Tagged: Green Bay

Green Bay Radio Host Slams Rob Portman, Says Marriage Equality is “the Same” as Polygamy, Incest

jerry_bader_headshotRegionally syndicated radio talk show host, WTAQ program director, and blogger Jerry Bader of Green Bay, Wisconsin (Facebook, Twitter) is someone whom I, in an indelicate moment, might refer to as an epic tool.

He’s a typical self-righteous, malinformed Tea Party conservative who shills for Scott Walker on his blog, rails against unions, illegal immigrants (for “demanding free health care”), the lubbrul media, and of course our evil socialist president, Barack Obama. And Bader’s visceral hatred for the Democratic Party knows no bounds: in 2009 his station suspended him for two weeks after Bader salaciously claimed on his blog – without any evidence whatsoever – that Wisconsin Lieutenant Governor Barbara Lawton, who had just withdrawn as a candidate in the 2010 governor’s race, dropped out because an extramarital lesbian affair was about to come to light.

Sounds like a paragon of journalistic integrity, right? Well last week, Bader took a break from hating on Democrats, women, and racial minorities and turned his wrath on Teh Gay. On March 15, Bader devoted a portion of his show to discussing Ohio Republican Senator Rob Portman’s historic reversal on marriage equality. Portman, who voted for DOMA, changed his mind on same-sex marriage after his son Will came out to him as gay; his reversal on the issue made him the first sitting Republican senator in history to support marriage equality.

But Bader, bless his heart, wasn’t having it. The problem he had with Sen. Portman is that the Ohioan had the gall to suggest that allowing same-sex couples to marry would strengthen marriage. As far as Bader is concerned, such a statement is both ridiculous and indefensible.

I want to address one thing that [Portman] says, though, that is just completely indefensible, and that’s that allowing same-sex marriage would strengthen the institution of marriage. That is ridiculous. Here’s why. . . I cannot agree with him: this destroys the institution of marriage. Because yes, public sentiment is changing on same-sex marriage. Public sentiment then at some point is going to change on more than two people in a marriage. Or people from the same bloodline. (sarcastically) ‘Well that would never happen.‘ Sixty years ago, fifty years ago – hell, even forty years ago – do you think we would have been discussing seriously same-sex marriage?

And I don’t care if you think it’s demeaning to compare gays to polygamy and incest. It’s the same. [emphases his]

Of course, to put it bluntly, that’s pure bull***t. (Read John Corvino’s brilliant demolition of this slippery-slope logical fallacy here.) But Bader continues:

It’s two people who love each other, or three people who love each other, or two – or brother and sister. If you believe two men can get married then you believe two brothers can get married, and if you believe two brothers can get married, then you believe a brother and a sister can get married. Because the only requisite there is love.

You can listen to Bader’s homophobic remarks below; the rant starts at the 7:35 mark:

jerry_bader_show

Poor Jerry Bader. A world that’s changing so fast — where a clear majority of Americans, including 80% of Millennials, believe same-sex couples should be able to get married – must be terrifyingly difficult for him to wrap his ample head around. As someone enduring second-class citizenship status thanks to troglodytes like him, though, I’m not giving this bigot any of my sympathy. The country and the arc of history is passing you by, Jerry. Don’t choke on the dust we leave behind.

UW Drag Show Makes Confirmed Bachelorette Very Upset

julaine_applingJulaine Appling, Wisconsin’s most outspoken anti-gay bigot and the president of Wisconsin Family Action, an anti-LGBT, anti-choice, pro-”intelligent design” GOP front group, is very, veeeery upset about a drag show that’s coming to the Univeersity of Wisconsin-Fox Valley this Thursday.

In a breathless ACTION ALERT (!!) posted on the group’s website, readers are warned about a shocking “‘drag show’” (yes, scare quotes and all) featuring as its “‘main attraction’” (again, scare quotes are theirs, not mine) an appearance by “self-proclaimed male homosexual transvestite ‘Shangela’ from a lewd reality television show ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race‘ in which homosexual male drag performers compete for prizes.”

