Americans Split on Businesses Turning Away Gay Weddings

Photo via REUTERS / Nate Chute / RNS

Business owner Elizabeth Ladd holds a sticker she plans to display outside her store. Photo via REUTERS / Nate Chute / RNS

A host of governors, CEOs, and church leaders call Indiana’s new religious freedom law a backdoor opening to anti-gay discrimination, but Americans appear more divided on whether a wedding-related business should have the right to turn away a gay customer.

The law, which critics say would allow owners of small businesses to invoke their faith to refuse service to LGBT customers, applies most apparently to wedding vendors — bakers, photographers, and florists, for example — who cite their faith in opposing same-sex marriage.

Where is the American public on this debate? It depends on how the question is asked.

A February Associated Press poll found that 57 percent of Americans believe a wedding-related business should have the right to refuse service to a gay couple on religious grounds, as opposed to nearly 4 in 10 Americans (39 percent) who said that religious exemption — which Indiana’s new law explicitly allows — is wrong.

Weekly Wrap 4.3.15: The 10 Best Stories You Missed This Week

1. At Least 10 Religious Groups Have Come Out Against Anti-LGBT 'Religious Liberty' Laws
"While substantial attention has been paid to the lawmakers, athletes, businesses, and celebrities who have challenged the new laws, less has been said about the steady flow of criticism from the exact group these RFRAs are ostensibly designed to protect: people of faith."

2. Stress and Hope in Tehran
On Thursday, the U.S. and Iran along with five world powers reached a preliminary deal that would curb Iran’s nuclear program and address sanctions imposed upon the country. The New York Times offers this glimpse into what those sanctions mean for ordinary Iranians.

3. Outcry Over RFRA Might Be a Fear of Christians
"The outcry isn’t about the law, it’s about us. It’s a fear that we will discriminate. And it is a fear based on a history that, whether we like it or not, is ours. We have, in no shortage of ways, broken relationships with the LGBTQ community. We have expelled our sons and daughters. We have protested them. We blamed them for the ills of society like a scapegoat. And no matter what we believe about same-sex marriage, that is wrong. Because of that, restoring relationship and trust with the LGBTQ community is on us."

4. Why I Won't Wear White on My Wedding Day
"As far as we have come, and as removed from these traditions’ origins as we may be, we are still attached to these remnants of a woman’s worth and identity being grounded in her sexual activity, importantly solely for the purposes of her pleasing a man."

Black Lesbian Bishop Yvette Flunder Is ‘Using My Energy to Find Peace’

Bishop Yvette Flunder, pastor of City of Refuge United Church of Christ in Oakla

Bishop Yvette Flunder, pastor of City of Refuge United Church of Christ in Oakland, Calif. Image via RNS.

By her own count, Bishop Yvette Flunder has officiated at 149 funerals for victims of AIDS and HIV. Her office in Oakland, Calif., contains the ashes from some of those funerals after family members refused to claim them.

In recent weeks, she’s been celebrated and castigated for being an African-American bishop who’s legally married to another woman.

But when the time came for her to speak at a small Baptist college in this Bible Belt city, she chose to forgive the black clergymen who called her appearance a “travesty of the highest order.”

“I’m not using my energy for useless fights,” the third-generation preacher said at the end of a rousing sermon on March 17. 

“I’m using my energy to find peace. Let there be peace on earth.”

Predictions of Evangelical Concessions on LGBT Rights Are Premature

A woman in the March for Marriage in March 2013. Photo via Adelle M. Banks / RNS

Pardon the yawn.

The 1.8 million-member Presbyterian Church (USA) on March 17 voted to officially approve of same-sex marriage, an announcement that shouldn’t surprise anyone who has followed the mainline Protestant denomination’s trajectory. Perhaps a more substantial but less widely reported story was the decision by City Church, San Francisco’s largest evangelical congregation, to affirm LGBT couples.

Evangelicals are among the most stalwart opponents to LGBT marriage, but a number of evangelical congregations have publicly shifted their stance in the last year. Among them are Seattle’s Eastlake Community Church, Nashville’s GracePointe Church, Portland’s Christ Church, and New Heart Community Church in La Mirada, Calif. Other prominent evangelical pastors tell me off the record that they are in the midst of similar conversations.

Churches aren’t the only evangelical factions inching left on matters of sexuality. 

Presbyterian Church (USA) Approves Same-Sex Marriage Amendment

Photo via Nata Sha /

Photo via Nata Sha /

The Presbyterian Church (USA) approved an amendment to include same-sex relationships in its constitutional definition of marriage on March 17. A majority of the denomination’s 171 presbyteries have now voted to accept the new wording, which replaces “between a woman and a man” with “between two people, traditionally a man and a woman.”

Although 71 percent of the leaders in the General Assembly, the governing body of the PCUSA, voted to approve same-sex marriage in June, the denomination was waiting for a majority of its local presbyteries to accept the change. That number, 86, was reached on March 17.

