NEWS -- 2013.02.13.Wednesday Ashes
- Ashes on Wednesday 13 February 2013
1) A law that adds to gay military widows' grief
2) Op-ed: No Pass for Attending the National Prayer Breakfast
3) eHarmony Founder: Gay Marriage 'Damaged Our Company' -- rightwing christians did it
4) Op-ed: An Open Letter Regarding the Gay-Banned Prom
5) survival (?)
A law that adds to gay military widows' grief
By Tracy Johnson, Published: February 10, 2013
Tracy Johnson is a staff sergeant in the North Carolina National Guard. The views expressed here are her own.
Four months ago, my wife, Donna, was killed in Afghanistan. She was 29 when she and two other soldiers from her unit became the victims of a suicide bomber. Thursday, Valentine's Day, would have been our first anniversary.
I am sharing our story partly to memorialize Donna - but also in the hopes that other families won't have to go through what I did.
Donna and I met 6 1/2 years ago. Two proud Americans who wanted to serve our country, I was stationed at Fort Bragg and Donna soon joined the North Carolina National Guard. Before we knew it, we were deeply in love. People say that when you know, you know. Donna and I just knew.
We shared the same vision of life, love and happiness. We wanted to share life's joys and adventures and sorrows. We intended to grow old together. We couldn't imagine life without each other, so after "don't ask, don't tell" was repealed, we got married.
Usually, widowed spouses are personally informed by a casualty officer and provided with grief counseling. They are invited to meet the casket as it is returned to American soil. Later, during the funeral service, they are ceremonially presented with the flag that covered their loved one's coffin.
On the day my wife died, I read online that three soldiers had been killed in the area where Donna was stationed. She hadn't called home that morning, breaking our routine. As my worry grew, I got a call from my in-laws. A pair of national guardsmen had gone to their home, not mine.
Although Donna and I were legally married in the District of Columbia last February, I was denied the ceremonies, rituals and spousal survivor's benefits that usually go to widows because Donna and I are both women. This was not because of any military rule discriminating against same-sex couples bravely serving our country. It was because of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a 1996 law that says same-sex widows cannot be treated equally when their spouses are killed.
Every member of the military I have interacted with has treated me with compassion and care. Many have expressed sorrow and regret that they are not allowed to treat me as an equal. The Defense Department indicated last week that it will extend some - not all - spousal benefits to same-sex couples. Any such steps are welcome, but I want to be clear: As long as DOMA is federal law, our government is required to treat same-sex military partners and widows like me as second-class citizens in the country we have sacrificed to defend.
Army widows belong to an honorable and respected community that is a source of strength in the midst of deep grief and loss. Its members are given symbols of the shared sacrifice that they and so many before them have made. We widows are given financial support to deal with the bills that we used to share with our spouses, as well as medical and psychological care to deal with the unspeakable trauma of losing the love of your life. It means something to be called an Army widow.
Because Donna and I are both women, our love and shared sacrifice are not valid to our government. But in my heart, I know the truth. And I am able to carry on because I believe that our nation is ready to do what is right.
Donna was proud to serve our country, and she gave her life to protect our freedom. I know what it meant to her to have the freedom to marry the woman she loved.
Until DOMA is ruled unconstitutional, other loving husbands and wives will share my story. They deserve to receive that official visit, the grief counseling and the survivor's benefits; they deserve to be given the flag that draped their beloved spouse's coffin.
Any law that says they do not deserve these things is wrong. Any law that says I am not Donna's widow is wrong.
We cannot change the past or heal the hurt of those left behind. But we can honor their memory by doing what is right. It's time to end DOMA. I have to keep believing that one day, one way or another, the country Donna died for will treat us as equals.
Read more on this debate: The Post's View: Defeating DOMA - court case by court case
Jonathan Capehart: DOMA is doomed
Op-ed: No Pass for Attending the National Prayer Breakfast
When can we stop pretending that the National Prayer Breakfast is one big bipartisan display of respect for religious diversity and tolerance?
BY Melanie Sloan
February 11 2013
It's time for official Washington to stop pretending the National Prayer Breakfast is a rare demonstration of bipartisan religious unity and recognize it for what it is: a marketing event for a shadowy, fundamentalist religious organization that incites discrimination against gays. In past years, my organization, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, has unsuccessfully called on government leaders to boycott this event.
