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Austin Cline

Fundamentalist Supporter of Gay Rights

By March 9, 2004

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Usually, the most ardent opponents of gay rights and the ability of gays to lead normal lives are those who consider themselves fundamentalists of just about any religion - although in America, that usually means fundamentalist Christians. Being a fundamentalist, however, does not automatically mean that one will oppose all forms of gay rights.

Lorence Wenke is a state representative in Michigan who opposes abortion and gun control, supports small government, and is a mamber of a fundamentalist church. He is, however, also a supporter of gay rights - he believes that discrimination against gays, even when it comes to marriage, is a violation not only of democratic principles but also Christian principles as well. Michigan Live reports:

"I kept quiet when African-Americans were facing discrimination," he said. "There have been too many people who have been discriminated against in my lifetime, and this time I'm not going to sit quietly while somebody is being mistreated. This is a matter of conscience. There's nothing in it for me. ... It's all about this double standard and unequal treatment," he said. "It's just not fair." ... Wenke said he was conflicted about speaking out. But, he added, "the whole movement against homosexuals is a matter of thinking that God is against homosexuals. Well, I'm going to stand up against it."
By the late 1980s, Wenke had decided "that popular opinion on this subject was wrong," that the so-called homosexual lifestyle was not a choice, but a biological destiny. And if sexual orientation is not a choice, he decided, then discriminating against gays made no more sense than discrimination based on race. He said he strongly believes that if more people understood that homosexuality is biological, much of the opposition to gays would ebb.
Modern society's blithe acceptance of Sunday as a good day to visit the mall leads him to a larger point -- that devout Christians already have adjusted Biblical teachings to fit their needs, which should allow some slack on the issue of homosexuality. He offers quotes from the Bible to support his point that the Scripture is even more condemning of divorce than homosexuality. Yet divorced and remarried couples are now welcomed at even fundamentalist churches, he said. Likewise, he said, many denominations, including Christian Reformed, have moved beyond the Biblical teaching against women speaking in church. ... "So if we can put aside the teachings on women, on divorce, on the Sabbath -- and those are all things that we choose -- then why not on homosexuality, when we don't choose our sexual orientation?" Wenke said.

Wenke is opposing an attempt to pass a law in Michigan outlawing gay marriage - a stance that is hurting him politically among fellow Republicans and among his constituents. He is, however, in an excellent position to make a case for gay rights - no one can seriously question his credentials as a conservative, as a Republican, and as a fundamentalist Christian. People will have to listen to him and take his ideas seriously. Even if they don't end up agreeing with him, they might come away with a better appreciation for the other side and, perhaps, conclude that is isn't simply and expression of evil or moral nihilism.

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