Monday, May 20, 2013

Marching In Response to Hate Crimes Against the LGBTQ Community

On Friday night, Mark Carson, a 32 year old resident of Brooklyn was walking with a friend in Greenwich Village when three men started following them. One of the men reportedly exclaimed "Look at these faggots" before taking out a revolver and shooting Mark in the face.  Mark bled to death in the street that night, despite being quickly rushed to the hospital, simply because someone hated him for who he was.  The murder took place only blocks from the Stonewall Inn, one of the chief landmarks of the LGBTQ human rights movement.  It was only one of five anti-gay attacks in Manhattan this month alone.

Utilizing the power of social media, LGBTQ rights groups, political leaders, faith communities and ordinary citizens organized a vigil this past Saturday in response to Mark's murder and the rapidly increasing rate of hate crimes in our city, followed by a massive march and rally this evening. Horrified, shocked and really, really angry when I read about the murder this morning, I decided to attend the march and rally, and wow, I'm really glad I did.  I'll be unpacking the experience quite a bit more over the coming weeks, but for now I thought I'd list a few of my first takaways from the event:
  • Despite huge recent successes and great momentum, the LGBTQ human rights struggle is long from over.  If someone can be murdered because of who they love in one of the most gay-friendly neighborhoods in the one of the most gay-friendly cities in the world, we still have a whole lot of work to do. 
  • The murder of Mark Carson wasn't just an attack on the LGBTQ community... it was an attack on the entire city.  Most New Yorkers pride themselves on their inclusivity and acceptance, a fact that was clearly evident this evening.  There wasn't just members of the LGBTQ community marching, but a diverse group of allies as well.  I spoke with a bunch of teenagers who stopped in after school, saw a straight couple walking by pushing a baby stroller and spoke with local clergy.  I remember one particular conversation with a Wall Street banker who exclaimed "this was an attack on who were are as New Yorkers."
  • Speaking from a faith perspective, the Church needs to do a whole lot more to confess its historic and current sins against the LGBTQ community and stick up for the fact that all folks are created in the image of God and are entitled to be treated as such.  When the Church does so and acts as a proper moral compass for society, amazing things can happen! I spoke with a two faithful members of the Knights of Columbus, both gay, who said they were loved by their local sisters and brothers despite the Roman Catholic Church's intolerant hierarchy.  Even after being sent to a "pray the gay away" camp as a teenager, one of the men said that knowing that the Christian message is a message of love was still what gave him hope.
  • The Church is starting to change, and folks are taking notice.  I found it particularly striking that for the first time in such a situation, I never had to assure anyone that I was "one of the good guys" despite wearing my clerical collar.  While we still have so much work to do, the sense of camaraderie I felt this evening as a straight ally of faith was something that gave me immense hope for future.
God's peace,

Dustin currently serves as Vicar at the Lutheran Office for World Community and Saint Peter's Church in Manhattan, having recently completed his second year of a Masters of Divinity program at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia. While seeking ordination in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, his focus is on the intersection between worship, service and justice in de-centralized faith communities unencumbered by a traditional church building. In his free time, Dustin likes playing frisbee, hiking and pretending to know how to sing.

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