Thursday, 19 August 2010

Our Queer Primate Cousins

A favourite argument used by the religious right against homoerotic relationships, and by the Vatican theologians against any form of sexual expression outside of marriage and not open to making babies, is that such sexual activities are "against nature", and that the "purpose" of sex is procreation.

Well, the people making these claims have never considered the actual evidence from , well, you know, - "Nature" itself, which shows the exact opposite. (But then, when did the Vatican, or the wingnuts, ever consider the trifling matter of evidence to interfere with their convictions?)

In the lively comments thread after an earlier post in this series, reader CS in AZ reminded me of a famous exchange with Anita Bryant:

This reminds me of Anita Bryant, back when she was on her anti-homosexul crusade ... she said that homosexuality was unnatural and so repulsive that "even barn yard animals don't do it" -- then someone pointed out to her that barnyard animals in fact DO do that, with some frequency, as anyone who grew up around farm animals knows very well! LOL... well, she was only momentarily flustered, then she just pivoted 180 degrees and said, "well, that doesn't make it right!"

Well no, but it sure as hell don't make it wrong, either. On the subject of sexual ethics, "Nature" is entirely neutral. However, as so many self-righteous bigots attempt to introduce nature into ethical and political discussions, it is worth knowing just what "natural" sex really is (it's also just fun to know.)

Bonobo females, with onlookers

In all the animal kingdom, those closest to us humans are the primates, who are generally divided into three classes - apes, old world monkeys, and new world monkeys. In all three of these groups, and in other mammals, birds, reptiles, birds, fish and even insects, homosexual and non-reproductive sexual activities have been widely reported in formal scientific studies. It is striking though, as Joan Roughgarden notes in "Evolution's Rainbow", that these supposedly "unnatural" sexual activities have been most widely reported among the primates, and especially among the apes, who are closest to us on the evolutionary scale.

Our Queer Primate Cousins

A favourite argument used by the religious right against homoerotic relationships, and by the Vatican theologians against any form of sexual expression outside of marriage and not open to making babies, is that such sexual activities are "against nature", and that the "purpose" of sex is procreation.

Well, the people making these claims have never considered the actual evidence from , well, you know, - "Nature" itself, which shows the exact opposite. (But then, when did the Vatican, or the wingnuts, ever consider the trifling matter of evidence to interfere with their convictions?)

In the lively comments thread after an earlier post in this series, reader CS in AZ reminded me of a famous exchange with Anita Bryant:

This reminds me of Anita Bryant, back when she was on her anti-homosexul crusade ... she said that homosexuality was unnatural and so repulsive that "even barn yard animals don't do it" -- then someone pointed out to her that barnyard animals in fact DO do that, with some frequency, as anyone who grew up around farm animals knows very well! LOL... well, she was only momentarily flustered, then she just pivoted 180 degrees and said, "well, that doesn't make it right!"

Well no, but it sure as hell don't make it wrong, either. On the subject of sexual ethics, "Nature" is entirely neutral. However, as so many self-righteous bigots attempt to introduce nature into ethical and political discussions, it is worth knowing just what "natural" sex really is (it's also just fun to know.)

Bonobo females, with onlookers


In all the animal kingdom, those closest to us humans are the primates, who are generally divided into three classes - apes, old world monkeys, and new world monkeys. In all three of these groups, and in other mammals, birds, reptiles, birds, fish and even insects, homosexual and non-reproductive sexual activities have been widely reported in formal scientific studies. It is striking though, as Joan Roughgarden notes in "Evolution's Rainbow", that these supposedly "unnatural" sexual activities have been most widely reported among the primates, and especially among the apes, who are closest to us on the evolutionary scale.

Stand By for Gay Marriage, R. I.

In New England, just two of the six states do not yet have marriage equality - Maine, where gay marriage was passed by the legislature before being disappointingly overturned, and Rhode Island.  I would expect that to change next year, after a new governor is elected in November.

The two factors most commonly quoted as reasons for the failure to secure gay marriage have been the implacable opposition of the current governor Don Carcieri, and the high proportion of Catholic voters. (At 46%, this is the highest in the US).  However, a new state level poll confirms what has become apparent at the national level. Support for marriage equality has grown, local Catholics support gay marriage - and support has grown faster among Catholics than among other groups.

Adoption, UK: "Catholic Care" Agency Denied Equalities Exemption.

Here in the UK,  equality under the law for the queer community is taken seriously. Although we do not yet have full gay marriage, the legal status of civil partnerships is virtually identical to that of civil marriage in all but name.  Adoption regulations are also explicit in prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. Ever since the sexual orientation regulations affecting adoption were promulgated, the Catholic Church has sought to avoid their legal responsibilities in the agencies it operates -  mostly unsuccessfully.  One by one, most of the agencies have cut their formal ties with the church, so as to avoid embarrassing it while continuing to provide services within the framework of the law.

One agency in Leeds, Catholic Care, has attempted to get around the regulations by changing the terms of its "charitable aims", to state explicitly that it exists to serve only heterosexual couples. In news released overnight, the Charities Commission has rejected this application. The agency laments that it will now have to close, and that the children will lose out.

This is nonsense. All it needs to do, is to follow the example of eleven other Catholic adoption agencies before it, and recognise that the interests of the child are more important than slavish obedience to the decrees of bishops. The interests of a child are to be placed with the best parents available. Sometimes, the best available parents will happen to be gay or lesbian. There are numerous scientific studies demonstrate this - even in the animal kingdom, sometimes same sex couples make better parents.

Ordinary Catholics know it too - mot Catholics approve of gay adoption, just as most Catholics in many countries approve of gay marriage. It really is time that the Catholic bishops, and the organizations associated with them, began to consider the evidence before pronouncing for the entire church on matters which they clearly do not understand. This is the press release from the Roman Catholic Caucus of the LGCM:

Catholic Care: Charity Commissioners' Decision

The Roman Catholic Caucus of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement is delighted at the news that the Charity Commissioners have refused to consent to a change in the charitable objects of the Roman Catholic adoption agency Catholic Care which would have provided that the charity's adoption services were to be provided to "heterosexuals only".

Celia Gardiner, Convenor of the Caucus, said:

"The proposed amendments were deeply offensive to many Catholics. Catholic values dictate that the agency should do its utmost to find loving homes for the children it exists to serve. These objects would have compromised the agency's ability to do so.

Eleven Catholic adoption agencies have successfully adapted so as to comply with the Sexual Orientation Regulations and do so with active support from practising Catholics. We hope that Catholic Care will do the same."

