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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Portsmouth Council and Same-Sex Marriage


This is the another chapter in the long volume of my hometown and its insistence on practicing the theory that division is most conducive to managing the business of city government. It is a long and storied saga rivaling the best works produced in any town hall in the country. Full of intrigue and scandal, the local narrative draws the fire and fury of residents as they read each new plot development of histrionic escapades.

The latest episode involves an exchange of emails between First Ward City Council Person Kevin Johnson and Portsmouth Mayor David Malone. Mr. Johnson is upset at the response he received from Malone concerning gay marriage. Johnson sought the support of Portsmouth and Mayor Malone for the "Mayors for the Freedom to Marry” organization, formed in support of the 2009 Resolution calling for marriage equality.an outgrowth of a 2009 Resolution by the National Conference of Mayors.

Johnson recently wrote to Malone, asking him to join several other Ohio mayors in signing a resolution in support of same-sex marriage.

Malone responded: “Keeping this response very short and to the point. Being that I am a minister of the Gospel and the BIBLE emphatically forbids such, there is absolutely no way that I will support this. Although this is your preferred lifestyle, I have the utmost respect for you as a person and the things you do for the city, I cannot support what God calls an abomination.” (Portsmouth Daily Times)

Johnson included these statements in his response to Mayor Malone's personal decision to decline support for the resolution supporting same-sex marriage:  "... I had written to Mayor Malone but it seems I received a response from the Right Reverend Malone. And I immediately thought of Christ’s admonition to 'render under Caesar…;' an admonition concerning responsibilities to the 'state' as opposed to those to God.” 
Johnson then made several biblical type references including, “such as killing another, adultery and numerous proscriptions regarding staying away from women during their time of the month.”

Nice conflict for public consumption, don't you agree? As the action rises to eventual climax, the characters bristle and the plot reveals complications of the original conflict.

Let's Review at This Point.

Characters and Background:  

Mayor of Portsmouth David Malone and Portsmouth City Council Person Kevin Johnson air their personal e-mail opinions (via The Daily Times newspaper) concerning whether Portsmouth should support a resolution in favor of same-sex marriage.

Conflict: 

Johnson, an advocate for gay rights, wants the Mayor and council to support the same-sex marriage resolution. Mayor Malone, a Christian minister with beliefs against same-sex union, emphatically denies his support for the resolution

Rising Action and Complication of Conflict: 

Johnson employs emotional language "Right Reverend Malone," and uses the techniques of ad hominem (attack the man and his beliefs) and the fallacy of irrelevance (murder, adultery, and restraint from sex with "menstruating women.") Thus, Malone's core Biblical beliefs, now under direct attack because of his lack of support for one issue -- gay marriage, are questioned by Johnson. Speaking of judgmental...Johnson satirically calls Malone "the Right Reverend" to emphasize his belief that Malone is "holier than thou."

The plot thickens and literally bleeds (at certain times of the month) with this dilemma: as the characters voice their steadfast moral understandings, the entire Portsmouth community wrestles with the idea of issuing a public statement that would (a) according to Malone, be endorsing a biblical "abomination," or (b) according to Johnson, be issuing a denouncement of homosexuality as "a preferred lifestyle" and a cry for the right to legal marital recognition. 

Climax (used here as a strictly literary term):

Johnson continues his heated diatribe: "However, for an elected official to be opposed to this or any other issue based upon their preferred book of religion, be it the Bible, Book of Mormon, Koran, Torah or the Vedas, begs credulity. But I suppose one must be thankful that our Mayor is not an orthodox, theological Shiite or Sunni Muslim.”

Wow! Talk about some sassy accusation. Mr. Johnson implies that the Christian minister and Afro-American Portsmouth Mayor David Malone is akin to a terrorist. Citing the importance of separating Christian belief, Morman belief,  Islam belief, Jewish belief, and Hindu belief from the state (under the First Amendment, U.S. Constitution), Johnson infers a council person's absolute separation from his personal religious beliefs is necessary for making good governmental decisions.

So now the argument has been expanded to the National stage and good old 1st Amendment interpretation. And, to think, all of this because of a couple of private e-mails.

Here is the 1st Amendment

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

To Close

Who knows how this story will finally end? I wonder if City Council could just concentrate on important matters in town such as rx drug abuse, crime, jobs, infrastructure, and creating a new image of working together to improve their stinking public image? Personally, I am not interesting in the group concentrating on efforts to forward volatile issues such as same-sex marriage. The pros and cons of this issue have been debated for decades, and many people have personal reasons to support or not support the issue.

The bottom line to me is this. Council Person Johnson believes his convictions and lives his life advocating gay rights. Mayor Malone believes his convictions and lives his life advocating Christian rights. Just keep this silly marriage shit out of the public eye and out of City Council. Marriage, sexual relations, and all that coupling and uncoupling entails are complicated moral, social, and political concerns. Gentlemen, you have much more important work to do. Or, do you?

By the way, just a short time ago the Daily Times ran a story and photo of the Members of Boy Scout Troop 32 of Lucasville leading Portsmouth City Council in the Pledge of Allegiance at a Council meeting. It is interesting that positive photo ops are used to promote city government. Let's see, the Boy Scouts of America and their beliefs. Here is the Scout Oath:

Oath

"On my honor I will do my best
to do my duty to God and my country
and to obey the Scout Law;
to help other people at all times;
to keep myself physically strong,
mentally awake, and morally straight.
"

Organizations such as public schools, government organizations, churches, synagogues, mosques, civic groups or groups of citizens obtain a charter from the Boy Scouts to sponsor an individual Scouting unit." Churches sponsor about 62% of troops nationally and involve about 55% of all boys in Scouting.


I wonder why Council, including Mr. Johnson, would consent to having a photo taken with a group so closely  associated with religion? It seems to me that the lens has captured an image of a person who must want some connection to God and State. The photo serves a purpose.

Please, God, help these silly creatures to begin renewing this town and to stop their eternal bickering and backbiting. Arguing about same-sex marriage is only going to lead to more conflict. And no, I am not prejudiced against gays. However, I do believe every person is entitled to his/her personal opinions and beliefs as long as they do not actively interfere with the rights of others.

I can imagine a kid reading the local paper and wondering about adults using detrimental public comments to attack others about an issue related to same-sex marriage. What all is going through the mind of that child? Council, you should forbid this kind of idiocy and command some public respect. You must be better than that. Or, are you?
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