On June 1, 2012, one Los Angeles Times headline reads, “Southern Baptist pastor Fred Luter is set to become the first black president of a denomination with a segregationist history.” Just two inches away a second headline reads: “Key part of marriage act ruled invalid.” Juxtaposing these two headlines illustrates my position that these are the “best and worst of times” for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans.
In New Orleans the (almost) new president of the 15-million-member Southern Baptist Church told a reporter, “It’s a new day for our church. Our doors are open to each and everybody.” In the same interview Rev. Luter reaffirmed his support for the Southern Baptist Church’s opposition to abortion and gay marriage with these words: “My mindset and my lifestyle is driven by what the Word of God says. If God says it’s wrong, then it’s wrong.” Millions of conservative Americans cheered.
In Boston, almost simultaneously, in a 3-0 decision, the First U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down provisions of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that deny federal benefits to same-sex couples. However, the judges made it clear that “only the Supreme Court can finally decide this unique case.” Millions of progressive Americans cheered.
Two teams on the field, each fighting to score another point, to make a few more yards, to move their cause closer to the goal. For conservative Americans under the influence of the Christian-right mentality, the goal is clear: Reverse the advances gays have made, amend the U.S. Constitution to stop gay marriage, and drive LGBT people back into their closets. The goal for progressive Americans is to win full equality for their LGBT neighbors and in the process end the war that holy terrorists on the Christian right are waging against us.
Luter says “all are welcome” and then promises proudly to defend his denomination’s position on homosexuality passed in 1996 by the Southern Baptist Convention, stating, “Even desire to engage in a homosexual relationship is always sinful, impure, degrading, shameful, unnatural, indecent and perverted.” Worse, Lute proves that he is a biblical literalist who is certain that “if God says it’s wrong, then it’s wrong.”
The Boston court strikes down the provisions of DOMA that deny Gary his rights as my husband and heir and then warns us that the Supreme Court will make the final decision. It seems a warning, because past decisions by Chief Justice Roberts, and past verdicts of the Roberts Court, don’t give us a lot of hope that they will support marriage equality and end centuries of injustice and inequality.
So, this morning, on the front page of the Los Angeles Times, both teams score. Those of us sitting on our side of the stadium stand and cheer, while our adversaries sitting across from us in the very same stadium stand and cheer, as well. Looks like the score is tied, that either side could win or lose.
In the meantime, anti-gay bullies on playgrounds and in pulpits continue to wound the bodies and the spirits of our young sisters and brothers. Gay bashers continue to believe that those six biblical verses give them license to kill us, and our innocent young people believe that those same verses give them license to kill themselves.
There is plenty of evidence to prove that even when it seems like we’re tied on the scoreboard, we are in fact losing. Even when we win a ballot initiative or a court decision, the toxic rhetoric continues to poison the national discourse, with tragic consequences for us all. I cheer the court’s decision, but at the same time I worry that if we get too confident, if we really believe things are going our way, if we relax, thinking the war is over, we increase the probability that we will lose the game.
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