Be very afraid. It continues: “The tickets are cheap ($3), and so, it appears, is the propaganda, display of immorality, and overall message to the Fox Valley community.” (Seriously?!? Who wrote this, Anita Bryant?)

Then Appling sanctimoniously scolds:

Our University of Wisconsin System is placing the stamp of approval on homosexual propaganda and explicitly immoral content with an upcoming “drag show” event that sends the wrong message to our next generation of leaders, parents, and families. Taxpayers should beware, and quickly take action to defend our shared values.  The Badger State’s standards for it’s families are much higher than this shameful display of sexual immorality on our campuses and in our local communities.

uwfox_dragshowThe release also includes contact information for the UW-Fox Valley Dean’s Office, presumably to encourage WFA supporters to flood the switchboard with outraged calls, and an UPDATE about a similar show (gasp!) that was presented at another UW school in January. It’s actually rather hilarious that WFA is just now catching wind of drag shows being held at UW campuses — at some campuses, they’re incredibly popular annual events.

At least one controversy-hungry local news affiliate, apparently hard-pressed for actual, umm, news, picked up the non-story. Reporter Chad Doran of WLUK-Fox 11, Green Bay’s self-proclaimed “balanced news” source, interviewed Appling and a poor, hapless UW-Fox Valley student who claimed drag shows are “contrary to her religion” and said she “would feel uncomfortable seeing it.” (Note to student: If you don’t want to see the drag show, don’t attend the drag show.)

There’s more than a little irony in Julaine Appling’s opposition to LGBT culture, LGBT people in general, and LGBT equality. To be sure, she’s a wretchedly spiteful person who, for all intents and purposes, represents the public face of homophobia in the state of Wisconsin. Appling is the architect of Wisconsin’s voter-approved 2006 constitutional marriage discrimination amendment. Her group even sued unsuccessfully to block the implementation of Wisconsin’s domestic partnership registry, which provides a very limited set of basic protections to same-sex couples in that state.

diane_westphallBut for all her vitriol, Appling is also arguably the state’s leading (ahem) confirmed bachelorette — one whose living situation makes her eligible for a domestic partnership herself. Ms. Appling is over sixty years old and has never been married, but she doesn’t live alone. No, Julaine owns a house in south-central Wisconsin with a woman named Diane Westphall (left), another never-married woman who works with Appling at WFA and has been her companion for decades. No one knows the precise nature of their relationship and Appling claims she’s straight, but it’s an unconventional arrangement at the very least. The Wisconsin Gazette reports that when Westphall’s father died in 2007, Appling was listed as a survivor in his obituary, despite the fact that she’s not a legally-recognized member of that family. (How did they refer to her, I wonder? Diane’s “special friend?”)

It’s always the ones who are most outspoken that are the biggest hypocrites, amirite?

UPDATE: as noted in the Fox 11 article, approximately half of the tickets to the drag show have been sold so far. I think I’m going to see if I can purchase a few tickets and donate them to the UW-Fox Valley Gay-Straight Alliance as a way to show support and perhaps enable someone who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to see the show to attend. General admission tickets are only $3 in advance, and VIP tickets are $12.

Anyone else want to join me?

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Today is my mom’s birthday. She’s an amazing woman — a hero to me and so many others. In her honor, I’m re-posting an article that I originally wrote for Truth Wins Out back in September.

Meet My (Pro-Equality) Parents, Lyle and Michele Becker

For my first post of the day, I’m going to do a little shameless bragging.

Longtime readers know that I have a soft spot in my heart for pro-equality parents of LGBT children. I often call them “equality moms,” since I know far more women than men who fit this description, but I suppose I really should find a more inclusive term. But whatever one calls them, hell hath no fury like a parent fighting for their LGBT child. In my experience, equality parents are often able to reach out even to hardened homophobes who wouldn’t be receptive to a pro-equality message from one of us LGBT folk. After all, who (other than a sociopath) can’t relate, at least on some level, to the love of a parent for their child? And when parents choose to affirm and embrace their LGBT children and trust the truth of their child’s identity, they may also quite literally be saving the child’s life: a 2009 study by San Francisco State University researcher Caitlin Ryan published a study in the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics that found that LGBT teens who experienced negative feedback from their family were 3 times more likely to use drugs, 6 times more vulnerable to severe depression, and 8 times more likely to have attempted suicide than their peers.

