April 5, 1999
Issue No. 34
P L A G A L
M E M O R A N D U M
Post Office Box 33292
Washington, DC 20033
A Newsletter for Members and Friends of the
Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians
GAYS BANNED FROM MARCH FOR LIFE
The Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians (PLAGAL) was banned from participating in the 26th Annual March for Life under threat of arrest. Eric Mines, an officer of the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police, ousted members of PLAGAL moments before the event began. He stated that his orders came from unnamed leaders of the March.
Every year, PLAGAL peacefully joins the tens of thousands of pro-lifers who march each January to protest Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in 1973.
"Many members of PLAGAL were strong pro-life leaders before they identified themselves as gays and lesbians," said Moses Remedios, newly elected president of PLAGAL, who spoke from the March for Life stage four years ago as president of American Collegians for Life. "For 26 years, PLAGAL members have provided free legal aid to fellow pro-lifers, staffed and directed crisis pregnancy centers and sought and won elective office." In spite of this, Nellie Gray, the organizer of the annual March, had expressed her displeasure in recent years with PLAGAL's participation.
PLAGAL members decided that their arrest would prove counterproductive to their mission -- to work on behalf of the unborn victimized by abortion -- and instead hurried ahead of the parade to the Supreme Court Building, where they handed out brochures stating that an inclusive pro-life movement will save more unborn children from the threat of abortion. Spencer Epps, a student at Georgetown University, said "March organizers can't tell someone 'you're too black to be pro-life; you're too Jewish to be pro-life.' Why are they telling us 'you're too gay to be pro-life'?"
"It is sad for the cause of women and unborn children that Miss Gray would exclude pro-life participants based simply on who we are," said Ms. B.A. Keener, Vice President of PLAGAL. "Today, a few narrow-minded pro-lifers said that gays are not fit to help save lives. The truth is that there are plenty of gays and lesbians who are sincerely pro-life."
"As a minority, we know firsthand what it is to be treated as less than human, to have our very lives endangered," said Tom Sena, founder of PLAGAL. "This has taught us to fight for all human lives similarly endangered; that includes the unborn. Miss Gray thinks we're here to push a 'gay agenda.' But she's wrong. We're here to show that, contrary to her stereotypes, we care about the unborn as much as any other pro-lifers. PLAGAL believes that anything that endangers human life is wrong. Homophobia is one such danger. So is abortion."
Mr. Remedios and his colleagues pledge to be present at the March for Life next year. "If we let ourselves be silenced, we fail to follow our conscience: we perpetuate the abuse of human rights that began with Roe v. Wade, and we let narrow-minded straights insist that gays and lesbians are not fit to help the unborn."
A MODEL OF DECORUM AND CIVILITY
by Moses Remedios
PLAGAL's recent ouster at the March for Life has certainly caused a wide range of emotions among fellow plagalites and supporters. Because of this, March organizer Nellie Gray sadly does not rank among our most "favorite people for 1999."
In our anger at the blatant injustice that was demonstrated at the March for Life, as well as the many insults that were hurled at us by some of our Pro-Life "allies," we may feel the right to retaliate in equally uncharitable ways and to use bitter and hateful language to "hurt them back." While this may act as a catharsis to our insulted sensibilities, in the end it does nothing to bridge the gap of fear and ignorance that divides us. If we are to succeed against this adversity, we must claim
that which our critics in the pro-life movement have given up. What might that be? The moral high ground.
The moral high ground demands that we not resort to name-calling. The moral high ground holds on to what is important -- what is really important: In this case the Right to Life -- and refuses to get caught in attacking the worth of fellow humans (even those who disagree with us) when it is that very worth that we seek to see protected.
How then should we respond to these onslaughts? Politeness. Are we to be passionate in what we believe to be true? Yes. Should we strive in earnestly sharing our message? Yes. Should we be ready to defend ourselves and insist, without apology, in our right to exist and to advance our position in the market place of ideas even to anti-gay pro-lifers? Resoundingly Yes! But if we respond with the same level of emotional disgust that we experienced from some at the March for Life then in essence we are no better. The moral high ground dictates a model of decorum and civility.
This model is in its very essence a pro-life model because it respects and honors the life of the individual. It is a simple rule (some have even called it a "golden rule"): treat others as you would like to be treated. You don't have to agree with them, you don't even have to like them, but treat them with respect especially when they are not respectful of you.
This model necessitates a sense of self-control on our part. While we cannot control how our opponents in (or outside of) the Pro-Life movement will act, we can control how we will react. We must passionately and politely continue to take our rightful place in the Pro-Life movement with the assurance that we belong.
