Showing supportfor gay neighborswas the right thingto do

Published: 9/6/2018 1:36:34 PM

About 30 years ago, a local paper received a rather routine looking announcement for inclusion in the paper’s wedding section. On closer review it turned out that the two people who had been wed in a Quaker ceremony were both women.

The paper’s editors, none of whom was gay but all of whom probably had friends or family members who were, convened a discussion that resulted in publication of the item. They concluded this was like any other announcement about consenting adults choosing to blend their lives through the commitment of matrimony in a religious ceremony in the presence of friends and family.

That decision was a bit ahead of the times, it seems, as this was years before Massachusetts legalized gay marriage in 2014 and the U.S. Supreme Court made it legal across the land in 2015.

Since then, the state has experienced 14 years of gay marriage, and probably some gay divorces, and yet the world doesn’t seem to have fallen apart for treating gays like their straight friends and neighbors.

So, it’s always a little jarring when we encounter people like Scott Lively who still oppose gay marriage or would deny such equal rights and consideration for the LGBTQ community.

On the other hand, we were encouraged and happy when up to 100 people in the North Quabbin region stood up for LGBTQ rights and respect recently when they peacefully protested a campaign appearance in Orange by Lively, long-shot Republican governor candidate known for his anti-gay views and activism.

The Springfield-based evangelical pastor is best known for preaching globally against “the homosexual movement” and advocating anti-gay legislation in Uganda and Russia.

Lively said at outset of his campaign that he is tolerant toward the kind of hidden homosexual subculture that existed before the 1969 Stonewall uprising in New York, widely considered the single most important event leading to the U.S. gay liberation movement.

“People have the right to choose wrong, but they shouldn’t have the power to force the mainstream to accommodate their subculture and transform the mainstream,” said the gray-bearded minister. He has railed against the “radical gay agenda” he says is “intent on remaking the entire society in their image, in which they have control of all of the seats of power — they or their surrogates …. so that everyone adopts the idea that unfettered sexual expression is the norm for everyone and you can do whatever you want.”

But last week, close to 100 people gathered peacefully to make the counter-argument in support of their gay neighbors — one of tolerance, acceptance and love.

The event was organized by state Rep. Susannah Whipps of Athol.

The vigil began in front of the North Quabbin Community Coalition, but moved down the road to where a group was hosting a dinner to introduce Lively.

To his credit, Lively, who grew up in western Franklin County, emerged and began speaking to groups of individuals in the line.

A number of people spoke to Lively, disputing his ideas, according to Mitchell Grosky, who attended the vigil. Those who attended said they felt that hatred of any group because of their sexual preference, or their race, or their color, or their religion, or their ethnicity, or their country of origin, is wrong and not what people stand for in the North Quabbin area.

Lively told people they misunderstood him — that he did not hate anyone — that he was only against gay marriage.

“To see someone like Lively welcomed into our town by a few people made me upset,” said Whipps, explaining her motive for organizing the protest. The vigil, she said, was “more of a showing for people in this community to know they have friends, they have allies and they have supporters.”

Whipps deserves credit for organizing this show of support, as it could cost her votes in some circles, even though gay marriage has been upheld by our highest state and federal courts. She did the right thing, and her views will be on the right side of history.

But of more immediate importance, this public counterpoint to Lively’s message means young gay people who saw him hosted here will see others in their hometown support their equal rights. They will know they are not alone.

“I think that was an important message,” Whipps said.

We agree.

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