And now, for the shameless bragging: yesterday my hometown newspaper, the Green Bay Press-Gazette, ran a front-page story about the Adult Gay-Straight Alliance of Green Bay (A-GSA) — a group for parents of LGBT children that my parents, Lyle and Michele Becker, were instrumental in founding — that used their own personal journeys to full acceptance as the springboard from which to tell the story.

When I first came out to my parents in 2003, they weren’t exactly ready to fly a rainbow flag or march in a Pride parade:

“You think to yourself, ‘Should I tell anybody at work? What will they say?’” recalled Becker, 54, whose son John, the eldest of four boys, told Becker and her husband Lyle that he was gay earlier that summer after he graduated Green Bay East High School. He was 18.

After finding out, Becker cried and prayed — a lot. She later came to believe her son was born gay.

She said parents in her situation often fear what others will think if they have a child who is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

“Parents are struggling with their own coming out as a parent of an LGBT child,” she said.

After my parents began telling people they had a gay son, other parents started to approach them and tell them, often in a whisper, that they, too, had an LGBT child, and while they weren’t sure how to react to the news, they just couldn’t believe the anti-LGBT teachings of their churches. Along with just a few other like-minded parents, they formed the A-GSA to give struggling parents a place to gather, offer each other support, and meet others who are further along on the journey towards full love and affirmation of their children. The A-GSA is small — it has about 10 members, not including those who aren’t quite ready to self-identify as the parent of an LGBT child — but it’s a dedicated group. It meets monthly, works hard to reach out to local parents (it even had a booth at this year’s Northeastern Wisconsin Pride Alive!), and consistently strives through outreach and advocacy to make Green Bay’s public spaces, schools, churches, and culture more accepting of all people, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity. To Michele and Lyle, the group’s supportive presence in the Green Bay LGBT community is critically important because, as Michele says, “If a person can eventually grow into full love with no judgment, that is such a free and affirming feeling not only for [that person], but also [their LGBT] child.”

The article contrasts my parents’ LGBT-inclusive worldview and religious beliefs with the anti-gay stance of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, which in 2010 started its own LGBT-related “ministries:” Courage – which uses a 12-step program, similar to Alcoholics Anonymous, to encourage Catholics struggling with so-called “same-sex attraction” to suppress their sexuality and live totally celibate lives — and Encourage, a program for parents that paradoxically claims to foster love between them and their LGBT children while upholding the Catholic church’s official teaching that homosexuality is “intrinsically disordered.”

Fr. John Doerfler, the spiritual director of the Green Bay Encourage chapter and chancellor of the Green Bay Diocese, gave Press-Gazette reporter Charles Davis a perfect example of the Catholic church’s frustrating doublespeak on LGBT issues:

“There’s a great misunderstanding that there’s no place for persons with same-sex attractions in the church, and nothing could be further from the truth…”

Roman Catholic teachings assert that homosexual behavior is immoral, though Catholics are taught to treat everyone with love and dignity, Doerfler said. The Encourage group meets monthly and serves as a way for parents with LGBT children to know they are not alone, he added.

“Sometimes parents will blame themselves and it’s not their fault,” he said. . .

Doerfler. . . said gays and lesbians should strive to live a chaste life, which includes either abstinence or marriage, a union he defined as between a man and a woman.

(Translation: of course you can be gay and Catholic! You just have to suppress your sexual orientation or cover it up by marrying a member of the opposite sex.)

To Davis’s credit, he didn’t allow Doerfler’s anti-gay distortions to go unchallenged; instead, he interviewed a local mental health professional, who correctly said that efforts to change a person’s sexual orientation “[lack] scientific merit and could be unhealthy.” In fact, Davis’s reporting was refreshingly free of overt false equivalencies between LGBT-affirming support groups like the A-GSA and anti-gay “support groups” like Courage and Encourage. (TWO even received a mention!) The only error he made was in incorrectly characterizing my parents’ pro-LGBT activism as support for my “lifestyle” as opposed to my orientation and my community.

