“Why We Fight” by Matthew Garrett

March 28, 2016 was a day wrought with frustration and happiness for me. It is really hard fighting for and feeling like you have to justify your very existence to a majority – a Christian majority – that, through legislation, wants to codify discrimination against you and your community. Today, though, that frustration turned into gratitude as Governor Deal announced his plan to veto H.B. 757 – a dangerous “religious freedom bill” guised under the seemingly benign heading of the “Pastor Protection Act”. I took to social media to share my gut reaction.

Sanity, and the love of Jesus, prevails… “This is about the character of our State and the character of our people. Georgia is a welcoming state full of loving, kind, and generous people. And this is what we should want,” said Governor Deal.

My commentary – we have a long way to go on a number of fronts (race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, gender expression and many others) before we can say we are a truly welcoming state. But the aspiration of such an environment is a vital first step, and going back to 1960 and further codifying discrimination is not what we hope to achieve.

I’m proud of Governor Nathan Deal. I believe he is demonstrating the type of inclusion and tolerance the very God and Jesus of his faith would proclaim. LGBT people and People of Faith can peacefully coexist – indeed many, many LGBT people including me still have and prescribe to faith. Finding that reconciliation point is vital, not further splintering it. Jesus served all sinners – and while I am almost daily offended when people compare my sexual orientation to other sins (theft, prostitution, name it…), you can’t tell me Jesus would have blessed H.B. 757.

As I talked to many people from south Georgia today, I realized how far we have yet to go. So many of them were upset the act was vetoed until I had the opportunity to lend some perspective. So many of my family and friends have been misled by religious lobbyists and extremists to believe that H.B. 757 was all good legislation. Under the form it passed the house originally, it did no harm to the LGBT community. But the hateful discrimination so many Senators sought intentionally to include in the bill appalled them. The reality even shocked people who still try to “pray” for me – even those who cannot accept that my identity is who I am, still do not want to see hate and discrimination as law.

This is why we have so much work to do – so much fight to still fight. We cannot rest on marriage, especially with the violent atrocities committed against transgender individuals (especially trans people of color), or the danger so many Georgians face related to housing, employment and public accommodation.

As Frost wrote, “But I have promises to keep… And miles to go before I sleep.” We still have work to do, and many miles to travel together.  Let’s always remain focused on the work that lies ahead. Confident in our future, but not complacent with today.

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