Every year since 1953, presidents have attended the National Prayer Breakfast, sponsored by the Family, or the Fellowship, which is headed by Doug Coe. Coe has been a spiritual adviser to presidents, political leaders, businessmen, and military leaders - both in the United States and abroad - preaching an unconventional brand of Christianity focused on meeting Jesus "man-to-man." As has been well-documented by journalist Jeff Sharlet, the Fellowship operates under a veil of secrecy, concealing the sources of its funding, its financial holdings, and its political goals.
The National Prayer Breakfast is the Fellowship's marquee event. This large-scale function serves as a recruiting tool for the group but is often misconstrued by attendees as an official government event - a perception reinforced by frequent presidential addresses at the breakfast, presidential seals strategically located around the room, and an organizing committee made up of members of Congress. Coe, however, is the breakfast's true organizer, even though he remains in the background, perhaps afraid that acknowledgment of the Fellowship's involvement would diminish attendance.
The Fellowship has also been tied to a variety of secret, back-door diplomatic actions. At past breakfasts, organizers facilitated meetings between foreign dignitaries and the president as well as members of Congress, outside the reach of the Department of State and traditional U.S. diplomatic protocol. Away from the breakfast, Coe and Fellowship members have met with and occasionally played host to foreign dignitaries from around the world, including dictators and despots such François "Papa Doc" Duvalier of Haiti.
The Fellowship has financed foreign trips for affiliated members of Congress, who have then mixed religion and official duties while meeting with foreign dignitaries. At least two senators, Oklahoma Republicans Tom Coburn and Jim Inhofe, have worked on behalf of the Fellowship while on official, congressionally sponsored trips abroad.
In addition, Ugandan lawmaker David Bahati, an outspoken participant in the Fellowship, drafted draconian antigay legislation that included the death penalty for any HIV-infected individual convicted of having gay sex. As a result of international criticism, the death penalty may be replaced with life imprisonment. While President Obama decried the legislation at the 2010 breakfast, the continued presence of the president and congressional leaders at an event produced by those who support such odious measures undermines American condemnation of discrimination against gay people everywhere.
Moreover, for years the Fellowship operated a tax-exempt discount boardinghouse - known as the C Street House - for members of Congress under the guise of a church. Even though the group was forced to correct the building's tax status after a rash of bad publicity involving some of its previous residents, including disgraced former Republican senator John Ensign of Nevada, the Capitol Hill row house continues to serve both as lodging and as a meeting place for members, some of whom have had a pact not to discuss their living situation.
In response to reporters' questions about the president's attendance at this year's event, White House press secretary Jay Carney weakly responded by saying he hadn't "focused" on the breakfast's organizers, and explaining that the president is "not responsible for the views of every organization or person who participates. His views on these issues, as you just noted in your question, are quite clear."
Of course, President Obama wasn't the only prominent attendee: Senators Jeff Sessions, an Alabama Republican and Mark Pryor, a Democrat from Arkansas, served as cochairs. Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York and House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, both Democrats, were also present, as were newly installed Secretary of State John Kerry and outgoing Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.
By attending the National Prayer Breakfast, government officials lend legitimacy to an organization whose ideas and practices are antithetical to the American ideals of equality, transparency, and high ethical standards. Maybe next year our political leaders will think harder about the message their attendance sends and worship elsewhere.
MELANIE SLOAN is executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
[ video at URL ]
eHarmony Founder: Gay Marriage 'Damaged Our Company'
After he was forced to open up his site to gay users, Neil Clark Warren says he had to hire guards to protect his employees from furious conservatives.
BY Neal Broverman
February 13 2013
The 78-year-old, conservative Christian co-founder of the dating site eHarmony says same-sex marriage damaged his company, and allowing gay users to utilize his site incited angry, possibly violent, right-wingers.
In a profile on Yahoo News, Neil Clark Warren spoke candidly about same-sex marriage and how a judge forced him to open up his website to gay couples in 2008.
"I think this issue of same-sex marriage within the next five to 15 years will be no issue anymore. We've made too much of it. I'm tired of it. It has really damaged our company," Warren said, "and when the attorney general of the state of New Jersey decided that we had to put up a same-sex site and we did it out of counsel that if we didn't do it we were not going to have any business in New Jersey - we literally had to hire guards to protect our lives because the people were so hurt and angry with us, were Christian people, who feel that it's a violation to scripture."
