Well, it certainly has been an interesting few weeks. First, after a community meeting to find some common ground as to how to handle a belligerent homophobe in the Georgia State House, I was told point blank that I had no clue as to how to get things done with legislators. I was also told I had no idea of what it was to be a target every day at work.

Then a couple of weeks, later the Georgia State House passes a resolution honoring an openly gay politician for achievements including work in our community, and our community is no where to be found in the document except in code. The word “gay” just doesn’t exist.

GA Voice Editor Laura Douglas-Brown wrote a column questioning the legitimacy of the honor if it is handed out in code. “It's one thing to utilize a subtle strategy to pass laws that benefit LGBT Georgians — like a general bullying bill that will help gay students, or a broader bill about hospital visitation when LGBT people are particularly vulnerable in these areas. Such an approach can be necessary to keep progress moving, even slowly, in a hostile legislature.

Religion blog: Acceptance Strategy. Ain’t it grand?

“But I can’t help but wonder about the value of a resolution — which is designed to honor an individual — if we have to hide our heroes in the closet in order for them to get it.”

This editorial was met with an immediate response from the author of the resolution, to which the long and short of the response is this: “Instead of a “closeting strategy,” as your paper suggests, passing this resolution might better be described as an “acceptance strategy. And ain’t it grand?”

I am sorry folks, but this just strikes me as a nicer and cleaner form of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

I may not understand how all the ingredients of making sausage legislation work, but I do understand it’s not my job, or the community’s job, to make those who seek to do us harm comfortable.

As leaders in the community, our job is more like the old saying “to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”

I have been a pastor in our community since 1986, have been married to my husband since 1982, and have been out of the closet for 43 of my 56 years on this earth. Not once have I changed a pronoun, denied I was gay or allow homophobic slurs to go unchallenged. When I answered the call to ministry, I took to heart the words of Jesus when he said, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed.” (Luke 4:18)

With me it’s always been what you see is what you get. This has not gotten me a lot of invites to the halls of power.

A couple of years ago, I was called for jury duty in Fulton County. For those of you have been through this you know it is a huge cattle call. There are a couple of hundred people put in a room to wait to be called as potential jurists for a trial. When they call you into a particular courtroom the vetting process begins with the attorneys. They ask all kinds of personal questions including if you are married or not.

Teachable moment.

When asked if I was married my response was, “Not according to the State of Georgia.” Well the room of 60 or so folks got a small education in meeting a pastor who was gay and had been in a relationship longer than most of the room. The outcome? I didn’t get picked to serve but did give my card out to a half dozen people who wanted or needed a conversation about the whole “gay” thing.

Rep. Bobby Franklin says, “we’re told in 1st Corinthians it rattled off the homosexual, the adulterer, the thief, the liar, and such were some of you, but you’ve been washed, you’ve been justified and so forth. It’s not what you were. You’re not punishing a thought. But do you want an unrepentant drug dealer in the military? Same thing.” This cannot go unchallenged.

When it was challenged you would have thought the world was about to end. Had he said that about any other group of people there would have been hell to pay! It’s not enough that he went to our two openly gay representatives and allegedly apologized to them by saying, “I wasn’t talking about you, darlin’.”

How sexist is that? Since when does one get to refer to a state legislator as “darlin’”?

It doesn’t matter if most of his colleagues think he is nuts. What he said and what he has done since has been vicious, arrogant and unacceptable. Our community must hold him accountable. Are you reading this closely, those of you who live his district? If you are in his district, time to step up and run against him and all his craziness. Your community is calling; I pray to God you answer!

Our two representatives have faced bullying that is uncalled for in the least and would qualify as assault and sexual harassment in any other work environment. Where is the community outrage? Where is our community support? Do they not need our outrage? Do they not need our calls for dignity and decency? Calls? Hell no… demands!

Maybe that is why at least one of the representatives feels it necessary to have an “acceptance strategy.”

I have often said the folks on the “political and religious right” talk about us like we are not in the room, or if they even see us in the room, they don’t care. They have been given a free ride. Cause, you know, it’s “just those homos who God hates.”

If I am correct, even though our representatives chose to run and got elected to serve, they did not volunteer to do it alone without us to back them up when the “teachable moments” come.

I find it interesting there was a huge outrage and action on the part of our community when the Eagle was subject of a “raid.” So now I wonder where is the outrage, the community outpouring of our time, talents and wealth, political and spiritual pressure, when we are faced with:

1 in 4 black men being HIV positive
1,000 plus on a waiting list for HIV medication
No shelter in the city allowing Transgender persons a place to lay their head as the gender they identify
Having no real protection from hate crimes
Having no employment protection
Having few ways of protecting our spouses with insurance
Living in paralyzing fear our kids will be taken from us
Allowing our relationships to be trashed in the State Constitution
Allowing racism, sexism, ageism and the entire ism’s to go unattended in a meaningful way in our community

The list goes on, but wait maybe the representative is right after all. Our non-profits are all suffering from a lack of volunteers and money and our leaders are feeling alone because we as the LGBTQIA community as a whole have become a little too comfortable with an “acceptance strategy.”

And ain’t it grand?


Rev. Paul M. Turner is the Senior Pastor of Gentle Spirit Christian Church of Atlanta. For more information, please visit www.gentlespirit.org or e-mail info@gentlespirit.org.