The Pro-Life movement needs us despite the objections of a vocal few. We will not allow them to silence us, but in a spirit of solidarity we will continue to make our presence known.
A LETTER TO
PLAGAL received the following missive:
I write this letter to the gentleman who approached me at the recent Pro-Life March in Washington, D.C. Regrettably, because the March had already begun, and he ran up to me rather quickly and departed just as quickly, I was not able to ask his name. Hence, the reason for this salutation.
You will recall that at last year's march I came over to thank you for your presence. I missed that presence this year, but thank you for the leaflet descriptive of your commitment to the cause of life. Don't give up.
With warm regards, and Faithfully in Christ.
/s/ John Cardinal O'Connor
Archbishop of New York
Had Chuck Volz left his card, he might have received this directly.
CLIPPINGS AND CONTACTS
Again, we would like to remind our readers that PLAGAL needs the names (and addresses and voice and fax numbers) of local gay and lesbian media, and when anything appears in the lesbian and gay media discussing the Pro-Life movement, or in any media discussing PLAGAL, PLEASE send it to us. We do not have -- and cannot afford -- a clipping service or subscriptions to the multitude of lesbian and gay media.
meanwhile. . .
The March 7, 1999, edition of The Valley Advocate discussed the exclusion of PLAGAL from the 1999 March for Life, noting the distinction between the treatment of Moses Remedios four years ago, when Moses spoke from the podium, and this year, when he was excluded even from marching. The article quoted extensively from Western Massachusetts Contact Joe D'Amour, who has a definite knack for public relations.
The exclusion of PLAGAL from the March for Life was reported in lesbian and gay media in Jacksonville, Florida, Baltimore, Maryland, Chicago, Illinois, and Seattle, Washington.
The Advocate's website (www.advocate.com) during at least the week ending March 14, 1999, gave a rather favorable mention to PLAGAL's website at www.plagal.org. They state: Abortion -- both sides now: Regardless of your stand on abortion rights, you may want to visit the Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians. The site offers issue-related news and op-ed pieces, information on regional chapters, and links to a variety of sites, including those discussing gay and lesbian adoption." Kudos to Christopher Hinkle, our webmaster, for a wonderful job well done.
NEW POLITICS OF ABORTION
By John Ellis, Globe Columnist, 02/04/99
One of the least attractive features of right-wing politics is its persistent demonization of homosexuals. Most gay men and women live dual lives: one within the mainstream culture and one apart from it. Belonging and not belonging is not easy. Making it harder is, at some level, morally reprehensible, especially so when right-wingers cast their aspersions in moral terms.
In July of 1993, Dean Hamer of the National Institute of Health published an influential paper announcing the discovery of the "gay gene." By the year 2001, the mapping of the human genome will be complete, and work can begin to either confirm or disprove Hamer's discovery. Because of the enormous computing power of modern microprocessors, this inquiry may produce definitive results before the end of the next decade.
It seems likely, based on the data gathered so far, that homosexuality is indeed genetically determined. If it is, then questions of motive are irrelevant. As Tom Wolfe wrote in Forbes ASAP a few years back: "If homosexuality is a genetically determined trait, like left-handedness or hazel eyes, then laws and sanctions against it are attempts to legislate against nature."
Last week, Harvard University announced that it would invest $150 million to $200 million in the sciences that may provide us with definitive answers to these and other questions of human behavior. As the Globe's Adam Pertman reported, $70 million has already been allocated to the Center for Genomics and Proteomics (the study of genes and their proteins) and the Center for Imaging and Mesoscale Materials (nanotechnology). The remaining millions will be spent on neuroscientific research. The goal is to bring together academics and scholars from every discipline to reexamine human behavior in the light of genomics-based research.
Genomics is both exciting and terrifying. As Claire Fraser, a leading scientist in this field, told Juan Enriquez of Harvard's Center for Genomics Research, genomics represents a revolution in human understanding. "In the next 10 years we will see some of the most extraordinary discoveries in the history of science.... We can either give evolution a shove in the right direction or in the wrong direction, depending on whether we know what we are doing."
For example, it may soon be possible to predict accurately what kind of life a child might have based on his or her genetic code. A DNA sample can be acquired in the first moments of life. This sample could then be immediately analyzed on a DNA chip. The results could inform the parents what "traits" are embedded in their child's genetic code. Decision trees regarding that child's development could then be built to help him or her live a happier, healthier life. That's a wonderful promise and an extraordinary opportunity.
