DALLAS — The amazing election results on Nov. 4 have given North Texans, and probably everybody else, enough confidence to enlist in our own local part of the ongoing class and democracy war. For example, it is nothing unusual for church leaders to preach gay-baiting hatred in Texas, but Dallasites are showing that they don’t intend to lie down for it any more.
When the preacher at one of the bastions of Southern Baptist right-wing evangelical churches, First Baptist of downtown Dallas, decided to preach on “Gay is Not OK,” he drew a hundred-strong protest on Nov. 9. He told reporters that he would continue the topic, and found triple the number of protestors on Nov. 15 when some 300 cities and towns saw thousands of demonstrators for gay and lesbian rights.
People just aren’t afraid any more.
LBGT activists and their straight supporters carried out an enthusiastic rally across San Jacinto Street from the First Baptists’ Criswell Center, where churchgoers enter and exit the mammoth church facilities. They sang the old Baptist Sunday School standard, “Jesus Loves Me,” and a slightly altered version of “Jesus Loves the Little Children.” Chants included, “2-4-6-8 Dallas Doesn’t Want Your Hate!” and “1-3-5-7 Bigots Do Not Go To Heaven!”
Many of the signs reflected the new use of the numeral “eight” in reference to anti-gay Proposition 8 that Californians have accepted. Around 1,000 protested Prop. 8 at Dallas City Hall on Nov. 15. At the Baptist Church, “No H8,” was popular. Many hand-made signs reflected a certain irritation with the evangelicals’ misuse of isolated biblical quotations. “Jesus called, he wants his religion back,” said one of them. Another said, “Holy Bible: Slavery OK, Gays Bad, Women Property, Snakes Talk!”
Divisiveness is not the sole property of one North Texas preacher. A Fort Worth Episcopal Bishop led a split from his international organization because they ordained female priests and a gay bishop. Reporters said that 50 of the 55 congregations would go with him into an Anglican sect based in Argentina. Way down at the end of the article, though, it is revealed that the five remaining churches, less committed to pious bigotry, have over half the membership!
People are choosing sides.
Elsewhere, crowds gathered near public buildings in cities large and small, including Boston, San Francisco, Chicago and Fargo, to vent their frustrations on the Prop. 8 vote, celebrate gay relationships and renew calls for change.
“We are the American family, we live next door to you, we teach your children, we take care of your elderly,” said Heather Baker a special education teacher from Boston who addressed the crowd at Boston’s City Hall Plaza. “We need equal rights across the country.”
Connecticut, which began same-sex weddings this past week, and Massachusetts are the only two states that allow gay marriage. The other 48 states do not, and 30 of them have taken the extra step of approving constitutional amendments. A few states allow civil unions or domestic partnerships that grant some rights of marriage.
Protests following the vote on Proposition 8 in California, which defined marriage as between a man and a woman, have sometimes been angry and even violent, and demonstrators have targeted faiths that supported the ban, including the Mormon Church.
However, representatives of Join the Impact, which organized Saturday’s demonstrations, asked supporters to be respectful and refrain from attacking other groups during the rallies.
Seattle blogger Amy Balliett, who started the planning for the protests when she set up a Web page three days after the California vote, said persuasion is impossible without civility. “If we can move anybody past anger and have a respectful conversation, then you can plant the seed of change,” she said. “We need to show the world when one thing happens to one of us, it happens to all of us,” she said.