The LGBT community’s struggle for equality has rightfully been called the civil rights issue of our time. On May 20, Democratic Perspective co-hosts Mike Cosentino and Steve Williamson discussed the issues with LGBT leaders from Northern Arizona. Our guests included Susan Hughes, President of the Sedona/Verde Valley PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), Mark Luckey, from Sedona Gay Pride, and Alan Freedman, author and LGBT ally.
To put things in perspective, Steve and Mike pointed out that only a few years ago, discrimination against gays was one of the three pillars of conservative politics – God, guns and gays. But today, 13 countries, 10 states and Washington D.C. recognize gay marriage. And there are several more states that recognize gay civil unions.
When asked about the growing support of same sex marriage, Mark Luckey stated, “It takes a lot of time to change perspective of peoples’ attitudes toward the LGBT community. We’ve been fighting this struggle since before the seventies…”
“We’re not asking for any special rights,” he continued. “We want to have the opportunity to live the way everyone else in the world lives with freedom and who we are and without being discriminated against on a daily basis.”
Alan Freedman noted, “This is not just something being spurred and energized by our young people. There’s been a sea change in the hearts of our aging population, as well, insofar as issues of equality.” To further the point, Susan Hughes said, “I’m here representing PFLAG, but I’m also a member of Church of the Red Rocks… the congregation voted 91 percent to become an open and affirming congregation a year and a half ago.”
Obviously, things are changing, but as Luckey pointed out, there’s still a long way to go. “In the United States there are still states where you can be fired from your job just for being gay, he said. “Those laws are still on the books.”
“The discrimination is always there,” he continued. “I get up in the morning and I put my shoes on and I wonder who’s going to say something derogatory to me that day. I don’t think other people in the world always feel that. I don’t know if you guys heard about what’s happened in New York City…the gentleman got shot in the face? And it was an anti-gay thing. So those fears are always with us. That’s why I’m a spokesman for Sedona Pride. That’s why I reach out to teens who are struggling with their identities and help guide them through that.”
What Luckey does for teens, Hughes’ group does for parents. “PFLAG is a support group, particularly for parents who may not know where to go when their child comes out to them and need someone to talk to. That’s what our organization is here for.”
Demonstrating the struggle of parents, Freedman told the story of learning his daughter was gay. “A number of years ago, I was very much involved at a high profile level with a portion of the conservative right wing church…and of course, we bought into hook, line and sinker all of the theology and the posturing that still in large measure exist in the conservative church today……to say that we were devastated would be a profound understatement.”
“After I went through a long period of mourning, if you will, I got into bed one evening and I noticed a book (Is a Homosexual My Neighbor?) … I absolutely couldn’t put it down. By the time morning had arrived, I had gone from being a person of judgment to a person of questioning – deep, open, honest questioning. Several months later, I was absolutely convinced that equality was not only the only way for us to go as a country and as a world, but was also divinely sanctioned.”
Turning the tables on our hosts, Alan asked: “When did you decide you were straight?” When Mike answered that he really never decided, Alan asked, “Do you think that could be the same for gay folks?”
“We’re all people,” noted Susan. “We don’t need to have definitions, particularly of our sexuality. It doesn’t matter.”
But, unfortunately, it still does. “There are 1,100 or so laws on the books in the United States that are discriminatory towards the gay community,” noted Luckey. “In the State of Arizona, you can actually be kicked out of the hospital while you’re visiting your partner if that particular hospital is not supportive of your relationship.”
Freedman agreed. “Suffice it to say that we’re watching the Supreme Court very closely with respect to the Prop 8 issue in California as well as DOMA, the Defense Of Marriage Act. Hopefully, they will find themselves at the end of the day on the right side of history.
As for the religious objections to homosexuality, Freedman stated, “There are seven scriptures I refer to in my book, The Walk, when we’re referring to the LGBT community. I call them the ‘homo scriptures’ and I’ve done that by design because these are the scriptures that always are turned to in defining God’s view on the LGBT community. Instead of referring to them from a literal perspective, I come at it from a historical, cultural perspective, and when you interpret them that way, you get a totally different rendering.”
For more information about LGBT-related organizations in Northern Arizona, click on the following links: PFLAG Sedona/Verde Valley, Sedona Pride