On June 28, 1969 – early in the morning – a group of bar patrons, gay and lesbian, transgender and cross-dressing and queer – fought back against police officers attempting to raid a gay bar in Greenwich Village, New York City, The Stonewall Inn. And since then, thousands of cities across the world celebrate June 28, and the entire month of June as well, and the socio-political breakthrough of that night. To commemorate this month, colleague Crystal Ann Solie has agreed to give her own very poignant commentary on the recent Supreme Court decision Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission as well as what this means for her as a lesbian and a devoted follower of Jesus. We won’t give away much more than that, as she speaks much of herself in the piece, but especially encourage church leadership to ask themselves to reflect on how they ask for LGBTQIA+ members of their churches to fully support their ministries if the churches themselves don’t fully support them. Read, comment, and share!
Rev. Dr. Linda E. Thomas – Professor of Theology and Anthropology, Chair of LSTC’s Diversity Committee, Editor – “We Talk. We Listen.”
A child betrayed by their family is sold into slavery and dragged off to another country to experience further mistreatment and injustice. This child then comes into power when strangers trust him with a task seemingly beyond his state. This task, however, is the work the child has been ordained to perform to save their community and ultimately, the family that betrayed him.
The Joseph narrative in Genesis draws connections to my life as gay woman as few texts can.
Admittedly, the insult, insensitivity, and uncertainty I have experienced are not the same as being sold into slavery as Joseph was. However, it did cause me to feel trapped and reminded me that I was not being treated the same as the majority of families around me.
The world was a different landscape for same-sex couples in 2008 when my soon-to-be wife and I were making plans for our nuptials. A process that was supposed to be joyful, maybe fun, and certainly stressful for us was instead stained with anxiety.
Would we find a venue, a florist, or a baker that would take our business as a same-sex couple? We certainly weren’t expecting to find a church for the event given the volatile climate following the 2009 Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) policy change regarding same sex clergy in committed relationships.
Further distressing was that we weren’t even getting legally married. For this reason and because I did not feel welcome having our ceremony in a church, I didn’t call it a wedding throughout our planning. We had a piece of paper from Cook County (IL) that said we were Domestic Partners. That was it. We wouldn’t have a Civil Union until 2012, wouldn’t be legally married until 2013, and wouldn’t have that marriage recognized in the state where we lived until 2015.
However, we were fortunate. We found service providers for every aspect of our special day. We had a great venue, fantastic food, and were surrounded by our friends and family who have championed our marriage from the start. Legally, no one was required to give us any of this, but they chose to of their own free will. Whether they were simply business decisions or choices made to treat us with equality, I cannot be certain.
If it sounds complicated, you’re right. It is and it shouldn’t have to be complicated to treat people with dignity.
Our family has navigated the changing social climate with patience and persistence. We have achieved a level of emotional, spiritual, and financial stability. I imagine this is how Joseph felt, having come into power and being placed on a pedestal in Egypt. However, many same-sex couples do not have plans turn out as we did.
Two recent court cases give rise to the fact that there are still business that do not want and will not accept the patronage of LGBTQIA* individuals or couples.
On June 4, 2018 the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) ruled on the Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. A same-sex couple went to the bakery looking to order a cake for their wedding and was told by the baker that he does not make cakes for same sex weddings. The baker was investigated by the Commission and found to be in violation of the state’s non-discrimination statutes, a decision which was upheld by the Colorado Court of Appeals. In this case, SCOTUS ruled that the proceedings that let the Commission’s investigation and findings against the baker infringed upon the baker’s freedom of speech and religion.
In the decision of the court, Justice Kennedy noted, “However later cases raising these or similar concerns are resolved in the future, for these reasons the rulings of the Commission and of the state court that enforced the Commission’s order must be invalidated.” (Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, 584 U.S. ___ (2018)) This means that a future case could be brought against the same baker for the same reason, but maintains that the investigations for such activity must be conducted with respect and dignity afforded to all parties, including the baker. This seems fair to me.
In short, the SCOTUS ruling does not give businesses the right to discriminate against LGBTQIA folks.
Immediately following the SCOTUS ruling, the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled on Brush & Nib Studio v City of Phoenix. In this case, the studio’s artists argued that the City’s non-discrimination ordinance infringed upon the artists’ first amendment rights to freedom of speech and religion to refuse to create wedding invitations for same-sex couples. The court ruled that while a custom invitation might constitute such an infringement, the act of writing the names of two women or two men on a basic invitation design did not.
This, again, is a fair ruling to me and a protection that can be applied to all people. As one business is free to refuse to create a custom wedding invitation for a same-sex couple, another business is also free to refuse to create a custom sign for an LGBTQIA conversion camps or an organization that works to hinder LGBTQIA rights.
The end result of both cases is that all people should be afforded dignity and people should not be denied basic services.
I’ve seen the meme, “All I’m saying is that I believe Jesus would bake the damn cake.” I agree, yes, Jesus would have baked the cake and he would have invited others to join him in baking the cake…
…but he would not compel anyone to bake the cake.
Jesus, however, would compel us to build relationships that would make sure everyone had cake for any occasion they wanted or needed it. Relationships where we are called to mutually sustain each other instead of pointing out faults or claiming religious superiority or righteousness.
As an MDiv graduate who didn’t have any interviews for first call, I have moved across the country and found work in corporate America’s IT sector where new tasks and titles are awarded to me regularly. Sitting in a pew during a congregation’s capital campaign presentation presents a certain irony to me.
It’s a curious position to be in, standing in a place of economic privilege while facing ongoing marginalization.
Much like Joseph’s brothers, the Church comes to me looking for resources. Reticent to honor my call, the Church is always willing to cash my check or use my training without placing me on the payroll.
I realize now how much courage it took Joseph to speak the words that would openly identify his relationship and solidify his commitment to the family that betrayed him. He didn’t ignore their need, but reminded them of their relationship. I’m not quite there yet, but the words are in my heart, waiting to come out and to be received and accepted and loved.
“Come closer…I am your brother” (Genesis 45.4).
Crystal Solie is a graduate of the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago (MDiv 2012) currently living in Orange Park, Florida with her wife and two daughters. She currently works as an Information Technology analyst and serves as a leader for the Pride business resource group for a global banking firm. In her free time, Crystal enjoys grilling, story telling, and singing with her family.
*LGBTQIA = Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual and Ally; the term is intended to be inclusive of all non-heterosexual and non-binary gender persons .