Kelly Sans Culotte

Gay Mundo

Gay Rights Supreme in U.S. High Court
Biggest battle now in the church.
By Miles Christian Daniels

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JULY 3, 2003. Gay people in the United States had reason to rejoice last week. Same-sex couples can no longer be arrested for having consensual sex in their own bedrooms. The Supreme Court has overturned sodomy laws in fourteen states.

I first heard the news from a friend who sent an email declaring, "We Won! We Won! We Are Free!!"

Maybe a bit overstated, but I shared in his declaration of victory. And then, another email came. One that seemed a little more true to my reality, and the reality of so many other gay men and lesbians.

This email showed a picture of three well-known clergy kneeling in prayer outside the Supreme Court. The men were unhappy with the 6-3 ruling. Below this picture, there was one of a man with a sign proclaiming, "Hellfire Sin," next to a gay man in Houston, Texas, holding a rainbow flag.

Part of me wanted to believe these pictures depict a minority. That most heterosexual Americans certainly feel the ruling is in the best interest of civil rights. But I wondered what would be said from behind America's pulpits the Sunday following this landmark decision.

And — even more so — on Sundays for months and years to come.

Not from Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell. These are celebrity ministers who thrive on outrageous sound bites. I wondered about the Baptist minister in Lone Wolf, Oklahoma. The Pentecostal preacher in Danville, Virginia. The conservative Lutheran minister in small-town Oregon.

What would these men and women of the cloth have to say about it all?

After all, this is where most of us first heard words like "sinful" and "abomination" in relation to homosexuality. This is where we were first told that God destroyed an entire city because the men were "gay." This is where, as young adolescents, we were told to beg forgiveness when these "perverse" thoughts flooded our minds.

A few weeks before the Supreme Court decision, I had finished shooting a documentary film about a transgender person who grew up in Beulaville, North Carolina, a small farming community. I also interviewed dozens of gay men and lesbians who also grew up in similar environments. And to each, I posed the same question: What was your greatest challenge growing up gay in the south?

Their answers did not include sodomy laws, opposition to gay marriages or any of these hot-button issues we hear so much about. Without exception, the greatest challenge faced by those I interviewed was, and still is, religion. Over and over these people told heart-wrenching stories of growing up in churches where ministers so insensitively preached messages of intolerance.

They told of suicide attempts, drug abuse and deep, dark mental and spiritual battles, all stemming from what they heard from behind pulpits on Sunday mornings.

Yes, we should all view what transpired in Washington as a step-in-the-right-direction. But in the midst of celebrating, let's not forget to say a prayer for the gay adolescents, still in the closet, who, while sitting next to mom and dad on Sunday morning, may be faced with the brutal reality that their war is far from over.

Miles Christian Daniels is a writer, documentary filmmaker, and former Christian youth minister. He lives in North Carolina.

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