See also:

The Fallacy of the Church Push Against Gay Adoption

Family Equality and the Question of Evidence

Catholics Support Gay Adoption

Same Sex Parents, Furred and Feathered

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Some Gods of Homosexual Love

In Christian theology, we are told that we are made "in God's image and likeness." Taking a broader view across all religions, it is more accurate to say that humans make gods & goddesses in our image and likeness - even where they are visualized in non-human form, their reported behaviour is frequently anthropomorphic.

This is especially obvious outside of the monotheistic religions. In these, the necessity for imagining gods & goddesses in relationships and interactions with other gods produces tales of jealousy, rivalry, and amorous adventures that look remarkably human.   Reflecting what each culture sees in itself, the deities also reflect a range of interests, temperaments - and sexual preferences. Many pantheons, especially those from Classical Greece and Rome, China, India, South America and Oceania, feature prominent gods and goddesses who had homosexual relationships or adventures. (Hindu deities are especially notable for the ease with which many of them change gender from time to time).

This much I knew. But the biggest surprise for me yesterday, when I was reading some more about LGBT themes in mythology, was the discovery that in some mythologies, there are gods who are specifically designated not just as practitioners, but even as patrons of male homosexuality.

Gay Marriage, Nepal.

Gay marriage in Nepal is back in the news, with the first same sex wedding in the country between foreigners ( Sanjay Shah, 42, a Briton from Leicester, and an Indian man who did not want to be identified).

The government is bound by a ruling of the constitutional court to provide for equality for all couples, and legal provision for same sex weddings is expected to be included in the new constitution currently being worked out, and due to be enacted some time in 2011. However, even in advance of the legislative environment coming into place, several same sex weddings have already taken place. These are not "legal" weddings because the regulations do not yet provide for them - however, in rural areas, most people do not bother to have their marriages registered with government, as marriages performed by religious leaders are widely accepted.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Chin, Mayan Gay God.


From Matt & Andrej Koymasky

Chin, a small child or dwarf god, introduced homoerotic relationships to the Mayan nobles. The nobles obtained youths of the lower classes to be the lovers of the noble's sons. Such unions were considered legal marriages under Mayan law, and any attempt on the honour of the younger partner was punishable as adultery.

Chin was also known as the “death god”, and one of four lesser deities closely associated with the four Mayan creator gods, the Becabs

Cardinal Carlo Carafa

Born in Naples, Carafa was the younger son in a powerful noble family. He became a soldier and for seventeen years took part in the bloody wars which ravaged Italy, first on the side of the Habsburg imperial armies, afterwards with French troops.

His uncle, Gian Piero Carafa was elected pope, with the name of Paul VI, and made Carlo a cardinal in 1555.

He had a long and dubious career as a mercenary soldier in Italy and Germany. He was exiled from Naples for murder and banditry and was alleged to have perpetrated the massacre of Spanish soldiers as they recuperated in a hospital in Corsica. His tenure as Cardinal Nephew was not a great success as he and Paul IV brought the Papacy to a humiliating defeat against the Spanish that nearly resulted in another Sack of Rome. Carlo's government was unpopular in Rome and he developed a reputation for avarice, cruelty and licentiousness, as well as for sodomy.

For instance the cardinal Charles de Lorraine asked the French ambassador in Rome to report to the pope scandals concerning his nephews. In his letter he stated that the courtiers had been scandalized by what they had witnessed, "and among the culprits were openly numbered, those who were closest in blood relations to our Holy Father the pope" had engaged in "that sin so loathsome in which there is no longer a distinction between the male and the female sex."

These rumors cannot be explained away as political slander. Already the poet Joachim du Bellay who was then in Rome, wrote a sonnet mentioning one Ascanio as the beloved of Carlo Carafa. At first the pope refused to believe the numerous and varied accusations, but he was finally convinced of their veracity.

In January 1559, Paul IV finally accepted the accuracy of the accusations made and exiled both his nephews from Rome and replaced Carlo as Cardinal Nephew with Carlo's own nephew Alfonso Carafa.

With the death of Paul IV, who had already limited a part of his power, he was imprisoned and judged by the new pope, Pius IV , for a lengthy series of crimes ranging from homicide to heresy, which also included  sodomy. Carlo was condemned and executed.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Basil I of Byzantium (867-886)

The story of Basil I is important as providing some of the evidence for the rite of church blessing of same sex unions in medieval Europe, and also for illustrating once again how marriage and and sexual activities with men are by no means contradictory – the existence of a marriage does not deny the existence of male sexual partners in parallel relationships, particularly in the case of political rulers who were (and are) under an obligation to produce heirs for their kingdoms.

The barest bones of Basil’s story are that he arrived in Constantinople as a penniless wanderer, and finessed friendships with a series of influential men to a point of immense political influence of his own, before assassinating his last and most powerful patron, assuming control of the empire, founded the Macedonian dynasty, and ruled over what is regarded as Byzantium's most glorious and prosperous era.  A less discreet account would say that he slept his way to the top.

When he arrived penniless in Constantinople, Basil was befriended by a man called Nicholas, from the church of St Diomede. Two accounts make clear that Nicholas and Basil were joined in some formal of formal rite of union, one of them using precisely the term “adelphoeisis” (the liturgical rite for church blessing of same sex unions):

On the morning after finding him, Nicholas ‘bathed and dressed Basil and was ceremonially united to him, and kept him as his housemate and companion. 

and, more explicitly

“on the next day he went with him to the baths and changed his clothes and going into the church established a formal union with him and they rejoiced in each other”.

This was just one of two such formal unions, and other less formal unions, Basil contracted with men. What was the appeal? He was a hunk, with notable physical charms, as John Boswell points out  referring to Basil’s service with his next patron, Theophilos, who

‘had a great interest in well-born. good-looking, well-built men who were very masculine and strong’.and when he saw how exceptional Basil was in these respects he appointed him his chief equerry. Basil was ‘loved by him more and more with each passing day.’

(As Basil was not “well born”, he presumably had super-abundant charms in the looks and build departments).

The attachment to Theophilos did not last, however. Basil soon found a more useful patron, in the form of a wealthy widow (Danelis), who “showered him with gifts of gold and dozens of slaves”. Why? She clearly had a keen eye for a coming man, and asked nothing except that he form a ceremonial union with her son John. Basil made a good show of demurring so as not to look cheap – but he could see where his interest lay. He duly entered his second same sex union, this time with John – and accepted the money and salves which came to him as a dowry. A surviving medieval illustration clearly shows the ceremony, with John’s mother looking on.   (Danelis in time received her anticipated reward. After Basil later became emperor, John was an “intimate” of the Emperor in honour of his earlier union, and Danelis came to the Emperor on a litter – and showered on him still more extravagant gifts. It was not wealth she had sought, but prestige).

