Baylor’s student Senate removes ‘homosexual acts’ from conduct code

UniversityprofilesBaylorBearsMembers of Baylor University’s student Senate voted Thursday night to change discriminatory language in the university’s Sexual Misconduct Code.

The current code states that sexuality is a gift from God and “misuses of God’s gift will be understood to include but not limit to, sexual abuse, sexual harassment, sexual assault, incest, adultery, fornication, and homosexual acts.”

The Sexual Misconduct Code Non-Discrimination Act removed “homosexual acts” from the code and replaced it with the phrase “non-marital consensual deviate sexual intercourse.” Further action is required by the Baylor University Board of Regents before the change can be made.

While the code also states that sexuality is  “achieved through heterosexual relationships within marriage,” students who supported the act said it was intended to remove discriminatory language and make gays feel more welcome on campus, the university’s student paper, Baylor Lariat, reports.

As a Christian university, Baylor’s doctrine has always and still states that homosexuality is wrong for Biblical reasons, and the bill wouldn’t change the formal views of the administration. Baylor has made Princeton Review’s “most gay-unfriendly” list for years.

But senior Kimani Mitchell told the student paper that the change in wording wouldn’t target gays anymore.

“We are simply clarifying language here,” Mitchell said. “In our world we don’t always take words semantically. They are taken with a pragmatic view, which is the connotation associated with the view. This word is discriminating. Discrimination contextually and culturally is a bad thing.”

Senior Grant Senter said the change would show acceptance by the school’s student body, even if mindsets haven’t changed.

“This is not just about a technical change,” Senter said. “This is about the entire picture of the university and what it means to be a homosexual on campus. Are you protected? Do we care for you? Do we reach out to you with Christ’s love? At this point no. What I think this bill does is take a step towards a more caring, Jesus loving community.”

Earlier this year, Baylor senior Susan Duty helped the city of Waco, where Baylor is located, add sexual orientation and gender identity to its Equal Employment Opportunity policy for city employees.

—  Anna Waugh

Death penalty provision likely to be removed from anti-gay bill in Uganda

Measure still carries life imprisonment for those convicted of homosexual acts

JASON STRAZIUSO  |  Associated Press

KAMPALA, Uganda — The Ugandan parliamentarian behind an anti-gay bill that attracted worldwide condemnation said the most controversial part of the legislation — the death penalty provision — is likely to be dropped from the bill.

David Bahati said if the parliament committee the bill currently sits before recommends that the death penalty provision be removed, “I would concede.”

“The death penalty is something we have moved away from,” Bahati told The Associated Press in an interview.

After Bahati’s anti-gay bill was proposed some 18 months ago, it attracted international condemnation, including from President Barack Obama. Since the initial uproar, the bill has languished in committee.

But Stephen Tashobya, the chairman of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee, said the legislation may come up for a vote before parliament’s session ends May 12.

“We shall try and see how far we can go with the bill. It may be possible. We are doing all we can. We have limited time,” he said Tuesday, before adding: “Many people have expressed concern about that provision providing for the death sentence and I’m sure when we start hearings on that bill we will hear many more concerns.”

Homosexuality is highly unpopular in Uganda, and pastors in this Christian country speak out loudly against the practice. Bahati said he thinks the bill would become law if voted on by legislators.

“I can guarantee you I have not seen any member of parliament who is opposed to it,” he said.

Frank Mugisha, the director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, a gay rights group, said anti-gay sentiment in Uganda has increased since the bill’s introduction. More gays are being harassed, he said, because of media attention and because church leaders have been preaching for the bill’s passage to congregations.

Bahati’s original bill carried harsh provisions. The original bill would mandate a death sentence for active homosexuals living with HIV or in cases of same-sex rape. “Serial offenders” also could face capital punishment, but the legislation did not define the term. Anyone convicted of a homosexual act would face life imprisonment.

Anyone who “aids, abets, counsels or procures another to engage of acts of homosexuality” would face seven years in prison. Landlords who rent rooms or homes to homosexuals also could get seven years.

“If the bill passes we cannot even be allowed to do our work,” Mugisha said.

Last year a tabloid newspaper in Uganda published the names and photos of men it alleged were gay. One cover included the words “Hang Them.” Shortly afterward, in January, a prominent gay rights activist whose picture was published was bludgeoned to death, though authorities contend David Kato’s sexual orientation had nothing to do with the killing.

Mugisha said the murder was not thoroughly investigated. “I think it had to do with all the hate that has been spread. All avenues lead to a homophobia-based crime,” he said.

Bahati called Kato’s death regrettable.