In addition to this front-page article in Wisconsin, my parents’ story so inspired LGBT activists here in Burlington, Vermont that they were included in an exhibition by local liturgical artist Judith McManis titled “Prophetic Vision, Courageous Lives: LGBT Saints, Heroes & Martyrs.” The exhibition, which was displayed this summer, featured photographs of LGBT people and straight allies throughout history — some well-known, others relatively little-known — accompanied by short stories about their lives. The image McManis created featuring my parents’ story is below (click the image in order to enlarge it).

As I said to the Press-Gazette, I couldn’t be prouder of my amazing parents and everything they do for LGBT equality in their community and beyond. Their love for each other is an inspiration to Michael and me, and their passion for social justice and equality for all members of the human family, including LGBT people, is what enkindled my own passion for activism. They are true heroes in my book. And thank you, dear readers, for allowing me to introduce Lyle and Michele to you and indulging me as I shamelessly bragged about them!

Catholic Bishops Suddenly Silent as LGBT Ugandans Face Possible Death

By any measure, last week’s elections marked a watershed moment in the history of the LGBT civil rights movement. The most pro-LGBT president in American history was re-elected, marriage equality won at the ballot box for the first time (in three states!), Minnesota beat back a constitutional marriage discrimination amendment, and the 113th Congress will contain a record number of out LGBT lawmakers, including Wisconsin’s Tammy Baldwin, who will be the first member of our community to openly serve in the United States Senate.

These historic victories came despite weeks of concerted attacks against President Obama and LGBT equality from America’s Catholic bishops which were, to the best of my memory, unprecedented in both their stridency and overt partisanship. Green Bay Bishop David Ricken and Springfield, Illinois Bishop Thomas Paprocki both told Catholics in their respective dioceses that voting for candidates who support marriage equality, reproductive choice, and stem cell research were putting their eternal souls in jeopardy — essentially telling the faithful that if they vote Democrat, they were going to hell. Other bishops, like John Myers of Newark and Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, declared that sexually active LGBTs and pro-marriage equality Catholics were unfit to present themselves for Communion. And earlier this year, Pope Benedict XVI publicly endorsed these spiritual bullying tactics in an address delivered to a group that included Twin Cities Archbishop John Nienstedt, one of the most enthusiastically outspoken proponents of Minnesota’s failed amendment effort.

Against this putrid backdrop, American Catholics did what they’ve learned to do on other issues like contraception: they ignored the bishops and voted with their consciences. And in a stinging rebuke to the prelates who lead them, a majority voted to re-elect Barack Obama. To this former Catholic, the public backfiring of the bishops’ divisive anti-gay agenda was nothing short of divine.

But I was abruptly snapped out of my post-election euphoria by the incredibly disturbing news that the government of the central African nation of Uganda plans to pass its notorious Anti-Homosexuality Bill by the end of this year. According to a report from the Washington Post, MP Rebecca Kadaga, speaker of the Ugandan parliament, insisted in an interview with the AP that Ugandans are “demanding” the body swiftly pass the bill, which would make homosexuality a crime punishable by death; punish same-sex Ugandan couples marrying abroad with lifetime prison sentences when they return home; outlaw all advocacy on behalf of LGBT people including the provision of medical care, lodging, and basic services; and require citizens to report any LGBT people they know to the police. (Under the proposed law, refusing to report one’s LGBT friends, neighbors, and family members constitutes “aiding and abetting homosexuality,” a crime that carries a seven-year jail sentence.) Some Christian leaders apparently went even further, perversely claiming that the bill’s passage would be “a Christmas gift” to the nation.

Among those Christian leaders advocating for the passage of this barbaric bill are Uganda’s Catholic bishops, according to reports filed this summer by New Ways Ministry, a gay-positive Catholic social justice organization. The bishops initially had opposed the bill because of its draconian sentencing provisions (while simultaneously lauding the government’s efforts to “protect the traditional family and its values”), but they abruptly reversed themselves and signed an ecumenical statement supporting the measure. This support carries a lot of weight in this highly religious country, as the Catholic Church represents Uganda’s largest single Christian denomination.

