They have the same rights as any heterosexual.

Bill Moyers: So, you’re both comfortable invalidating seven million votes [against same-gender marriage] in California?

Ted Olson: Well, this happens when the voters decide to violate someone’s constitutional rights. David mentioned that we have a Constitution and we have an independent judiciary for the very protection of minorities. Majorities don’t need protection from the courts. The original Constitution didn’t have the Bill of Rights attached to it. And the framers of our Constitution had a big debate and people said, “Well, we’re not going to ratify that Constitution unless you attach a Bill of Rights, which protects individual liberty, individual freedom, the right to speak, the right to assemble,” and those sorts of things.

David Boies: . . . When you’re dealing with matters of human rights and civil rights, our Constitution and our history is that you don’t deprive people of those rights simply based on majority rule.

To read the entire transcript, click here.

Recommended Off-site Link:
The Conservative Case for Gay Marriage
– Theodore B. Olson (Newsweek, January 9, 2010).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
America’s New Civil Rights Battle
Minnesota Legislators Hear from Advocates and Opponents of Marriage Equality
The Same People
A Catholic Voice for Marriage Equality at the State Capitol
A Christian Case for Same-Sex Marriage

Saturday, February 27, 2010


"Sunset on Eminönü – Istanbul" by Belthelem.

Lately I’ve been trying to figure out when my fascination with
Istanbul began. It certainly had been established by the time I first watched Ferzan Ozpetek’s beautiful 1996 film Hamam: The Turkish Bath. Perhaps it was in the mid-1980s, when the city was briefly yet beautifully depicted in the comic strip that chronicled the adventures of my teenage hero, Prince Valiant.

It was a depiction that referred to the city as Constantinople; and which first introduced me to the intriguing historical figures of
Justinian and Theodora.

Regardless of the genesis of my interest in Istanbul, it has been recently renewed by my reading of Jason Goodwin’s wonderful novel The Janissary Tree. It’s actually the first in a series of books – all of which center on Yashim Togalu - investigator, confident of sultans, linguist, chef . . . oh, and eunuch.

Here’s how the novel is described on the jacket flap of my copy of it – a copy I picked up in Benson, MN, on Halloween last year! (It was part of the Benson Country Inn’s “Read It and Return” lending library. The book’s been with me to Australia and back since then. I’m determined to return it one day, however, to a Country Inn!)

The year is 1836. Europe is modernizing, and the sultan of the Ottoman Empire feels he has no choice but to follow suit. But just as he’s poised to announce sweeping political change, a wave of murders threatens the fragile balance of power in his court. Who is behind the killings? Deep in the Abode of Felicity, the most forbidden district of Topkapi Palace, the sultan announces, “Send for Yashim.”

Leading us through the palace’s luxurious seraglios and Istanbul’s teeming streets, Yashim pieces together the clues. He is not alone. He depends on the wisdom of a dyspeptic Polish ambassador, a transsexual dancer, and the Creole-born queen mother. He manages to find sweet salvation in the arms of another man’s wife (this is not your everyday eunuch!). And he introduces us to the Janissaries. For four hundred years they were the empire’s elite soldiers. But they grew too powerful, and ten years earlier the sultan had then crushed. Are the Janissaries staging a brutal comeback? And if they are, how can they be stopped without throwing Istanbul into political chaos?

Yes, it’s a great book! And one that makes me all the more determined to one day (relatively soon, I hope) visit Turkey, the heartland of the former Ottoman Empire, and, in particular, Istanbul, its ancient capital.

Anyway, I’d like to start a new series at The Wild Reed – one that focuses on Istanbul. I’ll be sharing images and writings, beginning this evening with an except from Jason Goodwin’s The Janissary Tree. Enjoy!


Yashim arrived early at the little restaurant beneath Galata Point and chose a quiet alcove that overlooked the channel of the Bosphorus. The Bosphorus had made Istanbul what it was: the junction of Europe and Asia, the pathway from the Black Sea into the Mediterranean, the great entepôt of world trade from ancient times to the present day. From where he sat he could watch the waterway he loved so much, the narrow sheet of gunmetal that reflected back the city it had built.

