Across this country and across this globe, there are life and death events taking place that affect the LGBT community. Let’s start at home, as the good and bad of the straight world crashes in on the rest.
In North Carolina, HB2 has been repealed! Hooray! But wait, let’s take a closer look at what exactly happened here. HB2 was not solely about keeping transgender people out of public rest rooms of their opposite gender identity. HB2 also had a lot to do with removing the ability of cities such as Charlotte from passing their own non-discrimination bills that would have protected the categories of both sexual orientation and gender identity. But over the several years that HB2 was in force, North Carolina lost multiple millions of dollars in entertainment and sports revenue. The NCAA and NBA withheld playoff games from being held in the state. For a basketball haven such as North Carolina (or is that basketball heaven?), this meant the loss of hosting any March Madness contests. Thousands of jobs that would have been created in the state never materialized, as many companies expanded elsewhere.
In 2016, the race for Governor was intense. Gov. Roy Cooper, the Democratic candidate and previous State Attorney General, won by a few more than 10,000 votes. But win he did. Then he walked into the Governor’s office facing a majority Republican state legislature that was committed to making his life and his tenure impotent. The repeal of HB2 came with a cost attached. While transgender folks no longer need to carry and produce their birth certificates when they use the facilities, cities do not have the ability to add extra protection to any classes of the population. Cooper stated, “My state is hurting now. The jobs are leaving now. The money’s going out of pockets for people now. People are talking about North Carolina in an embarrassing way now. We had to repeal this law now.” And so it remains to be seen if further protections will come for the LGBT community.
On the other side of the world, steps are being taken by the Chechen government to arrest, imprison, and torture gay men. As reported by Scott Romaniuk and Aldorezea Prandana on behalf of Eurasia Review, “The stated aim of Chechnya’s ‘detention centers,’ a word euphemistically referring to ‘concentrations camps,’ and lethal violence that has followed suit, is the total extermination of the gay population in Chechnya. The gay discourse can also be used against those who oppose regulations in Chechnya, where the deep-seeded taboo of homosexuality has forced people to live fake identities so as to conceal their sexuality. Interrogation and torture of allegedly gay men has involved efforts to extract information that would lead to the detainment of other gay men in the area. They are tortured for information with the purpose of rounding-up other homosexuals to fuel the collection others.”
The Guardian has reported that even journalists filing stories about the gay purge are at risk of being targeted and killed. In fact, a couple have been already. Pressure on Russian authorities have gone unrealized. Within Chechnya, the claim is made by authorities that there are no gays there. They do not exist, and if they did, their families would deal with them directly. There are few steps we can take that can have an impact on this situations. But what we can do is to continue to raise our voices with our legislators, work in conjunction with groups such as Amnesty International and stay informed. Silence is consent, and ignorance is collusion.
Once again in the United States, the United Methodist Church has again refused to allow the LGBT community to be a full part of its membership and its leadership. There are too many Methodists who are stuck on this statement in the church’s Book of Discipline. It states that homosexuality is “incompatible with Christian teaching.” On July 15, 2016, the Rev. Karen Oliveto was elected the first openly gay Bishop in the United Methodist Church, in its Western Jurisdiction. Since then, there has been a strong push by conservatives to have her removed from her office.
While there was tremendous hope and celebration at her election as Bishop, Oliveto has been the subject of concerted efforts to undermine her ministry and have her title revoked. The Rev. Rob Renfroe is the leader of Good News, a conservative group within the denomination which has been stridently opposed to any gay inclusion in the church. He reacted to Oliveto’s election that the action ignored the Council of Bishops’ proposal for a commission to examine all church law dealing with human sexuality. “Instead, these conferences have moved ahead with legislative enactments pledging non-conformity with the Book of Discipline, culminating in the election of a practicing homosexual as bishop. If the Western Jurisdiction wanted to push the church to the brink of schism, they could not have found a more certain way of doing so.”
On April 25 to 28, the Jurisdictional Council met in Newark, NJ to determine if Bishop Oliveto would remain as Bishop, or whether she would be removed from her office. In a ruling that is attempting to satisfy all parties and is pleasing none, the Judicial Council decided that she could continue to serve in her role, but any church lawsuits or legal action against her would also continue.
The Council of Bishops released a statement that said in part, “Where do we go from here? We put our trust in God to strengthen us even as we hold differing view about human sexuality. We must continue to love one another just as Christ instructed us to do. It is by loving one another fully that the world will know we are Christians. It is through this incarnational love that we go forth to make disciples of Jesus Christ and transform the world.” Hopefully, these are not empty words to placate those who are diametrically opposed to each others’ views. God help us! Literally.