When we think of southern Baptists, pro-gay protesters are the last thing that comes to mind … but life holds many surprises. Last week, Reverend Maurice “Bojangles” Blanchard and his life partner, Domenique James, applied for a marriage license at the Jefferson County Clerk’s Office in Louisville, KY, after marching for an hour in front of the old County Courthouse with signs and a handful of supporters. When the clerk predictably responded,”Unfortunately, I am unable to issue you a license, because same-sex marriage is not legal in Kentucky,” the couple staged a sit-in to protest Kentucky’s ban on gay marriage. When Blanchard and James refused to leave when the office closed at 5:00 p.m., police came and arrested them for trespassing. Andrew Wolfson reported for the Courier Journal that the police first offered the two men the option of receiving a citation (which was declined), then led the couple away peacefully without bothering to handcuff them.
When MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts asked Blanchard and James what motivated their act of civil disobedience, a bad-ass looking Blanchard clad in sunglasses and a gleaming brown suit replied:
“As a minister and as people of faith, we have to give witness to the fact that this is an unjust law and that it is discrimination, and that if we don’t act, we are accomplices to our own discrimination.”
When Roberts prodded them about why they chose to protest in Kentucky when gay marriage is legal in 10 states, James responded shyly, with just the slightest hint of a southern drawl:
“And the reason ‘why in Kentucky,’ versus another state, is because this is our home. We shouldn’t have to go to another state. because we live in Kentucky. We should be able to get married in Kentucky, and live in Kentucky, and have a happy life together.”
The interview ended on a hopeful note, when our doubting Thomas asked why Blanchard and James think they can change people’s minds about marriage equality in a red state like Kentucky, and Blanchard answered:
“First off, I’m an optimist, so yes, I think [marriage equality is] likely. I think what it’s gonna take is individual hearts being changed and moved through relationships with people that are different than them. SO what we wanted to do by applying for this license, and for people seeing it, is for people to say ‘those folks are like us. We can’t separate them by saying ‘Them’ and ‘Us’ any more.'”
So after this hullabaloo, a shocked minister and congregation promptly banished the would-be newly weds amidst hurled invectives involving fire and brimstone, right? Nope. Despite the Southern Baptist church’s reputation for intolerance, the Highland Baptist Church is a welcoming and inclusive congregation. Blanchard runs their GLBT outreach program,True Colors, and was also ordained as a minister there last year. Although the church was not officially involved in the protest — and cannot be, as long as they continue to call themselves a Southern Baptist Church — Pastor Joe Phelps expressed support in his January 24th “Community and Conscience” public statement.
“In the protest, sit-in, and subsequent arrest, Bojangles at no point said or implied that his actions were endorsed or taken on behalf of Highland […] This is not to imply that I, or the church in general, want to distance ourselves from Bojangles and Dominique. They are beloved and faithful members of our church. Bojangles’ ministry was blessed and ordained by our congregation.”
Highland Baptist’s website describes itself as “an intriguing, inviting and inclusive community of faith.” And apparently, they’re dead serious about the “inclusive” part. Unlike the majority of Southern Baptist churches, which claim that the bible is the infallible word of God, Highland Baptist more beautifully, humbly, and ambiguously states, “we know and celebrate God as understood in the Bible, but humbly recognize that God is bigger and deeper than any single expression.”
As for County Clerk Bobbi Holsclaw, she’s also caught between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, her office’s principles of conduct forbid “discrimination of any nature.” On the other hand, she is required to follow state law, and could be fired for not doing so. And on the third hand … oh wait, there is no third hand. Holsclaw also primly stated that Blanchard and James had come to the wrong place, and “they should be at the legislature.”
Here’s the video from MSNBC:
Here’s an earlier video from the Courier Journal:
|Elisabeth Parker is a writer, Web designer, mom, political junkie, and dilettante. Come visit her at ElisabethParker.Com, “like” her on facebook, or follow her on Twitter. For more articles by Elisabeth, click here.|