Monday, February 26, 2007

Gay and, interestingly enougn, pro-life
Anthony Chiorazzi of (

Steve Cook flinched as a heckler hollered, “You’re a traitor to the gay community.” One of the signs Cook held read, “Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians,” and the other “Killing children never advances gay rights.” Soon others joined the chant of “Traitor! Traitor! Traitor!”

Cook was participating in the second-annual Walk for Life West Coast in San Francisco last winter, the West Coast version of the March for Life held annually in Washington, D.C.

Cook said it was obvious that hecklers were singling him out more than the other marchers. One pro-choice protestor even yelled, “Oh, no! There’s a gay man among them.”

Cook, a bisexual and a member of the Pro-life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians (PLAGAL), is part of a growing movement in the gay and lesbian community to let people know that there is good reason to be pro-life and gay.

“As gays and lesbians, we are unwanted by society,” said Cecilia Brown, president of PLAGAL, “so we can sympathize with the unborn child, who is not wanted.” Brown believes that the terminating of those deemed undesirable is fraught with interesting paradoxes for the gay community: "What if one day the gay gene is found and women begin to abort babies because they don’t want to have a gay child? What will the gay pro-choicers say then?"

PLAGAL History
PLAGAL was established in 1990 in Washington DC and Minneapolis, MN by founders Tom Sena and Joe Beard. Beard, an attorney, worked pro-bono for many pro-life organizations but was frustrated when he was told that he had to be quiet about his homosexuality. Not wishing to hide either his homosexuality or pro-life views, Beard helped form PLAGAL.

“A disproportionate amount of the early pro-life attorneys were gay,” explained Maria Krasinski, a board member of PLAGAL. Krasinski said these attorneys were giving away thousands and thousands of dollars worth of their professional time to the pro-life movement but the pro-life movement was telling them that they couldn’t be honest about who they were.

Krasinski, a health care worker, likened it to telling people of color that they could only participate if they first put on a white face. “It was just unacceptable,” said Krasinski. “I thank God everyday for Tom Sena and Joe Beard.”

Today PLAGAL, a 100% volunteer organization with over 900 members nationwide, has chapters in Boston, Washington DC, Minneapolis and one developing in San Francisco.

Since its founding, members of PLAGAL have marched in pro-life rallies, set up tables at Gay Pride events, sponsored forums, published newsletters and op-ed pieces in both the straight and gay press.

"As gays and lesbians, we are unwanted by society, so we can sympathize with the unborn child, who is not wanted."
Though PLAGAL would like to see Roe v. Wade—the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in 1973— overturned, it is not the organization’s focus. Instead PLAGAL supports parental consent, women’s right to know laws, and supports laws that place guidelines and restrictions on how abortion clinics should be run.

A Painful Experience
Brown’s own journey to becoming a pro-life activist comes from a personal experience with abortion. In the course of getting an abortion herself, Brown said she made the mistake of looking over and seeing the jar that contained her aborted fetus. “I flipped out,” she recalled. “They told me it was just a blob of tissue, but I was able to see the jar next to me, and I could see an eyeball staring at me and also fingers and a little arm. That wasn’t a blob of tissue. That was a lie.”

Brown, a waitress in Ocala, Florida, also was told that it wouldn’t hurt and that there would only be slight cramping. “But that definitely wasn’t true,” she said. “It really hurt. It felt like my insides were being pulled out. They used a vacuum cleaner to suck everything out.”

Brown was hospitalized for a week after her abortion. “I was also very depressed," she said. "Which lead to drinking, taking drugs and doing other unhealthy things to try and deal with the pain.” In the end, Brown, who raises a one-year-old grandson whom she helped save from an abortion, said her abortion experience only made her life worse and she eventually dropped out of school.

Unlikely Allies?
According to Ann Scheidler, executive director of the Pro-Life Action League based in Chicago, while the pro-life community is largely opposed to homosexual practice there is still much to admire about PLAGAL.

Scheilder believes it’s self-serving for a heterosexual man or woman to be pro-choice because it solves a problem for them if they don’t want to be bothered with an unwanted child. “But for someone who is gay—and not likely to be facing that choice—it’s a selfless and noble thing to be concerned about the unborn.”

As a Christian, Scheidler said, one needs to be kind, loving and accepting of all people. “There is never an excuse to be intolerant… Ultimately, the concern for life crosses all barriers, including political, religious and even sexual preferences."

“I think it was harder to come out as pro-life than gay,” a man at a gay Pride event in Baltimore once told Jackie Malone, executive vice president of Pro-life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians (PLAGAL). “Gay pro-lifers have been afraid to come out and say they’re pro-life because their chances of being ostracized by their community are very high,” said Malone.

Over the last ten years, PLAGAL—with a growing membership and volunteer base—has made inroads. “We don’t believe you have to be pro-choice to be a part of the gay community,” said Cecilia Brown, president of PLAGAL. Brown believes the gay community is becoming more diverse and gay pro-lifers are increasingly more visible.

A Green party member, Brown, who describes herself as far left on most issues, claims that it doesn’t bother her to be in the same pro-life camp as many on the right. “I can ignore their conservative flaws to work on the issue of life,” she joked.

In fact, Brown, argues that many on the right are not pro-life enough. By way of example, she cites President Bush’s advocacy for the death penalty, war and for cutting many social programs that help women choose life for their children. “Tell me what’s pro-life about that?” Brown commented.

