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Thursday, February 5, 2015

Haters Gonna Hate, BUT NOT ON MY WATCH!

You won’t win any popularity contests in small town Alabama when you purport to be a Christian that’s voted for Barak Obama for President TWICE, supports marriage equality nationwide, and openly doubts the Bible in its entirety and current translation as the LITERAL word of God.

I love my home state, its culture, and (most of) its people, but I am emotionally burdened every day by its history of hate and intolerance because it’s a history that I feel Alabama refuses to completely leave in the past.

On the 23rd and 26th of last month, U.S. District Judge Ginny Granade struck down the State of Alabama’s 1998 law and 2006 constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage in two separate rulings.  This week a federal appeals court denied Alabama’s request to stay that lower court’s decision, opening the door to matrimony beginning February 9, 2015 to couples long denied the right, setting off a veritable crapstorm of hate and condemnation the likes of which Alabama hasn't seen outside of annual Iron Bowls since I was born in 1977.  That’s counting September 11th, 2001.

You heard that right, ladies and gentlemen, large portions of the State of Alabama despise homosexuals more than it hates terrorists, which makes the two groups more similar in temperament than either would care to admit.

I have grown weary, so weary of constantly battling very vocal pockets of racism, hate and discrimination close to home when I encounter them on social media, in my children’s school, or while I’m just out and about. Something about my smiling white face must say to others, “Come, sit with me. Let’s talk about how much you loathe the President of the United States of America, his uppity wife, and all the foreigners and queers sending our nation to Hell in a handbasket.”

My youngest son was in 1st grade during the 2008 Presidential election and as we watched the results pour in via television at a restaurant, Barak Obama was the early frontrunner. This disturbed my six-year-old considerably and he decried loudly to all within earshot, “Oh, no! Bawak Obama will be a tewwible pwesident.” He’d heard more than a little at school about the doom and destruction the brown man on the TV would unleash on the nation if elected.  I was pissed, to say the least. I prefer to be the only one indoctrinating my young children, if you please. And I prefer to indoctrinate them with an open mind, compassion, and empathy.  (Unless we’re talking about Scientologists—in that case I make it perfectly clear that those people are completely INSANE! Entitled to their beliefs, but nuttier than squirrel turds.)

This is one of the same reasons my family and I are currently not members of one of the bazillion churches in our county. I crave fellowship with other Christians, long for a worship experience that I feel draws me closer to my creator, but I haven’t found those untainted by a dose of “homosexuals will burn in hell” that I can’t stomach and won’t subject my children to.

We’ve been condemning people to Hell in Alabama because of who they love since our state was founded. Before the gays it was those guilty of miscegenation. I’ve tried to draw this parallel when supporting marriage equality. There was a time when the people of Alabama supported via constitutional amendment the outlawing of marriage between people of mixed races. Some Southern Christians thumped their Bibles and declared the practice a sin. When the ban on these unions was lifted, couples still faced discrimination from ministers, Justices of the Peace, and venues that didn’t want to see them wed. There are mixed-race couples today in Alabama that will tell you they and their children are STILL sneered at and discriminated against in 2015! IN 2015!!!

This morning a popular radio personality based in Birmingham but syndicated across the county has called for the Probate Judges in Alabama to take a stand and “refuse to sign same-sex marriage licenses” and even goes so far as to cite Martin Luther King, Jr. as a reference point for doing so.

“If you are a Christian and a probate judge do you condone a version of marriage that goes against God even though it's the current law of the land?   Martin Luther King Jr. in his letter from a Birmingham jail covered this when explaining to fellow pastors why he would continue to break ‘unjust’ laws.”   ---Rick Burgess

He went on to add, “Christians have the same freedoms given to all people of this country to fight to raise their families in a society that best reflects their convictions. It's time to fight."

Until the Civil Rights Act of 1964, many white Alabama Christians fought for their "conviction" that segregation was a Biblically sound practice that spared their families from the horrors of race-mixing. Thank God the federal courts interceded then, too.

 I suppose if people could hold to their particular religious convictions while respecting others’ basic rights, I could roll on, none the worse for wear. The two don’t have to be at odds.  Don’t like gay marriage? Don’t get one. But don’t stand between two people and their rights to equal protection under the law. In forty years you’re going to look ever as much the bigot as George Wallace standing in the door of the University of Alabama.

I’m tired of the hate. So tired. The days of marriage inequality are over, and a better day is dawning for same-sex couples. That reality makes me smile and gives me strength to go out into my beloved State and keep prodding people to show more compassion, empathy and understanding, ever the while moving farther and farther away from our shared history of intolerance. 

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