And how have their brother bishops in America — so eager to engage in anti-gay politicking at home — responded to this unmistakably un-Christian reversal? How are they reacting to their colleagues’ endorsement of a bill that would bring horror, persecution, and bloodshed to Uganda’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans community?

With stone cold silence, that’s how.

The Vatican has remained largely silent as well. In fact, the only time the Holy See even bothered to acknowledge the very real threat to the lives of LGBT Ugandans was in a statement it released in December 2009 opposing “all grave violations of human rights against homosexual persons” and asserting that “the murder and abuse of homosexual persons are to be confronted on all levels, especially when such violence is perpetrated by the State.” This was widely interpreted as a reference to the “Kill the Gays Bill,” but the Vatican refused to even mention Uganda by name. And now, in 2012 — when the bill appears closer to passage than ever before — not a word.

America’s Catholic bishops and their counterparts in Rome have a moral obligation to publicly, forcefully, and unequivocally condemn Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill as a gross injustice, a crime against humanity, and a reprehensible distortion of Jesus’ loving and inclusive message. They cannot — they must not — stand by, silent and stone-faced, as thousands of Ugandans are condemned to death for the “crime” of simply being who they are.

To paraphrase the great and wise Nobel Laureate Desmond Tutu, silence in the face of injustice means one has chosen the side of the oppressor. If Catholic bishops remain silent and the Anti-Homosexuality Bill passes, the blood of murdered gay, lesbian, bisexual, and trans Ugandans will be on their hands.

(Originally posted at the Bilerico Project.)

Green Bay Catholic Bishop Implies That Voting for Democrats Puts One’s ‘Soul in Jeopardy’

david_rickenLast week Bishop David Laurin Ricken became the latest member of the Catholic hierarchy to enter the political arena when he informed the 300,000-plus members of the Diocese of Green Bay, Wis., that voting for candidates whose positions contradict any so-called “non-negotiables” of Catholic teaching “could put [one's] soul in jeopardy.”

Bishop Ricken’s admonition came in the form of a letter posted on the diocesan website and emailed to the offices of every parish. The diocese is also ordering churches to include the letter in their bulletins.

Catholics are taught to believe that their bishops have the authority and duty to shepherd and teach them, and Bishop Ricken takes his flock to school. He writes:

I would like to review some of the principles to keep in mind as you approach the voting booth to complete your ballot.  The first is the set of non-negotiables. These are areas that are “intrinsically evil” and cannot be supported by anyone who is a believer in God or the common good or the dignity of the human person.

They are:

  1. abortion
  2. euthanasia
  3. embryonic stem cell research
  4. human cloning
  5. homosexual “marriage”

These are intrinsically evil.  “A well-formed Christian conscience does not permit one to vote for a political program that contradicts fundamental contents of faith and morals.”  Intrinsically evil actions are those which have an evil object.  In other words, an act is evil by its very nature and to choose an action of this type puts one in grave moral danger. [Emphases added.]

Translation (just in case the bishop’s repeated use of the phrase “intrinsically evil” didn’t make things sufficiently clear): According to Bishop Ricken, marriages like mine are thoroughly evil “by [their] very nature,” and anyone who either marries a person of the same gender or supports their fellow citizens’ right to do so is ipso facto a very bad person.

And in order to make it as obvious as possible which party he wants you to support next month — without actually saying its name, of course — Bishop Ricken continues:

But what does this have to do with the election?  Some candidates and one party have even chosen some of these as their party’s or their personal political platform.  To vote for someone in favor of these positions means that you could be morally “complicit” with these choices which are intrinsically evil. This could put your own soul in jeopardy.

Hmm, I wonder whether Bishop Ricken wants the Catholics of northeastern Wisconsin to vote Democratic or Republican? (Hint: Three of the items on the bishop’s list — reproductive choice, stem cell research and marriage equality — can be found in the official 2012 Democratic Party Platform.)