While Warren, who was at one time associated with the antigay group Focus on the Family, claims he wants to leave the issue of same-sex marriage behind and have the country draw together and be harmonious, he also added: "I have said that eHarmony really ought to put up $10 million and ask other companies to put up money and do a really first class job of figuring out homosexuality. At the very best, it's been a painful way for a lot of people to have to live."
Every day in America, 542 people marry after meeting on eHarmony.com -- according to the online dating website. That's 5 percent of all new U.S. marriages. On average, there's an eHarmony wedding every 2.65 minutes, the company claims. Playing cupid in an astonishing total of 565,000 marriages worldwide are eHarmony's co-founder, Neil Clark Warren, and his patented algorithms.
Warren, 78, is a Christian theologian who worked as a clinical psychologist for 35 years, counseling married couples. "Marriage can be very stressful," he told Off The Cuff. "You have 1,000 different thoughts and feelings and needs and wishes around someone. And you sometimes don't get them all met." Based on his own practice and three years of clinical research, he formulated a set of 29 characteristics that he said define successful relationships. He called them the "Dimensions of Compatibility." In 2000, he founded eHarmony with his son-in-law Greg Forgatch. The site was financed with a $3 million venture round from Fayez Sarofim and individual investors.
To this day, the computer matching system that eHarmony uses to introduce its single members is based on those same core traits, which include curiosity, intellect, appearance, skills, sexual passion, attitude toward children, spirituality, values, anger management and sense of humor. In other words, the things that you probably should weigh when choosing a mate, but sometimes ignore in favor of nice hair or a great smile.
In 2004, eHarmony received the year's fourth-largest venture capital infusion from Sequoia Capital and Technology Crossover Ventures, and the service reached a milestone in 2009 as it exceeded $1 billion in cumulative revenue, according to reports. EHarmony would not disclose its revenue figures to Off The Cuff. Warren attributes some of the company's success to advertising -- commercials have made him one of the most recognizable matchmakers in the U.S .
Still, the past few years have brought increasing competition -- from subscription-based sites like EHarmony's and a growing number of free sites. Warren came out of retirement in 2012 to become CEO. "The biggest problem we have is not with competition," he told Off The Cuff. "The biggest problem we have is with people who are afraid to find the person who would be the right person for them. And you know why they're afraid of that? It's because there is no greater fear in the world than the fear of finding the person you want to be with for the rest of your life, and they don't want you."
EHarmony claims it will help you find that special person -- if you're heterosexual, that is. In the company's early years, Warren primarily marketed to a Christian clientele, and vaunted his association with Focus on the Family, the evangelical organization founded by James Dobson. Now a secular site, eHarmony has been the target of numerous lawsuits for its refusal to match same-sex couples. In 2008, eHarmony reached a settlement with New Jersey's Civil Rights Division in a discrimination case -- the company agreed to launch a new website that would cater to same-sex couples. Compatible Partners was launched in 2009.
"I think this issue of same-sex marriage within the next five to 15 years will be no issue anymore. We've made too much of it. I'm tired of it. It has really damaged our company," Warren said, "and when the attorney general of the state of New Jersey decided that we had to put up a same-sex site and we did it out of counsel that if we didn't do it we were not going to have any business in New Jersey -- we literally had to hire guards to protect our lives because the people were so hurt and angry with us, were Christian people, who feel that it's a violation to scripture.
He continued "I have said that eHarmony really ought to put up $10 million and ask other companies to put up money and do a really first class job of figuring out homosexuality. At the very best, it's been a painful way for a lot of people to have to live. But at this point, at this age, I want America to start drawing together. I want it to be more harmonious."
Warren described himself as "a passionate follower of Jesus. I think he's the greatest thing that ever happened to the human race."
Warren himself has been married to his wife, Marylyn, for 54 years. They have three adult daughters. Marylyn Warren has joined her husband in some of eHarmony's recent commercials. "I would like to have Marylyn in more of the advertisements. But we aren't a natural team when it comes to making those ads," he laughed.
Warren said he really likes to gamble. "That's probably not a good thing to say, but I was taught when I was a young kid not to play marbles for keeps. But I always played marbles for keeps. There's something exciting about that."
Warren has no plans to retire again soon. He says eHarmony is expanding and will apply its matchmaking skills to the job market, pairing employers with job seekers: "I love business. I love being involved with the eHarmony business again. It's the most exciting thing I've seen for a long time."
