The Green Mountain State…Hell on earth?

By Will Baker

 

During my drive in to the office this morning I listened to a rather thought-provoking radio interview. The Vermont Supreme Court is currently hearing a case involving the question of gay and lesbian "survivor benefits." The Court is grappling with the question of whether the survivors of gay and lesbian relationships should be entitled to survivor’s benefits in the same manner that married folks are when one person predeceases the other. As the Court has yet to hand down it’s decision, and since so much has been written on the subject already, I hadn’t intended to write on this matter at this time. However, given the comments of the person being interviewed on the radio this morning, I felt compelled to offer a few words.

The woman that was interviewed is a member of a Christian fundamentalist church based in Kansas. It seems that she and a group of like-minded individuals intend to visit Vermont next Tuesday and picket the courthouse. It seems that this is the same group that picketed Mathew Shepard’s funeral. If you recall, Mathew Shepard was the unfortunate young man that was beaten to death and tied to a fence post earlier this year because he was gay. It is my understanding that this woman and her group actually heckled the mourners – a fact that astonishes me.

The woman was asked why she was coming all the way to Vermont to picket the courthouse. She responded by saying that in other states, where similar matters were taken up by the courts, and where the courts found that gay and lesbians should be provided with expanded rights, successful referendums were held which overruled these decisions. However she was concerned that, given Vermont’s reputation (as a place where personal freedom is highly valued) this might not be the case if the Vermont Supreme Court decided that gay and lesbians were entitled to these benefits.

The woman then went on to say that gay and lesbian behavior was an abomination before the Lord, and that were the Court to decide in favor of these benefits Vermonters would in effect burn in Hell. She laced her comments with, what to my mind was extremely coarse language. The interviewer asked her if she thought that her choice of words was appropriate, and she said that the language that she chose was sanctioned by the bible. I was taken back by this angry, mean spirited diatribe. However I support her freedom of expression. And in a strange way I really respected how motivated she was, even though it seems to me that she is entirely misguided.

The whole mater of gay and lesbian rights is clearly a hot topic. Folks on both sides feel very strongly about it. Some folks believe that it is morally wrong to engage in such behavior, and in the name of making the world a better place to live, they have an obligation to speak out against it. It seems to me that the woman being interviewed on the radio this morning clearly falls into this camp. On the other hand, gay and lesbian rights activists will argue that what takes place in the privacy of one’s home, between two consenting adults, is nobody’s business. And that the state should not withhold privileges on that basis. Then there is a vast majority of folks in the middle who are undecided. To further muddle the situation, there are some gays and lesbians who believe that same sex marriages should not be allowed. Conversely, there are Christians who believe that they should.

I have personal acquaintances who are gay, and I have personal acquaintances that are Christian. In fact it may surprise you to know that I also have some friends who are gay Christians! It seems to me that the folks on all sides of this issue have much more in common than they do not. For instance I believe that we all feel that we are entitled to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." I also feel that the vast majority of us would say that it is wrong to lie, cheat and steal. We probably would also agree that we should do unto others, as we would have them do unto ourselves. I would suggest that this common understanding would make a very good starting point for the framing of this debate.

As for myself, I will probably have more to say on this subject as events unfold. But at this time I can only offer this: For the most part the people of Vermont are kind and caring folks who make wonderful neighbors. They are very individualistic, yet giving of themselves. They live in a place of incomparable beauty, and feel blessed to do so. They are of all races, religions, and sexual orientations. They are also law abiding and believe strongly in the democratic process. However the Court decides, the debate here will be a peaceful one among the citizenry. It is a free country, and of course folks can come from afar to say what they will. But I will bet you that Vermonters all; gay, straight and lesbian, will not look favorably towards boorish bullying behavior and speech making. Even if they happen to agree with what is being said.

 

(Essay Collection)