On Sun., June 9, the Los Angeles Pride parade began winding its way through the streets of West Hollywood as it has done for 43 years. Drag queens dressed as cheerleaders offered uplifting chants for the crowd. Half-dressed dancing men in pink leg warmers proudly threw buttons adorned with the universal gay pride symbol, the rainbow. Fabulous music, incredible costumes and same-sex couples hugging, kissing and cheering loudly went on for several blocks. It was everything you would expect at a celebration of the GLBTQ community.
Another decidedly-less celebratory sight has also become synonymous with the LA Pride parade. Self-proclaimed Christian protesters, standing behind a side-street barricade, screaming from a bullhorn. “Fags will go to hell,” bellowed out from the small crowd, almost unheard as loud music, intended to drown out the protests, blasted nearby. Others carried signs with similar messages that only punishment and hell awaited those participating in the parade. LA Pride supporters carried a huge rainbow flag, marching back and forth in an attempt to block the protester’s from view.
As one large section of the parade marched past, however, an interesting convergence took place. Signs of the cross suddenly appeared on both sides of the barricade; however, on the parade side, it was found on rainbow flags being held high and waved proudly by men, women and children. Marchers began chanting, “two, four, six, eight, Jesus didn’t preach hate” and yelled as loud as they could, “Jesus loves us as he loves you!”
The two groups, both there in the name of Christianity, were physically divided by little more than a few metal barricades and that giant rainbow flag; however, when it comes to their ideologies about the GLBTQ community, the divide between them is immeasurable.
When GLBTQ supporters are asked about Christians and LA Pride, the response is rarely positive. For many, the only known association is hate-spewing in the name of religion by an angry group of protesters. What many don’t realize is there are actually Christian supporters of the community, including open and affirming churches that welcome everyone, including gay and lesbian couples and transgender members.
Two such churches that marched in the LA Pride parade this year were the SoCal Lutherans, which included the first openly gay and first Native American bishop in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Rev. Dr. R. Guy Erwin, and Hollywood United Methodist, whose church stands in the heart of Hollywood and has proudly displayed a giant red ribbon on their building, the symbol of AIDS awareness, for 20 years.
Both joined together for a church service right on the parade route, not something widely seen at LA Pride. The pastor wore a rainbow stole and spoke in front of a large rainbow flag. The service included hymns, prayers for GLBTQ acceptance and the taking of communion.
Among those participating in the service was actress Pauley Perrette. While Hollywood celebrities certainly tend to be widely supportive of the GLBTQ community, very few also openly associate with Christianity. Perrette, however, who plays offbeat forensic scientist Abby Sciuto on the hit CBS drama “NCIS,” is an outspoken supporter of both GLBTQ rights and her faith.
Proudly declaring herself a “church kid,” Perrette walked alongside her fellow church members in Sunday’s parade, stopping from time to time to hug and take photographs with fans.
Perrette has been a part of Pride parades for more than a decade, beginning with her days living in New York City. She has also been an active member of Hollywood United Methodist Church for years. Her “Chucks at Church” photos have become a Sunday tradition for her more than 475,000 Twitter followers, always depicting a circle of Converse-clad feet with a special object placed in the center. On Sunday, that rainbow flag with the cross appeared in the weekly photo.
One might assume Perrette would be openly hostile to those Christians who preach hatred towards the GLBTQ community, given her strong, faith-based support. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. One of Perrette’s live-by Bible quotes, which she shares in an inspirational video regarding her faith (see video in sidebar) is Romans 12:21: “do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.”
That is an extraordinary position to maintain when faced with a sign reading “you love perversion because you hate God.”
Hollywood United Methodist member Heather Blanchard, who also walked in Sunday’s parade, told Examiner on Sunday she is no stranger to hearing that kind of hate from the Christian community. As a lesbian who grew up in the south, she confesses those messages forced her to hide who she really was for years in order to practice her faith.
“I think the church and religion as a whole has done a lot of harm to the GLBTQ community,” shared Blanchard. “We are losing our youth to suicide at an alarming rate, and so often, I hear young members of our community saying things like ‘God hates me’ or ‘I’m going to hell.’ It’s just not true, and it’s incredibly damaging. I thought I would never be able to find a community of faith that would accept me. As Christians, the basics of our faith are love, acceptance, and service, and HUMC completely embodies these. It’s a place where everyone is welcome, and I’m so thankful to be a part of that.”
Blanchard also shared her strong feelings on the importance of GLBTQ-friendly churches being represented not just at Los Angeles Pride but everywhere. “I think the faith community has to stand up and show our support for our GLBTQ brothers and sisters. It’s so important to me to send a strong message that if you’re GLBTQ, and also a person of faith, you are not alone. There are affirming churches all over the country that will love and support you. We love you!”
You can learn more about Hollywood United Methodist Church at www.hollywoodumc.org and SoCal Lutherans at socallutherans.com. If you are looking for an GLBTQ-friendly church in your own area, visit http://www.welcomingresources.org/
Follow Rene’ on Twitter @LGBTQ_Reporter