The water was as ever thick with shipping. A mountain of white sail rose above the deck of an Ottoman frigate tacking up the straits. A shoal of fishing smacks, broad beamed and single masted, held out under an easterly wind for the Sea of Marmara. A customs boat swept past on its long red oars like a scurrying water beetle. There were ferries, and skiffs, and over-laden barges; lateen-rigged cutters from the Black Sea coast, houseboats moored by the crowded entrance to the Golden Horn. Across the jostling waterways, Yashim could just make out Scutari on the opposite shore, the beginning of Asia.

The Greeks had called Scutari Chalcedon, the city of the blind. In founding the city, the colonists had ignored the perfect natural setting across the water, where centuries later Constantine was to turn the small town of Byzantium into a great imperial city that bore his name. For a thousand years, Constantinople was the capital of the Roman Empire in the east, until that empire shrunk to a sliver of land around the city. Ever since the Conquest in 1453, the city had been the capital of the Turkish Ottoman Empire. It was still officially called Constantinople, though most ordinary Turks referred to it as Istanbul. It remained the biggest city in the world.

Fifteen hundred years of grandeur. Fifteen hundred years of power. Fifteen centuries of corruption, coups, and compromises. A city of mosques, churches, and synagogues; of markets and emporia; of tradesmen, soldiers, beggars. The city to beat all cities, overcrowded and greedy.

Perhaps, Yashim sometimes reflected, the Chalcedonians hadn’t been so blind after all.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Authentic Catholicism: An Antidote to Clericalism
“This Light Breeze that Loves Me”

Recommended Off-Site Links:
The Janissary Tree - A Review
Istanbul Daily Photo

Friday, February 26, 2010

Ding, Dong!

For this evening’s “music night” at The Wild Reed I share the following video clip of Enrique Iglesias performing his song “Ring My Bells” at a concert in Belfast in 2007.

“Ring My Bells” is the opening track of Enrique’s 2007 album Insomniac, and would have to be one of the most sensual songs ever recorded. But don’t take my word for it, check it out for yourself . . .

Ring my bell, ring my bells
Ring my bell, ring my bells

Sometimes you love it
Sometimes you don’t
Sometimes you need it
Then you don’t and you let go

Sometimes we rush it
Sometimes we fall
It doesn’t matter, baby
We can take it real slow

’Cause the way that we touch
Is something that we can’t deny
And the way that you move
Oh, you make me feel alive
So come on . . .

Ring my bell, ring my bells
Ring my bell, ring my bells

You try to hide it I know you do
When all you really want
Is me to come and get you
You move in closer I feel you breathe
It’s like the world just disappears
When you’re around me

’Cause the way that we touch
Is something that we can’t deny
Oh, yeah.
And the way that you move
Oh, you make me feel alive
So come on . . .

And ring my bell, ring my bells
Ring my bell, ring my bells

I say you want
I say you need
I can tell by your face
You love the way it turns me on

I say you want
I say you need
I will do what it takes
And I would never do you wrong

’Cause the way that we love
Is something that we can’t fight
Oh, no, I just can’t get enough
Oh, you make me feel alive
So come on . . .

Ring my bell, ring my bells
Ring my bell, ring my bells

NEXT: Heartbeat

See also the previous Wild Reed post:
Enrique Iglesias

Recommended Off-site Link:
Enrigue Iglesias’ Official Website

Musical artists previously featured at The Wild Reed: Marty Rhone, Don Henley, Propeller Heads and Shirley Bassey, Stephen Gately, Nat King Cole, Enrique Iglesias, Helen Reddy, Australian Crawl, PJ and Duncan, Cass Elliot, The Church, Pet Shop Boys and Dusty Springfield, Wall of Voodoo, Stephen “Tin Tin” Duffy, Pink Floyd, Kate Ceberano, Judith Durham, Wendy Matthews, Buffy Sainte-Marie, 1927, Mavis Staples, Maxwell, Joan Baez, Dave Stewart & Friends, Tee Set, Darren Hayes, Suede, Wet, Wet, Wet, Engelbert Humperdinck, The Cruel Sea, Shirley Bassey, Loretta Lynn & Jack White, Maria Callas, Foo Fighters, Rosanne Cash, Jenny Morris, Scissor Sisters, Kate Bush, Rufus Wainwright, and Dusty Springfield.

