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Litigating for All the Wrong Reasons
Tuesday, 29 May 2007 19:09
by Mel Seesholtz, Ph.D.

The was founded by some of the Christian Right’s most anti-gay patriarchs:

James Dobson, founder and chairman of Focus on the Family. Dobson uses his down-home grandfatherly persona to help scare the sheeple into believing his anti-gay nonsense. His 2004 book Marriage Under Fire was a testimonial to that. Using coy, folksy lingo, Dobson deployed outdated research taken out of context (see “Out of Focus on the Family: A Response to Arguments Against Same-Sex Marriage,” Popular Culture Review, 16:1 [February 2005], 45-75), ignored real-world, contemporary statistics and facts from the General Accounting Office and corporate America – as well as common sense – to arrive at his conclusion: if gay and lesbian Americans are allowed to enter into the civil union called “marriage,” the world would end. Dr. Dobson has no theological training. He’s a psychologist: a child psychologist who advocates spanking.

D. James Kennedy, a die-hard dominionist and pastor of Coral Ridge Ministries. Kennedy regularly calls on his followers to exercise “godly dominion” over every aspect of American life. At a Reclaiming America for Christ conference in February 2005, he exhorted the flock:

“Our job is to reclaim America for Christ, whatever the cost. As the vice regents of God, we are to exercise godly dominion and influence over our neighborhoods, our schools, our government, our literature and arts, our sports arenas, our entertainment media, our news media, our scientific endeavors – in short, over every aspect and institution of human society” [italics added].

Rev. Kennedy, like other dominionists, claims not only to know the mind of God, but to speak for the Divine as well. Isn’t such arrogance the ultimate blasphemy? “Whatever the cost” sounds like something a megalomaniacal tyrant would say, doesn’t it?

Don Wildmon, founder and chairman of the American Family Association. Wildmon’s organization thrives on threats, conspiracy theories and harming people. AFA is currently trying to hurt all those who work – directly or indirectly – for the Ford Motor Company. Why? Because the carmaker has the audacity to treat its gay and lesbian employees equally and advertise in gay publications. Wildmon’s and AFA’s obsession with demeaning gays and their families has led to campaigns against or boycotts of other companies as well: Disney, Kraft Foods, K-Mart, Sears, and Yahoo to name but a few. What kind of “Christian” organization would take pleasure in hurting innocent employees and their families?

The Alliance Defense Fund claims it litigates to “keep the door open for the spread of the Gospel.” Doing so also keeps the door open for those who wish to force their malevolent version of “religion” into civil law. Not surprisingly, ADF is well financed by those trying to shove themselves and their agenda through that door. In the fiscal year ending June 2005, its total revenues were reported to be $21,986,553. It’s net assets, $22,072,926. According to The Washington Post, considerable support came from the American Center for Law and Justice founded by assassination advocate Pat Robertson, and from Liberty Council backed by the late Jerry Falwell.

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People for the American Way summarizes the Alliance Defense Fund this way:

“Unique to the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) is their collective of high-power founders, including wealthy right-wing organizations such as Dobson’s Focus on the Family and D. James Kennedy’s Coral Ridge Ministries.

“The ADF embodies the beliefs of its founders, harnessing the efforts of a cadre of right-wing groups with hundreds of millions of dollars at their disposal. All of these groups are influential members of the Right; they are pro-life and anti-gay, and their ultimate goal is to see the law and U.S. government enshrined with conservative Christian principles.

“The relationship between ADF and it’s founders is one of mutual self-interest; ADF has access to the resources and networking of large organizations, who in turn are equipped with an endless supply of readily-available lawyers.

“ADF’s strength goes beyond their budget due to their influence with well-funded religious-right groups.