Bishop Ricken’s aggressively political, unabashedly anti-gay comments very closely mirror those made by several of his brother bishops. For example, in a video message released last month, Springfield, Ill., Bishop Thomas Paprocki pointed out the Democratic Party’s official support for marriage equality and reproductive choice, then called both positions “intrinsically evil and gravely sinful” and said that voting for candidates who support them places one’s “eternal salvation” in “serious jeopardy.” Also last month John Myers, Archbishop of Newark, N.J., issued a pastoral statement in which he told Catholics not to vote for any candidate who does not endorse what he called “proper” marriage. He further declared that pro-equality Catholics, who account for nearly three out of four Catholics in America, should refrain from receiving Communion. (Click here for an exhaustive list of anti-gay activities from leaders of the U.S. Catholic Church.)

diocese_gbThis story hits close to home for me, as I was born and raised in Green Bay, Wis., and used to be very active in the Green Bay Catholic Diocese. I come from a family of liturgical musicians and was even a previous bishop’s favorite cantor (until I was unceremoniously dismissed for my “scandalous” marriage to another man). My parents, both fixtures of Green Bay’s Catholic community, are outspoken in their support of LGBT equality, as are many of their friends. According to all the reports I’ve heard so far from them and others, Bishop Ricken’s letter has outraged and divided local Catholics. There are even rumors that some parishes, inspired by Catholic communities in the state of Washington, might defy Bishop Ricken’s order and refuse to distribute his letter. For the sake of the Catholic LGBT youth in northeastern Wisconsin, many of whom grow up falsely believing, like I did, that they’re “intrinsically evil,” I hope as many churches as possible do exactly that.

Read Bishop Ricken’s letter in full below:

Originally published on the Huffington Post

Video: Ouch! Bullying Hurts

PrintIn honor of today’s Spirit Day, I wanted to share an anti-bullying public service announcement from my hometown of Green Bay, Wisconsin. It’s called Ouch! Bullying Hurts!, and it was produced by Green Bay equality advocate Joey Taylor. The video was nominated for a 2011 Emmy Award in the Community/Public Service (PSAs): Single Spot Campaign category, and it’s a wonderful example of a community standing together against bullying.

We hope you’ll like, watch, and share. By the way, if you look closely, you just might see a familiar face.

Meet My (Pro-Equality) Parents, Lyle and Michele Becker

(Photo by Lukas Keapproth for the Green Bay Press-Gazette)
(Photo by Lukas Keapproth for the Green Bay Press-Gazette)

For my first post of the day, I’m going to do a little shameless bragging.

Longtime readers know that I have a soft spot in my heart for pro-equality parents of LGBT children. I often call them “equality moms,” since I know far more women than men who fit this description, but I suppose I really should find a more inclusive term. But whatever one calls them, hell hath no fury like a parent fighting for their LGBT child. In my experience, equality parents are often able to reach out even to hardened homophobes who wouldn’t be receptive to a pro-equality message from one of us LGBT folk. After all, who (other than a sociopath) can’t relate, at least on some level, to the love of a parent for their child? And when parents choose to affirm and embrace their LGBT children and trust the truth of their child’s identity, they may also quite literally be saving the child’s life: a 2009 study by San Francisco State University researcher Caitlin Ryan published a study in the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics that found that LGBT teens who experienced negative feedback from their family were 3 times more likely to use drugs, 6 times more vulnerable to severe depression, and 8 times more likely to have attempted suicide than their peers.

And now, for the shameless bragging: yesterday my hometown newspaper, the Green Bay Press-Gazette, ran a front-page story about the Adult Gay-Straight Alliance of Green Bay (A-GSA) — a group for parents of LGBT children that my parents, Lyle and Michele Becker, were instrumental in founding — that used their own personal journeys to full acceptance as the springboard from which to tell the story.

When I first came out to my parents in 2003, they weren’t exactly ready to fly a rainbow flag or march in a Pride parade:

“You think to yourself, ‘Should I tell anybody at work? What will they say?’” recalled Becker, 54, whose son John, the eldest of four boys, told Becker and her husband Lyle that he was gay earlier that summer after he graduated Green Bay East High School. He was 18.

After finding out, Becker cried and prayed — a lot. She later came to believe her son was born gay.

