Thursday, September 6, 2007

Cleaver Stands Up for Civil Rights for All

Rarely am I just proud - tickled pink proud - of an elected official. Most of the time they strive to do what is right, but I don't get excited. Congressman Cleaver makes me stand up straight and salute the flag proud.

Yesterday Congress debated whether you should judge people by the content of their character or if we should discriminate. The Bill was HR2015 "ENDA" and would have prevented work place discrimination based on sexual orientation. The only ordained minister in all of Congress - from either party - Rev. Cleaver, spoke in favor of the bill. Here are 3 paragraphs from Cleaver's speech

Before I was elected to Congress, I, very happily I might add, considered my only full-time job to be that of Senior Pastor of St. James United Methodist Church in Kansas City Missouri. Against all odds and Wesleyan Tradition, I have held this appointment for 30 years. However, now I have two full time jobs. I still remain Senior Pastor at St. James while I serve as the Representative of Missouri’s Fifth Congressional District. The role as pastor will never leave me, and I will never leave it. I am compelled to go home and preach every Sunday. I will pastor and counsel all people until I return to my maker. And I say here now, with absolute conviction and confidence, that an individual’s sexual orientation has nothing, absolutely no connection with my God’s issued mandate to minister to their needs, including their right to barrier-free access to employment. Three of the greatest sins, I believe, are indifference to, neglect of, and disrespect for God’s other sheep. I will not delve too deeply into the politico-ecclesiastical details of my position. Suffice it to say, none of the major world religions, certainly not the three monotheistic religions, believes that God endorses discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Opponents of this legislation argue that homosexuality and transgender identity are “unnatural,” “immoral,” or that someone else’s sexual orientation offends my religious senses. Let there be no doubt. I am certainly pro-marriage. As an ordained member of the clergy, I have performed more than 400 hundred heterosexual weddings and I have been happily and fortunately married to the same lovely woman for three decades. Nonetheless, to this I say, those opposing the legislation have their issue confused. We are not discussing whether a state should recognize an individual’s right to marry. That was, is, and shall, hopefully, always fall to the wisdom of the state legislatures around the country. Although it is much too often discussed in Congress, marriage is not a federal issue. Today we are trying to further extend the rights of individuals who have been marginalized and discriminated against and denied legal federal protection for an equal playing field when they seek employment.

Further, the opponents of ENDA are concerned about creating a protected class that promotes homosexuality and thus negatively impacting the institution of marriage and family values. They cite the profusion of local laws on the subject, and suggest that country-wide protection is unnecessary. Again, I ask how protecting an individual’s right to pursue a job on an equal playing field with equal consideration is promoting homosexuality and hurting the values within their family? Moreover, I say to these naysayers the current draft of this legislation goes beyond every previous incarnation of the legislation to protect small businesses and religious-based organizations and institutions that may preach against and hold tenants opposing same sex orientation. There are protections within the measure, so as to exempt these groups who have centralized these values of marginalization and separation.


Kevin P. Hennosy said...

"And I say here now, with absolute conviction and confidence, that an individual’s sexual orientation has nothing, absolutely no connection with my God’s issued mandate to minister to their needs, including their right to barrier-free access to employment."

Perhaps the most endearing aspect of Congressman Cleaver's speech on equality is the simple fact that it came 50 years to the week after "The Little Rock Nine." I wish that he did not have to make it today, but I am glad he rose in the well to make it.

Steve, thanks for posting this excerpt from Congressman Cleaver's speech.

Congressman Cleaver, thank you for acknowledging what so many have found difficult to accept in history -- We are all equal and deserving of respect.

I understand that it is possible to lose some votes when we "seek a newer world," but I am most proud to be a Democrat when we seek a newer world.

Anonymous said...

Kevin is right that is almost sad that it has taken 50 years to address this issue.

Most people, even Republicans, no longer tell "nigger" jokes. Unfortunately, many conservative folks, like the Missouri Political News Service, still think it is ok to tell "faggot" jokes.

Let's hope it doesn't take 50 years to get beyond discrimination of gays.

Anonymous said...

In response to compassion, Jeff Roe's Missouri Political News Service has decided to insult and demean you, Steve. Congrats?!?!

Republicans can think of no bigger insult than "you're gay."

mainstream said...

I would really like to underline need to recognize the importance of Mr. Cleaver's statements.

African-American congregations, churches, pastors and culture is very anti-Gay. The Black ministers in town frown on any Gay equality issues.

For Congressman Cleaver to make these statements shows courage, and the strength of his convictions in the face of what will be almost certain criticism he will receive from his peers and many in the African-American community.

I, like Kevin and hopefully many others within the CCP, are proud to have Mr. Cleaver representing Democratic values.

(At least I hope there are others in the CCP who are proud of Mr. Cleaver's courage.)

Anonymous said...

Cleaver is clearly a man of courage and conviction. Agree or disagree with him, he stands up for what he believes in. Who would have thought that claiming that God loves everyone is so controversial?

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