I attended a forum recently on Florida's six constitutional amendments on the ballot. The ones from the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission were good to hear about...as was Amendment One which the state legislature is putting before us in an effort to erase some WW II-era discriminatory language aimed at "them Japanese".
But the question that drew the most attention was the measure that seeks to add discrimination into the state Constitution: Amendment Two, with its definition of marriage "or the substantial equivalent thereof" to be for "one man and one woman". This is the current language in FOUR places in statute. So even if Amendment Two fails on November 4th, there still will be no gay marriage laws in the state of Florida.
Nothing to fear, frightened people. Right? Read on...
Fear is the biggest factor in all discussions about Amendment Two, and the forum was no exception. Our side talked about the fears of senior citizens in domestic partnerships losing their benefits. The guys on the other side spoke of fear of...well....everything. In fact, I find it hard to pinpoint anything that does not make them afraid:
They fear an infiltration of a "national" movement to make marriage available to LGBT people in Florida (I sure hope they'll let me know when the lavendar calvary arrives!);
They fear the courts in Florida some day overturning the current multiple statutes defining marriage;
They fear our side campaigning to convince the senior population to vote No;
They fear clergy getting thrown in jail for preaching against homosexuality or refusing to marry gay people;
They fear children learning that Heather can have two mommies...and that would be considered OK, too.
They fear the Dutch aren't getting married any more (seriously, they have this obsessive concern that the marriage rate in the Netherlands has been declining).
But mostly I heard these two guys for the Yes on Two side saying, "I live in fear of unknowns, and I must control those unknowns."
Perfect illustration: Rev. Larry Perry of Freedom Church, an Assembly of God congregation, was speaking for the amendment. At least, I think he was trying to do that. He spent several minutes, talking in circles, until he finally looked out into the room, and made a bold pronouncement:
"I'm white. I can not be black. But I was born in iniquity. I am a murderer. I am an adulterer. I am a fornicator. But I do not choose to act on that evil."
His point was that homosexuality is a "choice" (it's not...at least not for me) and that gay people can choose not to "act" on their "sin".
Let me say it again: my sexual orientation as a lesbian is not a sin. It is how God made me, and God has reasons only God knows for why some of us will be gay and some of us straight and some of us bisexual and some of us transgendered or intersexed or any other variation in the sexuality scheme of life. But whatever the reason, I'm a lesbian and it's OK and I'm part of the plan. Period.
But I wonder why Rev. Perry is saying of himself: "I am a sinner who does not act on my sin." Good, 'cuz murder is bad. But what I never heard him say was that all those "sins" that seem to plague him have been redeemed by the death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I don't know enough about the Assembly of God faith to understand why such a beautiful event as Easter is not internalized and believed. To quote my mentor, Mtr. Lee Shafer, "It is Good News!" The Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John contains messages that say over and over, "I like you! Heck, I luv ya! I really, really luv ya!" Even in scriptural passages where it sounds as if Jesus is condemning and judging, the condemnation is not punitive. The constant invite is to be in relationship with God.
Is there no hope in Rev. Perry's view of himself in relation to God? Is there no love? Does the "good shepherd" wield a big stick of judgment, ready to smack it across the head of anyone who doesn't "do right"? Somehow, I think a shepherd knows better than to smack his sheep over the head, when a gentle nudging of the rod in one direction or another suffices to keep the flock moving.
How very sad to live life in that much fear. I much prefer the God who is merciful and slow to anger when we do stupid stuff because at least there's a chance for me to not be an idiot. I hope Rev. Perry discovers the God of infinite love. Probably won't happen in time for him to have an epiphany about Amendment Two.