On Saturday, April 17 the National Organization for Marriage, lead by Maggie Gallagher, held a conference at the University of St. Thomas, my alma mater. In response, OutFront Minnesota and several other groups organized a protest of the event. On that brisk Saturday morning, more than 150 Minnesotans gathered to show that we stood for justice and fairness for all. I was asked to speak at the rally. What follows is an excerpt from my speech infused with a few new thoughts. My mom, dad, sister and a few friends and cousins joined me at the rally. My dad also spoke.
 
Good morning beautiful people!
 
My name is Alfonso Wenker. I am Catholic, I am gay and I am a Tommie, class of 2009.
 
As a student I was incredibly involved with LGBT organizing on campus. I was told time and again that the University of St. Thomas had a commitment to diversity and inclusion and that they wanted to be welcoming to LGBT folks.
 
Fr. Dease, president of the University, stated to me on several occasions, both publicly and privately, that he wanted UST to be a place where LGBT people felt welcome.
 
To allow the National Organization for Marriage on campus sends a clear message to LGBT Tommies; it says that out presence is not welcome, it shows institutional support of an anti-LGBT sentiment, it does not live up to the University’s commitment to diversity and inclusion and it shows the St. Thomas is willing to ignore data from its most recent climate study that says LGBT communities on campus are suffering.
 
Just like the National Organization for Marriage, I care about family and I brought mine with me, and I bring them with me in my heart everywhere I go.
 
A core value of our family is being Catholic. My being Catholic is as central to my personal identity as my being gay is. I cannot separate the two and nor should I have to.
 
As Christians, we are called to the communion table. We are called to bring our whole selves and welcome anyone that seeks to be in communion with us. As members of that table, our charge is to build strong families and strong communities.
 
When members of our table are denied access and rights families suffer and Christian communities suffer.
 
As an LGBT Christian, I should be able to define family in a way that allows me to build the strongest, healthiest family possible. I urge the leaders of the National Organization for marriage to tell the truth – families are stronger when LGBT people can participate full, honestly and openly in all aspects of life, including the option to legally marry and be out in faith communities.
 
I was raised in the Catholic church, a church that calls me to work for social justice and end all forms of oppression. Our communion table is incomplete when we deny LGBT people full rights and inclusion.
 
Anything less than fairness and justice runs contrary to the Christian value of human dignity.

One Response to “Christian AND Gay, Not Either Or”

  1. Justin Jagoe says:

    Every bit as much as I consider my sexuality to be a part of my identity, I consider my own faith – specifically, my Catholic upbringing – a component of the experiences that have defined me.

    I have had my share of moral differences with the church as an institution: their oppressive views on sexuality, religious intolerance, reproductive health and a woman’s right to choose, the church’s reprehensible handling of the child abuse scandal, and yes, even my now-agnostic attitude toward the existence of a higher power. But I cannot deny that there are vital elements that my faith identity has instilled in me: racial tolerance, compassion for the underprivileged, empathy, and the constant desire to transform my world view as a person of privilege (male, white, Judeo-Christian, Middle-Class, gay).

    I would not want to relinquish my faith identity any more than I would want to deny my sexual identity. Both shape who I am, and the religious right can never convince me the two are mutually exclusive.