How do you spell “respect”?

On June 14, Mayor Terry Bellamy officially proclaimed June as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender History Month in Asheville. The month was already half over when the proclamation was made; authors Mel White and Wayne Besen had already inveighed against that ravening wolf at our door, Exodus International, with its “Reality of Grace” conference targeting the LGBT community. Local activists Mary Counce and Angel Chandler had already been arrested and released for decrying a proposed amendment to the state constitution banning same-sex marriage. Had the mayor not acted when she did, the great freight train of history would have passed her by.

But what’s important — historic, even — is that the mayor did act, albeit belatedly. To be sure, she didn’t offer Besen and White the key to the city or post bail for Chandler and Counce. As I write, there are a number of LGBT events the mayor could still attend but presumably won't: the Cantaria concert, Blue Ridge Pride's games in Carrier Park and the launch of the Campaign for Southern Equality. As the mayor made histrionically clear back in February, she does not wholeheartedly support LGBT rights; history will recall that she cast the lone vote opposing the city's full-equality resolution.

Enacted Feb. 22 — the same day state Sen. Jim Forrester filed the aforementioned constitutional amendment — this historic resolution added an LGBT nondiscrimination clause to the city’s employment policy, publicly endorsed same-sex marriage and paved the way for an anti-bullying ordinance and a domestic-partner registry for same-sex couples. In her tearful display, the mayor bewailed that if the resolution passed, she might be accused of bullying for biblically condemning marriage equality.

In her private capacity, of course, the mayor has a First Amendment right to say whatever she wants, however effusively. As a public servant, though, she’s obligated to serve the public. As she so eloquently put it last February, the notion that she doesn't represent the entirety of Asheville's population is "a lie from the pit of hell."

Scarcely a month earlier, that same slogan appeared on placards in the streets of Kampala, describing the “homosexual agenda.” American evangelicals, acting as a front for American industrialists, have been working in Uganda for many years and are the driving force behind that nation's proposed "kill the gays" bill. Like Mayor Bellamy, these redoubtable crusaders doubtless revere their First Amendment right to bully the LGBT community. But their actions led to the death, by bludgeoning, of gay-rights activist David Kato Kisule just a few weeks before Asheville's historic vote.

Kampala isn't Asheville; it’s alarmist, perhaps even "a lie from the pit of hell," to intimate that such violence could happen here. Certainly it’s mere coincidence that the mayor's colorful expression belongs to both her own lexicon and that of American religious extremists operating in Africa. If she believes that LGBT people should be treated as second-class citizens, she’s entitled to her opinion. But without facts to back it up, her contention won’t pass constitutional muster and, on that basis, must not be allowed to become public policy.

If the city of Asheville is to stand by its full-equality resolution, it should send that message to Raleigh. Forrester's amendment does not meet the acid test on which the republic was founded; indeed, it reeks of the worst excesses of oppressive government. In issuing the LGBT History Month proclamation, Mayor Bellamy has taken a brave step — and, in many quarters, not a popular one — to stand on the side of what’s constitutionally right, even if it conflicts with her personal convictions.

LGBT history is as old as history itself: Hammurabi, Sappho and Heliogabalus are all stars in our firmament. Much of that history is marred by ignorance, intolerance and violence, but it’s also inspiring and offers hope: a testament to the triumph of the human will. The LGBT History Month proclamation calls upon the citizens of Asheville “to reflect upon LGBT history and celebrate a culture where all citizens are respected.” Perhaps Mayor Bellamy has done just that.

— Asheville resident James Dye is a local historian and contributor to Lambda Legal's Impact magazine.

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15 thoughts on “How do you spell “respect”?

  1. travelah

    You apparently have no respect for people who disagree with your particular point of view.
    Exodus International is a ravening wolf? Why do you state such a thing?
    Who are the American Evangelicals working as a front for American industrialists?
    What are the lies from the pit of hell?
    More importantly, where is the pit of hell and why do you believe there is such a place?

  2. Betty Cloer Wallace

    Respect?

    I’m so glad, Mr. Dye, that you are not falling for Travelah’s simplistic uber-rightist loaded questions.

    Your insights as expressed in your letter are well researched, thoughtful, and welcome.

    We all know what you mean, and most thinking and caring individualistic humans in AVL agree with you and appreciate your insights and willingness to share.

  3. Betty Cloer Wallace

    PostScript: There is no “pit of hell.”

    That is an uber-rightist christian construct to keep minorities and women in their subordinate place.

    Not working so well now, though, is’t.

  4. travelah

    My inquiry was too discomforting. It is easier for the group thinkers to resort to empty platitudes and ad hominem fallacies. It is a rather astounding indicator of how distant the progressive liberal is from the admirable intellectualism of classical liberalism.

  5. Annually

    Travelah, you have genuinely misread this article if you think the author has not respect for people of other opinions. Exodus International is a group that tries to change gay people into straight people through a combination of psychology and spirituality. Of course, if you don’t believe that people are born gay, you may not see this as an issue. However, if you do believe that people are born gay, well, then Exodus International is a ravening wolf.

