Turning Back the Clock on Gay Rights? A Response

With the expected overturning of Roe v. Wade in the coming days and weeks, turning back the clock on abortion rights, the question is, for conservative activists, what is next? We’ve seen attacks on diversity training under the guise of anti-CRT efforts (though I doubt most of those who are attacking Critical Race Theory understand what it is), along with GOP-led attacks on LGBTQ rights. It started with pushback on transgender athletes, but now it's morphing into something more. Florida is enacting the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law while attacking Disney for its response. In Congress, Republicans are seeking to remove overflight bans on Disney parks as part of the pushback effort. Now the Texas Republican Party has voted to include a platform plank declaring homosexuality an “abnormal lifestyle choice,” while also essentially banning sex education while including anti-abortion elements in the curriculum.

While there is much to discuss on a variety of fronts from contraception to abortion, as this is Pride Month, I want to focus on what appears to be increasing threats to LGBTQ rights, including the right to marry (a right decided on a 5-4 vote, with the deciding vote, Anthony Kennedy is now retired, while Ruth Bader Ginsberg is dead). Could the same logic being used against Roe v. Wade be used against Obergefell v. Hodges as both were decided using similar arguments (right to privacy)?

Polls suggest that a majority of Americans support same-sex marriage and extending civil rights protections to our LGBTQ friends, family, and neighbors. Some of us who might be straight, do have a stake in this question, as we do have family members who are being affected by this pushback. I have a brother and a cousin and a cousin-in-law who are gay. I have gay colleagues with whom I’ve worked closely. I helped usher in our Open and Affirming effort at the congregation I served until my retirement.

We have made a lot of progress in the past decade or so when it comes to welcoming and affirming those who are encompassed under the LGBTQIA umbrella. Pride events are ubiquitous. My own city has embraced Pride Month, though a Pride Month declaration in the State of Michigan was turned back by the GOP-led legislature because they wanted to include a caveat saying that not everyone agrees with the LGBTQ lifestyle. So, no declaration.  I do worry about what the future holds for my family and friends. Will they be safe? I don’t know. We’ve already seen threats of violence in Idaho and even California.

I understand that not everyone is on the same page when it comes to same-sex marriage or inclusion in general. I wasn’t always where I’m at now. It actually took the coming out of my brother to open my eyes to the idea that maybe being gay isn’t a choice. As we all wrestle with questions of sexual and gender identity, might we all agree to make a safe space for those in our midst who are discovering their own identity? Isn’t that the least we can do? After all, pushing people back into the closet isn’t the answer. In fact, it only endangers lives.

So, during this Pride Month, might we take a step back, and consider the lives of those affected by these anti-gay efforts. Might we say no to political opportunists who are using fear of difference to gain power? Just for a moment, think about the children in our schools who might have two dads or two moms. If they can’t safely tell their story, because we don’t say gay, what are we telling them? Yes, think of the children!

Since much of the resistance is religiously inspired, it is important to note that there are an increasing number of resources that can help people make sense of biblical and theological issues. While it is clear that there are texts that preclude same-sex relationships, as with those passages that support slavery and the subjiction of women, do they have the same hold on us as they might in a different context/ So, for those who are wrestling with this question, I encourage you to do your homework, but also remember that the people being affected by this resistance are real human beings created in the image of God. So, as you sort things out let me recommend a good place for your reflections, and that would be  David Gushee’s Changing Our Mind, 3rd edition, (Read the Spirit Books, 2017). I will note that this edition includes a study guide that I created, and in which I tell my story of how I changed my mind.

Let us not turn back the clock. Let’s not push people back into the closet. Let us instead embrace our neighbors by loving them as we love ourselves. 


Douglas Brouwer said…
Thanks for this, Bob, and the courage it took to post it.

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