“Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?”
November 8, 2008. Fresh off the heels of the first time that we elected Barack Obama to become the President of the United States, the results for marriage equality in California were disheartening. By a simple majority vote, LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, & Transgendered) Californians lost the right to marry after enjoying a brief period of marriage granted through a previous decision made by the California Supreme Court.
As a gay man of color, these results both excited me and pained me. I was hurt and confused and saddened for the LGBT folk in California (and the nation) who were just told that they were second-class citizens. I was angry. And so were many of my friends and people in the LGBT and allied community. We didn’t want to let this injustice just happen without being able to express how we felt to our city, our state, and our country, so we rallied and marched in protest.
On that cold Saturday morning in November I came equipped with my “All You Need Is Love” sign and rallied with hundreds of others in solidarity with our Californian brothers and sisters. Together we sang, chanted, and railed against the inequality that our community had been subjected to for years. The crowd became so energized that we quickly demanded to march through the streets of downtown Chicago. We lined up along Madison Street and began marching (without a permit) throughout the city streets. It was chaotic, and towards the end our numbers began to thin, but our act of protest sent a message to those who were watching and were listening: we won’t let this injustice stand.
Looking back now, we’ve made a lot of progress in the march toward equality for LGBT people. The Armed Forces “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy has been struck down. Gay marriage is now granted in 9 states and the District of Columbia (with several states close behind), and Proposition 8, while still in effect, is now heading toward the United States Supreme Court after being struck down by lower courts. More and more states and localities are passing Employment Non-Discrimination Acts which include sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. We have a President who believes in equal rights for LGBT Americans. But the injustice isn’t over. It’s far from over.
Even within the space of our own United Methodist Church, LGBT people are not fully accepted. At the last UMC General Conference (a huge meeting between leaders that takes place every four years), church leaders couldn’t even agree to disagree about issues surrounding sexuality and the Church. Thankfully there are places like Church of the Village, and ministries like Reconciling Ministries Network, who are leading the path for justice and equality for all of God’s children. But the injustice isn’t over. It’s far from over.
So how do we, as people who will no longer let this injustice stand, make a difference within our denomination and within the greater conversation around equality for all of God’s children? I believe the first step starts within ourselves.
How often do we allow injustice to run rampant in our lives? Maybe we harbor thoughts or feelings about others who are different from us. Maybe we allow injustice by not speaking up when we see it. Maybe we partake actively in injustice in the choices we make on a daily basis. I believe that we must start within ourselves: owning up to, healing from, and turning away from the injustice in our lives. Then we can begin the greater work within our church and our communities.
As we continue through this journey of Lent, may we have the courage to face our own injustices. For once we do, we will be able free every yoke of oppression, and break every bond of injustice.