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Baptists oppose gay rights. In any other week, such a statement would have been about as earth-shattering as a hummingbird fart, but not these days. The blogosphere lit up when the Southern Baptist Convention declared in one voice their opposition to marriage equality and gay rights in general.

Their resolution declared that marriage is “the exclusive union of one man and one woman” and that “all sexual behavior outside of marriage is sinful.” Again, this isn’t something that is new for Baptists — they’ve been saying this for years. What really got the attention of those of us who push verbs against nouns in order to blow something up — is their resolution on gay rights.

Fox News was in New Orleans to cover the convention, and described the resolution thusly:

The resolution acknowledges that gays and lesbians sometimes experience “unique struggles” but declares that they lack the “distinguishing features of classes entitled to special protections.”

“It is regrettable that homosexual rights activists and those who are promoting the recognition of ‘same-sex marriage’ have misappropriated the rhetoric of the Civil Rights Movement,” the resolution states.

This comes from a denomination that wasn’t a huge fan of the Civil Rights Movement, either. This comes from a denomination that was founded to dig their heels into the institution of slavery and did not publicly acknowledge their own racist past and history until 1995 — more than three full decades after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Of course they’re not going to support “special protections” to LGBT people because they believe that gays are completely, totally reprobate and should not be afforded protections for housing and employment. A gay man is too immoral to have a job, and a lesbian couple is too vile to rent an apartment to… or a bed and breakfast room. Businesses should be able to put “NO GAYS ALLOWED” signs and hell, while we’re at it, let’s put up some STRAIGHT ONLY drinking fountains. That’d be fun.

Since some of my readers are conservative, and genuinely don’t know the history of the struggles that LGBT people have faced in America, let’s review it a bit.

  • In Colonial America, sodomy was a serious crime, with penalties ranging from imprisonment, whipping, or even the death penalty.
  • It was a crime for two men to hold hands.
  • Gay men were regularly rounded up and thrown into jail just for kissing in a gay bar.
  • Same-sex relationships were illegal in every state until 1970. Seventeen states maintained sodomy laws for same-sex behavior until they were struck down by the Supreme Court of the United States in 2003 with the Lawrence v. Texas decision.

Truth Wins Out’s Bruce Garrett wrote a fantastic piece last year that discussed the history of legal discrimination and persecution against the LGBT community. In it, he outlines many of the atrocities posted above and then some. One statement in the article stood out to me:

 No, we never rode the back of the bus. We rode the boat back to the mainland and to jail. We sat in the cells of all the 50 states where sodomy laws put us.

That the nation’s largest Christian denomination would ignore — either willingly or out of complete ignorance — this history of abuse toward the gay community is not surprising at all. What is surprising is the fact that so many of us who ARE gay don’t know our own history.

As a result, we end up fighting ignorant bias with ignorant bias, making lots of noise and accomplishing nothing. When major groups make asinine statements that gays merely have “unique struggles,” we must point to photographs of pink triangles on uniforms during the holocaust. We must remind them that for years, we were imprisoned, and that we have no real influence over public policy — after all, there’s still only a handful of openly gay legislators across the country.

People are still fired for being gay and still denied housing for being gay… or perceived as being gay. This isn’t a matter of “religious conscience,” the new buzzword among bigots these days — it’s a matter of sheer, undeniable bias against gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender people. It’s that simple.

For years, black pastors and ministers have pushed back against the idea that gay rights are civil rights. Never mind the fact that some of the most vocal civil rights leaders in our nation — including the late Coretta Scott King — have all pushed for gay equality. This year, the NAACP endorsed marriage equality, an act that is finally bringing these needed conversations within African-American culture.

African-American culture has long been steeped with deep homophobia. Black gays and lesbians are often shunned by their families or opt to live “on the down low” engaging in risky sexual encounters while raising families. These issues relating to sexuality are finally beginning to come to the forefront, with some pretty loud voices calling people to accountability. One such voice is Pastor Frederick D. Haynes III, senior pastor of the Friendship-West Baptist Church, who spoke on homosexuality:

“Have you ever read the Gospel and heard Jesus say anything about homosexuality? …Black folk can’t even deal with homosexuality because we got issues with sexuality. And because we got issues with sexuality we can’t have a healthy discussion about homosexuality. Why, why do you get so upset? Why are you so mad at the president?”

The time has come for all Southern Baptists — black and white — to truly learn the history of their own denomination and the history of the LGBT community, and realize that there are serious issues that must be dealt with. “Biblical Truth” has — for too long — been a substitute for treating people like human beings.

Pastor Haynes gets it. What about the rest of us?

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7 Responses to Southern Baptists Declare Opposition to Gay Rights

  1. Mike Peden says:

    "What is surprising is the fact that so many of us who ARE gay don’t know our own history."

    here's a quote last week from TEP President Chris Sanders: "this is the worst point in history for Tennessee's LGBT community"

    it seems even our "leaders" don't know much about history.

    • Hi MIke, that's an interesting point. However, I know Chris Sanders very well, and I also know that he's probably better versed on the history of the LGBT struggles in our state than I am. Like all of us who are public faces for the LGBT community we get a few words mixed up. I do think it's a little off to judge his knowledge of history based on one quote in a Nashville Scene article, which was making the point that the present Tennessee legislature is waging an all-out war against the LGBT community… which it is. Sanders was most likely talking about the reality that there have never been the number of anti-gay laws that have been under consideration in Tennessee like there are today.

    • Mike Peden says:

      I was just agreeing with your statement. Maybe you should revise your blog post to state that all gay people should learn more about gay history except your personal friends despite the fact that they have made public statements indicating their lack of knowledge.
      I suspect Mr. Sanders understanding of gay history is limited to upper middle class white gay men, but since he didn't bother to clarify his statement there is no way to know.

    • Oh sure, like every person quoted in an article gets the benefit of getting their full quote and context in the piece. ;)

  2. Mike Peden says:

    are you suggesting Mr. Sanders was misquoted? I emailed Stephen Hale at the City Paper and asked that question. I would have copied you on the email but I could not locate your email address on this site. I will let you know his response.

    I believe if you asked any gay person in Tennessee if it is better to be a gay person in Tennessee today or 20 years ago, or 50 years ago, 100% would say it is better today.

    why does it matter? Mr. Sanders has made himself the self-appointed spokesperson for all issues gay-related in TN. It makes all of us look bad when he makes such ill-informed and patently WRONG statements. He needs to be much more careful in his choice of words.

    unless of course he was misquoted.

  3. Mike Peden says:

    I received a reply back from my email to Mr. Jim Ridley from the Nashville Scene – I think the reply admits Mr. Sanders was misquoted, thought I'm not sure. A comment was added to the online article.
    "Thanks to an editing error, Chris Sanders' quote was truncated in an earlier version of this story, as was the attribution to an interview with the Scene's Jonathan Meador. The version of the story that appears is correct, and the Scene apologizes for the errors."
    I'm not sure what error they are referring to.

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