    Beyond that, the author does a nice job of appreciating what rights the LGBT community has been given through Mayor Bellamy while at the same time that Mayor Bellamy may be actually anti-gay. I can’t think of a more even read on the events.

  6. Betty Cloer Wallace

    Annually, if you were a regular reader of MtnX forums, you would know that Travelah is an uber-rightist evangelical conservative christian extremist whose method of operation is akin to the neighborhood bully who appears at the sandbox, kicks sand in everyone’s face, and when confronted, leaves.

    Travelah did not “misread” James Dye’s letter. Dye’s letter is the kind of accurate, inclusive, respectful discussion that Travelah regularly attempts to destroy or at least derail (too often successfully) by attacking the messenger with loaded questions and arrogant pronouncements about the lack of intelligence of those trying to carry on a meaningful discussion.

    If you’re interested in knowing more about Travelah (Aubrey M. Mallett of Charleston, SC), you can access his blog (An Introspective of an Arminian Christian) at: http://travelah.blogspot.com/.

    His blog is really quite interesting if you want to know more about far-right extremist christian evangelical obsessions and how they are extrapolated into the real world of politics, culture, and social interaction. He invites comments on the blog, but expect to have your responses deleted if they are in disagreement with his very narrow perspective on humankind.

    As for the substance of Mr. Dye’s letter, Travelah regularly supports and advocates the positions of Exodus International and other such organizations that are anti-gay, anti-women, anti-LGBT, and anti-everything else (including other religions) that do not fit his own way of viewing the world through homophobic, misogynistic, exclusive, armenian christian eyes.

    As for Uganda, the institutionalized “kill the gays” violence against LGBT residents led by American evangelicals as shown in recent news coverage there is beyond the pale and really hard to watch; and while Mayor Bellamy’s reference to it was unfortunate, Mr. Dye has respectfully cut her some slack and has shown appreciation for her belated declaration of LGBT History Month in Asheville.

    Asheville is a forgiving place, a caring place, and we can be proud of our historic willingness to celebrate the beauty and joy of diversity. Mr. Dye’s letter is a good example of that spirit of inclusiveness.

  7. trav-on-hiatus

    Annually,
    I had decided to take a hiatus from MTX however the email alert popped up from this thread and since your comments appear quite sincere, I’ll respond.

    Contrary to Betty’s rather transparent anti-Christian bigotry, my positions on this matter are quite libertarian and at odds with most right wing ideologues and certainly not in agreement with most religious fundamentalists. I am convinced that gay people should be allowed to live their lives as they wish. Where I differ with the progressive liberals on this matter is when sexual behavior is deemed to be a ground for civil rights protection. People are afforded a civil right and not behaviors. As for “Gay Marriage”, I really don’t care one way or the other. Civil authorizations are quite distinct from religious and if a community desires to afford those rights to particular groups of people, then so be it.

    The real crux of the matter for me is one of defining rights as germane to people rather than the behaviors of people. My position on homosexuality is two fold. Each of us have predispositions toward certain things of interest. From a theological perspective, I would consider this an inclination that is innate. One might be attracted to a particular desire while another is enticed by something entirely different. Each of us has our own constitutions as persons. The short of it is I have no problem with the idea that homosexuals are born with some aspect of their nature inclined toward these behaviors.

    However, the second matter is one of social and cultural influence. The environment we mature into and immerse ourselves in has a profound impact on how we behave and in identifying our “weltanschauung” or worldview (a new word for Betty to include in her next froth). This also influences our behaviors. People will engage in behaviors because of the influence of their environment.

    Coming back to the first matter, an innate aspect of each of us that influences behaviors and how we think of ourselves, I regard this as part of human nature. Keep in mind that as a devout Christian, I regard man’s nature as fallen and corrupt. It is bent toward sin in every aspect of its being. If you want a realistic view of that, look at the results of evil anywhere in the world. You will find little distinction between left or right. The only restraining hand upon such evil will be the moral compass of the society itself. This benefit of morality is the underpinning of what guides a lot of the objections to what you and others might deem good and acceptable behavior. It is viewed as quite the opposite by others. More importantly, it comes back to the issue of Exodus International.

    I do not have any association with the group and until this discussion I had no knowledge of them personally. I am familiar with other similar groups and I understand their perspective and in many respects agree with them theologically. The people I am familiar with are not the crazy soapbox agitators who frequent the public square during festivals stirring animosity. That is ill advised evangelicalism in my opinion. Instead, homosexuality is considered a sin and as such, theologically conservative Christians (I emphasize theologically here and not political) view this behavior and whatever innate aspects there are along with it as “curable” through true faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ. I mean curable in the sense that the worldly and carnal desires in opposition to the love of Christ become dormant in a “new creation”. Of course this is all foolishness to the “world” and probably to you as well but it is what drives the opposition to much of the “gay rights” agenda. These souls are not ravaging wolves. They are not attacking people, assaulting them or persecuting them. They are instead expressing their religious views publically and engaged in evangelical outreach. It is their constitutional right of free speech.