Our Memory of Eden

J. Philip Newell on repentance as turning around
so as to become truly ourselves.

Yesterday I attended a prayer service and talk by J. Philip Newell (pictured at right), a scholar of Celtic spirituality and the author of numerous books that focus on this particular understanding and expression of the Christian faith.

Following is an excerpt from his 2000 book, Echo of the Soul: The Sacredness of the Human Body. It seems an especially appropriate reflection to share during this Lenten season.


Creation is forever being born. It is continually issuing forth from the mystery of God, from the realm of “the unseen” into the world of “the seen,” as the Scriptures say. The biblical picture is that life at its inception is good but that its goodness immediately is threatened. All things fall under “the power of sin,” as the New Testament says. They are imprisoned or held down by what is wrong. The goodness that is within us and within all life becomes like occupied territory. This leads St. Paul to reflect on the tension that we experience in ourselves between good and evil. “I do not do the good I want,” he says, “but the evil I do not want is what I do.” His “inmost self,” as he calls it, desires the good, but his false self pursues what is sinful. Redemption is about being reconnected to our true self.

Our Western Christian tradition often has given the impression, and at times explicitly has taught, that this tension is primarily between the soul and the body. The result has been a denigration of the human body and a distrust of our deepest physical energies. The biblical term “the flesh,” which refers to the sinful tendency in us to disregard our inmost self, incorrectly has been equated with “the body.” “The flesh” and “the body” in the New Testament are different concepts. The consequences of the confusion have been disastrous. We have ended up obscuring the truth that our bodies are made in the image of God. When St. Paul teaches that we are to live “according to the spirit” rather than “according to the flesh,” he is not suggesting that we should not live according to the body. It is precisely in our bodies that we are to live according to the spirit, rather than allowing ourselves, including our bodies, to be dictated to by what is opposed to our inmost being. The invitation is to be liberated, to be reconciled to what is deepest in us instead of being held in bondage to what is false in us.

The Irish novelist James Joyce describes one of his characters as living at a distance from himself. That is a fine description of how most of us live much of the time, at a distance from our true selves. Edwin Muir, the twentieth-century Scottish poet, in one of his poems speaks of the way in which “evil and good” are bound inseparably together in the field of our lives and world, “and nothing now can separate the corn and tares compactly grown.” The imagery is of weeds choking the goodness of what has been planted originally in the depths of our being. “Yet still from Eden springs the root as clean as on the starting day,” writes Muir. The root is still there. It is our “treasure trove,” he says, buried deep and needing to be rediscovered. William Blake says that “the Sanctuary of Eden” is still within us but that the inner gate that leads to Eden is “frozen” shut. What is it that will open again that gateway within us?

The Gospel of Christ, which means the good news of Christ, is given to tell us not what we already know but what we do not know. It is given not to tell us that we have failed, because we already know that about ourselves. That is not good news. It is given to tell us what we have forgotten, and that is who we are. Spirituality does not consist of being told what to do. It consists of being reminded of who we are. Only when we know who we are will we be clearer about what we should do. The grace of repentance is about turning around in our lives, but it is not about turning around in order to be restored to what is deepest in us. It is about becoming truly ourselves. The gift of grace reawakens our memory of Eden. It begins to open again within us the gateway to our true naturalness. As William Blake says, grace bears us through darkness “back safe” to our humanity. The problem is not our human nature. The problem is our exile from true human nature. Grace restores us again to ourselves.

