If you are a member of the LGBTQ community living in the state of Michigan, it can be hard to keep hope alive. In his first year as Governor of the state, Rick Snyder signed a law banning domestic partner benefits. The message became clear that the state leader would not take the lead for becoming an inclusive Michigan. In 2014 U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman ordered the state to stop enforcing the ban on same-sex marriage. The state Attorney General, Bill Schuette put a stay on this decision. Over 300 couples got married the day after marriage equality was legal (3/22/14) and as a new week began found out that they were not able to continue celebrating their joyous marriages. Governor Snyder has responded time and again that he is only trying to follow the law and let the courts make the final decision. It is not lost on many that this was an election year for him and that probably weighed heavily on whether or not he would speak in support of the LGBTQ community. However, he recently had an opportunity to speak to the Michigan Civil Rights Commission and he neglected to talk about two important issues for the LGBTQ community: expanding the Elliott-Larsen Amendment to the state Constitution and marriage equality. The message is clear—he is not taking leadership on creating an inclusive state. However, his voice, while powerful, is becoming a minority.
I attended the “MI Staredown” event with members of Equality Marriage in which we made our presence known as there was a potential threat of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act passing prior to the legislators’ holiday break. We gathered in a local parish before marching to the Capitol and one thing was clear: everyone was exhausted. We showed up because this is legislation that is potentially harmful to the LGBTQ community, but it was difficult to rally the troops after the long year of fighting for marriage equality and civil rights for the community.
I prayed about this during the MSU winter break. The lack of hope was palpable and that hurt my heart. How can we stand united as a community if we’re clearly worn down? Enter: Holy Spirit. I received the following poem in a Christmas card.
While the message is layered and cryptic, as is often the case with messages from our Creator, the prayer is one of seeking clarity. It is a prayer clinging to hope in a world that continues to push against the idea that such a force exists. This is the time for us to gather together in strength and numbers. Let us pick up our family and friends that feel isolated and afraid. See, hope does not work alone—it is a force that by its very nature is magnetic and it calls us out of the darkness.
People often ask me, a religious leader, why I am so political. For me, politics and religion are an interesting mix. While I believe in religious freedom and the ability to practice our faiths freely, it is my faith that informs how I behave politically because it is typically legislation that needs to loose its fetters so that we may all be liberated. I hold on to hope because my faith and spirit dictate I do so while my humanity continues to fight against this force of good. My humanity says, “Don’t bother. It’s not worth the fight. Don’t put yourself in harms way.” My spirit says, “How can you sit still when there are people crying out for liberation.” And this is the struggle of earth citizenship.