“My reaction is that I extend condolences to the family, parents of Kato. It’s regrettable that they could find themselves in this situation, and also regrettable that he could be allowed to be used to recruit our children. But the death of Kato had nothing to do with the bill in parliament,” he said.

Bahati, 36, is serving his first term. He said that the bill has helped raise public awareness about what he calls “the dangers to our children.” Many Ugandan leaders who support the bill say that gay Ugandans recruit school children to become homosexual.

Mugisha says no one has ever been arrested for doing such a thing despite Uganda being what he called a highly homophobic country.

Bahati submitted his bill in late 2009, several months after American evangelicals attended a conference in Kampala. Those U.S. religious leaders consider same-gender relationships sinful and believe gays and lesbians can become heterosexual through prayer and counseling, fueling speculation that the Americans helped craft the bill.

Bahati said that was false and he labeled it a communication strategy and “conspiracy” by pro-gay groups in the U.S. to make his bill easier to attack.

“I didn’t meet any American evangelicals. I’ve said before we have friends in America but they have nothing to do with the bill. This actually has been an insult to suggest that Ugandans cannot think for themselves, that we have to wait for America to think for us,” he said.

—  John Wright

Vatican: Pope’s condom comments apply to women too

NICOLE WINFIELD | Associated Press

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI’s comments about condom use being a lesser evil than transmitting HIV also apply to women, the Vatican said Tuesday, a significant shift for a pope who just last year said condoms only worsen the AIDS problem.

Benedict said in a book released Tuesday, Nov. 23 that condom use by people such as male prostitutes was a lesser evil since it indicated they were taking a step toward a more moral and responsible sexuality by aiming to protect their partner from a deadly infection.

His comments implied that he was referring primarily to homosexual sex, when condoms aren’t being used as a form of contraception, which the Vatican opposes.

Questions arose immediately, however, about the pope’s intent because the Italian translation of the book used the feminine for prostitute, whereas the original German used the masculine.

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, told reporters Tuesday that he asked the pope whether he intended his comments to only apply to male prostitutes. Benedict replied that it really didn’t matter, that the important thing was the person in question took into consideration the life of the other, Lombardi said.

“I personally asked the pope if there was a serious, important problem in the choice of the masculine over the feminine,” Lombardi said. “He told me no. The problem is this … It’s the first step of taking responsibility, of taking into consideration the risk of the life of another with whom you have a relationship.”

“This is if you’re a woman, a man, or a transsexual. We’re at the same point,” Lombardi said.

The pope is not justifying or condoning gay sex or heterosexual sex outside of a marriage. Elsewhere in the book he reaffirms the Vatican opposition to homosexual acts and artificial contraception and reaffirms the inviolability of marriage between man and woman.

But by broadening the condom comments to also apply to women, the pope is saying that condom use in heterosexual relations is the lesser evil than passing HIV onto a partner.

While that concept has long been a tenet of moral theology, the pope’s book “Light of the World” — a series of interviews with a German journalist — was the first time a pope had ever publicly applied the theory to the scenario of condom use as a way to fight HIV transmission.

The pope’s comments have generated heated debate, mostly positive in places like Africa which has been devastated by AIDS and where the church has been criticized for its opposition to condom use.

—  John Wright

Iran’s deadly ‘Bizarro World’

The use of the Bible to defend laws in the United States could be as dangerous as the use of the Qur’an in the Iranian theocracy

EXECUTION
EXECUTION | Iranians Mahmoud Asqari and Ayad Marhouni were hanged in Justice Square in Mashhad, Iran, in 2005, after being convicted of sodomy. (Iranian Students News Agency)

In the Bizarro World, everything is well, bizarre! The planet is a cube; everything ugly is beautiful; everything is sort of the opposite of Earth.

Welcome to Iran!

In the real world, when a person is accused of a crime, evidence is presented to support the charge. Some sort of due process is used to deal out justice.

In the Bizarro World of Iran, not so much.

Take the case of Ebrahim Hamidi. He was arrested two years ago in Iran and charged with “lavat” (sodomy), a crime that is punishable by death.

Hamidi and three friends were involved in a fight with members of another family. Part of the charges leveled against them were that they had assaulted a man and attempted to abuse him sexually.

After three days of alleged torture, Hamidi confessed, and his three friends were released in exchange for their testimony against him.

It might sound like a pretty ordinary assault and attempted rape case — but for the fact that the alleged victim admitted he fabricated the charges under pressure from his family.

In the real world, that would most likely result in the charges being dropped and Hamidi being set free.

But remember, we are in the Bizarro World of Iran.

Hamidi sits awaiting execution for homosexual acts, even though he is heterosexual and from the testimony of the victim, innocent.

Why? Well, it seems there is a bizarre legal loophole that allows something called a “judge’s knowledge” to bear weight in a case where there is no supporting evidence, and the judge says, “Hang him.”

