The day after….

My little state doesn’t make the national news much, after all with a population of only 1.5 million, it’s a pretty small state. Yet today all the nation is abuzz with the fact  that the gay marriage law was repealed, it’s been pretty heart breaking because many know Mainers to have an independent streak and felt confident that the law would not be repealed. Yet the vote while close in the end the folks who were against it prevailed….

Today, I have seen many online and real life buddies express anger and disgust over the situation and a feeling that those who voted against upholding the law which had been passed by legislators were small-minded bigots. While it’s most easy to lay the blame squarely on the fact that folks are small-minded bigots, I have spent the day thinking that is not necessarily the answer. In the end there is no answer but as someone who has spent my life as a person of difference, I find myself thinking the bigger reason people voted as they did is fear.

As a Black woman, I have come across too many instances where people fear me, see people fear what they do not know. In my years in Maine, especially in the early years here, I have seen the faces of people who have looked at both me and my interracial family with fear. Fear because maybe the only ideas they have of Black folks are those flashed on the tv, images that show Black women as screaming bitchy shrews. Images that show our children as less than manageable, images that show our young men as perpetrators of crime. After all even in Maine, the nightly news half the time shows the alleged perpetrator as being Black, granted this is better than when I was in Chicago. Back home, the alleged perpetrator was Black 9 out of 10 times.

Yet the longer I live here, the less I see that fear. I go places where folks once looked tentative when I entered and now I am greeted with the same greeting that others receive. I know that Mainers are capable of embracing those who are different from them yet it takes time and exposure to build those relationships.

Maine is a fairly homogenous state, by and large there is little in the way of diversity here. I think for many of those who entered the voting booth and voted yes on 1, they were operating from a place of ignorance and fear. Ignorance because in many cases they don’t know anyone who is gay or lesbian, they don’t realize that just like they want what’s best for their families that gays and lesbians want the same thing. I think for many the images they have of gay and lesbians is steeped in bad stereotypes of the images that flash across the screen during gay pride time of men wearing ass-less leather pants. I realize that sounds bad yet as someone who grew up going to gay pride parades in Chicago, I have seen my fair share of gay folks who are flamboyant and while there is nothing wrong with that, the fact is it’s an image that can come across as negatively as images we see that portray all Black men as being the perpetrators of crime. In the end, we cling to those images and never allow ourselves to get to know the gay and lesbians who are mothers, fathers, workers, etc…folks just like us. If you are a regular reader of my blog, you know gay marriage is an issue I have grappled with because of my faith, yet in the end it has been knowing gays and lesbians and their families that truly changed my mind. It was seeing that their families are no different from my family, it was knowing that less than 50 years ago, there were folks who thought I did not deserve to marry my husband, that changed my mind. In the end we all want what’s best for our families.

So we let the fear take over, fear that is played up by those who take our ignorance and twist it for their own agenda. In Maine, the opponents started saying gay marriage would be taught in school, as I can imagine, there may have been those who started thinking of images of their children being exposed to men in ass-less chaps and who decided that was enough to make them vote to repeal the law. In the end is it right? Of course not, but its the only explanation that makes sense to me. People bought into fear instead of using reason. It’s funny because Maine is not even a terribly religious state so the argument about religion being the reason for this decision doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. No, it’s gotta be fear…fear of the unknown.

I don’t know what the future holds but I do believe that if we start to see people as people and accept and respect them for who they are, that we will break down the walls we have put up that divide us.  Sadly change does not always happen as quickly as we want but that does not mean it won’t happen.

How an Evangelical came to support marriage equality

It’s election season up here in Maine, and the hottest issue on the ballot is gay marriage. See, our legislators voted to allow gay marriage earlier this year but the anti-gay marriage folks decided they were not happy with that and long story short it’s now going to be voted on by all the good folks here in Maine next week.

I must say this is perhaps even hotter than the presidential election with passions running high on both sides, hell even my neighbors have signs in their lawn letting the world know they are only down with traditional marriage meaning one man and one woman. I find their signs funny in a sad way because while I like my neighbors well enough, I have heard enough of their fights to know if they were the poster children for straight marriage, I would drop the Spousal Unit real fast and find myself a lovely lady. To say their relationship is dysfunctional is an understatement, so why they care about what two consenting adults do seems silly when they really don’t even do their marriage well. (to the neighbors, please close the windows next time you have one of your arguments)

Anyway close personal friends know that I call myself an Evangelical Christian despite the fact that my present membership is with a very liberal United Church of Christ church…old habits die hard I guess.

I am going to say that once upon a time, I was against gay marriage. Why? Well because in the churches that I used to attend it was said to be a sin and totally against God’s will. Well a few years ago, when I was feeling the pull to apply to seminary (still grappling with this but that’s another post) I started to truly read and study the bible on my own. After all if one is going to seriously consider seminary I figured I need to get real intimate with the Bible.

Well after a couple of years of studying, my own conclusion and I admit for the sake of writing this post in the time I have available I am not going to quote specific scripture but if anyone wants to know where I am getting this from, let me know and I will come back with verses that I am getting this from. It’s only in the Old Testament that speaks explicitly against same-sex relations, there is no denying that the Old Testament came down pretty much in what today would be called the anti-gay camp.

However using the bible as the basis for being anti-gay and if one is a Christian then we cannot ignore Jesus and the New Testament. Jesus was radical, his purpose in coming was so that salvation was obtainable to folks by belief in him. (yes, I know I am simplifying this) At the end of the day Jesus was about love and very much against the hypocrisy that was running rampant in his day and still runs rampant in many Christian communities today.

Yes, there is talk in the New Testament that marriage is an act that is between one man and one woman, but at the same time I think the New Testament is not scripturally clear and at best is ambiguous on the issue of gay marriage. But at the same time the overarching theme to love one another is very clear.

So for me from a scriptural basis, I cannot come down and stay silent and use my faith as a tool to mistreat each others. I told the Spousal Unit the other night that maybe I am misreading scripture but I just cannot get myself worked up about gay marriage. Not when I see so much abuse and mistreatment in the world.

Here in Maine, gay marriage opponents are saying what about the kids, if gay marriage becomes law? Well I say what about the kids now? In my professional work, I see a shitload of kids who are the product of heterosexual unions and frankly their lives are not so great. Funny because I can say personally the kids I know whose parents are gay or lesbian, often times have parents who are a lot more loving and attentive.

The other reason why I as a Christian, have a hard time with this issue is that as part of an interracial couple, it wasn’t that long ago that folks used the Bible to prohibit marriage between people of different races. Often times sounding the alarm with the question “What about the kids?” Well my kids are just fine, thank you very much. A couple years ago my son liked a girl who liked him, but her Dad was against interracial unions and he told my son that he had to be messed up because he was half white and half black. Yes, my first marriage ended in divorce but we were young and not compatible, race was not that much of a factor in the demise of our relationship and it most certainly has not hindered my son’s development in any way.

So when I go to the polls here in Maine, it will be No on 1 all the way because marriage equality is about equal rights and in America no one has the right to shove their religion down anyone else’s throat.