Monday, June 6, 2011

What Got To Me Today: LGBT Pride Month in Saline Brings Out The Intolerant

Three weeks ago the Saline City Council unanimously passed a proclamation to recognize the month of June as LGBT Pride Month in Saline.  LGBT stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender.  I was at that meeting, and I was proud to see it pass.  More about my opinion in a moment.

There has been a bit of blow back from the passing of this proclamation via letters to the editor and comments left on online news publications after reading about the story.  I'd like to point out a couple of things that struck me while reading the opposing points of view.  Before I do that, however, let me say that although I vehemently disagree with the opposing viewpoint, I am extremely grateful they have the right to speak and/or write it.  What they have really done is bring about discussion on the topic at hand, and that is a wonderful way to bring awareness and move toward tolerance and mutual respect of our LGBT friends and neighbors.

One woman wrote a letter to the editor in the Saline Reporter.  She quoted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. saying, "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."  Indeed.  Does this woman not think it works the same for the other side?  Since we are quoting the great Dr. King here, how about "A right delayed is a right denied," or "An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity"? These too were said by MLK.

The same woman went on to list some things she thought mattered to a society and community.  She said,"The United States is a 'representative republic' and therefore we expect our elected officials to actually represent the majority of the people who elected them; not allow outside organizations influence their decisions to govern."  She mentioned "only 2% actually identifies with such a group".  Really?  Because a national poll taken on the week of May 5, 2011 showed that 53% of Americans support gay marriage, which is even more progressive than recognizing a group of people one month out of the year.  As far as "outside organizations" go, let me point out that the proclamation was brought about by members of Saline Council, and supported by all of Saline council, and encouraged by a Saline group called Et al.

She also said, "Officials need to keep the taxpayers they represent informed about what actions they are contemplating;"  True. This is why council meeting agendas are made open to the public, published on their website and hung on their bulletin boards.  People who want to know what the council is up to should read agendas, check minutes and attend meetings.

Another Letter To The Editor came in to the Saline Reporter inbox, also in opposition of LGBT Pride month in Saline.  This woman said, "Why did the Saline City Council find it necessary to select this particular group of citizens to be recognized?  Perhaps we should nominate July as Christian Awareness Month.  I wonder what the ministers and pastors of Saline think of this proclamation.?"  First lets clarify that Christianity is a religion, and LGBT is not.  I assume the ministers and pastors in Saline would recognize the First Amendment which separates church and state, the very amendment that keeps the government from coming into their churches and dictating what they must preach to their flocks.  The woman ends her letter with "The bottom line is, God loves us all whoever we are."  So I guess I have to wonder, why doesn't she?

Think for a moment of the headlines we have read of late, exposing  gay teen suicides due to bullying.  How many kids worry for their safety if they are openly true to who they are?  What the Saline City Council was doing was raising awareness, because I have to believe, deep down inside of myself that if people really knew about the intimidation, abuse, and hatred that is subjected onto the LGBT community, there is no way they would agree not to support anything that could bring a stop to it.  How could they?

I just don't see how the proclamation for June hurts anyone.  It doesn't ask anyone to change their faith.  It doesn't ask anyone to change their relationships.  It doesn't ask you to run out and join a gay rights group.  It is just a way of saying something like "hey everyone, let's be aware that there are people in our community who are terribly discriminated against, and not contribute to that discrimination."

If you are not a member of the LGBT community, whether you agree with it or not, this proclamation doesn't really have to have anything to do with you.  But if we don't raise awareness, if we continue to encourage the next generations to be those of intolerance, then the results of that hatred will have something to do with you, because you will have done nothing to stop it.   Personally, I want to be a part of the solution, a part of the healing.

Hippocrates said, "Healing is a matter of time, but it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity."  Our opportunity is now.  Thank you Saline City Council for your votes.