But first, Basil had other fish to fry, and other beds to occupy, on his climb to the throne. First was the young Emperor Michael III, who was still in his teens.

Michael became so attached to Basil that he named him ‘companion of the bedchamber’, a position usually held by a eunuch….Ultimately he named Basil co-emperor. 

Both contemporary and modern accounts see physical attraction as influential in Micahael’s choice:

Bad as Michael’s character was, seems clear that we must also credit him with homosexualism (sic); and this is confirmed, both by making Basil his bedfellow, and by his choice, when when he grew tired of Basil of a pretty boy to succeed him as favourite.

Basil was not content to share the empire, and in time assassinated Michael, and reigned alone.

(Basil was not exclusively “homosexual”. Even before taking up with Michael, he had been married, but then in a curious, bizarre arrangement the Emperor persuaded him to divorce his wife, and to marry his own mistress – who continued her relationship with Michael, while another mistress was secured for Basil. One embarrassing outcome was that it was not entirely clear who was the real father of Basil’s putative heir by his wife – who was intensely disliked by Basil, and was “probably” sired by Michael.)



Information has been taken primarily from John Boswell, Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe ”.

Natural Law, Natural Sex, Natural Families.

A favourite argument used by the religious right against homoerotic relationships, and by the Vatican theologians against any form of sexual expression outside of marriage and not open to making babies, is that such sexual activities are "against nature", and that the "purpose" of sex is procreation. Well, the people making these claims have never considered the actual evidence from, well, you know - "Nature" itself, which shows the exact opposite.  In a famous exchange, Anita Bryant once remarked that the things that homosexuals do were so disgusting that "even barnyard animals wouldn't do it." When it was pointed out to her that actually, barnyard and other animals do "do it",  as is well known to farmers, she simply replied, "Well that still don't make it right". No, and it don't make it wrong, either.  On sexual ethics, "Nature" is morally neutral.

"Anita Bryant, Reality Denier"

Some time ago I embarked on an investigation (which still continues) into just what we can learn from "nature" about sexuality and natural sex, reading up on sexual practices as observed in the animal kingdom, and also in non-Western and pre-industrial human societies from different periods and geographic regions. The results have been truly bewildering, and the time has come to share with you some of my findings and conclusions. In particular, there is clearly no single pattern of sexuality that can possibly be described as "natural" in all societies, human or animal.  What is "natural" depends entirely on culturally determined social practices, which vary extraordinarily.

In modern Western debates about gay marriage, we often hear arguments about "traditional" marriage, as based on the Bible, or on "Judaeo-Christian values". The Biblical family was headed by a male patriarch, who controlled an assortment of wives, concubines, children and slaves, as well as his adult sons and their wives.
We commonly assume that most people are either "heterosexual" (the majority) or "homosexual" in orientation. But in many societies, men may be engage in sex with both men and women, either sequentially, at different phases of their lives, or at the same time. (In Chinese culture, there has always been powerful social expectations that men should marry and raise children - but that in no way prevents them taking male lovers as well. In a famous Chinese painting, two men are engaged in erotic play, while the wife of one watches from behind a screen. )

We assume that in a "traditional" family, the husband is male, the "wife" is female. In many traditional African cultures, numerous ethnographic studies have shown that the "husband" is the one with the wealth and the power. Where a woman was able to acquire sufficient wealth and could pay the bride-price, it was entirely acceptable for her  to marry wives, and take on the role of "husband". (In these families, procreation and child-bearing were necessarily arranged outside of the family - but were raised inside it, and recognised the female head of the family as "father". In one remarkable instance, Nzinga was a woman who came to the throne by military skill - but only men could be kings, so necessarily she was accepted as male. As king, she required a harem of wives - but as she was entirely heterosexual in orientation, she had no need of female wives, and instead kept a harem of male wives.(“Africa’s Female Kings and husbands”). Elsewhere in Africa, some wealthy men also included a male or two among their wives, valuing their strength for certain household tasks.

Nor do all cultures think only in terms of two genders. Commonly in South Asia, North America, and in some parts of Africa, societies accepted as a distinctive third gender biological males who took on female roles, or females who took on male roles (possibly but not necessarily included the corresponding sexual roles.) In the animal kingdom, especially among fish, there are many species with more than one gender, or where the physical appearances of some biologically male individual males resembles that of females or vice versa, or where individuals quite literally change biological sex, in an animal counterpart to human cross-dressers and transsexuals.

We also tend to assume that same sex interactions, where they occur, apply to a minority of individuals, or to a relatively brief period in their youths, before settling down to "normal" married life. But in some New Guinea societies, "natural" sex requires that as young boys, they first go through a period whereby they act as recipient partners in sex with older boys, because it is believed that the essence of manly virtue is contained in the semen - which they need ingest in regular doses before they can become real men. As they grow older, they adopt the active role in sex with younger boys, completely avoiding heterosexual intercourse until they are strong and manly enough to withstand the "debilitating" effects of women that they will be exposed to in marriage. In one specific group, the combined period of partnership with males typically lasts about thirty years, before he marries at around forty. In this culture, homosexual sex is certainly a far greater portion of a man's life-long sexual experience than heterosexual experiences. For them, it is homosexual actions that are "natural".

The Vatican claims that homosexual "act" lead people away from God.  Many societies take the exact opposite view, believing that "homosexuals" generally, and the third gender exemplars in particular, have extraordinary spiritual gifts. Frequently, it is they who will take on the roles of religious leaders or spiritual guides. (Is it any surprise that a disproportionately high proportion of Catholic and Anglican priests are believed to be gay?) In some places, this association of spirituality and male-male sex combines with a variant of the New Guinea practice - young men become  sexual partners of religious leaders in order to ingest their spiritual wisdom.

We also often equate “masculine”, macho virtues with heterosexuality, and homosexuality with effeminacy. Among both humans and animals, this is not always so. For the ancient Greeks, the Japanese samurai, and many others, homosexuality was especially associated with the military. There have been times even in European history where “effeminate” dandyism was characteristic of rampant heterosexuality. Among bighorn sheep, most rams are exclusively homosexual in their activities, and the few that have heterosexual intercourse display remarkable submissive, behaviour – that in humans we might describe as “wimpish”.

