On July 17, Twinkle Cavanaugh, president of the Alabama Public Service Commission, invited her good friend John Delwin Jordan to offer a prayer at a public proceeding about Alabama Power's rates. Jordan, who was at the hearing representing the Pratville Tea Party, proceeded to marginalize gay and lesbian Alabamians in his politically charged prayer:
" ... We've said it's okay to have same-sex marriage. We have sinned and we ask once again that you forgive us for our sins," Jordan opined. "If there is anybody here that is in agreement with this, may us in the powerful, most mighty name, the name that's above all names, and that's Jesus ... and everybody said, 'Amen.'"
Watch the full prayer here: http://bit.ly/14Fxz9c
Whether or not Mr. Jordan or Mrs Cavanaugh support marriage equality is a separate matter entirely. As is prayer at official government meetings. As a human rights charity, Equality Alabama has no position whatsoever on public prayer, though we do support the rights of individuals to debate the topic and to believe as they choose. However, there is never an appropriate time to demean and marginalize an entire group of citizens during a state-sponsored speech.
Discrimination based on sexual orientation is wrong and the day is coming when it will be a thing of the past. Until that day comes, consider these facts:
—Bullied LGBTQ individuals are more than twice as likely to attempt suicide than their straight counterparts.
—LGBTQ youth are more than twice as likely to say that they experience depression and anxiety than their straight peers.
—Bullied LGBTQ youth are more likely to skip school, smoke, use alcohol and drugs, or engage in other risky behaviors in order to cope with bullying.
—LGBTQ people are marginalized and persecuted all over the globe and made to feel inferior for being born "different."
—So-called "gay reparative therapy" has been condemned by the American Psyhcological Association, saying, "Homosexuality is not a mental disorder and the APA opposes all portrayals of lesbian, gay and bisexual people as mentally ill and in need of treatment due to their sexual orientation."
—Some studies have suggested a link between anti-gay religious rhetoric and depression, risky behavior, and suicide attempts among LGBTQ youth.
—More statistics on LGBTQ health and well-being are available through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/lgbthealth/youth.htm
Equating a person's sexual orientation to sin in a public meeting is tantamount to bullying and it has harmful consequences. Twinkle Cavanaugh — an elected official who invited Mr. Jordan to speak, even offering him a certificate from the commission — should apologize to the LGBTQ people of Alabama.
Equality Alabama would like to invite Ms. Cavanaugh — indeed, all Alabamians — to attend training sessions and educational events in the future in order to learn more about the LGBTQ community and the struggles we face on a daily basis because we are treated differently both under the law and by individuals.