Utah Lawmakers Pass Anti-Discrimination Bill with LGBT, Mormon Support

Photo via Francisco Kjolseth / The Salt Lake Tribune / RNS

L. Tom Perry and Troy Williams, executive director of Equality Utah. Photo via Francisco Kjolseth / The Salt Lake Tribune / RNS

After seven years of debate and a historic compromise, the Utah House of Representatives on March 11 voted final passage of a bill to enact the state’s first statewide nondiscrimination protections for the gay and transgender community, while providing safeguards for religious liberty.

The 65-10 vote was the last legislative hurdle for the bill, just one week after it debuted with the blessing of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the LGBT community.

Utah’s Republican Gov. Gary Herbert was expected to sign the bill at a ceremony on Thursday.

Equality Utah Executive Director Troy Williams hailed the vote as a “monumental day for Utah. This vote proves that protections for gay and transgender people in housing and the workplace can gracefully co-exist with the rights of people of faith. One does not exist at the expense of the other.”

Under the bill, existing anti-discrimination laws for housing and employment would be amended to include sexual orientation and gender identity and clarify exemptions for religious institutions and provide protections for religious expression.

Perceiving Reality Differently: #Dressgate and the Church

Photo via swiker / tumblr

Photo via swiker / tumblr

If you thought I was going to be one of those bloggers who was above using the recent viral #dressgate as blog fodder, you would be wrong. In fact, as soon as the dress started trending, I knew I would be writing about it because it so perfectly encapsulates my message.

By now you have seen the dress, and gone through the stages of denial, bewilderment, and acceptance of how your perception of color differs from the next person. You may have even read The Science of Why No One Agrees on the Color of This Dress. But you may not yet have had a faith writer exegete the profound spiritual significance of the dress. Do not fear, I am here to deliver. Below is a simple Christian Guide to #Dressgate:

A. If you see blue/black: you are a solid Christian. Like a rock, you are steadfast and unchanging. Because rocks are often black.

B. If you see white/gold: we all know only true Christians can see white/gold, as gold signifies the color which paves the streets of heaven, and white, the color of angel’s robes.

C. If you see BOTH colors: you are one of those progressive, liberal, hippie types who is so politically correct you can’t even exclude a color set of a dress.

D. If you can only see one set of colors, but you’re so convinced you can trick your brain into seeing the other that you will spend an entire span of family dinner twitching your face, blinking and winking furiously, twisting your head at ridiculous angles at the photo, then you are just my husband.

I’m C, of course. The freaky dress does crazy mental magic on my brain, switching colors on me spontaneously, forcing me to existentially question every life decision I have ever made with my faulty, cognitive synapses.

And I’m kidding. Please, don’t be sending me hate mail about the true Christian thing, I’m kidding.

I’m Queer, and I’m (Still) an Evangelical

Photo via Stephen Voss Photography / RNS

Evangelicals for Marriage Equality spokesman Brandan Robertson. Photo via Stephen Voss Photography / RNS

On Feb. 21, broke the news that my evangelical publisher, Destiny Image, dropped a book contract it had made with me almost a year ago because its buyers refused to sell my book due to my pro-LGBTQ activism.

Many conservative evangelicals have called my pro-LGBTQ stance “deplorable” and labeled me a false teacher. Other progressives have uplifted my story as one that demonstrates the discrimination that too many conservative Christians have become known for. In all of this coverage, both positive and negative, though, the true message of my situation has gotten lost.

Sure, my publisher dropped my book contract. Sure, evangelical booksellers seem to have blacklisted me and refuse to sell my evangelical book in evangelical bookstores — a too-close-to-home example of the evangelical discrimination against the LGBTQ community and our allies.

But at the heart of this controversy, there’s a deeper problem: a fundamentally flawed belief that one cannot be a true Christian if one identifies as LGBTQ (or an ally of LGBTQ people).

Weekly Wrap 2.20.15: The 10 Best Stories You Missed This Week

1. Because Extreme Cold Always Brings Climate Deniers Out of the Woodwork … 
Bill Nye, yep, the Science Guy, offers the media this helpful prompting: “‘Let’s not confuse or interchange climate change with global warming,’ noting that when the climate changes, ‘some places get colder.’”

2. After the Copenhagen Synagogue Shooting, This Muslim Community Is Responding in the Best Way Possible 
“Islam is about protecting our brothers and sisters, regardless of which religion they belong to. Islam is about rising above hate and never sinking to the same level as the haters. Islam is about defending each other. Muslims want to show that we deeply deplore all types of hatred of Jews, and that we are there to support them.”

3Afghan Civilian Deaths Hit Record High
2014 was the deadliest year on record for civilians in Afghanistan, according to the U.N. Total civilian casualties jumped 22 percent from 2013.​

4. Ash Wednesday: To Be Seen
“… revelation does happen and ... we see. We see that we have always been seen by God. God holds us and beholds us even when it can be so hard for us to hold and behold God.”