I am hesitant to step into the controversy over remarks made about gays and lesbians by the mayor of Troy, Michigan, because I am on record supporting her opponent in the last election, and because I made clear that I didn’t believe she had the qualities necessary to be mayor. Watching her actions in the early days of the city's new Council session has not changed my opinion. But this issue is of a different nature and needs to be addressed as a separate issue.
If you’re not aware of the controversy, a person found in the Facebook feed of Janice Daniels the use of the word queer to refer to gays and lesbians (this is another lesson about being careful in what you say on Facebook). This is what she wrote:
“I think I am going to throw away my I Love New York carrying bag now that queers can get married there.”
In her response she has said that she still has the bag, loves everybody, but believes that marriage is between a man and a woman.
In response to the mayor’s posting, which she posted prior to her run for office, I want to make a couple of points.
First, as to the question of marriage: Although I have come to the belief that marriage should be extended to gays and lesbians, believing that it is an appropriate extension of Christian understandings of relationships and families for our time, I understand that not everyone holds this view. In fact, we’re at a tipping point where we are as a nation almost evenly divided, with those under 40 largely supportive and those over 40 not as much. But on this issue the tide has turned. So, Ms. Daniels is where a lot of Americans are at on this issue. It’s her right to hold this position, including her disagreement with the state of New York, and isn’t in itself a cause for disqualification.
Second, as to the use of the word “queer,” that is another issue. Going to an online dictionary I find these definitions of the word:
1. not usual: not usual or expected
2. eccentric: eccentric or unconventional
3. suspicious: arousing suspicion
4. nauseated: slightly unwell, especially nauseated or faint
5. offensive term: an offensive term meaning gay
As you can see from these definitions, this isn’t a term of endearment. When used in reference to gays and lesbians it is a slur, even as “nigger” is a slur in reference to African Americans. To use this term is to disparage homosexuals. In my mind one cannot defend the use of this term in this context, because one opposes gay marriage on religious/cultural grounds doesn't work. Principled oopposition to gay marriage is not the same thing as disparaging another human being because of their sexual orientation.
I will not get into the politics of whether Ms. Daniels should resign over this, but I do think that it raises questions of character. I think it also raises questions about how she views certain members of the community, and whether she can represent them fairly.
Third, I need to address the use of the word queer by the LGBT community. Thus, you will see reference to queer studies and queer theology. There are attempts to subvert the slur, to call attention to the animus that resides under the use of such words, and to turn them upside down. Ms. Daniels was not using the term in this way. She was using it to disparage gays and lesbians, whom she believes cannot rightfully be married.
But, if we understand the term "queer"as it is used as a slur, it would suggest that she also believes them to be deviant persons not worthy of respect. This is troubling, and the reason why I’ve chosen to speak out, not only as a person of faith, but also as a resident of the city of Troy who is concerned about the future of this city.
See also article in Detroit Free Press online: http://www.freep.com/article/20111203/NEWS03/112030440/1302/NLETTER10/Troy-mayor-on-defensive-over-gay-slur?source=nletter-NEWS-FREEP-top_stories_5am
See also the article at Troy Patch:
See also the article at Troy Patch: