Not Done Yet
Sermon Offered June 25, 2017 for Gay Pride
It’s Gay Pride weekend on the North Shore! I was in Boston the other night and at the public library, 2 rainbow flags are flying on either side of the American flag. Aren’t we so lucky to live in Massachusetts! Aren’t we so lucky to be able to celebrate Gay Pride with our congregation, our friends, and our families? How I wish other places and other people were as pleased to be neighbors with our Gay, lesbian, bisexual, Transgendered, and gender fluid brothers and sisters.
There are many days when I feel like we live in a bubble, especially those of us who practice the Unitarian Universalist faith in Massachusetts. I say that because our denomination was fighting for GLBT rights several decades before others joined in. And we were late to the party. Our state has been at the front and center of GLBT rights for a long time. Mass was the first state to legalize same sex marriage, in 2004, and the lawyer’s arguments in that case, went on to help convince the Supreme Court that Same Sex marriage should be legal in all 50 states.
Sadly, the bubble doesn’t extend nearly far enough. In so many places in this country, GLBT folks are not accepted, not wanted, and not allowed to live their lives fully and freely. We have come a long way in our fight for justice and equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered individuals, but we are not done yet.
A quick tour around the country will show what I mean. The website for the organization, Human Rights Watch was one of many organizations reporting on a new Texas law. The HRW website tells us that the new law “ensures child welfare agencies that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, or religion will still receive government support.
Under the new law, signed on June 15, state institutions can’t withhold funding, licenses, or contracts from any of the agencies that place children in foster or adoptive homes if the agencies refuse to provide services or make referrals that conflict with their “sincerely held religious beliefs.” The law additionally shields service providers that refuse to help youth find contraception or abortion services.
The new law will protect adoption and foster care agencies that reject same-sex couples if the agency believes marriage should only be between a man and a woman.”
I want to make sure everyone understands the ramifications of what I just said. The state govt. in Texas will now be able to fund health care and adoption agencies and institutions that are descriminating against people based on “their sincerely felt religious beliefs.” A Christian agency could tell a Muslim or Jewish couple that they weren’t fit to be parents due to their sincerely held belief that only practicing Christians should be raising children. An agency can tell perfectly wonderful potential parents that they are unfit to take care of a child because they are lesbians. I thought this was against the law. I thought that religion and politics were separated in this country I thought the separation of church and state were one of the foundational principles of this democracy.
It is depressing when private organizations act from a place of fear and hate, rather than from love. But when the government, funded by citizens’ taxes, can now fund those places in violation of fundamental human rights, something is terribly wrong.
The online magazine Salon reported that “Although Texas is the sixth state to pass a law limiting the adoption rights of same-sex couples, it is the third to do so this year. South Dakota passed a similarly sweeping law in March, following anti-LGBT child welfare bills in Michigan, Virginia and North Dakota.”
On the Human Rights Watch website, it was also reported that Alabama, Arizona, Louisiana, Miss, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and Utah have laws that restrict teachers and staff from talking about Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual or Transgendered individuals’ issues at school. 8 out of 50, or more than 15% of the states in the US proscribe any discussion about GLBT issues. A student cannot talk to her favorite teacher, nor the school nurse. In these schools, nothing is taught about GLBT issues, health concerns or just the fact that these people exist. Enter a freshman high school boy who knows he is gay, and his school is telling him he can’t even mention this fact. What does this do to this boy’s self worth? This is cruel and unreasonable.
Another way of looking at how the LGBT population is faring is to look at statistics on Hate Crimes. Almost a year ago, in June of 2016, www.pbs.org, reported the following story: “Looking at 14 years of hate crime data, Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center recently told the PBS Newshour, “LGBT people are targeted for violent hate crimes at a rate of two times that of… Muslims or black people, four times that of Jews, and 14 times that of Latinos.”
Because of the bubble we live in, many of us think of Homophobia as something irrelevant and no longer an issue. But as a UU writer Trungles makes clear in a poem entitled Dear Liberals, discrimination is still active.
For you, it was, “Homophobia: a strong dislike or fear of homosexual people.”
For us, it was, “Homophobia: that time in the sixth grade when Ryan shoved me against a glass door and banged my face in it while yelling, ‘faggot!’ at me until the teacher stopped him. Or when my Catholic high school’s president told me that, though he loved me as a child of God, he still believed I was sinful.”
Even in the bubble that is Cape Ann, and Mass, cruelty towards GLBT hasn’t ended. Our pride for how far we have come in giving rights to Gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered men and women isn’t unwarranted. But we have a ways to go before we can claim that homophobia is non-existent in most places. We are not done yet. But we shouldn’t lose hope. We will keep fighting because our principles of acceptance, inclusion, diversity, and human rights and justice for all are not just words. For those of us in despair over the current state of discrimination against people of color, immigrants, the poor and the LGBT community, poet Shu Ting, feeds us these lines:
“Perhaps these thoughts of ours will never find an audience…
Perhaps the lamps we light one at a time
Will be blown out, one at a time
Perhaps the candles of our lives will gutter out
Without lighting a fire to warm us.
Perhaps when all the tears have been shed
The earth will be more fertile
Perhaps when we sing praises to the sun
The sun will praise us in return
Perhaps these heavy burdens will strengthen our philosophy
Because of our irresistible sense of mission
We have no choice.”
Remember our irresistible sense of mission. We have no choice. We’re not done yet.
Rev Susan Moran ©