But it is also terrifying, because the same DNA sample can be acquired from a fetus. Imagine for a moment that the parents learn that the fetus will grow up to be homosexual and that, for whatever reason, the parents decide that homosexuality is not what they want for their child. The decision to abort is available to them, and they make that choice. There is terror in that.
The anti-abortion movement has long argued that abortion is murder by another name. This view has been derided by the mainstream culture as both ignorant and hysterical. Adopting marketing jargon, pro-abortion advocates have recast the decision to terminate pregnancies as an issue of "choice." In this effort, they have been remarkably successful.
Richard Wirthlin, who did polling on this issue for the Mormon Church, found that the word "choice" (as in pro-choice) defeated the word "life" (as in pro-life) in focus groups by a margin of 2 to 1.
What happens when the "choice" becomes an "informed choice?" Some parents already struggle with this issue after amniocentesis. They abort babies that they are reasonably certain will have Down syndrome. It is hard for any morally sentient person to be judgmental about that. What would you do, given the same set of circumstances? The truth is that even the most morally enlightened among us would think long and hard about aborting such a fetus.
Genomics takes this quandary further, into unexplored moral territory. It makes possible the abortion of homosexual fetuses. It makes possible the abortion of fetuses that show a genetic disposition to disease and disorder. Shortly after the moment of conception, an outline of that child's life can and will be known to all who care to know. And "informed choices" to abort fetuses could become routine.
It has been argued by some that the politics of abortion are moot because of pharmaceutical technology. The exact opposite is true. The science of genomics re-raises the abortion issue in its starkest moral and political terms. How it is decided decides, in very real terms, who we will be.
John Ellis is a Globe columnist. This story ran on page A17 of the Boston Globe on 02/04/99. ©Copyright 1999 Globe Newspaper Company.
THE PRO-LIFE FUTURE IS OURS
Perhaps you've heard by now of the lovely welcome PLAGAL received at the March for Life on January 22: march organizers demanded that we remove ourselves posthaste, with District of Columbia police helpfully at hand to arrest us if we demurred. Not to worry. Knowing that their authority extended only so far, we hightailed it to the Supreme Court steps (the March's terminus) and there, PLAGAL's banner unfurled for all to see, we greeted the marchers as they arrived. But all in all, it was a disheartening afternoon: the March for Life suffered the black eye of bigotry, and PLAGAL had cause to remember how much work we have to do.
But I got an education out of it. I realized for the first time why these people try so ferociously to fence off the Pro-Life movement, as though it's their personal property to defend against malicious trespassers.
For them, the Pro-Life movement isn't merely about abortion. Not by a long shot. They've highjacked the whole issue and made it the centerpiece of an entire worldview. This worldview has nothing to do with the Right to Life, but for these particular Pro-Lifers, they're as good as conjoined twins. Now, I'm not talking about all traditional Pro-Lifers. Many -- perhaps most -- of them don't share this view. It so happens that the most obnoxious and doctrinaire ones do.
Let me display this view for you. It's a "Pleasantville" universe where everyone is radiantly heterosexual, and sex, when it must be indulged, occurs only through benefit of clergy. Without that, it's a foul temptation to be sternly mastered. Sexual minorities don't exist, of course, because they have no business existing. And this universe isn't just divinely blessed, it's divinely ordained. God Wants It This Way. That's their iceberg hulking below the surface, with its visible tip the unborn child. Her fragile life is forced to advance a cause she was never meant to serve, and her ideological pimps see no contradiction between saving her life and prostituting it.
This being so, they're convinced that to be Pro-Life is also to endorse and advance their agenda, and since we manifestly don't, then in their eyes we can't possibly be Pro-Life. They're not hypocrites; they really believe this. The only way they can find to understand us is to think we must be infiltrating the movement to destroy it. Otherwise, we literally make no sense to them. We don't compute.
Once we see this, it makes sense, and the difficulty of helping them see reason also becomes clear. It's not impossible; as I've said, most traditional Pro-Lifers advocate the Right to Life, not a cultural return to the '50s. But it makes better sense to diversify our efforts: to go not only among those who don't understand us, but also among those who do.
A search on the Internet reveals at least two dozen other non-traditional Pro-Life groups which, like ours, barely register in the traditional consciousness, but each of which offers unique and compelling persuasions in service to Life, without also thinking they have to discriminate. Common Ground, Atheist and Agnostic Pro-Life League, Feminists for Life, Democrats for Life, just to name a few -- what if we were all to come together? What if we each brought our non-traditional strengths and wisdom to a new and open table, forming a strong, well-focused coalition working on behalf of the unborn in ways the traditionalists can't even imagine? What might we accomplish?