It is also simply not true that in the natural world, even heterosexual sex is exclusively directed at procreation. Non procreative sexual activity is commonplace, including full intercourse during pregnancy, immediately after giving birth, or outside fertile periods Some primates females reaching sexual maturity, and begin sexual activities, several years before becoming fertile and capable of giving birth. Also common are  mounting behaviour without penetration or ejaculation, oral sex and masturbation (alone or with another). Some animals even make dildos and masturbation aids – or use natural objects for the purpose.

So what is the “purpose” of sex in nature?

Writing about Bonobo Chimps, Joan Roughgarden puts it neatly, in describing "at least six" situations that lead to sex :
    1. Sex facilitates sharing (for example, reducing conflicts over food supplies)
    2. Sex is used for reconciliation after a dispute
    3. Sex helps to integrate new arrivals into a group
    4. Sex helps to form coalitions
    5. Sex is candy - females sometimes barter sexual favours to obtain gifts of food from males
    6. "Oh, I almost forgot - sex is used for reproduction"
              Recognising the diversity of sexual and gender expressions in “nature” is not a licence for a code of “anything goes”. There still remains a need for a coherent system of sexual ethics, but the study of “nature” does not help us to find one. There simply is no sexual “law of nature”. To construct sexual ethics, we must look elsewhere.

              See Also:

              Gay Soldiers? Role Models, at the Foundation of Democracy.

              Gays in the Military: Japan

              Animals Use Sex Toys, Too

              Same Sex Parents, Furred and Feathered

              Natural Law, Laysan’s Albatross,  and the Question of Evidence

              The Wildlife Rainbow

              Queer Bonobos: Sex As Conflict Resolution

              Exclusive Heterosexuality Unnatural?

              Bighorn Rams: Macho Homos, Wimpish Heteros


              Bagemihl, Bruce: Biological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity (Stonewall Inn Editions)

              Crompton, Louis: Homosexuality and Civilization

              Naphy, William G: Born to be Gay: A History of Homosexuality (Revealing History)

              Roughgarden, Joan: Evolution’s Rainbow: Diversity, Gender, and Sexuality in Nature and People

              Sommer, Volker and Vasey, Paul: Homosexual Behaviour in Animals: An Evolutionary Perspective

              Wednesday, 11 August 2010

              Nzinga (1583-1663), Female King of the Mbundu.

              Nzinga is renowned in Black history for her courageous part in resistance to the Portuguese colonial power in what is now Angola.

              Her father had been the "ngola" or ruler (from which the Portuguese took the name for their colonial territory), and was followed in that position by Nzinga's brother, Ngola Mbande. As a child, Nzinga had been greatly favoured by her father, who gave her the opportunity to watch him closely as he governed, and even went with him to war. Later, she was sent by her brother as envoy to the Poruguese governor at a peace conference,  in Luanda in 1622, aiming to have the Portuguese withdraw a fortress they had built on Mbundu land, return some of her brother's subjects who had been captured, and to put an end to the marauding raids by bands of Portuguese.

              She was able to secure a peace treaty - which the Portuguese failed to keep. Her brother then committed suicide, leaving his son Kaza as heir, with Nzinga acting as regent.Instead, she had him killed, and assumed the throne herself. As ruler, she continued to resist the Portuguese in numerous battles, personally leading her army in war, and forming alliances with both the neighbouring African peoples of Kongo in the African interior, and with the Dutch on the coast. She maintained this resistance for over thirty years, until well into her sixties, before finally signing a peace treaty in 1657.

              The queer interest in Nzinga rests in her assuming the throne of her people, which traditionally could only be held by men. As she had occupied a position absolutely restricted to men, so she was necessarily regarded as male.  As a man, and as king, it then became important that s/he acquire a harem of wives. As Nzinga was biologically female, her wives then needed to be biologically male, who dressed as women and took female gender roles. 

              In the African context, her story is not as extraordinary as it may sound. Ethnographic reports from all regions of the continent have shown that gender roles were traditionally less closely identified with biological sex than in the West, so that wealthy women who could afford it, could and sometimes did acquire wives, and take on the roles of "husband" - while some wealthy men included the occasional male among their "wives".

              Gay Popes: Julius III

              When I wrote about Paul II earlier, I referred to Julius III - then realised I have never given you more than a snippet on this flagrant lover of boys including one in particular, a street urchin whom Julius appointed as Cardinal at the grand old age of 17

              In his early career in the Church Julius established a reputation as an effective and trustworthy diplomat, and was elected to the Papacy as a compromise candidate when the Papal Conclave found itself deadlocked between the rival French and German factions. As Pope he lost, or failed to show, any of the qualities which had distinguished his previous career, devoting himself instead to a life of personal pleasure and indolence. His lasting fame, or notoriety, rests rather on his relationship with the 17 year old boy whom he raised to the position of Cardinal-Nephew, and, it was said at the time, with whom he shared his bed.

              At the start of his reign Julius had desired seriously to bring about a reform of the Catholic Church and to reconvene the Council of Trent, but very little was actually achieved during his five years in office; apologists ascribe the inactivity of his last three years to severe gout.
              In 1551, at the request of the Emperor Charles V, he consented to the reopening of the council of Trent and entered into a league against the duke of Parma and Henry II of France (1547–59), but soon afterwards made terms with his enemies and suspended the meetings of the council (1553).

              The Innocenzo scandal
              Julius's particular failures were around his nepotism and favouritism. One notable scandal surrounded his adoptive nephew, Innocenzo Ciocchi Del Monte, a 13 or 14-year old beggar-boy whom the future Pope had picked up on the streets of Parma some years earlier and with whom he had allegedly fallen in love.On being elected to the Papacy Julius raised the now 17-year old but still uncouth and quasi-illiterate Innocenzo to the cardinalate, appointed him cardinal-nephew, and showering the boy with benefices

              Artistic legacy

              Julius spent the bulk of his time, and a great deal of Papal money, on entertainments at the Villa Giulia, created for him by Vignola. Julius extended his patronage to the great Renaissance composer Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, whom he brought to Rome as his maestro di cappella, Giorgio Vasari, who supervised the design of the Villa Giulia, and to Michelangelo, who worked there.