She said parents in her situation often fear what others will think if they have a child who is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

“Parents are struggling with their own coming out as a parent of an LGBT child,” she said.

j_m_parents_helengAfter my parents began telling people they had a gay son, other parents started to approach them and tell them, often in a whisper, that they, too, had an LGBT child, and while they weren’t sure how to react to the news, they just couldn’t believe the anti-LGBT teachings of their churches. Along with just a few other like-minded parents, they formed the A-GSA to give struggling parents a place to gather, offer each other support, and meet others who are further along on the journey towards full love and affirmation of their children. The A-GSA is small — it has about 10 members, not including those who aren’t quite ready to self-identify as the parent of an LGBT child — but it’s a dedicated group. It meets monthly, works hard to reach out to local parents (it even had a booth at this year’s Northeastern Wisconsin Pride Alive!), and consistently strives through outreach and advocacy to make Green Bay’s public spaces, schools, churches, and culture more accepting of all people, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity. To Michele and Lyle, the group’s supportive presence in the Green Bay LGBT community is critically important because, as Michele says, “If a person can eventually grow into full love with no judgment, that is such a free and affirming feeling not only for [that person], but also [their LGBT] child.”

The article contrasts my parents’ LGBT-inclusive worldview and religious beliefs with the anti-gay stance of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, which in 2010 started its own LGBT-related “ministries:” Courage – which uses a 12-step program, similar to Alcoholics Anonymous, to encourage Catholics struggling with so-called “same-sex attraction” to suppress their sexuality and live totally celibate lives — and Encourage, a program for parents that paradoxically claims to foster love between them and their LGBT children while upholding the Catholic church’s official teaching that homosexuality is “intrinsically disordered.”

john_doerflerFr. John Doerfler, the spiritual director of the Green Bay Encourage chapter and chancellor of the Green Bay Diocese, gave Press-Gazette reporter Charles Davis a perfect example of the Catholic church’s frustrating doublespeak on LGBT issues:

“There’s a great misunderstanding that there’s no place for persons with same-sex attractions in the church, and nothing could be further from the truth…”

Roman Catholic teachings assert that homosexual behavior is immoral, though Catholics are taught to treat everyone with love and dignity, Doerfler said. The Encourage group meets monthly and serves as a way for parents with LGBT children to know they are not alone, he added.

“Sometimes parents will blame themselves and it’s not their fault,” he said. . .

Doerfler. . . said gays and lesbians should strive to live a chaste life, which includes either abstinence or marriage, a union he defined as between a man and a woman.

(Translation: of course you can be gay and Catholic! You just have to suppress your sexual orientation or cover it up by marrying a member of the opposite sex.)

To Davis’s credit, he didn’t allow Doerfler’s anti-gay distortions to go unchallenged; instead, he interviewed a local mental health professional, who correctly said that efforts to change a person’s sexual orientation “[lack] scientific merit and could be unhealthy.” In fact, Davis’s reporting was refreshingly free of overt false equivalencies between LGBT-affirming support groups like the A-GSA and anti-gay “support groups” like Courage and Encourage. The only error he made was in incorrectly characterizing my parents’ pro-LGBT activism as support for my “lifestyle” as opposed to my orientation and my community.

In addition to this front-page article in Wisconsin, my parents’ story so inspired LGBT activists here in Burlington, Vermont that they were included in an exhibition by local liturgical artist Judith McManis titled “Prophetic Vision, Courageous Lives: LGBT Saints, Heroes & Martyrs.” The exhibition, which was displayed this summer, featured photographs of LGBT people and straight allies throughout history — some well-known, others relatively little-known — accompanied by short stories about their lives. The image McManis created featuring my parents’ story is below (click the image in order to enlarge it).

Parent-Heroes_Michele&Lyle Becker

As I said to the Press-Gazette, I couldn’t be prouder of my amazing parents and everything they do for LGBT equality in their community and beyond. Their love for each other is an inspiration to Michael and me, and their passion for social justice and equality for all members of the human family, including LGBT people, is what enkindled my own passion for activism. They are true heroes in my book. And thank you, dear readers, for allowing me to introduce Lyle and Michele to you and indulging me as I shamelessly bragged about them. Happy Friday!