Are there any issues that gather more concern and consternation than those involving our religious beliefs and our families?
That was most evident last week when the Selma City Council wrestled with its support for LGBT (aka LGBTQ) Pride Month.
The City Council had unanimously approved its support for Pride Month in March. Multi-colored Pride flags were installed downtown on June 1, and the reading of a proclamation was on the agenda for the June 7 Council meeting — where it was tabled by 3-2 vote.
Proclamations promoting various organizations and special days/weeks/months rarely get as contentious as did this one declaring June as Pride Month in Selma. That designation, declared nationally by President Joe Biden on June 1, recognizes, supports and validates the Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender community.
Then, at its June 21 meeting, the council voted 3-2 to officially read the proclamation. Mayor Pro-Tem Beverly Cho was the swing vote, reversing her June 7 vote to table the reading.
Much of the dialogue, as you can imagine, involved religious faith values.
In person, by phone and on social media, Christians weighed in with references to homosexuality being an “abomination,” Selma becoming Sodom and Gomorrah and claiming the LGBTQ community’s use of the rainbow for its flag was usurping a Christian symbol.
At the same time, families of Selma’s LBGT citizens also took to the phones and social media to champion a movement that offers support and encouragement to those facing bullying and discrimination because of their sexual orientation.
Selma’s First Christian Church, a Disciples of Christ affiliate, flew the Rainbow Flag all month and held a Pride Worship service. Pastor Maria Tafoya said her church is “open and affirming” to LGBTQ Christians.
And so the larger picture is this: What do City Council members owe to their constituents, and what do they owe to their God? Also, whose God should be invoked in our multi-faith city, nation and world? And what should be God’s role in a secular government?
Indeed, those questions hung around City Council chambers during the past few months. Councilwoman Blanca Mendoza-Navarro is on record stating she believes God put her on the Council. Contrast that with Councilwoman Sarah Guerra saying she understood that when she ran for public office, she had to put her religious beliefs to the side.
Two colleagues, two opposite approaches.
Pastor Marty Lynch Kaolelopono knows what side he is on, joining his two sons (and associate pastors) Keoki and Keloha in forcefully citing their Christian values to entreat the Council to deny its support for Pride week.
Their family was in contrast with the Nelsons — Mom Leslie and son Lance — who continued their campaign for better awareness and support for LGBT individuals. Lance, who is studying at Columbia University in New York City, is a gay man who was harassed and bullied while growing up in Selma. Lance’s brother Dustin, along with wife April and daughter Eila, also added their support for the Proclamation and flags.
I guess it should come as no surprise that Pride Month, a campaign intended to be supportive of a marginalized population, turned out to be a hot topic. When the multi-colored flags went up, Selmans were either proud or repulsed
Pride Month was a new avenue for Selma, and the council has admitted it needs to set policy going forward. Is Pride Month too long, should it be a week or two? Should we have a common downtown location to install various commemorative flags?
In the end, the City of Selma decided to support its LGBTQ residents with a statement that “invites everyone to reflect on ways we all can live and work together with a commitment to mutual respect and understanding ... “
A lofty goal, indeed. And for inspiration, we turn to Lorenzo Rios, retired Lt. Col. and ex-West Point professor who spoke at Saturday’s unveiling of the monuments at Veteran’s Plaza downtown. Toward the end of his address, Rios pointed to two flags blowing in the wind at and near Lincoln Park. If it wasn’t for the American flag, he said, we wouldn’t be flying the Pride Flag.
Then he added: “Don’t be afraid of difficult topics.”
With that thought in mind, let us now hope the vitriol on social media can dissipate as the flags come down this week and we move on in love, peace and brotherhood.