On Sunday June 26, 2011, Rev.Tony Ponticello addressed the congregation at the Community Miracles Center in San Francisco, CA. Outside the CMC in the streets of San Francisco an estimated 1.2 million gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgenders were celebrating the annual Gay Pride Day festivities. What follows is a lightly edited transcription of that lecture.
Thank you all for being here on Gay Pride Day. Late Friday night, June 24, 2011, same sex marriage got signed into law in New York State. (cheers and applause) by Governor Andrew Cuomo. He had been a very strong champion for the legislation getting through the New York State Congress – with a little help from President Obama as well. The bill passed the New York State Senate by a majority of 33 to 29. It won by four votes. An interesting thing about this is the New York State Senate is controlled by Republicans. There is a Republican majority in the New York State Senate. That means that several of the Republicans actually voted for legalizing same sex marriage in New York State. That was unusual.
I was on my computer Friday night. I was checking my news page and there was the news story that same sex marriage had been signed into law. I thought I’d watch the politics show I like, The Rachel Maddow Show, to see what she had said about it. Her show aired at 6 p.m. Pacific Time, 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time, and at that time the bill hadn’t passed the New York State Senate yet. She was talking about how everyone was waiting to see what the New York legislature was going to do. The bill passed the Senate at 10:30 p.m. and was dramatically signed into law by Governor Cuomo about an hour and a half later at 11:55 p.m. five minutes before midnight. I didn’t know our elected officials worked that late into the night.
One of the Republicans who voted for it, who had initially been against the issue, was New York Senator Stephen Saland. He said this about his vote, “I must define doing the right thing as treating all persons with equality in the definition of law as it pertains to marriage.” The bill passed. It was signed, and it is now New York State law. An interesting thing about it passing in New York State is that since New York State is such a large state in population the number of people in the U.S.A. living in a state with legal, same sex marriage has more than doubled. The population of the other five states that have legalized same sex marriage do not total together the population of the state of New York. This passing into law has more significance than it being just another state. It has more than doubled the number of people who can live under a marriage equality law.
Also, in the New York State law you do not have to be a New York State resident to get a marriage license. Anybody from any part of the country can go to New York State – any gay couple, any same sex couple, can go to New York, get a marriage license and get married. This is, of course, expected to be a huge tourism boom. Niagara Falls is already gearing up. (laughter) The honeymoon capital of the country is getting ready for gay weddings. I’m sure New York City, Manhattan, will be a big destination point for many. Niagara Falls – I’m from that part of the country. Lots of people have always gone to Niagara Falls to get married and honeymoon. They still do. This was very synchronistic, of course there are no accidents. It’s very synchronistic that this legislation was signed into law on Friday night because this weekend is Gay Pride weekend. Gay people really have something to celebrate and be proud of this weekend.
Gay Pride weekend celebrates the Stonewall Riots. Stonewall was a private gay club in New York City and it was raided by the police in June of 1969. Technically, they were raided because they were serving alcohol without a license, but everybody knew that they were being raided because Gay people went there. The raid and riot was between 12 midnight and 2 a.m. Four policemen were injured. Thirteen arrests were made. This obviously wasn’t huge as far as riots go, but it was a big, significant event.
The Stonewall Club was frequented by transvestites and gay prostitutes so it was the radical fringe of the gay population. Then the “riots” spread to other less fringe gay establishments, gay bars. The disturbances went on for several days. The Stonewall Riots are considered the start of the modern gay rights movement in the United States. The very next year, in 1970, New York City in commemoration of Stonewall, launched its first Gay Pride parade. Two years later in 1972, San Francisco had its first Gay Pride parade. San Francisco’s parade soon became the larger parade. This is still true. San Francisco has the largest gathering for a Gay Pride parade and gays are reveling in the streets right at this moment because of the huge gay rights victory that has happened in New York State.
This has been a good year for gay rights. In December of 2010 the United States Senate voted to end discrimination of Gays in the military with the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” That was repealed in the U.S. Senate by a vote of 65 to 31, a much wider margin. In that vote eight Republicans jumped their party’s platform and voted for the end of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Gays can now serve openly in the military. One of the things that turned the tide for that issue was the speech Admiral Mike Mullen made in February of 2010. Admiral Mullen is the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He is our highest ranking military officer. He’s directly underneath President Obama. In February the Admiral told the Senate that he firmly believed gays could serve openly without effecting military effectiveness in any way. Right after the repeal of the law Admiral Mike Mullen said this. “It is the right thing to do. No longer will able men and women who want to serve and sacrifice for their country have to sacrifice their integrity to do so. We will be a better military as a result.”