The challenge is to discern the true from the false self, the authentic from the inauthentic. Repentance is not simply about turning away from a false self out there. Evil attaches itself like a cancer to what is good. The false self lives off the true self. It grows on it. Part of repentance is to discern the goodness in us that has become buried by evil. It is to identify deep in our mistakes and confusions the goodness that is more authentic expression of our nature than our failings. It is to see sin as a misdirection of our truest energies. Repentance, therefore, is a painful operation. The false layers of who we are need to be severed from our true depths. As the twentieth-century Jewish teacher Abraham Kook says, “this is the most inward kind of pain, through which a person is liberated from the dark servitude to his sins.”


Of course, as a gay man within the Christian tradition, I’m well aware that there are some who would use the insights of Newell to condemn homosexuality and its physical expression. For these people, homosexuality is one of those “confusions” that bury our authentic selves. I don’t believe this to be the case. Furthermore, I consider such negative thinking about homosexuality to be the result of what Newell describes as the “denigration of the human body and a distrust of our deepest physical energies.”

I believe that my body is made in the likeness of God, and that part of my being human in a human body is my sexual orientation. It’s an orientation intrinsically connected to my body’s “deepest physical energies.” This orientation and these energies are part of me. They are good; they are an aspect of the “true naturalness” of Eden – that beautiful metaphor for humanity’s original state of
union with God.

When I was in denial of my homosexuality, I was, in the words of James Joyce, “living at a distance” from myself – my true, authentic self. Only be coming out, by accepting and celebrating myself as a gay creation of a loving God, could I accept God’s invitation to be liberated, to be, as Newell writes, “reconciled to what is deepest in [myself] instead of being held in bondage to what is false in [me]. As the vast majority of gay people will tell you, coming out facilitates a wondrous and life-giving restoration to what is deepest in us, our true humanity – a humanity that is blessed with a sexuality; in our case, a homo-sexuality.

Evil, of course, remains a part of all our lives – gay or straight, and I appreciate the ways in which Newell highlights how evil is not something “out there” but deep within ourselves, layered around our inner goodness. I have known “sin,” “mistakes and confusions” that have buried my inner goodness. For example, being sexual with someone with whom which I don’t share a deep sense of attraction and connection, is, for me, wrong. The sex itself is rarely that good, and, afterward, I usually feel disappointed with myself and empty. Yet I have also known God’s guiding and liberating grace in my life as I’ve struggled in getting it right. It is this grace that I continually recommit myself to seeking. It is God’s justice and compassion that I continually endeavor to embody. Such embodiment, I have discovered, takes time and work. But it’s the only way I know by which I can open myself to that necessary and ongoing process of “restoration” to what is deepest and truest within me.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Liberated to Be Together
“More Lovely Than the Dawn”: God as Divine Lover
“This Light Breeze That Loves Me”
Gay People and the Spiritual Life
The Challenge to Become Ourselves
The Gifts of Homosexuality
The Many Manifestations of God’s Loving Embrace
Somewhere in Between
The Triumph of Love: An Easter Reflection
A Girl Named Sara: A “Person of the Resurrection”
Celebrating Our Sanctifying Truth
In the Footsteps of Spring: Part 4 – Coming Out
Coming Out: An Act of Holiness
Getting It Right
The Journal of James Curtis: Part 4 – Carlos

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Another Victory

. . . this time in Maryland.

The following is excerpted from a Washington Post article by Aaron C. Davis and John Wagner.

Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler (D) said Wednesday that effective immediately, and until challenged in court, the state recognizes same-sex marriages performed elsewhere and that Maryland agencies should begin affording out-of-state gay couples all the rights they have been awarded in other places.

“State agencies in Maryland will recognize out-of-state gay marriages as of right now,” Gansler said at a news conference explaining the effect of a long-awaited opinion he released Wednesday morning.

Earlier in the day, most lawmakers in the state capital had interpreted Gansler’s opinion as having not gone that far. But Gansler said that in his role as the chief legal adviser to all executive branch agencies, his opinion now dictates how state agencies should respond when same-sex couples from elsewhere request benefits and legal protections they would have been awarded in the four New England states and Iowa, where same-sex marriages are legal.

The issue will soon become far less abstract in Maryland, with the District expected to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples this spring.

