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Letters to the editor: Smithers; Not the villains
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times

This article shared 2353 times since Tue Jun 25, 2013
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Don't be a Smithers

Has anyone else noticed the striking resemblance between Cardinal George and Mr. Burns? The physical resemblance is uncanny: the nose, the posture and even that voice. Physical resemblance aside, the abuse of his position of power is also akin to that of Mr. Burns. For those who are not familiar with The Simpsons, the longest-running sitcom and animated TV show of all time, Mr. Burns owns and operates the municipal power plant that employs the majority of Springfield's residents thereby controlling the social and cultural tenor of the the town (diocese).

Over the years, only a few residents of Springfield have challenged his power, most notably the two strong minded, intelligent, free-thinking characters of the show: Marge and Lisa Simpson.

Recently, Ms. Brenna Cronin did what Lisa Simpson would have done when she thoughtfully and lovingly gave Mr. Joe Murray the gift of communion that Cardinal George denied him. Mr. Murray had non-verbally expressed his discontent with the church's position on marriage equality by turning his back on the Cardinal during mass. Interestingly, it's often women who listen to their hearts as well as their heads and follow through to "do the right thing."

I'm reminded of my aunt, Sister Kathleen Neely, whom I recently visited in South Amerca. Sister Kathleen has spent more than 40 years serving the impoverished people in the mountains of northern Peru. At 67, she is tirelessly working to aid the physically and mentally challenged of this area of the world in the name and spirit of Jesus Christ.

While I was there I learned that the ultraconservative Opus Dei sect of the Catholic Church has gained political strength within some areas of South America. In certain areas of Brazil priests are denying parishioners the host—as Cardinal George has done—if they have not confessed their sins immediately beforehand. Without doing so parishioners are not pure enough to receive the body of Christ. Excuse me for saying so, but using the host to reward preferred behavior demeans the sacrament as if the host were a dog biscuit. "Good dog, good dog ... now here's your treat." And, conversely, bad dogs don't get a treat. As a lifelong Catholic, I have always considered the ritual of Communion to be a much deeper representation of God's love and compassion.

The church, like most powerful organizations will tighten their rules when those rules are being challenged, especially when they think there will be no backlash or fall-out.

For most Catholics, the church represents an extension of one's family. As a modern Chicago Catholic, I believe one has the personal responsibility to stand one's ground at family gatherings. Don't allow your siblings or parents to bully you. As an adult you can honor and respect your parents without being their "mini-me." Use your free will. It's a gift from God. You are loved as an equal by God. Don't be a Smithers; be a Marge or a Lisa. Be a whole and honest person in the eyes of God.

Tom Mattingly


Not the villains

Kate Sosin's otherwise thoughtful analysis ("In the details: The marriage bill's past and future" in the June 19 issue of Windy City Times) of the failure of Senate Bill 10—extending the freedom to marry to gay and lesbian couples—to get a vote in the Illinois House during the spring legislative session incorrectly identifies Rep. Rita Mayfield and members of the Black Caucus as villains in the bill's lack of movement. This assertion is like the inaccurate assessment of the failure of Proposition 8 ballot initiative in California, where African-American voters were faulted. Let's be clear—the Black Caucus members are not responsible for the failure of the House to pass the marriage bill.

It is true that some Black Caucus members supported the bill; others opposed the measure; and, still others remain publicly undeclared in terms of their support. That makes the Black Caucus members just like members of all the other Caucuses in the Illinois House. The House GOP Caucus, to choose just one such group, had only two (2) supportive members, a number publicly opposed and others who are undecided. (This stands in stark contrast to other states such as New York, where significant number of GOP members voted for a marriage bill.)

The attack on Mayfield is particularly egregious. Citing unnamed sources, the article claims that she was actively working to pull votes off the bill, and that she is anti-gay; there simply is no evidence that this is true, as others in the story attest. Mayfield and the Black Caucus are not monolithic in their views on marriage equality, as pointed out above. We can win more support among them but only by respecting their diversity of views. Blaming them for the stalled effort or personally maligning their character might have the opposite effect. But the damage is done—enemies of freedom and equality can point to these unsourced claims as evidence of division between African-American leaders and those in the LGBT community.

To be clear, no such division exists. In this session alone, African-American legislators sponsored legislation or provided crucial votes and public leadership on many issues critical to the LBGT community—including the expansion of Medicaid coverage, comprehensive sexual health education, the restoration of funds to fight and treat HIV, and the repeal of the antiquated HIV-positive student notification law.

All of us are disappointed that the marriage bill did not pass the House. We hoped, like thousands across the state, to mark part of this year celebrating the marriages of our friends, our family members, our colleagues and, for some of us, ourselves. Our opponents hope that we spend the next several months blaming particular groups and individuals for the bill's failure—groups including the Black Caucus.

Rather than engage in this fallacious debate, we recognize, as the bard tells us, that the fault is in ourselves. So let's get to work, drawing together with supporters from all across the state, to secure passage of the marriage bill. When it passes—and it will—it will enjoy significant support from members from all ethnic backgrounds. That, we can be sure, is the future of the of the marriage bill. Let us also remember that long after the fight for marriage equality is won and over, we will still need the support of these members to advance other LGBT-friendly legislation in the future.


Adrienne Alexander, Policy & Legislative Specialist, AFSCME Council 31

Khadine Bennett, Staff Attorney & Legislative Counsel, ACLU of Illinois

Mary Dixon, Legislative Director, ACLU of Illinois

Ramon Gardehire, Director of Government Relations, AIDS Foundation of Chicago

Roderick K. Hawkins, Vice President of External Affairs, Chicago Urban League

This article shared 2353 times since Tue Jun 25, 2013
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