When Admiral Mullen spoke in February to a packed Senate chamber he said that he believed the law was unjust and that it should be repealed setting the stage for the eventual repeal that happened ten months later. Admiral Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, highest ranking military officer in the United States, directly under the President, became the first senior active-duty officer to publicly come out in favor of the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and allowing gays to openly serve in the military.
Where does California sit with all of this? New York State is now the sixth state that has legalized gay marriage. In California – well gay marriage has been legal here, then illegal, then legal again, and now not legal. In June of 2008 the entire state legalized gay marriage. Five months later in November of 2008 California had an election. Proposition 8 was passed and that banned gay marriage. In August of 2010 the contesting of Prop. 8 worked itself through the courts and the judge overturned Prop. 8 saying that it was unconstitutional. However, we couldn’t have gay marriage again here immediately because of appeals for that ruling. Those appeals are still going on. Some people think that this may go all the way up to the United States Supreme Court. If it does go up the the U.S. Supreme Court and the Supreme Court rules that banning gay marriage is unconstitutional that would mean all across the United States suddenly gay marriage would be legal. It might be a very good thing for gay rights if this goes all the way to the Supreme Court because it would make it possible for gay marriage to be legal all over the United States. The States that have currently legalized gay marriage are; Massachusetts, Iowa, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Washington D.C., and New York.
I looked up what countries in the world have legalized gay marriage: South Africa, Iceland, Portugal, Spain, Belgium, The Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and Canada. Nine countries all within the last decade have legalized gay marriage. One can’t deny that the tide is definitely going in the direction of full rights for gay people. Some states legalize it, but it gets overturned as it happened here in California. However the tide is going in the direction of world wide acceptance of gay marriage and gay equality.
Why is this important to us as students of A Course In Miracles? Why do I think it’s important? Why do I post these news items whenever they happen to our ACIM On-Line Discussion Group as something that, for me, symbolizes the healing of the world? There’s a couple of reasons. One is the obvious reason, society is now learning to see everyone as equal to one another. Society is learning and accepting that we are all brothers and sisters, all one. Gay people are our sisters and brothers. They can serve side by side in the military. They are getting the same rights to get married as other people. Gay people are the same. They are not different. They are not excluded from certain rights, certain privileges. Seeing heterosexuals and homosexual as the same means that the two groups can relate more. The groups can have more open interaction with each other. Therefore, these legal milestones are just the start of healing. Once we get in relationship other things come up that (laughter) that we have to look at, heal – that we have to use forgiveness on. These legal rulings are the beginning of a healing. It’s a good beginning. Homosexuals and heterosexuals begin to realize that they are actually the same.
A Course In Miracles tells us, “When you meet anyone, remember it is a holy encounter. As you see him, you will see yourself. As you treat him, you will treat yourself. As you think of him, you will think of yourself.” (OrEd.Tx.8.19) I believe this is what is being demonstrated by homosexual marriage becoming legal. We’re beginning to think of one another as just like ourselves. Heterosexuals are beginning to think of homosexuals as just like themselves. Hopefully homosexuals will begin to think of heterosexuals as just like themselves. (laughter) That might be a bigger stretch – I don’t know. (laughter)
In another place A Course In Miracles says, “Having made this choice, you will begin to learn and understand why you have believed that when you met someone else, you had thought that he was someone else. And every holy encounter in which you enter fully will teach you this is not so.” (OrEd.Tx.8.22) The Course is telling us that when we meet someone else, what appears to be someone else, they actually are not someone else. They are ourselves, another aspect of ourselves. It’s true for homosexuals; it’s true for heterosexuals. They are us. They are just aspects of ourselves.
That’s the first reason why I always think this news is important. That’s the obvious reason. It’s important to see homosexuals and heterosexuals as equals. There’s another reason though.
