If you don’t know what’s been happening in my home state of Indiana for the last few days, you live under a rock. I admit that I hadn’t paid much attention to the Religious Freedom laws being passed around the country until my Facebook news feed exploded when Governor Mike Pence signed Indiana’s version of RFRA into law.
My first reaction to the law was (and yes, I did read it), someone is going to jump through that rather large loophole and use the law to discriminate. It didn’t take long. A pizza shop had to close under the weight of their freedom after declaring they would not cater a gay wedding because of their beliefs. RFRA may protect a business like that from the law, but not from the opinions and actions of millions of people.
Apple, Wal-Mart, GenCon, Angie’s List, the NCAA and many others voiced their disappointment in the law, and even began steps to withdraw their significant contributions to Indiana’s economy. Even NASCAR chimed in – and their fanbase is considered highly conservative.
Twitter and Facebook exploded.
The backlash surprised Governor Pence and the uber-conservatives but it shouldn’t have. Social media outlets were overloaded with support for the group of people the law seemed to target – the #GLBT community. Fifty years ago, the target group of the loophole would have been African Americans or any other group that could be beaten down with Bible verses.
I will not debate the Bible and its verses on gay marriage. I’ve read the arguments from both sides and there will not be a consensus in my lifetime to be sure. The right to marry is a human right, however, and I consider gay marriage to be a civil rights issue. I don’t remember the period in history when it was illegal for people of different races to marry, but I’ve heard the stories, read the history, and I know that one day, future generations will look back and wonder why we as a society didn’t learn the lesson the first time.
I do not believe being gay (or who any of us are at our core) is a choice. I feel the wind from being unfriended and unfollowed already. That’s fine. I can’t stay silent anymore about it. People I know and LOVE are being discriminated against because it’s easier to discriminate than tolerate. Tolerate does not mean condone, it just means that we agree we’re all human beings and we need to learn how to get along together because those on each side of the arguments aren’t going away. Tolerating means a person has to expend energy to get along. To discriminate all a person has to do is turn their back and walk away or close the door.
Recently, a college friend of mine got married. To another man. They have loved each other for years. They have a child who now has married parents. All I saw from their posted photos was love, not just for each other, but love from a community of Christians who have decided to love them walk with them instead of using their energies to tear them down and exclude them.
Last year, someone I know lost their job at a church because she came out and declared to the world she’s a lesbian and she’s tired of hiding it. She lost her job because of who she is. She is in a relationship with someone I have known for years and love and respect for her decision to live authentically.
I have spent quite a bit of time with some transgender individuals as well. One in particular is one of the most genuine people I’ve ever met. I met him as a he, and he is now transitioning to a she. She is a strong, determined person, and she just wants to be loved as the person she is. Person. Human being. Individual. Completely unique and honest with herself.
Another college friend of mine came out years ago and she was shunned by her best friend who abandoned her so fast I imagine my friend had whiplash and probably still does. I was not surprised by my friend’s revelation that she was gay. Not one bit. I told her I didn’t understand (and I didn’t then) but I still loved her and wanted to continue to have her in my life. We’ve grown apart because of the reaction she’s had from the religious community at large and she associates me with it. I miss her.
I would rather someone be genuine with me than live behind a facade of religion that discriminates. There. I said it.
I present you with this question: What if. What if I said I was gay? How would you treat me? How many friends would I lose immediately? How many friends would I lose after being lectured?
How many Christians would walk away from me or throw me under their theological bus? How many would tell their children I’m going to hell? Would you back away and put the wall of “I’ll pray for you,” between us? Would you celebrate with me if I found someone to love and share my life with? Or would you throw your Bible at me and exclude me from your life?
The saddest part is, I will lose just as many “friends” from announcing I’m a gay-affirming feminist. In reality, you can label me all you want, it boils down to I’m a human-affirming human.
One day I asked myself this question: What if we’re wrong? What if I’m wrong? I decided to err, if it is erring, on the side of love. I leave the judging to God because that’s what the Bible we bludgeon people with says to do.
And now, if you can’t say something nice, affirming, or positive, please don’t. If you unfriend me, I will miss you, but know that you telling me I’m wrong or going to hell will not change my mind. I know the Bible very, very well, so the Bible verse contest will not persuade me. I will delete any and all negativity from my life, just as you feel you are from yours. I’m sorry we’ve had to come to this impasse.
My mind is not yours to manipulate to how you feel or view things and if you’ve known me any amount of time, you know you cannot anyway. I know my own mind just as you know yours. I can’t be silent about how I feel any longer. I’m going to do unto others and love.