Religious Wrong
“Sexual orientation is not ideology,” said Steve Cook, a board member of PLAGAL, and a proud Republican. “Just because a person is gay or bisexual doesn’t guarantee what their ideology is going to be. I have convictions that are conservative and liberal.”

Cook joined the pro-life movement during the Vietnam era when he was registered as a conscientious objector. Because he was taking a stand against soldiers killing children in Vietnam, Cook believed he should also take a stance against Americans killing their own children in the United States.

PLAGAL’s iconoclastic nature extends to the religious realm as well. “You don’t have to be a part of the religious right to be a part of the pro-life movement. We shattered that myth,” said Cook.

Though PLAGAL has no official religious stance, Brown, a Buddhist, said she gets along very well with the Christian right except for the fact they always want to convert her. “I tell them can’t we just stick to the issue at hand [the pro-life cause]?” Brown said. “I understand Christianity. I was a Christian. It’s just not my path.”

Feminist and Pro-Life
Malone, a homemaker in Pennsylvania, sees no inherent conflict in being feminist and pro-life because feminism is about advancing the rights of all women and that includes unborn women too. In fact, one-third of PLAGAL’s members are women, which is an interesting statistic when you consider that lesbians make up less than one-fourth of the gay population.

To be pro-women, Malone said, is to examine the reasons why women have abortions and then to address those problems, including giving hurting women more emotional and psychological support. “Abortion doesn’t solve those problems,” Malone said.

For Malone, pro-choice arguments that say a women has a right to do what she wants with her own body aren’t persuasive. “Because that other 'thing' inside them has a completely different genetic code,” she said. “It has a heartbeat at 10 days and detectable brain waves at 40 days. With all that, it’s hard to say it’s your body.”

“You don’t have to
be a part of the religious right to be a part of the pro-life movement. We shattered that myth.”
Strange Bedfellows
Maria Krasinski, a PLAGAL board member and health care worker, notes that the earliest feminist foremothers were Quaker women who were very much against abortion. “These women fought to make abortion illegal because they felt it was degrading to treat one’s unborn child like a piece of property,” said Krasinski. “They were also abolitionists. As far as they were concerned, the issue of abortion was one and the same with slavery.”

For the last two years, Krasinski has successfully brought her pro-life message, as a PLAGAL representative, to Boston Pride. But it hasn’t always been an easy road for PLAGAL in Boston. “Ten years ago, the PLAGAL [representatives] at Boston Pride found themselves surrounded by lesbians chanting for their blood,” Krasinski said. “They were going to be assaulted.” The police finally had to be called in to restore order.

Under Krasinski’s leadership, PLAGAL finally returned to Boston Pride in 2005. This past year, she says, they did brisk business handing out literature and signing up a lot of people.

Krasinski insists that the future looks bright for pro-lifers in the gay community. “It is no longer heresy for a gay person to be pro-life because the gays coming up now—thanks to PLAGAL—are prouder and more confident about being pro-life and gay than those that preceded them.”

Moreover, at the annual March for Life rally, Krasinski said, conservative pro-lifers are increasingly approaching them and saying that though they don’t agree with them on everything, they are happy PLAGAL is there.

Still Not Easy
Being pro-life and gay still isn’t without its horror stories. In 2002, at the annual March for Life Rally in Washington, D.C., two PLAGAL members were arrested for demonstrating without a permit.

According to Brown, their PLAGAL banner was destroyed when a member was dragged in it by police for refusing to hand it over. Brown and the other PLAGAL member were ultimately handcuffed and taken away. The March organizer, Nellie Gray “was the permit holder for the event and didn’t want PLAGAL marching in the event as open gays and lesbians,” said Brown.

In an open letter on March 19, 2002 to Gray, Brown wrote: “I want to convey to you my displeasure with your actions on January 22, 2002, in which you ordered the use of police force to deny open participation of a group of peaceful pro-life individuals who happen to be gay… How can PLAGAL convince pro-life individuals within the GLBT [Gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender] community to become active within the pro-life cause when they hear about the actions that ‘traditional’ pro-lifers inflict on ‘non-traditional’ pro-lifers?”

Since 2002, PLAGAL has been permitted to march with their banners and posters in every March for Life rally. In response to our request for comment about PLAGAL, The National Right to Life Committee issued the following statement: “[We encourage] all persons who promote a respect for life through peaceful and legal means to be pro-life and to be part of the pro-life movement.”

Jackie Malone feels that PLAGAL’s ability to straddle these seemingly incompatible worlds is a tremendous asset. “As a gay pro-lifer, I can reach people that a conservative pro-lifer will never be able to touch,” she said. “At the same time, there will be people that they will be able to reach that I can’t. We’re all needed. We’re all necessary.”

[Editor: I'm pro-choice myself. However, these guys seem to be the more sensible pro-lifers, and I'd respect their beliefs. If they ending up changing some of the views of conservative pro-lifers, I would be the last person to complain.

However, this particular statement, made by the exec director of Pro-Life Action League, is questionable: "But for someone who is gay—and not likely to be facing that choice—it’s a selfless and noble thing to be concerned about the unborn.”

It could be argued that because they won't face pregnancy unless they are very deliberate about it, LGBT people should not be the first voices we listen to on the subject. The Roman Catholic magisterium is fond of making pronouncements about birth control, but they can't get pregnant, and they can't get married, either. They have not the faintest idea what pregnancy entails.]

1 comment:

merjoem32 said...

Interesting post. Since I was raised in a predominantly Catholic country, I am inclined to support any advocacy campaign that is against abortion. However, I understand that there are circumstances where abortion is the mother's only chance of surviving a failed pregnancy.