I could have called this entry, "And now for something not really all that different."
The Leon County Commission will be reviewing the proposed Human Rights Ordinance at its meeting on Tuesday, April 27th at 3pm. There are amendments to the ordinance to expand its reach to protect the LGBT community from employment discrimination, and to extend housing protection to people based on their gender identity. As one might expect in Tallahassee, there are people of faith who are for it... and then there are a whole lot more who are against it. And the opponents aren't afraid to pick up a phone and call their county commissioners. Nor are they afraid to make an appointment to talk to them. And they are definitely going to make the time to be present at the County Commission's meeting, armed with their KJV and NIV Bibles and breathing threats of God's impending wrath if the Commissioners allow even the smallest crumbs to fall to the floor for us "dogs".
Sadly, this is nothing new. It is not new for some people who label themselves "christian" to attack the LGBT community with words from Scripture, carefully culled to take them out of the original context and use them in ways that I believe turn them into stumbling blocks, and weapons of spiritual mass destruction.
A favorite Bible story these folks like to tell is the one from Genesis where Lot takes in two "strangers" and the men of Sodom come pounding on his door demanding that he turn them out, so that this gang can "know" them. This is the biblical euphemism for "rape". Lot begs them to go away, "how 'bout my virgin daughters?", etc. etc. The "strangers" turn out to be angels who blind the crowd of men, allowing Lot and his family to escape, and God destroys the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Those who like to quote this story inevitably get fixated on the gang rape part... and that it would be man-on-man sex. What they never acknowledge is that the threat of rape is just a symptom of the bigger sin of Sodom and Gomorrah. The real sin is that the inhabitants of these cities had a reputation for being unfriendly, and not welcoming strangers.
Which brings us to the gospels. What did Jesus say to the disciples about what to do when they enter a town that does not welcome them?
"Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave. As you enter the house, greet it. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgement than for that town."--Matt 10:11-15
Strong words, and that brings us to the 21st Century in Tallahassee. If we fully understand the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah, then it would be wise for the Leon County Commissioners to think about this quote from the Matthew gospel as they consider the kind of "welcome" the LGBT community has received in certain quarters of the county. That "special" feeling of a promotion denied, of an application turned down, of the cold hard stare when inquiring about housing and being told there is nothing available, even when there are clearly vacancies.
In the Episcopal Church, we vow with each baptism to respect the dignity of every human being. What could be a more tangible example of that respect than to declare that it is wrong to use the sexual orientation or gender identity of a person against said person in matters of hiring, firing or housing?
I have said all these things before in many different variations on the theme; hence this is nothing different from anything I've said on this blog. What will make this situation new is if there is a critical mass of Christians who voice support for the ordinance, and if the County Commission comes through and adopts these changes. That would definitely be a "new thing".
The supporters of the ordinance at the last meeting on March 23rd were Commission Chair Bob Rackleff, Akin Akinyemi, Cliff Thaell and John Dailey. The opponents were Bill Proctor, Bryan Desloge, and Jane Sauls. Here's their contact information:
Bill Proctor, District 1
Jane G. Sauls, District 2
John E. Dailey, District 3
Bryan Desloge, District 4
Bob Rackleff, District 5
Cliff Thaell, At-Large
Akin Akinyemi, At-Large