The possibilities are enormous. We could eventually change the face of the entire movement, liberating it from its incestuous inbreeding and opening it up to growth and achievement presently undreamable. The stereotypes against Pro-Lifers will fall into dust as we show ourselves to be the diverse, creative, thoughtful, vital advocates we are, impossible to pigeonhole as Bible-thumpers and dismiss. The Pro-Life future is ours. All we have to do is accept it.
PLAGAL has begun to do just that. We are beginning to lay groundwork for such a coalition. By the time of our tenth anniversary in September 2000, the Pro-Life movement at large will have begun to look a little different. Without lapsing into prophecy, I can confidently say that the movement's monolithic image will be cracking. Different voices on Life's behalf will be reverberating as never before, and the ultra-traditionalists' shrill cacophony will slowly begin to fade.
Many traditional Pro-Lifers will applaud this. They know that to fight for one group while simultaneously lashing out against others is self-contradictory, irreconcilable. But the ultra-traditionalists remain blind to that fact. Its subtlety escapes them, and as a result they, like their worldview, are becoming obsolete. It falls to us to take up the banner, lock arms, and with the more open-minded traditionalists, together march for life. We are the Pro-Life future. And generations yet unborn will thank us, generations who otherwise might have been slaughtered in the womb while the Jurassic-minded currently on top pray for them and then discriminate against the rest of us, rendering themselves increasingly irrelevant and incredible.
PLAGAL VEEPS SPEAK AT COLUMBIA LAW SCHOOL
Chuck Volz (Philadelphia) and B.A. Keener (Central Pa), Vice Presidents of the Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians, spoke at the spring meeting of Columbia Law School's Students for Life on Wednesday, March 3, 1999. PLAGAL speakers take the pro-life message into areas not generally accessible to "mainstream" pro-life speakers, in this case, into the very heart of politically correct and pro-choice Manhattan. They were well received and spoke about issues tailored to the law school audience. Chuck -- a practicing lawyer -- spoke of the thousands he had defended from clinic rescues (including the infamous RICO case brought against pro-lifers), a crisis pregnancy center he managed for 10 years, and his two adopted children (whose birth mother was intercepted on her way for an abortion). B.A. (short for Betty Ann) brought the woman's perspective into the discussion as well as dramatic and traumatic discussions of a rape and an almost-compelled abortion. Topics covered the gay gene, the "right to privacy," and PLAGAL's forcible exclusion from the March for Life.
"We are like the Star Trek of the Pro-life Movement -- we go where no pro-lifer has gone before" says Chuck, who was joined by Betty Ann on her first speaking engagement, and, given the drama she added to the presentation, certainly not her last. "Once again, an audience was dumbfounded that we were excluded from the March for Life," said B.A.
PLAGAL speakers are always well received by college audiences, in this case, in the very heart of "Politically Correct" and "pro-choice" Manhattan. Those wishing to contact PLAGAL for speakers should e-mail the organization at PlagalOne@aol.com.
PLAGAL -- TOWARD THE NEW MILLENNIUM
PLAGAL -- TOWARD THE NEW MILLENNIUM
At PLAGAL's board meeting in January (which occurred before our exclusion from the March for Life), we discussed the issue of PLAGAL's financial status. PLAGAL began as a rather small group of Pro-Life lesbians and gays back in 1990 as a result of letters to the editor of the Washington (DC) Blade that were authored by our founder Tom Sena. The excitement that there were actually others who were gay and Pro-Life caused us to collect a few names, and, not long after, an occasional newsletter began to circulate. At that time we were an experiment. Both Gays and Pro-Lifers looked at us as the weirdest of animals (and of course many still do). We were well aware of the tiny minority we were; but we continued to collect names, ever surprised that there appeared to be more people out there like us.
Not long after that, we began to actively reach out at both Pro-Life and lesbian and gay events. We attended the March for Life and several Gay Prides. We wrote articles (some even got printed). Little by little, our numbers as well as our influence within the lesbian and gay community and the Pro-Life movement continued to grow. As the years have passed, PLAGAL is coming to realize that we are no longer an experiment, but a successful Pro-Life organization with a solid base of supporters.
Changing from the mentality of a small, loose organization of like-minded individuals to a formal organization with a tax exempt status, an infrastructure, and lots of hard-working members to meet the challenges that face us will take some time, but we must meet this first challenge head on.
If science does establish a genetic base for homosexuality that can be tested before birth, the best organization to oppose the selective killing of gay unborn children will be PLAGAL.