              Gay Marriage Recognised Across Mexico (BREAKING)

              The Mexican Supreme Court has ruled that same sex marriages contracted in Mexico City must be recognized across the rest of the country. (This does not mean that other states are obliged to allow such marriages within their own areas). It is not immediately clear if this includes marriages contracted in other countries, or precisely which aspects of the marriages must be honoured. (It is also not yet clear to me whether Mexico City has a residency requirement - if not, any Mexicans could secure marriage just be travelling there, then heading home and demanding recognition)

              At present, Mexico City is the only jurisdiction that conduct same sex marriages. In recent years several states have attempted to introduce similar legislation, but have failed. I did see a statement last week that "several" stated currently have marriage legislation under consideration, but I have not been able to find corroboration or details. I would guess that this ruling by the court, which comes so quickly after the legislation in Argentina, will at least increase the political pressure on other states to follow.

              (Last week the court rejected an attempt to have Mexico City's marriage law declared unconstitutional. Yesterday's decision was the second in a series of three related questions the court is considering. They have still to rule on a matter of gay adoption.)

              From NYT:

              >MEXICO CITY — The Mexican Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that each of the country’s 31 states must recognize same-sex marriagesregistered in Mexico City, potentially giving gay and lesbian couples full matrimonial rights nationwide.
              The court had already ruled this month that Mexico City’s same-sex marriage law, which took effect in March and has resulted in hundreds of same-sex marriages, was constitutional.

              But on Tuesday, the court went a step further, ruling 9 to 2 against a complaint from the attorney general’s office, which had said that other jurisdictions should not be required to honor marriages that were performed in Mexico City.
              While the court made it clear that state governments were not obligated to enact same-sex marriage laws of their own, it did require them to recognize the legality of such marriages performed in Mexico City.

              Tuesday, 10 August 2010

              Benedict IX: The First (Primarily) Gay Pope

              Lynne Yamaguchi Fletcher, in "First Gay Pope", called Benedict IX (r. 1033-1045; 1047-1048) “the first pope known to be primarily homosexual.” Benedict’s pontificate, which “turned the Vatican into a male brothel,” was so scandalous that he was deposed  not once, but twice.

              Benedict IX (1021--ca. 1052) was the son of the count of Tusculum. He imitated John XII in staging licentious orgies. These and other excesses caused such indignation that Benedict was deposed in 1045, but then reinstated, only to be deposed again. He disappeared into such deep obscurity that his actual date of death is unknown.

              Matt & Andrej in their Biographies of LGBT people, quote this description (original source not stated):
              At the death of John XIX, his brother Alberic decided to keep the papacy in the family by having his young son Theophylactus elected (October, 1032). Theophylactus, a young man probably about twenty years old, was a cleric. That was about his only qualification for the papacy. Unqualified by his youth, his bringing up, his depravity, Benedict IX became one of the very few really disreputable popes. He was known for homosexual orgies, at the Lateran Palace. The story of Benedict's pontificate is as unsatisfactory as his life. The Romans rose against him probably about 1036 and drove him from the city. Benedict proceeded to Cremona, where he met Emperor Conrad II and received a promise of protection. By imperial influence Benedict returned to Rome, only to be driven out again in 1044.

              This time there was a fight, and Benedict's supporters grimly clung to a foothold in the Trastevere district. Inside the city, John, bishop of Sabina, was set up as Pope Sylvester III, but Benedict was not idle. He had fled for help to his family's base at Tusculum and within two months his tough Tusculans fought their way into the city, sent Sylvester III back to his diocese of Sabina, and restored Benedict IX.

              Once restored, Benedict did not feel at ease on the papal throne. For some reason, in 1045 he decided to abdicate. As Desiderius, the abbot of Monte Cassino (later Pope Victor III), put it, "Devoted to pleasure, he preferred to live like Epicurus rather than like a pope." Consequently, he handed over the papacy to the worthy archpriest, John Gratian. Benedict did not go empty-handed. Gratian paid a large sum to get rid of this offensive character. The charms of retirement soon wore thin for Benedict, and a short time after his abdication he was once more claiming to be pope. With Sylvester III and Benedict IX fighting Gregory for the control of Rome, things were in a frightful muddle. This was ended by Henry III, who had succeeded his father Conrad II in 1039. Henry came down into Italy, cooperated with Gregory to get rid of the pretensions of Sylvester and Benedict, and then had a council demand and receive Gregory's abdication. Henry then put in a German pope--Clement II. Benedict made one more comeback. After the death of Clement II, he once again entered Rome and held sway at the Lateran, but only from November 8, 1047 to July 17, 1048. Henry III insisted on his removal and brusquely ordered Boniface, marquis of Tuscany, to expel Benedict.

              What happened to Benedict after this is obscure. According to one report, which it may be hoped is true, Benedict retired to the abbey of Grottaferrata, resigned all claim to the papacy, and spent his last years as a penitent. Scandalous as Benedict had been, he carried on the routine business of the papacy. And like the few other bad men who were popes, Benedict taught nothing but the pure doctrine of Christ, though by so doing he condemned and did not excuse his own disordered life.

              Cardinal Borghese (1576 - 1633), Homoerotc Art Lover

              The name "Borghese" will be familiar to many art lovers and tourists in Italy from the name "Villa Borghese", the palace which was designed by the architect Flaminio Ponzo from sketches by Cardinal Borghese himself, and which housed his impressive art collection.

              The mere existence of this collection and its magnificence poses important questions about the institutional Catholic Church. What does this vast wealth that this collection represented, have to do with pastoral care, outreach to the poor, or preaching the Gospels? The questions become even murkier in the light of its manner of acquisition:

                 In 1607, the Pope gave the Cardinal 107 paintings which had been confiscated from the studio of the painter Cavalier D'Arpino. In the following year, Raphael's Deposition was removed by force from the Baglioni Chapel in the church of San Francesco in Perugia and transported to Rome to be given to the Cardinal Scipione through a papal motu proprio.
              At this site, however, I am not interested in exploring the iniquities of the historical church. Instead, what interests me here is the nature of the artists and the works in the collection. Several commentaries of the collection note its substantial number of clearly homoerotic works, and he bestowed direct patronage on several well -known homosexual artists - Caravaggio the best-known among them.

              He was also implicated in numerous scandals around his homosexual interests, including a close friendship with one Stefano Pignatelli, who acquired such a strong influence over Borghese that the Pope banished him entirely. Borghese thereupon fell into a long and serious illness, from which he only recovered once his dear friend was eventually allowed to return. 

              Pope Paul V then made the best of a bad job with Pignatelli, and made him a cardinal.

              Although the implications are clear, and contemporary allegations plentiful, there appears to be little hard evidence for a specifically sexual relationship between Borghese and Pignatelli. If there was such a relationship  though, Pignatelli will not have been the first to owe his cardinal's red hat to sexual favours granted. 

