By: Paul P. Jesep*/TRT Columnist—
The LGBTQ community let out an enormous sigh of relief when Judge Roy Moore came up short in his effort to win the U.S. Senate seat once held by US Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Many in the LGBTQ community feared the worse and chose to avoid the news.
In one case, my best friend, a news junkie, often a night owl, and a married gay man with two children, chose to go to bed early. He was preparing himself for the election of a man accused of raping underage girls. Had he been elected, Moore would have brought rage and hatred toward Muslims and the LGBTQ community into one of the most powerful legislative chambers in the world.
Being a glutton for punishment, I had to watch CNN. By the way, it’s a New Year’s resolution to watch less news in the coming months and spend more time praying, gardening, meditating, seeking stillness, and better managing my anxiety-eating stemming from happenings in Washington.
On election night, I texted my best friend with the great news, Doug Jones had won. It woke him from his sleep and he immediately called. We talked about hope in what had been a confusing, threatening year.
As I processed this near-miss and the case now before the U.S. Supreme Court regarding a baker who refused to make a cake for a same-gender couple, I wondered, as I often have, whether the competing social, religious, and political interests adequately represent the larger issue of religious freedom.
I tend to reflect on the type of America we’ll get, if we’re not careful and fail to think things through. Imagine turning away someone from medical care because he or she is Muslim. Imagine turning away a Southern Baptist evangelical at a bed and breakfast in Vermont because the family is socially conservative.
In some ways, it’s less about what social conservatives or the LGBTQ community think. There is a much bigger issue at stake. What kind of country do we want?
Perhaps I’m a jaded optimist with a long-term view. I’m inclined to believe even if there are three steps forward and two backward, the LGBTQ community is still ahead of the game. Advances to civil and human rights will continue, with setbacks, yet with a forward path that will zig zag to and fro.
It’s likely Doug Jones won’t be re-elected in one of the reddest states in America in 2020. Yet his victory is historic for all the right reasons.
The advance for civil and human rights, though slow and incremental at times, is the focus. I look on the past year with guarded hopefulness. One of the most important things an individual can do during difficult personal and professional circumstances is to be actively grateful.
Gratefulness changes one’s attitude, renews the spirit, and gives an individual the encouragement not to give up, especially during a storm. Here are some of the things I’m grateful for in the past year:
- The National Basketball Association (NBA) joined with the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce in Washington D.C. to help promote LGBTQ businesses;
- More than half of Major League Baseball teams hosted an LGBTQ community night at a home game;
- Yannick Nezet-Seguin, the new conductor at the Metropolitan Opera in NYC, became the first openly gay and married maestro in the organization’s history;
- A Tennessee judge ruled gay couples with children have the same rights as heterosexuals with children born through artificial insemination;
- Republican Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey signed into law a requirement that public schools enable students to use bathrooms of their choice; and
- The President of Germany signed a bill into law allowing marriage rights for same-sex couples
Although I love the majesty of snow storms, absent the shoveling that comes with it, the days are growing longer. Darkness is receding. In about 100 days, spring flowers will be making their appearance. It’s something I spend more time thinking about while being grateful for the goodness over the past year.
*Paul is a corporate chaplain, seminary trained priest, and lawyer in greater Albany, NY. He’s also author of “Lost Sense of Self & the Ethics Crisis.”