I have heard the word ‘abomination’ used only a few times in my life. Until last night, that is, when I heard it probably a dozen times.
The word was used in reference to many of my friends, friends who had to sit and listen to the terrible bigotry spewing from mouth after mouth after mouth of “good Christians.”
The setting was the Bisbee City Council chambers. All eighty seats were filled. Also, people lined the back wall and both side walls, and then another twenty or so sat on the floor up front. A line of people snaked down the hallway in both directions from the room, and the veranda to the back of the room was filled with people watching through open windows.
The topic? Item three of the council’s agenda: legalizing civil unions in the City of Bisbee.
The ordinance was brought to council by member Gene Connors, and two weeks ago, the council had the first reading. Last night was decision time.It seems a few van loads of Christian conservatives came to city hall early and stood in line to be the first to share their views.
Most of their speeches were firery. A few were soft spoken. Three were rambling and confusing, and two were just plain unintelligible. Two speakers said they just might have to leave Bisbee if the ordinance passed, and a number of us thought, Oh. Please do.
Finally, about an hour and twenty minutes later, almost all of the other side had spoken.
Here are some of the words I heard:
Bible, God, and Jesus. Repeatedly.
Here are some of the fears expressed:
Bestiality will be next.
AIDS will spread throughout the town.
Homosexuality is a malady that has to be fixed.
Passing the ordinance will destroy individual rights.
My friends had to listen to themselves being described and degraded, for well over an hour.
And these speakers were mightily applauded, though by a minority of those in attendance.
I could not help but wonder how my friends felt, having to endure it all.
But then, others spoke.
There was an outpouring of love and compassion by people who were straight, and examples of horrible abuses by those who were gay. One of the best moments, though, was when my friend Mark walked to the podium holding his lover’s hand and simply said, “I am not an abomination.”
The room erupted for him, for my friend James, and for several other speakers. It was an hour and a half of kindness and hopefulness.And then it was time for the vote.
The first council person called, Shirley Doughty, voted nay. Then four voted aye. Then the only other female councilor voted nay.
I found it interesting that while, in general, straight females tend to be a little more relaxed about gayness than straight men do, it was the four male councilors who voted for the ordinance.
Then the final vote by mayor Adriana Badal. Aye. And she declared the ordinance passed.
The room erupted. Cheering and clapping. A standing ovation. Laughter and tears of joy.
People spilled out of the council chambers to the cool evening. Lots of hugging and congratulating. More laughter and tears.
And we all went home carried by the soft, sweet winds of hope.