              This is how it is described in Aldrich & Wetherspoon, "Who's Who in Gay and Lesbian History from Antiquity to WWII"
              He was adopted by his uncle who, when became pope with the name Paul V, made him Cardinal at age 29. His uncle's favour allowed Borgese to accumulate an immense fortune, which he used to acquire which he used to acquire the vast land-holdings where he built Villa Borghese, now one of the most important Museums in Rome.
              Scipione was oriented towards his own sex, and this led to full-blown scandals. In 1605, soon after being made a cardinal, Borghese wanted to bring to Rome Stefano Pignattelli, his intimate "friend".
              Paul V compelled Stefano to move out of Shipone's house, but the cardinal doubled his love for his friend and succumbed to a severe melancholy which resuletd in a long and serious illness. Only when Stefano was allowed to return to Rome to look after Scipione, did the cardinal recover.
              Shipione's uncle the pope, thereupon decided that in order to keep a check on Pignattelli he must co-opt, rather than combat, him. He had Stefano ordained, the beginning of a carreer which led to his becoming a cardinal in 1621. But Stefano died in 1623. Scipione died ten years later.

              Gay Popes: Benedict IX

              Benedict IX (r. 1033-1045; 1047-1048)

              Lynne Yamaguchi Fletcher, in The First Gay Pope and Other Records, rightly called Benedict IX (r. 1033-1045; 1047-1048) “the first pope known to be primarily homosexual.” Benedict’s pontificate, which “turned the Vatican into a male brothel,” was so scandalous that he was deposed, not once but twice.

              Benedict IX (1021--ca. 1052) was the  son of the count of Tusculum. He imitated John XIIin staging licentious orgies. These and other excesses caused such indignation that Benedict was deposed in 1045, but then reinstated, only to be deposed again. He disappeared into such deep obscurity that his actual date of death is unknown.

              A Conservative Warning on Gay Marriage: Judge Walker Was Right

              Many conservatives are outraged at Judge Walker's verdict striking down California's Proposition H8. Notice though, that GOP politicians are treading very carefully - some are starting to recognize that hatred and bigotry can be a vote loser, not the vote winner it once was. Note also, some conservative voiced are recognizing the solid conservative and judicial foundations of his judgement.

              This reading, at Fox News (can you believe) is one of the best I have seen:

              My Fellow Conservatives, Think Carefully About Your Opposition to Gay Marriage
              As a conservative Republican representing the next generation of attitudes towards gays and lesbians, I encouraged the readers of last January to take a careful look at the arguments and evidence in the Prop 8 trial, Perry v. Schwarzenegger.
              The case was presented by a constitutional conservative, Ted Olson, who helped found the Federalist Society, successfully argued Bush v. Gore to the Supreme Court (among fifty-five other cases), and was George W. Bush’s Solicitor General. Working with his Democratic legal partner David Boies, Olson sought to prove that marriage equality is a constitutional question, not a partisan issue.
              The trial assembled a thorough record of evidence that Prop 8 unreasonably discriminates against gays and lesbians, relegating them to second-class citizenship. Their plaintiffs, Kristen Perry and Sandy Steir, Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrullo, are the face of the marriage equality movement. They wish to share in the myriad societal, economic and psychological benefits of marriage, which the Supreme Court has ruled is a fundamental right owed to all Americans. By denying them the right to marry because of their sexual orientation and gender, Olson and Boies argued that Prop 8 violates the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the 14th Amendment, and is unconstitutional.
              Among the seventeen witnesses Olson and Boies called to the stand were experts in areas of psychology, political science, economics, socio medical sciences and history. 
              Economists testified to the economic harm caused to same-sex couples and their children; political scientists to their political vulnerability; sociologists and psychologists to the societal stigma associated with homosexuality; historians to the history of marriage shedding its discriminatory restrictions over time. 
              Other testimony included Ryan Kendal, a young gay man who failed a “conversion therapy” attempt to alter his sexuality from gay to straight and the Republican Mayor of San Diego, a former police chief, who testified that “if government tolerates discrimination against anyone for any reason, it becomes an excuse for the public to do exactly the same thing.”
              Surprisingly, the defense’s two lone witnesses also offered compelling reasons to favor of marriage equality. They testified that allowing homosexuals to marry would increase family stability and improve the lives of their children; that sexual orientation is unchangeable; that gays and lesbians have faced a long history of discrimination, including Prop 8. 
              Another defense witness’ testimony had to be withdrawn as it proved the discriminatory nature of the Prop 8 campaign, which the Plaintiff’s lawyers then submitted as evidence to embolden their case. 

              -(Read the full article)

              Got that? Evidence submitted for the defendants in the case, which was intended to support Prop 8 against marriage equality,  ended up supporting the plaintiffs - confirming that gay marriage would increase, not harm family stability, and improve, not harm, the lives of children.

              A Catholic Case For Blessing Civil Unions

              With gay marriage back in the news, one may well ask (and I have been asked) is there a case for the Catholic Church to provide some form of church recognition for civil unions?

              "Why Not in Church, Too?"

              I have several objections, which I have frequently stated,  to the entire foundations of the Vatican doctrines on sexuality - but the question I want to deal with was very specific and moderate, from a person whose undoubted sincerity and respect for tradition I freely accept, and so, for the sake of argument, I want to address David's question on its own terms - from strictly within orthodox Catholic tradition and teaching. My short answer is yes, undoubtedly; my slightly longer answer is that there should not need to be a case, as liturgical blessing of same sex unions already has an established place in Church history, complete with fixed liturgical rites and ceremonies. However, this traditional practice is no longer familiar to us, and so I need to update it, together with some background information,  for the modern context.

              I begin with what is foundational to all questions of marriage - the words of Scripture, in Genesis 2 (which is the earlier of the two creation stories, notwithstanding the familiar numbering):
              "It is not good for the man to live alone. I will make a companion to help him."
              -(Gen 2:18)
              Notice please: not a wife, to make babies, but a companion, to help him. So we have it on the very best authority, God's authority, that humans need companions, not for sexual pleasure, nor primarily for procreation, but for help, companionship and support.

              In the modern West, we are so obsessed with sex, and particularly with off-colour wisecracks and snickering at wedding receptions that we entirely forget that marriage is not only about sex. Yet every adult knows there is far more to marriage, once the wedding night and honeymoon are over and forgotten. What becomes far more important is simply working together to ease the trials of the day - by offering companionship and support, taking leisure or seeing friends and family together, and sharing in the costs and responsibilities that go into making a home: house, garden and car maintenance, paying the bills, cleaning, laundry and food arrangements - and raising children together if and when they arrive.