I want to talk about homosexuality for a minute. “Homosexuality” means getting sexual gratification form one’s same sex or gender. We all know that. It comes from “homo” meaning “the same” and “sexual” meaning “sexual.” Homosexuals have sexual gratification with the same sex. There’s a lot of different estimates as what percentage of the population is homosexual. It seems that it is estimated anywhere from 2% to 13%. If we split the difference it’s 7.5% (laughter) or about one in thirteen are homosexuals, people who seek sexual gratification with the same gender. There has always been this attitude in society, especially by heterosexuals firmly entrenched in heterosexuality, that there is a “heterosexual imperative,” that heterosexual is just obviously “right.” It has to be right because heterosexual sex produces offspring. That is how we breed. That is how our species is perpetuated. That is what male and female genitalia were designed for. There has to be a heterosexual imperative, according to many in society, because just look at the body. Look at the function of the human body. Look at our species. Look at other species. It’s got to be the right way. This is what produces offspring.
However, what we read in A Course In Miracles is that nature is not the highest order of things. It’s actually an illusory order of things. Nature isn’t necessarily “right.” It isn’t necessarily “correct.” Even if you look at nature you will see that most animals have some sort of homosexual activity within their populations. If homosexuality wasn’t “natural” why would animals be doing it? Aren’t they nature. There’s something amiss in the idea that there’s something “more right” about heterosexuality than homosexuality because heterosexuality is how people breed.
Another thing I was thinking about is this. If you think about sex itself – how many human beings engage in sex in order to breed? I mean, what percentage of sex acts do you think were actually initiated so that a woman could get pregnant? It’s got to be incredibly small. (laughter) I was trying to intuit an answer to this. (laughter) One in one hundred thousand? (laughter) Maybe one in a million times – that a male and female couple is having sex for the predetermined goal to produce a child? It’s got to be incredibly small. There must be some other “natural” reason to have sex.
Another thing to think about – if the heterosexual imperative was really true why would females be interested in sex after menopause? Why? They can’t get pregnant. Why is that built into the species? Why is there a desire in women to have sex after menopause if sex is just about procreation? One might make an argument that men can impregnate almost their whole lives so, okay, men are supposed to have sexual desire until they pass but why women? It doesn’t make any sense.
I heard this term, “heterosexual imperative” some time ago and I wanted to make sure I was using it correctly so I looked up the word “imperative.” “Can not be avoided or evaded: urgent, obligatory, binding, compulsory.” The people who believe in heterosexuality as the “right way” believe that it is imperative. You can’t avoid seeing that. You can’t evade the idea that this has got to be the right thing. It’s got to be an imperative. Heterosexuality has to be an imperative. Look at the male and female genitals, not just for human beings but for all animal species. That’s how a species is propagated. It’s nature. “This is regarded as ‘the way of nature,’ not to be raised to question but to be accepted as the ‘natural’ law of life. The cyclical, the changing and unsure, the undependable and the unsteady, waxing and waning in a certain way upon a certain path – all this is taken as the Will of God. And no one asks if a benign Creator could will this.” (OrEd.Mn.27.1) If we think nature is God, or nature is divinity, then A Course In Miracles is telling us to take a new enlightened look at it. Being young, having maturity, breeding children, growing old, withering, loosing our faculties, and eventually dying – is this how God would extend His eternal Self in loving beneficence? It doesn’t make any sense. As the reading said, if we accept nature as divine manifestation then we can’t think of God as loving. God can’t be loving if he created his creations to have a small window of “breedable-ness” (laughter) and then to wither, loose his or her faculties and pass. What kind of a God could that be? We have to question that whole nature as God idea – all those nature religions. New-Age people like to venerate and embrace nature religions. They’re so wonderful. Nature religions celebrate death. They are “deathists.” It can’t be the truth.
I’ve spoken about this theme many times before, and I wrote a couple of chapters in my book, After Enlightenment about this. One chapter is called, “Nature Isn’t Natural,” and another one is called, “Unnatural Disasters.” We have to question nature.