“Two issues common to each of ADF’s founders are their work against the right to abortion, and against the civil rights/liberties of gays and lesbians. They are particularly persistent in attacking attempts by homosexuals to have families, establish domestic partnerships or civil unions, or to be protected from discrimination in employment or housing.” [italics added]

That focus was confirmed yet again by ADF’s most recent “Christian” law suit meant to hurt gay people and their families. The hysterical headline of Focus on the Family’s Citizenlink story proclaimed “Suit Challenges New York’s Attempt to Redefine Marriage”:

“Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) filed a lawsuit Wednesday [May 23, 2007] against the New York Department of Civil Service, alleging the agency exceeded its authority when it redefined the term ‘spouse’ in its benefits policy to include homosexual couples.

“Brian Raum, senior legal counsel for ADF, said the agency’s definition includes same-sex couples married in another country or state where the marriage was legal – despite the fact that New York law defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman.” [italics added]

The New York Department of Civil Service did not “redefine marriage” or even attempt to. To suggest they did or intended to is a preposterous allegation. But the ruse had only just begun.

Was it an error that the FOF article asserted as “fact that New York law defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman”? The same claim was included in ADF’s press release:

“‘Marriage is not simply a state benefits system, and its redefinition would be extremely damaging to our families and children,’ said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Brian W. Raum. ‘Because marriage is defined as the legal union of one man and one woman, the New York State Department of Civil Service has no legal authority to recognize out-of-state same-sex ‘marriages.’”

New York does not have a Defense of Marriage Act, nor has the state passed a constitutional amendment defining “marriage.” Even the right-wing Heritage Foundation acknowledges that New York does “not have statutory or constitutional language preserving the traditional understanding of marriage.”

If Mr. Raum was referring to the 2006 ruling by New York’s Court of Appeals, he was still being somewhat disingenuous. In what some called an attempt to side-step the issue, the Court ruled that the state’s constitution does not specifically require same-sex marriage. As Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye wrote in her dissent, “I am confident that future generations will look back on today’s decision as an unfortunate misstep.”

Heterosexual marriage and “traditional” families were not in any way threatened by the action of the New York Department of Civil Service. Mr. Raum and FOF’s Citizenlink were simply pushing the bogus “save marriage/protect families” hot buttons to divert attention from the fact that ADF’s suit is really about hurting people – a very small group of people – and their families by denying them healthcare and other benefits.

Why? Why would they do that? Why would people who claim to be “Christian” try with all their financial, political and legal might to hurt people and their families?

Perhaps the answer is as simple as power, money and the application of religious dogma’s inherent “us vs. them” mentality and the attendant need to harm some for the schadenfreude gratification of others. But Americans increasing know gay people and understand that they and their unions are no threat to anything or anyone. Like corporate America, organized labor understands that as well and increasing fights for the equality of all Americans.

According to their web site, “the Alliance Defense Fund is a legal alliance defending the right to hear and speak the Truth.” If that’s so, Mr. Raum, the other ADF attorneys, and their supposedly “Christian” backers might want to read the words of Mrs. Hamm in a November 2, 2004 Advocate.com First Person Commentary by her son Rob Hamm. The lead-in to the article read: “A church-going mom called her gay son last night to ask what he thinks about today’s ballot initiative to ban same-sex marriage and civil unions in their native Oklahoma. The conversation didn’t go as he expected.”

What did Mrs. Hamm have to say? To begin with, she voted against the Oklahoma constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage and civil unions because, as she put it, “God meant for everyone to have choice in their lives. That is all about being human, and anyone that takes that choice away is acting like God. That is blasphemy, and I won’t be a part of it. … I don’t think it can be changed or should be changed that you are gay. I don’t know if you were made that way or not, but as long as there is a possibility that it is internal and can’t be changed, I cannot judge anyone based on that. Besides, the Bible says there is only one judge, and we should not be putting ourselves in his place.”

Her son commented further: “She said that since my partner’s family had disowned him when he came out to them, he was now her son with all the rights and privileges accorded to that position. … It took 12 years for my mom to get to this point, and I know the world’s perceptions and many decades of discrimination will take a while to change. I have hope that I didn’t have before this phone call that eventually the true Christians like my mom will win out, and eventually basic rights will apply to everyone equally, no matter what.”
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