Hoping Against Hope – Clergy Reflection on Statehouse Rally for LGBTQ+ Hoosiers
by: Rev. Dr. Amy Lindeman Allen, CTS Assistant Professor of New Testament
I met an incredible human being last month—actually, I met many incredible people, but one individual stands out.
In April, in the interim between our Indiana state legislature passing laws targeting LGBTQIA+ youth, especially by denying classroom protections and gender affirming healthcare, and our governor signing these discriminatory bills into law, I had the opportunity, together with fellow CTS faculty, students, and alums, to attend two gatherings at the Statehouse to speak out against this slate of hate.
The first gathering, a vigil of lament led by Indiana interfaith leaders, called upon Governor Holcomb to veto the anti-trans healthcare bill. Which he did not. The second gathering, sponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) decried this slate of hate and rallied those gathered around continued affirmation of all Hoosiers in our diversity of identities.
It was at this latter gathering that I had the opportunity to encounter the incredible young woman on the left in the photograph above. Asked to speak as the representative faith leader at the ACLU rally, I confess that I wasn’t entirely sure what I was going to say. My core conviction that God created all people in God’s image and calls us all good, of course, was easy to articulate. But how to make this relevant – to the amazing group of people who were cheering encouragingly as seasoned trans advocates and individuals giving their personal testimony took the stage, to those listening with rapt attention as we were treated to our own impromptu Drag Queen Story Hour – that I was becoming increasingly less confident of as each successive speaker took the stage.
When it was finally my turn, as I was standing beside the ACLU organizer making my introduction, I believe the Holy Spirit herself led me to notice the sign of a girl about the age of my own daughter, standing in the front row. Her sign read, simply, “Love thy neighbor.” And, ultimately, this is the commandment that all world faiths call us to follow. As I took the microphone, I let this child be my guide and asked her to raise her sign for the assembly to see. Then, alongside of affirmations of God’s love for all of God’s people—gay, straight, bi; cis, trans; queer—I reminded those gathered that it was precisely children like this young girl we were gathered to support and that we would do well to listen to her words.
After the rally, the young girl in question and her mother came up to me and asked if we could take this picture. I affirmed them both for their witness and this incredible child said to me, “I hope to be on the stage telling my story next year!” I encouraged her and told her I couldn’t wait to hear it. Then, as we were walking away from the event, it occurred to me—this was a gathering speaking out against this year’s dangerous and discriminatory legislation…and this child took it for granted that a similar gathering would be necessary again next year.
Unfortunately, as we follow the legislature in Indiana, including the governor’s signing both of these harmful bills in question into law in the days following these gatherings, this expectation seems all too likely to come to pass. And yet, with the conviction of this young person and so many others like her, we who call ourselves Christians are charged to follow Christ’s command to love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:31). Indeed, to step out and act with such love even when the odds are against us is at the very heart of the Christian witness.
As Saint Paul writes, citing Abraham as an example who believed, “in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist…Hoping against hope, he believed” (Romans 4:17-18)
Indeed, Paul exhorts us who would follow Abraham’s example:
Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us (Romans 5:1-5).
So, friends, even as we climb the uphill battle, I pray that you will join me in not losing hope. Already, the ACLU has filed a lawsuit against the state of Indiana on behalf of transgender youth and their families and healthcare providers, challenging this new law that prohibits the provision of medically-necessary healthcare to these families. As we, as a seminary community, continue to affirm the God given dignity of all human persons, may we, like the young person I met last month, continue to show up and be a voice for care, compassion, and justice in our state.