I believe that accepting homosexuals as equal is society questioning nature. It’s society saying that the heterosexual imperative of nature isn’t who and what we really are. We must be something else. Society is saying that it is now beginning to understand that we are not bodies. Society is beginning to accept that we are not bodies by saying homosexuals are the same as heterosexuals, even though homosexuals are not participating in the obvious breeding activity.There must be more to human beings than breeding machines – more to human beings than being a body. Nature isn’t the end all, be all. There must be something more than nature. I think nature is being questioned and challenged by what’s going on in society right now. Our basic biological function isn’t the most important thing about us. We are not bodies. What could be more a demonstration of A Course In Miracles in the world than this? “I am not a body. I am free. For I am still as God created me.” (OrEd.WkBk.Rv6.4)
There’s a related controversy even in the A Course In Miracles community because in the Urtext is a statement that the only valid use of sex is procreation. This has caused a lot of controversy. This does seem to imply that heterosexual sex is the only valid sex and thus reinforces the traditional heterosexual imperative. I guess we would have to define “valid.” However, let’s get clear. This would mean only sex that was with the purpose of impregnating a female would be valid sex. How often would sex actually be happening in a valid world – a couple of times in your life maybe if you were a heterosexual. Other than that, I guess nobody would be having sex. If one takes the statement from the Urtext and thinks about it, it is obvious that it is a very heterosexist statement. It would mean that only heterosexuals could have sex that has any value and why do something that had no value? Homosexuals are not having valuable sex. Let’s not forget that it is also a very misogynistic statement. Women are only fertile a couple of days during their menstrual cycle which would mean that women should only have sex for three or four days during the month. But men, yeah! We can breed anytime! (laughter) So men can have sex whenever they want, but women for only three or four days a month. Sex only being valid for procreation is a very misogynistic idea. It’s also misogynisticly ageist, because after a woman goes through menopause she couldn’t have valid sex at all, but us men can keep having sex because there’s no limit to the number of years in which we can breed.
The life expectancy currently, in the United States, for women is 81 years – 76 for men, but 81 for women. Most women reach menopause in their late 40s or early 50s. This means that they have about 30 years when they are not supposed to be sexual – it isn’t “valid” during this later part of theirlives. This doesn’t make any sense. This idea about “valid” sex is an ageist statement. It’s a misogynistic idea.
Wait a minute here. Why would there be any statement in A Course In Miracles about the procreation of bodies anyway? Why would procreation of bodies be important? We’re being taught that we aren’t bodies. Isn’t this a worldly thing? Aren’t we being taught not to put value in worldly things? “Valid” and “value” come from the same root. Why would it be of value to suck more souls into the physical realm? (laughter) I don’t get it. If the physical realm is supposed to be what we are trying to get out of, why would it be of value to draw more souls into it?
Nature is not natural. Nature is not our highest state. Breeding is not our purpose in life. We’re much more than breeding machines. We’re much more than nature which means we’re much more than our bodies. We are not our bodies. I think that there is something at the foundation level about legalizing gay marriage, letting gays serve in the military, and other gay rights issues, that is showing that people all over the world are realizing that we are not bodies – and that is huge! We are not defined by our genitalia, our body plumbing – we all are something else and society is intuitively knowing it. I believe the heterosexual imperative is dissolving. There is a healing force that is moving the world in the direction of believing that the body is not what we are.
It’s not just about humans, it’s all manifestations of life if we take the time to think and have an open mind. Why do almost all animals have random homosexual experiences if nature was just about breeding and the survival of the species? Life, however it is manifesting, has more purpose than physical survival. Life has more meaning than the biological function. This cultural evolution is a reflection our understanding a greater purpose of life and so it must extend to all life. These legal, gay rights achievements are much more significant than anybody realizes. This is a manifestation of the spiritual evolution of society moving away from body identification. Evolution away from body identification is an evolution away from nature identification and that is an evolution away from physical reality identification. It’s really, really huge.
Now do you understand why a lot of people fight this so furiously? It’s the beginning of the end of the physical world and they’re scared. If you take away the idea that we’re bodies, if you take away the idea that nature is the true highest state, then all you have left is a spiritual reality not a physical one. The physical world becomes irrelevant. We serious A Course In Miracles students know that this is what we are working towards. The ego has a tremendous resistance to this. No wonder fundamentalists, and even people who aren’t so religiously inclined, have such a resistance to the gay rights movement. They don’t want this to happen because it means the end of the heterosexual imperative. It’s the end of our identification with bodies. It’s the end of nature. It’s the end of the world.
Our bodily reality is not imperative. That means it can be avoided. It can be evaded. Our bodily reality is not urgent. It’s not obligatory. It’s not binding. It’s not compulsory. It’s not imperative in any way, shape, or form. Realizing that society, culture, human beings are firmly accepting this, accepting that we are something other than physical bodies – that’s truly something to be celebrating and reveling in the streets about.
That’s my talk for today. Thank you. (applause) ♥
c/o Community Miracles Center
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This article appeared in the July 2011 (Vol. 25 No. 5) issue of Miracles Monthly. Miracles Monthly is published by Community Miracles Center in San Francisco, CA. CMC is supported solely by people just like you who: become CMC Supporting Members, Give Donations and Purchase Books and Products through us.