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Friday, May 21, 2010

When Things Get Awkward for Dr. T Allen Bethel

Posted by Sarah Mirk on Fri, May 21, 2010 at 10:39 AM

Dr. T Allen Bethel (left) on the hotseat last night
  • Dr. T Allen Bethel (left) on the hotseat last night
Dr. T Allen Bethel is an influential human rights activist and president of the board for Albina Ministerial Alliance, the group of spiritual leaders who speak out on issues of police accountability. But one pointed question at the police reform panel last night highlighted the awkward tension in this local leaders work: despite being a human rights advocate, he is against gay rights. Back in 2004, Dr. T Allen Bethel signed onto an argument in favor of Measure 36, the successful measure that amended the state constitution to define marriage as between only a man and a woman.

In response to a young mohawked-kid's question last night asking Bethel whether his views on homosexuality had changed and how he squares those beliefs with his human rights work, Dr. Bethel spelled out his values once and for all:

Here's my statement and I hope you hear this good. I will defend to my death the human rights of any individual. No human being has the right to hit or kill. But when it comes down to the activity of homosexuality, I don't defend that lifestyle... Nobody has a right, if you choose to have that as your choice of sexual preference, to spit upon you, vomit on you, I will defend your human rights.

So in his mind, human rights does not include sexual rights, the right to pursue happiness or the right for LGBT Americans to live equally with the the same rights as heteros.

This is a perspective I heard reiterated again and again while tagging along with canvassers for gay marriage last summer: people have gay friends and want to support gay people, but... granting them equal rights is a separate and more difficult matter.

I have a call in to Jeana Frazzini, the director of Basic Rights Oregon who has been involved in the police reform process how it feels to work with Dr. Bethel.

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