I was scrolling through some news clips last night and caught an interview with the President of the Human Rights Campaign, Kelly Robinson. HRC, the largest LGBTQ+ civil rights organization, keeps track of legislation proposed and passed that impact the LGBTQ+ community. They just declared a state of emergency "following an unprecedented and dangerous spike in anti-LGBTQ+ legislative assaults sweeping state houses this year. More than 75 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been signed into law this year alone, more than doubling last year’s number, which was previously the worst year on record." That's 75+ new laws with over 500 bills having been introduced just this year.
Our own Republican legislators here in Oregon decided to quit working and forfeit their opportunity to run for office again in order to stop bills that strengthen marriage equality, access to gender affirming care, reproductive choice, and gun safety. Many cite religious beliefs as their motivation. The focus on "Guns, Gays, and God " seems to have, once again, energized a portion of the population that wants to determine what values and norms are allowed in these not-so United States.
I say "once again" because I remember the last time we were in this deadly conflict. It was during the Marriage Equality fight. I was working for AWAB, the National Voice for LGBT Baptists, supporting member congregations who are Welcoming and Affirming, encouraging churches considering becoming so, and speaking for any Baptists who wanted to practice their chosen faith AND be the fullness of who God made them to be. I worked with other Welcoming Community Faith Leaders as we resourced churches like FCCUCC, who believe "Love is Love". I worked in the ever-present refrain coming from the Westboro Baptist Church - "God Hates Gays". I listened as powerful religious leaders blamed every natural disaster, act of foreign terrorism, and community conflict on people like me. And here we are again...
However, this time around it feels like more is at stake. The gun lobby has managed to get rid of the assault weapons ban and now AK-style weapons are being open carried by militia types at Drag events under the guise of "protecting" the children. Many communities have cancelled their Pride events due to threats on public safety. Safe spaces have gone underground in order to be truly safe. Laws that make it illegal to be Trans in public are passing in so many states creating an atmosphere of terror, akin to what is happening in Uganda.
I think of all the work we did in the early years of the 21st century for marriage equality and against these anti-gay laws. How brave so many people were as we marched and showed up and made ourselves visible and vulnerable. How people of faith showed up in support of our right to be equal in the eyes of the law. I heard the stories of generations past who struggled for the right to simply be, and who were shunned, stripped of their credentials, their parental rights, and who kept marching nonetheless for the day when Pride could simply be a time of celebration.
And yet, I feel the fear this year, AND I know that if I allow that fear to stop me from marching in our Salem Pride March on June 17th, I am letting down those who have struggled for generations to simply be. I give up on every person who needs to know that you CAN be a faithful Christian, an ordained minister, and a proud LGBTQ+ person! So, I will not let the prejudice of some stop my pride in our community as we celebrate the magnificent diversity of God's creation - the rainbow of humanity that is beautifully queer. May we celebrate Pride without prejudice this year, showing love for everyone regardless of their feelings toward us. This is what I think it means to love our neighbors as ourselves. Happy Pride!