As the last few WYD pilgrims straggle out of Sydney, many in our community are breathing a sigh of relief. Whether it was the throngs of devout Catholic youth roaming the streets or the overwhelming sense that our inner city safe havens were being overrun with pilgrims of a religion whose stance on homosexuality could be seen as patronising at best, and bigoted and discriminatory at worst, I have heard many in our community say, Thank God it’s over.
Some media outlets contacted us during WYD to ask if we would protest against the Pope’s visit. To some people’s surprise, we said no, because many people in our community are Catholic. And for many people in our community, religion plays a vital part in their lives.
For example, in an interview with The New York Times in 2006, Clyde Zuber, 49, and Martin Fowler, 55, remember having to sit on the curb outside their Baptist Church in Texas, almost 20 years ago, Sunday after Sunday, reading the Bible together, after the pastor told them they were not welcome inside.
The men met at a Dallas church and have been together for 23 years. Now living in North Carolina, they attend church and hold a Bible study group for gay Christians every Friday night at their home. For Clyde and Martin, religion, as well as their sexuality, is a cornerstone of their lives.
The GLRL supports religious members of our community, and those for whom spirituality is an integral part. Importantly, we encourage the acceptance and celebration of gays and lesbians within all religions. Opening the doors, wide, of religion to our community will take some time. But as we’ve seen with the emergence of the Metropolitan Community Church in Sydney, the appointment of the first openly gay Anglican Bishop in New Hampshire in 2003, the preachings of Bishop Spong in the United States, it’s pretty clear that a change is gonna come.
The GLRL stands strongly against discrimination on the basis of sexuality within any religious organisation. This is why we have always lobbied to remove the exemptions afforded to religious bodies under the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 (NSW). Why should a gay male or lesbian teacher be sacked from a religious school solely because of his/her sexuality? Discrimination is discrimination and there should be no caveats.
The GLRL will continue to fight hard to combat homophobia and discrimination in all religions. But we also respect and embrace the right of members of our community to feel the spirit.