“It’s not that foreign of a concept, I mean, it’s just people, it’s just like any other heterosexual couples,” Gansler said. “However a heterosexual couple is treated that was validly married in Maryland or elsewhere, [a same-sex couple] will be treated like that here in Maryland, unless and until a court or the legislature decides differently.”

Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) responded to Gansler’s opinion with a statement saying: “We will be guided by the Attorney General’s thorough analysis and legal advice on this matter. . . . I expect all state agencies to work with the Attorney General’s office to ensure compliance with the law.”

To read this article in its entirety, click here.

Recommended Off-Site Link:

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Steve Chapman: “Time is On the Side of Gay Marriage”
The Changing Face of “Traditional Marriage”
A Christian Case for Same-Sex Marriage
A Catholic Voice for Marriage Equality at the State Capitol

Why Gay Marriage is Wrong

While surfing the net earlier this evening, I came across the following “humorous and educational” post about gay marriage and thought I’d share it here at The Wild Reed. Enjoy!


Why Gay Marriage is Wrong

1) Being gay is not natural. Real Americans always reject unnatural things like eyeglasses, polyester, and air conditioning.

2) Gay marriage will encourage people to be gay, in the same way that hanging around tall people will make you tall.

3) Gay marriage will change the foundation of society; we could never adapt to new social norms. Just like we haven’t adapted to cars, the service-sector economy, or longer life spans.

4) Straight marriage has been around a long time and hasn’t changed at all; women are still property, blacks still can’t marry whites, and divorce is still illegal.

5) Straight marriage will be less meaningful if gay marriage were allowed; the sanctity of Brittany Spears’ 55-hour just-for-fun marriage would be destroyed.

6) Straight marriages are valid because they produce children. Gay couples, infertile couples, and old people shouldn’t be allowed to marry because our orphanages aren’t full yet, and the world needs more children.

7) Obviously gay parents will raise gay children, since straight parents only raise straight children.

8) Gay marriage is not supported by religion. In a theocracy like ours, the values of one religion are imposed on the entire country. That’s why we have only one religion in America.

9) Children can never succeed without a male and a female role model at home. That’s why we as a society expressly forbid single parents to raise children.

10) Legalizing gay marriage will open the door to all kinds of crazy behavior. People may even wish to marry their pets because a dog has legal standing and can sign a marriage contract.

For more serious fare, see the previous Wild Reed posts:
John Corvino on the “Always and Everywhere” Argument Against Gay Marriage
Patrick Ryan on the “Defense of Traditional Marriage” Argument Against Gay Marriage
Nathanial Frank on the “Natural Law” Argument Against Gay Marriage

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

MN Legislators Hear from Supporters and Opponents of Marriage Equality

I intend sharing in the next day or so my thoughts on last night’s Minnesota House of Representative hearing on marriage equality. For now, here’s James Sanna’s report on the hearing, along with a few photos I took at it.


“Historic” Marriage Hearing
Draws Advocates, Opponents

By James Sanna
February 23, 2010

Passionate testimony in favor of marriage equality filled Monday night’s hearing on three marriage equality bills currently before the Minnesota House of Representatives’ Civil Justice Committee. But the event hailed as “historic” by OutFront was a bitter disappointment for activist Doug Benson, founder of Marry Me Minnesota and, along with his partner Duane Gajewski, one of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit seeing to overturn the 1997 law banning same-gender marriage in Minnesota.

“This hearing should have happened last year,” Benson [pictured at right] told after the hearing adjourned. Benson said he believes a marriage equality bill had enough support in the Civil Justice Committee last year to pass one bill out of committee and refer it to the full House for a vote. With a change in committee membership, however, Benson said it was uncertain if a vote Monday would have succeeded.

“What would a vote have gotten us this year? Nothing,” said Rep. Phylis Kahn, pointing out that Governor Tim Pawlenty would undoubtedly veto any and all marriage equality bills that pass his desk.

Monica Meyer, OutFront Minnesota’s Policy Director confirmed before the hearing that pro-equality forces would not have enough votes to override any potential veto.

“It’s too bad we can’t get marriage this year,” witness Randi Reitan told “But any time you hold a hearing, you’re touching someone [in the state legislature].”