              It is not only that sex is not the only part of marriage - we forget that it was once an accepted part of Christianity that sexual relationships need not be a part of marriage at all. Many early Christians renounced sex altogether and dedicated themselves to virginity, even in marriage, and even as married couples. So it is entirely accepted in Christian tradition that an emotionally intimate, recognized committed relationship between two people is possible without the need for a sexual foundation.

              We also know, through the scholarship of John Boswell and Alan Bray, that for many centuries the early and medieval Church accepted and recognized the value of liturgical recognition of same sex couples, for which they used established rites of blessing. In the Eastern Church, these were known as rites for "adelphopoeisis", or "making of brothers", and in the Western Church, as "sworn brotherhood."  Boswell's work is controversial, and has been widely criticized in some quarters on the grounds that these unions were not "comparable" to modern heterosexual marriage - but that is precisely my point: modern civil unions are also not comparable to modern (sacramental) marriage (and nor were heterosexual unions in the early and medieval church "comparable" with modern marriage). (UPDATE: I have learnt from a note in the comments that there is a new book forthcoming on adelphopoeisis. It will be fascinating to see how much this new study departs from, or adds to, Boswell's early and controversial work).
              What cannot be denied is that these liturgical rites existed, and were used. Bray's work is a lot more cautious than Boswell's, and he is careful to describe these unions only in terms of "friendship" - but as he also makes clear, male friendship at that time is also not directly comparable with modern ideas of male "buddies". Friendship between men then was  a far more serious affair than it usually is today, possibly of greater emotional and practical importance that mere marriage, which is why it was deemed worthy of liturgical recognition, and why a number of pairs of sworn brothers demanded and got joint burial in shared tombs in church - exactly as many  married couples. These unions were not always sexual - but some most certainly were.

              The practice of liturgical blessing for same-sex unions gradually fell away, but continued in occasional use in the Eastern use, and I have heard a suggestion that although it has fallen into disuse in the West, it has never been formally abolished and so remains at least theoretically available (that would need checking, and I do not vouch for the claim.) However, the practice of shared burial continued rather longer. The best known and most recent example is that of Cardinal John Henry Newman, who insisted on being buried alongside his beloved friend St John, that they could be together "for all eternity". There was no objection raised to the request, and they were indeed buried together, right in Birmingham Oratory, with no slight to Newman's reputation. He is today on the path to recognized sainthood, and will be formally beatified next month, during the papal visit to the UK.

              So, there is an established basis in scripture and in church history, for recognizing a human need for a companion, and for liturgical recognition of such relationships, even when between pairs of men, by the Church. So the case for modern liturgical recognition of some same-sex relationships would seem to be incontestable - it has already been established church practice in both Eastern and Western branches of Christianity. The question is - what kind of relationships? Are rites for making "brothers", or of "sworn brotherhood",  really appropriate for modern civil unions? The argument against might be, that the former were not sexual relationships, and modern civil unions are.

              Well, not exactly. Some sworn brotherhoods most certainly did have a sexual basis, and some modern civil unions do not. More importantly, both sets of unions are or were very much about joint financial business or property relationships, and reciprocal obligations for mutual care and protection. Before considering modern partnerships which are sexual, I want to deal with those which are not. To do so, I want to consider the case of a Catholic man who has a "homosexual condition", but who successfully strives to live strictly within the parameters of orthodox Catholic doctrine. Call him Chas, for chastity.

              We know from Vatican documents that a homosexual man in himself is not sinful - only his homosexual "acts", but being a dutiful Catholic, Chas does not commit any of those. We also know from Genesis that in the eyes of God, it is not right that he should be alone, that he needs a companion. We also know that the Church itself recognizes that a person like Chaz will have a difficult time living out his life of voluntary chastity - they describe this as a "cross" that such men must learn to carry, and also are careful to arrange support groups (in the Courage ministry) to help them to deal with this cross.

              Now if Chas recognizes that it would be good for him to have a companion, someone who can offer help and support in carrying this cross on a full-time basis, not just in weekly Courage meetings, and can furthermore help with all the little practical details of living arrangements, as married couples do as matter of course when not making babies, and if Chas meets someone with whom he can find the right emotional connection, and who is just as committed to living within Church teaching (someone he met in his Courage group, perhaps) - what possible objection can there be to the two of them agreeing to live together as room-mates, sharing expenses, chores and responsibilities - and providing full-time companionship and support?

              Once they do start living together, and develop deep emotional bonds, they may well see the need for legal contracts to protect their respective interests in the eyes of the law. As the relationship has been set up to honour and support each other in living out Church teaching in love, is there not also a need for such a relationship to secure some form of honouring within the Church community, so that God who has recognized their mutual need for companionship, and the faith community of which they are part, might bear witness to their love and commitment - and encourage them to maintain it obedience to the demands of their faith, as they see it? Such recognition should not take the form of "marriage", with its association with child-bearing and raising, but it would have strong and obvious parallels with sworn brotherhood - based on deep friendship, but also incorporating legal, financial and personal mutual responsibilities.

              So, it is clear to me that precisely as the early and medieval church saw the value of celebrating some same sex unions in sworn brotherhood, there would be value for the church in recognizing (celibate) civil unions with an independent, but associated, rite of blessing within the congregation.

              What of unions that are not known to be celibate? Well, they may be.  Here in the UK, the law for civil partnerships closely parallels that for marriage, with very few exceptions. One important one that does exist, is sexual: unlike marriage, there is no legal requirement for sexual consummation for the union to be valid. In law, the partnership is essentially a matter of contract between two people, and in not a sexual arrangement.  For those cynics who doubt the possibility of a partnership which is not sexual, I simply point again to the example of the early church, and those married couples who were encouraged to practice virginity even within marriage. There certainly are modern male couples, living in close emotional partnerships, who claim to be doing so in complete chastity, just as our fictitious Chaz might do. Who are we to disbelieve them?

              Even where we know that a particular couple are not celibate, we would be wrong to assume that they are living in sin. Although the Vatican documents and the Catechism are clear that homosexual genital acts are sinful, it is also established and accepted that the primary obligation is to one's conscience. There is a parallel clear and established teaching that the use of artificial contraception is sinful - but that conscience may at times override that. So, the simple fact that two men are living together, in a relationship that is not celibate, does not mean that they are sinful. They too, just like Chaz and his hoped-for friend and partner, need companionship, mutual help and support in negotiating life's difficulties, and the problems they will face together. They too, could do with some support from their congregation, and recognition for their love.

