We will never have true civilization until we have learned to recognize the rights of others. —Will Rogers
I don’t watch reality television as a habit, so I wasn’t even aware that celebrity personal trainer Jillian Michaels has her own show until yesterday. Apparently she does, however, and having all that production ability available allowed her to create a touching video which she used to ask her partner of seven years, Heidi Rhodes, to marry her. I could be cynical and question whether the whole thing was done just for the television cameras, and certainly, since the show isn’t done live, the timing is ratings fodder, but why choose cynicism over love? The video, which you can watch here, is one of those that can only be the product of a long-term relationship full of ups and downs and tugs at the heartstrings of anyone with a romantic bone in their body. I find it wonderful that they’ve not only had such a great relationship, but that their rights to recognize that relationship through marriage have been affirmed across the whole country. This is progress.
Oh, wait, those rights may not actually extend to the entire United States. Because Puerto Rico is not a full-fledged state, there is a frightening chance that last year’s Supreme Court ruling regarding gay marriage doesn’t apply to the unincorporated state. The federal judge based his ruling on the concept that only fully incorporated states enjoy the full protection of the Constitution and that, by extension, the 14th amendment does not apply to Puerto Rico. This is significant not only in terms of LGBT rights, but the full realm of civil rights based on the 14th amendment. If the judge’s ruling that the 14th amendment doesn’t apply at all, then all the civil rights gained over the past 60 years would not apply either. Maybe this will be what pushes Puerto Rico toward statehood.
Even on the mainland, though, the fight to deny rights to LGBT peoples continues. Democratic senators in Missouri filibustered for 39 hours this week in an attempt to block a so-called religious freedom bill that would, in the name of preserving religious rights, denies rights to LGBT peoples. This is significant because the bill is part of a push in that state to create a constitutional amendment that is inherently restrictive in the name of religious freedom. The bill still has to pass the state legislature before going for a statewide vote, so the matter is far from over. Still, the fact that the denial of basic rights is still an issue is severely disturbing.
That religious freedom would be on the wrong side of human rights is hardly anything new. That Christianity, specifically, has to be coerced over time to accept even the most basic of human rights has been a well-documented fact in the US since the mid-19th century. Christianity has been pro-slavery, against women’s rights (including the right to vote), anti-semitic, anti-segregation, and anti-voting rights, and ultimately found themselves on the wrong side of each of those issues. The fact that the Ku Klux Klan, as hate-filled as they are, is based on what they consider core Christian values does not go without notice.
Yet, even among Christians, there is division when it comes to LGBT rights. I was severely disappointed when the Stockton Leadership Foundation, a non-profit religiously-motivated organization, decided to cancel Stockton, Arizona’s community Easter Sunrise Service rather than include a church comprised largely of LGBT members. How these people can celebrate Easter at all after such a disgusting display of anti-Christlike attitudes is beyond me. The Foundation had never planned on inviting the Valley Ministries congregation, but after that invitation was “accidentally” sent their attempts to disinvite and then further diminish any role of the small 70-member church were more like the actions of the ancient Sanhedrin rather than the teachings of the one crucified with their approval.
Spring is a time of renewal, of growth, and newness; a perfect time for love and engagement and all those cute emotional feels. The ancient pagans seem to have gotten it right, with celebrations that involved dancing and singing and naked frivolity. Doesn’t that seem so much better, to celebrate love, than to create loss by diminishing and removing someone’s rights and dignity? Perhaps, in the name of religious freedom, the answer is for all of us, Christian, Jew, Muslim, gay, straight, transgendered, bi, curious, questioning, Pagan or atheist, to dance naked around a bonfire together. Why? Because when we strip away all the titles and labels, we’re all just human, we’re all brothers and sisters, one species of being. Create love, not loss.