    So out of all that, we are left with my position that gay people should be allowed to live as they wish as long as they are not infringing on the rights of others in doing so. Government does not belong in the bedroom as the old cliché goes. Evangelicals should also not have their constitutional rights infringed and if their message offends, nobody should be forced to accept it. I am certain they do not accept the “gay agenda” message. This is my position for any number of issues that might be construed as “victimless” behaviors. When victims are identified through the behavior of others, my position changes.

    As Betty noted, I do blog on theological issues however you will not find any misogynist, racist, “uber-rightist” ranting. You will instead find discussions of theological interest usually focused on Arminian doctrine (not “Armenian”) and the on-going conflict between Calvinist and Arminian dogma. I also do not generally censor comments unless they are vulgar or meant to be personally disruptive or insulting to others. Unless you are interested in such theological issues, the blog might not be of much interest to you. Most of the discussion of issues raised takes place on a separate private group. Nonetheless , feel free to browse and comment

    http://travelah.blogspot.com/

  8. Betty Cloer Wallace

    @Travelah: These souls are not ravaging wolves. They are not attacking people, assaulting them or persecuting them. They are instead expressing their religious views publically and engaged in evangelical outreach. It is their constitutional right of free speech.

    Theological semantics is not what the American evangelical mission in Uganda is all about, nor is the American “evangelical outreach” of “theologically conservative Christians” having the results you are portraying, Travelah, either in Uganda or a number of the other sub-Saharan African countries with large numbers of American evangelical missionaries.

    Below are two simple Googles for the works of American evangelicals in Uganda—a good beginning for enlightenment since Mayor Bellamy and the letter writer above referenced that country.

    Not surprisingly, European media carries much more accurate and detailed information than do American outlets.

    Videos:

    http://www.google.com/search?source=ig&hl=en&rlz;=&q=uganda+gay+death+penalty&aq=3&aqi=g5g-s1g3g-s1&aql;=&oq=uganda+gay#q=uganda+gay+american+evangelical&hl=en&prmd=ivns&source=lnms&tbm=vid&ei=ACQOTpqID4ySgQeag_mCDg&sa=X&oi=mode_link&ct=mode&cd=3&sqi=2&ved=0CBwQ_AUoAg&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.&fp=e2bd780dfda94588&biw=1286&bih=858

    Print articles:

    http://www.google.com/search?source=ig&hl=en&rlz;=&q=uganda+gay+death+penalty&aq=3&aqi=g5g-s1g3g-s1&aql;=&oq=uganda+gay#q=uganda+gay+american+evangelical&hl=en&prmd=ivns&source=lnms&ei=WSQOTvCYN8zTgAetxIzqDQ&sa=X&oi=mode_link&ct=mode&cd=1&ved=0CCkQ_AUoAA&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.&fp=64e50c5dd2444f4e&biw=1286&bih=858

    The people I am familiar with are not the crazy soapbox agitators who frequent the public square during festivals…..

    They sure aren’t, and neither are the homophobic American evangelicals inciting death and destruction in sub-Saharan Africa!

  9. “More importantly, where is the pit of hell and why do you believe there is such a place?”

    Actually it is the Mayor who believes there is a “pit of hell,” along with other fellow church members in her particular congregation. They’re known to express this phrase when they want to make a particularly strong point. The Mayor used “lies from the pit of hell, ” phrase, to be exact.

  10. Betty Cloer Wallace

    @Ms Magnolia: Actually it is the Mayor who believes there is a “pit of hell,” . The Mayor used “lies from the pit of hell” phrase, to be exact.

    Another example of Travelah attacking the messenger, a diversionary tactic.

  11. Betty Cloer Wallace

    @Travelah: Homosexuality is considered a sin and as such, theologically conservative Christians (I emphasize theologically here and not political) view this behavior and whatever innate aspects there are along with it as “curable” through true faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ. I mean curable in the sense that the worldly and carnal desires in opposition to the love of Christ become dormant in a “new creation”.

    Amazing, isn’t it? Perhaps a miracle? Perhaps Travelah could extend his evangelical outreach to us heathens in Asheville?

    Perhaps Travelah could explain how a “theologically conservative Christian” is different from a “politically conservative Christian”?

    And exactly how is homosexuality “curable through true faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ”?

    And exactly how does “the worldly and carnal desires in opposition to the love of Christ become dormant in a ‘new creation’”?

  12. Betty Cloer Wallace

    And, Travelah, please tell us also.

    Are those homophobic American christian evangelicals inciting death and destruction (“kill the gays”) in sub-Saharan Africa “theologically conservative Christians” or are they “politically conservative Christians”?

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