              Before dismissing the possibility, consider once more the case of a married couple, one that has been married, say, for ten years, and remain childless.  When they present themselves for communion, does the priest assume that they are using contraception, and deny the sacrament? Of course, it could be that there are natural causes at work. Let us simplify the case further, let us say that both couples have had children by previous marriages, marriages which ended tragically in the deaths of their spouses. They are now in en entirely licit new marriage and each has established proof of   fertility. Still the priest, although he might have questions in his mind, will not refuse communion, because he will assume that the couple have worked things out in conscience and good faith.

              Why can the church not approach modern same sex couples in the same spirit? The case for church recognition of celibate civil unions I showed above to be incontestable.  I submit that if we truly apply Catholic teaching on the importance of conscience, and on not judging the state of an other's conscience, there is equally a strong case for Church recognition of unions that are not necessarily celibate.

              Monday, 9 August 2010

              Gay Popes: Alexander VI (r. 1492-1503)

              The Borgia pope, Alexander VI (1431-1503) was believed to have reduced Rome to unparalleled depths of depravity, and the city teemed with assassins and prostitutes of both sexes. Alexander was himself much given to womanizing, having sired eight ormore children, but he was apparently not averse to the charms of young men as well.

              Sunday, 8 August 2010

              The Fallacy of the Church Push Against Gay Adoption

              In Australia, the NSW parliament has a bill before it which would legalise gay adoption. The churches are outraged, and pushing hard against the measure, or asking for special treatment. One Australian church agency is asking for exemption  from the non-discrimination clause. Anglicare argues that adoption should not be about politics and the "rights" of gay couples, but about the best interests of the child.

              In Mexico, the Supreme Court this week will follow last’s week’s decision on gay marriage in Mexico City with a consideration of gay adoption (and also gay marriage nationally). In the US, GOP candidates for the governorships of Nevada and Georgia are proposing to follow Florida and outlaw gay adoption. In the UK, where the issue is supposedly settled in law, the church is continuing to fight a rearguard action to have its own agencies exempted. What do all these have in common?

              A total absence of evidence.

              In California's extended trial over gay marriage, the opponents argued that gay marriage was injurious to children, because kids need "one mom and one dad" - but their own supposed expert witness conceded there was no evidence to support his case. But the “expert” was entirely lacking in academic credentials, and the judge ruled that his evidence was no more than opinion.

              In Florida, Bill McCollum then the AG, hired “expert witness” George Rekers at vast expense to argue the case in court. He too is entirely lacking in credentials, and has since become a laughing-stock for his travels with a hired male prostitute. (I am pleased to note that ever sine the Rekers story broke, McCollum’s candidacy for state governor has been going rapidly down the toilet.)   

              In Georgia, when Karen Handel was asked by an Atlanta TV reporter why she thought gay parents aren’t legitimate, she replied, “Because I don’t.”

              In the UK last year, bishops reacted angrily when Terry Prendergast, a child care professional with strong links to the church, stated that there was no evidence that children are harmed by having same sex parents.

              Now, here’s the thing.

              I absolutely agree with Anglicare that adoption decisions should be based entirely on the best interests of children, placing them with the best parents available. They should not be based on the supposed rights of gay couples - but nor should they be based on religious dogma. Don't they get it? Sometimes, the best available parents are gay.

              Abundant scientific research has shown that.

              In the California trial,  Judge Walker carefully considered a mass of scientific evidence, and found that same sex couples are at least as capable as any others of making good parents as any other - and in some cases, are even better. (Even in the animal world, research has shown in some species, same -sex couples make better parents.)

              That’s at the global level, for couples in general – but in ability as parents, not all couples are equal. Some opposite sex parents are dramatically less able than the ideal, which  is why some kids come into care in the first place. Some gay couples are better than others.  Nobody is asking that all gay couples be given a “right” to adopt, any more than straight couples have such a right.  All we ask is that we be considered along with other couples, so that children may be placed with the best parents available.

              Gay adoption – it’s in the best interests of the child.

              Saturday, 7 August 2010

              Paul Abels (August 4, 1937 - March 12, 1992) U.S.A

              A striking feature of LGBT Church history, is how after a long period of invisibility, in the years following Stonewall, gay clergy followed other gay men and lesbians in coming out of their closets. Facing the prospect of so much more hostile reaction than those in some other professions, and with housing as well as income and career at stake, these people were embarking on acts of rare courage. In doing so, they were simply bearing witnessing to the truth of their lives, and its integration into their faith. In doing so, they can truly be regarded as modern martyrs. Paul Abels was one of the first. Like many others, he ultimately lost his career through his prophetic witness, and was forced to rebuild a new one outside of the church.

              The fruits of his martyrdom though, live on. Many more gay (and later, lesbian) clergy were forced out of ministry or refused ordination on the grounds of orientation or gender identity. However, even in the beginning, they were able to gather some supporters who contested this injustice. Over time, these supporters grew in number, until we reached the current position where several mainstream Protestant denominations have accepted the value of including openly gay, lesbian or trans clergy, and others denominations are at least conducting serious discussions around LGBT ordination and even church recognition of same sex unions. Thanks to the early sacrifices of Paul Abel and others like him, the struggle for queer inclusion in church has become a broad –based and growing movement. 
              Paul was the pastor of the Washington Square Unitd Methodist Church in New York City from 1973 to 1984, and was the first openly gay minister with a congregation in a major Christian denomination in America. This congregation in Greenwich Village was locally known as the Peace Church for its opposition to the Vietnam War and for its large gay and lesbian membership.

              In 1973 Paul was appointed pastor of Washington Square United Methodist Church. While at Washington Square, he initiated a $1.5 million restoration campaign, planned the church's 125th anniversary, and worked with the many community groups housed in the building, including the Harvey Milk School, a parent-run day care center, and many lesbian/gay support and social groups.
              On Sunday, November 27, 1977, Abels was featured in a New York Times article entitled "Minister Sponsors Homosexual Rituals." The article told about four "covenant services" that Paul had performed in recent months. And in the article Paul identifies himself as a "homosexual."
              Controversy arose throughout the denomination with many critics calling for his removal. Bishop Ralph Ward asked Paul to take a leave of absence. Paul refused and his appointment was upheld by vote of the New York Annual Conference. The bishop then appealed to the Judicial Council, highest court in United Methodism, which ruled in 1979 that Abels was in "good standing" and in "effective relation" and could remain as pastor at Washington Square.

              (Read more at  LGBT Religious Archives".)