Demi Lawrence is a sophomore journalism news major and writes "Unspoken" for The Daily News. Her views do not necessarily agree with those of the newspaper. Write to Demi at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I walk into my church, and I am scared.
I am scared they know. I am scared that wandering eyes will fall on my rainbow bead bracelet that says “LOVE WINS.” I am scared they can smell me from miles away, like a shark smells blood in the ocean. I pray to a God who I am confident loves me so much that He would soften their hearts, for if this was truly wrong, He would have made me straight.
But it is His disciples who strike fear into me, and it is they who drive me further from Him.
Roncalli High School and the entire Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Indianapolis have once again made a fool of themselves, and given the whole country, even the whole world, a reason to believe it is not getting better, but worse, for LGBT+ people like myself.
First, it was Shelley Fitzgerald. Now, it’s Lynn Starkey.
Let’s review the past year.
Fitzgerald, a guidance counselor at Roncalli, a private, Catholic high school in Indianapolis, was told in August 2018 that her contract would not be renewed for the following academic year. Why? Because a copy of her marriage license was presented to administration, a license that said Fitzgerald was married to a woman whom she'd been in a relationship with even before she began her 15 years of employment at Roncalli.
Fitzgerald was given four options: resign, dissolve her marriage, hope that things stayed quiet so Fitzgerald could stay until the end of the academic year, but not have her contract renewed for the next year, or if things got loud, be terminated from her position.
Things definitely got loud. The story got national attention, and as a result, Fitzgerald was put on administrative leave. I remember being appalled that a school in my beloved home state would clutch to their religious freedoms so tightly that they would compromise the education and betterment of their students by firing a valued alumna-turned-faculty member simply because she was married to a woman.
Starkey is a current guidance counselor at Roncalli. On March 25, 2019, officials of the high school told Starkey her contract would not be renewed for the 2019-20 academic year. Starkey has been employed at Roncalli for 39 years and even won teacher of the year in 2009.
I am appalled, but sadly, I am not surprised.
Indiana is shrouded in controversy regarding blatant homophobia. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) was passed in 2015 by then-Governor Mike Pence. RFRA provided a defense for people "whose exercise of religion has been substantially burdened or is likely to be substantially burdened.” A week later, after it gained national attention, Pence signed an amendment to the law prohibiting individuals or businesses from refusing services or goods to anyone because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
It takes nothing more than a Google search to know that Pence is an outright homophobe. He has suggested his support for gay conversion therapy in the past, and as a member of Congress, voted against the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Act in 2010 — legislation that kept openly LGBT+ people from serving in the military. Pence and his beliefs have tarnished Indiana’s reputation and ability to move forward instead of backward.
Roncalli administration, you’re telling me that the “protection” of students from these faculty you are treating as some sort of second-class citizen and their so-called “sinful nature” is more important than their education? That clutching to your outdated Leviticus and its views on homosexuality with pathetic tears rolling down your hateful eyes is more important than the careers of two women just trying to live their lives and guide students?
You are denying God’s golden rule – to love your neighbor as yourself – in order to uphold a hateful opinion of people who just love a little bit differently than you.
Don’t come at me with the “hate the sin, love the sinner” idea that has been screamed at me by every religious authority I have ever spoken with about being gay. You simply cannot separate the two; I am gay, but that is no more a sin than wearing cotton, getting a tattoo or even sitting down to a meal that includes shellfish. Or is lobster now a sin, too?
Your image is tarnished in your falseness and inability to accept people simply trying to live their lives. You cannot actually live by the golden rule then turn around and fire people for their innate love for their same gender. God made us all in His image, didn’t He? We are all beautifully and wonderfully made, aren’t we? Nothing God does is unintentional, is it?
Let people like Fitzgerald and Starkey not just exist, but thrive. If you are going to put your outdated, homophobic “religious freedom” above the betterment and education of your students then you don’t deserve to call yourself educators or advocates for young people. You are only furthering hate. You are the problem and a catalyst for Indiana’s reputation as a homophobic and “stuck in the past” state.
I am sick and tired of my fellow LGBT+ citizens and I being treated as if we are not humans like the rest of the “normal” straight world. Indiana, specifically Roncalli, is a disgrace and embarrassment to the progression the rest of the world is trying to make. We are a million-pound caboose holding up the rest of the train.
As I sit in my church, I am scared. But through my fear, I pray. I pray for Starkey, and that ultimately God will prevail and protect her as His child. I pray for her marriage, and that this pressure from Roncalli and, I am sure soon the country, will not harm it. I pray for all LGBT+ people around the world, that we stand strong with our community and fight back against hate.
But finally, I pray for those who put down me, Fitzgerald and Starkey simply because we are LGBT+ women. I pray they find peace, knowledge and wisdom. I pray they see the whole community as equal to them, because we are.
I pray for them because that’s what my God taught me to do – to love my neighbor as myself. I pray someday they will begin to do the same.