Benson wasn’t buying her sentiments, though.

Every time a marriage equality bill has a hearing, he said, “We’ll get dragged through dirt by the freaks on the opposite side. How many times do we have to go through this?”

“The average homosexual has hundreds of sexual partners”

And of “freaks,” there were plenty. For every loving family, legal expert, or equality advocate who spoke Monday night, a conservative religious leader, “therapist”, or legal expert offered a rejoinder.

“The average homosexual has hundreds of sexual partners,” railed Barb Davis White as the packed crowd of equality supporters chuckled. White is a Republican candidate for Rep. Keith Ellison’s seat in the US House of Representatives.

Others, including University of St. Thomas law professor Teresa Collett, ex-gay therapist Willard Harley, and a representative of Minnesota’s Catholic bishops, offered up a bounty of claims for fact checkers to test.

In Massachusetts and other states that have legalized same-gender marriage, Collette charged, “there are public officials who deny public funds…to groups that do not share their belief in the moral equivalency” of heterosexual and homosexual marriage.

Father Michael Bicker, representing Minnesota’s [Roman] Catholic bishops, tried to convince legislators that same-gender relationships were inherently unjust, consisting of “essentially one person using another.”

Harley and Becker ended up dueling for “Most Ridiculous Statement” of the night. Becker snuck his way around Church dogma mandating opposition to all forms of oppression by claiming the denial of marriage rights was not oppressive at all. However, Harley claimed that recognizing same-gender marriages would turn school children gay, since programs teaching diversity “create neural pathways” that will cause a student to assume homosexual attraction is the norm.

“Families across America are changing”

Many witnesses who spoke in favor of equality testified to the positive aspects of marriage equality – its conformity with “conservative” values, its potential economic benefits for the state, the need to adapt laws to the changing nature of families – but perhaps the most powerful testimony of the evening came from Jacob Reitan and his parents, Randi and Philip [pictured above]. After his mother recounted how the family was terrorized following his coming out in Mankato, Jacob Reitan reminded legislators of the price of inaction.

“It is the price of pain felt by gay and lesbian people at hearing the forces of intolerance time and again demean their lives and love,” Reitan said. “It is the price of insecurity and financial hardship gay and lesbian couples face when denied the 515 rights that are attendant with marriage in the state of Minnesota. Finally, it is the quiet yet ever-present price of inferiority gay people feel with the knowledge that in the eyes of the government, they are second-class citizens.”

- James Sanna
February 23, 2010

Recommended Off-Site Links:
Marriage Equality Supporters Hail Historic Hearing - OutFront Minnesota media release (February 22, 2010).
Gay Marriage Bills Debated in House Committee - Paul Demko (Politics in Minnesota, February 22, 2010).
White on Same-Sex Marriage: Rosa Parks Didn’t ‘Move to the Front of the Bus to Support Sodomy’ - Andy Birkey (The Minnesota Independent, February 23, 2010).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Have Message, Will Be at Capitol
A Catholic Voice for Marriage Equality at the State Capitol
America’s New Civil Rights Battle
The Same People

Images: Michael Bayly.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Marv Remembers

My friends Marv Davidov and Carol Masters have collaborated on a book documenting the former’s life of justice and peace activism.

Entitled, You Can’t Do That: Marv Davidov, Nonviolent Revolutionary, the book was reviewed by Marilyn Hoegemeyer in yesterday’s Star Tribune. Following is this review in its entirety, with added images and links.


A Symbol of Protest

By Marilyn Hoegemeyer

Star Tribune
February 20, 2010

Lifelong Twin Cities activist Marv Davidov
looks back on his life, his causes,
and the Honeywell Project.

About 150 protesters gathered to decry a violent reaction
to the WTC & Pentagon bombings in front of steps of Northrop Auditorium
and listened to a voice from more than 30 years ago, Marv Davidov,
an anti war protester during the Vietnam war. (Photo: Mike Zerby)

For more than five decades, Marv Davidov has been a fixture on the streets of Minneapolis, on college campuses and in newsrooms and boardrooms around the Twin Cities, a persistent spokesman against war and injustice.

