By Joey Heath
In 1776, primarily written by Thomas Jefferson, the second continental congress adopted what became known as the Declaration of Independence. In this we find one of the most famous quotes in all of American history which states “We hold these truths to be self evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” I think those are very powerful words that most if not all Americans hold as core values of our American society. The part I want to focus in on is the “pursuit of happiness” clause. The U.S. was founded on the basis that everyone had a chance to better themselves and seek after a happy life free from tyranny and oppression. Now I think it is important to point out that when this was written it was really speaking about white, male, heterosexual, landowners. The great thing is that during the course of our history as we as humans have become better understanding of innate human rights we have expanded this phrase to include the less affluent, woman, and persons of color. Sadly there is one group that has yet to reach the level of equality that these others groups have and that is LGBT people. We claim the pursuit of happiness is for everyone and yet we tell our LGB people brothers and sisters that seeking to find happiness with someone of the same gender is wrong and that it is better to be single and lonely then live in what some consider to be “sin”. And if you are transgender we tell you that despite the fact that your internal self does not match up with your external physiology you should remain as you are. For LGB people we are saying it is wrong to seek after integrity and living as who you really are and seeking to find a partner to share your life with. For transgender people we are saying that your happiness in your body and living your life integrity is wrong. By saying this we are saying that it is more important for you to conform to what society says is the norm than to have the pursuit of happiness that the rest of society seeks after. Oddly enough in many places there are currently anti-discrimination laws on the books covering a variety of groups and yet many places currently have or are placing laws on the books which actively obstruct the pursuit of happiness of LGBT people. Why is this? Why in a country where we value individual freedom do we concern ourselves with who a person wants to be and who they fall in love with? In the past we as Methodists have helped lead the charge on other civil rights issues like equality for women and the equality of all persons regardless of race or skin color. When will we as a Jesus loving, social gospel following people, stand up and begin to advocate for the right of LGBT people to pursue happiness?