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From Sacramento

A number of years ago, my city was rocked by the murder of a prominent gay couple in their home and the firebombing and burning of 3 synagogues by a pair of neo-Nazi brothers. The next evening there were 10,000 of us with candles in tearful protest in front of the state capitol, chanting “not in our city!”. It was beautiful, it was powerful, it was right, and still gives me goose bumps.

Now the Bahá’ís of course were no where to be seen, despite the groups of other religious and human rights organizations, and prayers by every major religious organization. All of this despite the fact the masses were meeting not 50m from the very spot that the Master himself had once walked and talked to people many years ago.

Within a week, my local school district (2 of the synagogues were in it) convened a group of community members to meet with the superintendent. I was honored to be asked to participate – as both a gay man and as a Bahá’í. My community sent no note of congratulations or even acknowledgment of this honor. The group was made up of men and women, a rabbi, a couple of pastors and priests, some lay persons, etc. Over the next 2 years we met and were charged with dealing with hate crimes and bigotry in the schools. After a few months the rabbi called me one day and asked,

“Daniel, I have two lesbians who want to be married in the synagogue, tell me your thoughts”.

I shared with him my experience with bigotry, narrow-mindedness, homophobia within the Bahá’í community. He also told me about similar things in his congregation.

Finally I asked,

“Rabbi B, what is better a Jewish lesbian couple or non-Jewish lesbian couple?”

He thanked me, and hung up.

A week later I read in the paper that he had married the first lesbian couple in his synagogue. This was by the way long before Gay marriage was even on the horizon here in California. Though Rabbi B has moved on, his synagogue is now the most welcoming place in town, and they are growing. A couple of friends are members and have asked me a number of times why I am not a Jew.

My son, husband, and any number of my friends and colleagues keep asking me why I put up with this homophobic religion.

To be honest its gets harder to explain it away... to me the message from the letter the NSA sent me, is this "is it better to be a non-Bahá’í gay man or a Bahá’í gay man?” To their everlasting shame I think they prefer that GLBT people remain non-Bahá’í.

Daniel Orey
Sacramento, California

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