For now, PLAGAL continues to serve as an outreach to our fellow lesbians and gays. We are doing our part to build a "universal Pro-Life movement" where one is welcomed for simply being pro-life. No submission to an arbitrary list of other beliefs is required to "join the club."
PLAGAL has begun to take the initial steps towards ensuring our longevity by establishing a financial committee, headed by John Buckley and Bill Crow. Its purpose is to find ways for PLAGAL to acquire the financial resources to meet our current demands and to expand our outreach efforts in new and creative ways. This is exciting news. PLAGAL currently operates on a month-to-month budget. We have a volunteer, part-time staff of one! (Thank you, Joe Beard.) Imagine what we will be able to do when become able to hire a full time staff person with the responsibility of securing more Pro-Life representation at Lesbian and Gay events? PLAGAL must not be an obscure footnote of the late 20th Century. We must resolve through our activism and financial commitment to become an ever-increasing presence at the dawn of a new millennium. We cannot do it without you. Will you join us?
WHAT'S IN A NAME?
My first name is Thomas. My last name is Sena (long "e"). And I was perfectly happy with this until Disney produced a film about a cat called "The three lives of Thomasina." Instantly I became an elementary school celebrity. People meowed at me in the halls. They nicknamed me "Cat". The movie's day passed, but it affected, even molded me: I developed and still retain feline characteristics even now. I'm stubbornly independent. I like to sleep. I purr when I'm happy and hiss when I'm not. Names matter.
No, I don't wear a flea collar. But it's true that beyond merely identifying, names can actually shape identity. I've been thinking about this ever since PLAGAL's board began discussing outreach to other -- oops, I almost wrote "non-traditional" -- Pro-Lifers. Without even thinking about it, we've always called explicitly religious Pro-Lifers "traditional", so it seemed natural to call ourselves non-traditional -- non-trads for short. It seemed clever, it seemed appropriate -- but the more I think about it, it seems a mistake.
Sure, "non-traditional" appears to define us neatly enough, but look how it betrays our internalized second-class status. It cedes primary place to the traditionalists; indeed, when we use it we are defining ourselves on their terms. So we not only agree with them that they are the movement, we're simultaneously giving them the right to define us. Is that what we want?
I didn't think so.
So I don't consider us "non-traditional" anymore. We're too bright and fresh for that. And we can't be neatly categorized anyway. We push boundaries. We pop up everywhere. We're -- what's the word -- universal pro-lifers.
Yes, I like that: universal. I think it fits us. After all, we promote a vast spectrum of Pro-Life philosophies; no single belief system can box us in. We're sexual minorities as well as straight. We are feminists. We're atheists as well as persons of faith. We are liberal, conservative, environmentalist, vegan, wiccan -- the list goes on. We're everywhere. Our presence is genuinely universal.
Yet as diverse as we are, we're bound together into one coherent voice by our common respect and concern for unborn human life. Did you know that the word "universal" comes from the Latin "usum", meaning "one", and "versum", "turned into"? While keeping our unique organizational and philosophical identities, we're turned into one, united on behalf of the unborn child.
Something that's universal has a validity that transcends culture and circumstance, time and place. So do we. We're not hidebound. We transcend all attempts to shackle us to any doctrinal or arbitrary agenda, and "universal" says as much. More than that, it implies something startling: In principle and soon in fact, we hold the primary place in the Pro-Life movement. Rather than dogmatically insisting on blind adherence to some ironclad agenda and excluding any who disagree with it, we're open to anyone who's willing simply to lend their voice to ours. I'm delighted to note that it's actually we who are in the fullest sense catholic (Latin, "universal")! We have the broader base, the wider appeal.
And it's ultimately we who'll open up the whole movement to those who currently would never imagine joining it. Eventually and finally, the movement will wear our face, a face made up of all faiths and none, of multitudinous philosophies and convictions. It will speak not in heavy, leaden monotone, but in a voice like "the rush of many waters", made up of innumerable pitches and timbres, arising from every people and culture. Our future is universal because we are universal now.
Most traditional Pro-Lifers will gladly join us, as I've stressed elsewhere. They too can be universal, without having to hide or downplay their faith in the process. Their faith is their strength. It makes their unique contribution to the movement possible, just as PLAGAL does in affirming our sexual identities, Feminists for Life in celebrating full and equal womanhood, Atheists and Agnostic Pro-Life League in its glorious humanism, etc., etc. Together we treasure both our differences and our solid unity on behalf of the unborn. To me, we are universal Pro-Lifers. Saying so helps me realize, and begin to grasp, our true place in the movement and our awesome promise for its future.
ORGANIZE NOW FOR
1999 PRIDE EVENTS!