The cancellation of a lesbian funeral in Denver, Colorado, in Jan 2015 has gone viral over Facebook and the web in general. This raises interesting views over LGBT ‘choice’ and religion, a hotly contested topic. The debate is often centered around homosexuality being a choice and a lifestyle supported by big-name celebrities like Lady Gaga and Cory Monteith (RIP). The debate is further complicated by association with a dominant LGBT agenda, gay marriage. This particular newsbyte is a nexus of the above issues.
It may be argued that many countries protect the rights of individuals to exercise free choice. It is said that just as many of our LGBT brethren live in a world where their ‘choice’ is supported, the choice of other people like Pastors Gary Rolando and Ray Chavez not to service LGBT families because of their religious beliefs should also be respected. To illustrate the context of this article, some followers of some religions, including Christianity, interpret religious teachings to say that homosexuality is unnatural or violates those teachings in some way. This has presumably caused Pastor Rolando to reach his view.
It is not the intention of this post to enter into the LGBT ‘choice’ vs ‘nature’ debate. That debate has gone on for many years with proponents on both sides and is too lengthy to fairly deal with here. I, personally take the stand that LGBT is entirely natural. Of course, I am a Western educated, LGBT lawyer with my own preconceptions. My reflections below should be taken in that context.
Free choice is a funny thing. It is a double-edged sword in which it can be empowering and yet dis-empowering at the same time. It can empower LGBT rights activists to fight for the choice to love and marry. It can simultaneously take away the rights of our LGBT brethren by saying, well no, your sexuality is a ‘choice’ therefore you have to bear the consequences of that ‘choice’, namely abuse and rejection by your family, friends and even third parties at your own funeral. What happens if your ‘choice’ to be LGBT clashes with a fundamental cornerstone of society, religion, who for many involves a ‘choice’ to subscribe, as is the case here? With respect to this article, I would say if you truly respect a person’s free ‘choice’, you do not impose or impact on someone’s basic right to have a simple funeral. The Pastors were not asked to approve the LGBT couple’s choice to marry or have children. The Pastors were also not asked to make a theological stand whether LGBT ‘lifestyles’ should be recognised. The Pastors were asked to preside over a ceremony to celebrate a life unfortunately cut short. The family was grieving here over the loss of a wife and a mother. I would say that LGBT debates aside, there are fundamental rights of respect, decency and sanctity associated with the death of a human being that are cherished by most societies. This was denied to Ms Vanessa Collier.
You could also suggest that Pastors are held to a particular higher standard in the community. They are respected as spiritual leaders whom the community looks to for guidance in yes, spiritual and theological matters relevant to their respective religions, but also in fundamental rights of respect, love, decency and sanctity. Even if a Pastor disagreed with a particular ‘choice’, he/she would be more respected if he/she was seen to uphold these fundamental rights, despite his/her own personal views.
But, no, the Church here did not refuse the funeral completely, at least initially. They only requested that the video of the deceased and her wife kissing be removed. That’s reasonable, right?
In my view, this is splitting hairs. How can a funeral be conducted without a memorial of a person’s life, however they ‘chose’ to live it? This seems to be a case of imposing one ‘choice’ over another ‘choice’, over a circumstance where both sides should bring their defences down temporarily in furtherance of higher purposes of love, respect, decency and sanctity.