As he left the Off The Cuff studio after the interview, a security guard approached Warren to shake his hand. "Thank you." the guard said, "My daughter met her husband through eHarmony and now they have a baby on the way."
Op-ed: An Open Letter Regarding the Gay-Banned Prom
Barring gay students from a prom doesn't seem very Christlike, says one antibullying advocate.
BY Ronnie Kroell
February 12 2013
A group of Sullivan, Ind., residents gathered Sunday at a local church to discuss plans to create a "traditional" high school prom, where LGBT students would not be allowed. One of the group members whose words struck a particular chord was Diana Medley, a special education teacher, who said she doesn't believe anyone is born gay.
"I believe that it was life circumstances and they chose to be that way; God created everyone equal," Medley said. "I don't understand it. A gay person isn't going to come up and make some change unless it's to realize that it was a choice and they're chosing God."
Below is an open letter to Medley from Ronnie Kroell of Friend Movement:
Dear Ms. Medley,
I just came upon your interview regarding the creation of a "Traditional Prom" at Sullivan High School. Unlike many who may contact you to be angry or share their excitement over your position, I'm contacting you because I would like to have an open dialogue to better understand your position.
From what I watched it is clear that you are a religious woman, but I'm not really sure if I would classify you as a Christian. For to be a Christian one has to be "Christlike." Christ throughout the Bible welcomes all his children, he never casts anyone aside, nor did he encourage separation.
As an American, I believe in "united we stand." We are a country filled with beautiful people from all walks of life - that is what makes us special. We celebrate that diversity and afford equal treatment under the law so that all people are protected and can find happiness.
As a man that happens to be gay, I also can tell you that being gay is not a choice. It's as natural as having brown eyes or blond hair; you are born this way. Do you remember the time that you decided to be heterosexual? Probably not, because you didn't need anyone to tell you who to be sexually attracted to. It was a natural instinct.
My work is in antibullying and encouraging people to celebrate what they have in common while celebrating their diversity. I promote education, understanding, and respect. Your interview, in my opinion, works against that progress we have made. As a teacher, your job is to promote love, kindness, and to teach tolerance. Your interview only further promotes a position of discrimination and "separate but equal" which just does not work in this country.
While you have the right to your opinion, which is a freedom that we all have thanks to living in the United States, I have to respectfully disagree with you. LGBT men and women are faced with the same challenges that the human experience brings our heterosexual brothers and sisters. We work hard, we contribute to our communities, and we do our very best to live and let live. It is your position, that would leverage the Bible to promote hate rather than love, that causes young men and women all over the world to take their own lives - or worse, it encourages others around them to bring them physical and mental harm.
Being that you work with special needs children, you of all people should know the harmful affects of bullying. It makes me sad that you cannot see the similarities simply because the person being bullied or separated from the rest of the community happens to fall in love with or be attracted to the same sex. This is nothing unique to the human species; if you took a moment to understand nature, you would see that it exists in all of the animal kingdom.
We are all a part of God . we are made in his image . and we all have a purpose. He did not send us to this earth and give us the gift of life so that we can waste our time judging others around us. He gave us life so that we may truly know the love that he has for us and so that we may learn to share that love with all those that we meet.
I wish you kindness and love in your life, and I hope that when you speak publicly you realize that your words are very powerful; they have the power to cheer folks up and they also have the power to bring someone into a horrible state of depression - depression that could ultimately be fatal if they believe what you say to be the only truth.
I have taken a vow to protect all of our youth from being bullied, no matter who they are. Bullying does not discriminate. It needs to be stopped so that young people never have to feel ashamed of who they are or feel that life is not worth living. I hope that you too will join me in these efforts.
You have the right to your opinion, Ms. Medley, but you also have to know that as a public figure and teacher, you have a more important responsibility - that is the safety and well-being of the children you teach. Being exposed to gay people in school or at prom is not a life-threatening event; in fact, it is an enlightening one that teaches respect and love for all of God's children.
Have an amazing 2013,
RONNIE KROELL and Elliot London created Friend Movement to help show positive antibullying images through art and media: images of people of all ages, race, gender, sexuality, and spirituality that invoke inspiration, conversation. Friend Movement inspires people to prevent bullying by enabling them to be a better friend. To show support for an inclusive prom, please visit Support the Sullivan High School Prom for All Students on Facebook.
This from the conservative right mentality ---
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