Here in the real world his defense lawyer would be throwing out every legal motion in the book to stop this miscarriage of justice. In Bizarro World the defendant has no lawyer, at least not any more.

His attorney, human rights lawyer Mohammad Mostafaei, is no longer in Iran. He was forced to flee the country to live in permanent exile in Norway because of his human rights advocacy.

His wife was arrested and held in solitary confinement just to drive home the message. She has since been released now that Mostafaei is out of the country.

You see, in Bizarro World, lawyers like Mostafaei, credited with saving at least 50 people from execution during his career, are not welcome. He defends children and women against harsh punishments that include the medieval practices of stoning and public whipping.

Sounds strange and outlandish, but it’s true.

Iran is a country that is, in effect, a theocracy. The laws are adaptations of Shari’ah, the Islamic legal tradition that includes the Qesas law, or “eye for an eye.”

These traditions were augmented with loopholes like the one allowing judges to use circumstantial evidence and just plain intuition in deciding life or death matters.

It is not a happy place for many people — and LGBT citizens in particular. There is a lesson in this sad and strange tale, and that is the explicit warning against theocratic justice.

If you don’t see any reason to fear this kind of problem back here in the United States, you must be familiar with neither the Bible nor the make up of our highest courts. The legacy of the Bush years still haunts us and will for many years.
And that “eye for an eye” thing is a direct quote from both the Qur’an and the Bible.

Our founding fathers were some pretty sharp cookies, and when they consciously shied away from any kind of state religion, they did so because of the immense potential for abuse that they saw in theocracy.

That wisdom is under constant attack by the right wing revisionists who would have us believe we are a Christian nation. Those same voices warn against the evils of Islam and the draconian Shari’ah Law, yet if given a chance they would impose the same kind of restrictions. They would just give them a different name.

The story of Ebrahim Hamidi is a cautionary tale, and it is one we should take note of, leastwise we might slip into the “underverse” and end up in a Bizarro World of our own.

Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas. His blog is at http://dungeondiary.blogspot.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 13, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

El Paso priest likens gays to rapists, condemns allies to hell — and the newspaper publishes it

And you thought The Dallas Morning News was bad!

Actually, ever since resident bigot Rod Dreher left, The DMN’s Sunday opinion pages have been largely devoid of any discussion of gay rights, pro or con.

Not so for The El Paso Times, which on Sunday printed this op/ed piece from the Rev. Michael Rodriguez, parish priest at San Juan Bautista Catholic Church.

Going a step further than even the Texas Republican Party platform, Rodriguez begins by suggesting that not only gays — but also those who fail to actively oppose them — are damned to hell:

Any Catholic who supports homosexual acts is, by definition, committing a mortal sin, and placing himself/herself outside of communion with the Roman Catholic Church.

Furthermore, a Catholic would be guilty of a most grievous sin of omission if he/she neglected to actively oppose the homosexual agenda, which thrives on deception and conceals its wicked horns under the guises of “equal rights,” “tolerance,” “who am I to judge?,” etc.

Father Rodriguez goes on to say that all “homosexuals” should be treated with “love, understanding, and respect.” But he adds, “At the same time, never forget that genuine love demands that we seek, above all, the salvation of souls. Homosexual acts lead to the damnation of souls.”

Interestingly, Rodriguez concludes by making an argument similar to one we frequently hear from supporters of same-sex marriage — who note that just because a majority of voters support a law, this doesn’t make it constitutional. But Rodriguez makes the argument from the opposite perspective, saying that just because a majority of voters support gay rights, this doesn’t make them morally right. This is a relatively new twist — usually we hear anti-gay voices espousing the virtues of the popular vote — but it’s one we’ll probably see more often as public opinion shifts in our favor:

To simplify: One would have to be ghastly morally decrepit to think that if 51 percent of Americans opine that rape is OK, then rape becomes, in effect, all right. Sure, the majority is politically capable of such a vote, but this could never make rape morally right.

There is such a thing as a corrupt democracy, you know!

Abortion and homosexual acts are unequivocally intrinsic moral evils. And friends, this objective truth doesn’t depend on the opinion of the majority. Frighteningly, if the majority chooses to deny the objective moral order, then we will all suffer the pestiferous consequences.

Bigots are a dime a dozen, so it’s hardly surprising that a Catholic priest in El Paso believes this stuff (insert pedophilia joke here). The  surprising thing is that The El Paso Times would print such garbage.

We’re all for the First Amendment and an open exchange of ideas, but to borrow an analogy from Rodriguez, that doesn’t mean you let rapists write op-ed pieces from prison explaining that, “She was asking for it.”

—  John Wright