His longest running battle was the Honeywell Project, pitting Davidov and hundreds of citizens against Honeywell Inc., which was then headquartered in Minneapolis and was the state’s largest military contractor.

Honeywell’s “cluster bomb” became the symbol of the protest, and for years Davidov carried an unarmed version with him wherever he went. The story of a judge who insisted he relinquish the bomb in his courtroom is among the anecdotes in this book about Davidov’s life.

The author, poet Carol Masters [pictured at right], joined the protest movement herself in the 1980s and has spent 25 years listening to Davidov’s stories. More recently she began taping his recollections and providing historical detail.

In 1949, at 18, Davidov moved from Detroit to St. Paul to work in his uncles’ Midway department store and begin classes at Macalester College. His parents and brother joined him a year later and, except for a brief stint in the Army and several years in the mid-’60s in Berkeley, Calif., he has always called the Twin Cities home.

The book contains frank admissions: Davidov describes his bouts with depression. There are hints at his many romantic liaisons. There are complaints about the lack of media coverage for his causes.

And there are countless names of those who inspired him (from Dan and Phil Berrigan, John Lewis and Grace Paley, to Meridel LeSueur, Vernon and Clyde Bellecourt, and Howard Zinn), and details about the many causes Davidov has joined. He was a Freedom Rider in the South in the early ’60s, a participant in the Walk to Cuba for Peace effort, a part of the Minnesota farmers' power line struggle. He joined Native American causes, labor union struggles, Vietnam War protests, and protests against the war in Iraq. But the Honeywell Project was his centerpiece.

In 1990, Honeywell announced a spin-off of its military and marine systems business into a new company, Alliant Tech Systems Inc. Davidov’s take: that more than 20 years of protests were worth it. “After 2,200 arrests and nearly 100 trials, Honeywell reduced its dependence on weapons systems. We were – thousands of us – a major factor in the decision.”

Now nearing his 80th year, Davidov has survived prostate cancer, has diabetes, kidney failure and undergoes dialysis three times a week. But that hasn't stopped him from telling his stories to the medical staff who care for him and to his students at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, where he co-teaches a class called Active Nonviolence in Justice and Peace.

The book ends with “A Note of Thanks from Marv” – six pages, in small type – for the people who supported him with money, medical care and legal aid and helped him foster peace and justice in the world.

The last paragraph is Davidov’s list of more than a dozen things still needed to reform the United States. Clearly, his work is not complete.

Marilyn Hoegemeyer is a former assigning editor for the Star Tribune.


Left: Standing at right with Marv and other members of the Minnesota War Resisters League (Sister Rita Steinhagen Chapter) - April 2007.

Standing in the back row, third from right, is Frida Berrigan, daughter of the late Phil Berrigan and Liz McAlister. Frida, who serves on the War Resisters League’s National Committee in New York City, was a special guest at our April 2007 meeting.

Above: Marv participates in the General Strike for Peace – Friday, September 21, 2007.

Above: While in the Twin Cites in July 2005, my parents met Marv when they joined me in attending the weekly Wednesday morning peace vigil outside of the corporate headquarters of Alliant TechSystems - the largest Minnesota-based weapons manufacturer and the primary supplier of landmines, cluster bombs, nuclear missile rocket motors, and depleted uranium (DU) munitions to the U.S. Department of Defense. Pictured above from left: Marv, Marie Braun, Greg Corcoran, Dad, and Mary Vaughn.

Above: Marv with friends Susu and Dee on the occasion of his 76th birthday – Saturday, August 25, 2007.

Above: My photo of Marv that is included in You Can't Do That. It shows Marv teaching a class in the history of nonviolence at the University of St. Thomas in April 2009.

UPDATE: Marv passed away on January 14, 2012. For my tribute to him, click here.

Recommended Off-site Link:
Marv Davidov: Still An Activist After All These Years
– Cass Sanford and James Sanna (Twin Cities Daily Planet, August 31, 2008).

Images: Michael Bayly (except where noted otherwise).