Thursday, February 12, 2015

Taking a Stand for Marriage Equality in Alabama

Photo by AlabamaNews.Net
Rev. Jeff Y. Byrd was caught in a flurry of media attention when on February 9, in front of the Pike County Courthouse, he stood with a sign in support of the Supreme Court decision. That decision let stand a federal judge ruling that Alabama's ban on marriage equality was unconstitutional.  Rev. Byrd was thrilled about the Supreme Court announcement, but was offended by the actions of Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, who instructed probate judges to not perform their duties as required.

He stood from 8am until closing. At first he was afraid to go and make a stand. Then, he realized that he feared not going even more, that by not going he would not be living out his calling. So he went as a tax-payer, a citizen, a priest, holding the sign that his daughter created the night before. He could not stay quiet as he heard about judges hiding behind a mask of religion to perpetuate marriage discrimination.

Social media began to share articles about his stand. One article by the AlabamaNews.NET featureded him with his poster. On Facebook, there were photos of Rev. Byrd with other supporters.

The Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast permits blessings of same gender couples. St. Mark's Episcopal Church has been an Integrity Proud Parish Partner (P3) for some time and is a safe space in Troy, Alabama. Rev. Byrd not only ministers to the LGBT who may be coming from anti-LGBT upbringing and faith traditions, but he also ministers the prison community. St. Mark's food pantry runs 24-hours non-stop. It is with this background that Byrd chose to stand for all the people in his diocese.

I chatted with Rev. Byrd on Wednesday and asked him to comment on what is happening in Alabama and on his stand.

Yesterday was a historic day in Alabama, and a historic day in the fight for human rights and dignity for all people. Of the 67 counties here, seven have now allowed same sex couples to have equal access and protections under the law. I celebrate that, but we have a long way to go to make sure all people have the dignity and civil rights they deserve!
I was absolutely astonished by the respect and support shown to me and our small group of protesters yesterday. Church folks that I knew and strangers alike were very kind... for the most part. People would just drive by and wave their approval. Some parked their cars right in front of the Pike County Courthouse just to come over and thank us for our visible but silent witness. Members of my church, St Mark's Episcopal Church in Troy Alabama, brought food and water. Lawyers going in for trials mostly smiled and gave us the thumbs up. During the day several same sex couples tried to apply for assistance from the probate judge's office even though they knew they would be denied... but still they tried! 
The media attention we received was overwhelming. I was interviewed by The New York Times, National Public Radio : All Things Considered, a Montgomery News Channel for a video piece, a Montgomery paper, Troy Public Radio, AL.COM, and the Troy Messenger who ran an article today. Truly overwhelming! During the day many of you sent messages of support that made a huge difference. Knowing that so many folks were praying for us, or simply sharing messages of solidarity meant the world to me...bless you all! 
In closing I'd like to share some words with you from my good friend Rev. Jim Flowers: "Our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters have for far too long been shamed as the stranger among us. By loving them and celebrating their lives among us, we move as the human community one step closer towards the wholeness God intends for the world. As a priest of the church, I rejoice in this courageous step in righting a grievous wrong. We are all made in God's image (all of us). It is time we started acting like it!"
Please do continue to keep the folks in Alabama who are still waiting for equal civil rights, dignity, and justice to be their lived experience. Please pray that the number of allies for the LGBTQQ community will continue to grow as we continue to press for fair and equal treatment for all people! Blessings, Peace, and Love
Rev. Byrd asks for your prayers as Alabama resolves the issues of giving its citizens equal access to marriage.

Mel Soriano, Director of Communications, Integrity USA

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