The Longview chapter of the Lesbians Gay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) has held its first-ever parade through Heritage Plaza in downtown Longview. Spectators and vendors both enjoyed the event.
Vendors Nicki Williams and Casey Brehm of the group NETX NORMAL advocate the use of Cannabis for “medical and responsible use,” and their booth was a popular attraction. Their movement favors both taxation and government regulation of Cannabis. Brehm says her chronic pain from a degenerative disc disease could be better and more safely treated by the use of Cannabis than by prescription pain killers. They distributed pamphlets that stated the following problems with marijuana prohibition:
- Prohibition does not work.
- Prohibition is discriminatory. Blacks are nearly four times more liable to be arrested for marijuana possession even though usage rates for blacks and whites are roughly the same.
- Prohibition is a blessing for the drug cartels.
- Prohibition does not decrease crime rates.
- Cannabis is less harmful than liquor or tobacco.
- Legalization would bring in tax revenues and more.
The Drag Queen group Sisters of Indulgence showed up to enliven the event. There were also Sandy Lewis, Gayle Symonetta and Reverend Wendy Zuech from Woodland Christian Church in Longview. They describe their congregation as an “Open and Affirming church.”
“We take people as they are,” said Zuech. “We support the LBGT journey.”
Tyler’s Life Covenant Church also takes this stance, and sent representatives in support of the first LGBT parade in Longview.
Steve Crane is neighborhood Team Leader for the Wendy Davis and Battleground Texas group. He referred to the event as “Longview’s Coming Out Party.” He described the crowd of attendee as a unified yet diverse group.
“They are brothers and sisters, and this is about being part of a larger community.”
Crane believes it is time for Longview to acknowledge its vibrant gay community.
District 3 Councilwoman Kasha Williams told the audience that, “Everyone has the right to live their life however they choose.”
“What would Jesus do?,” she asked the crowd. “Jesus commands us to love one another.”
Williams then read the crowd a letter from Mayor Jay Dean, who was in New Orleans.
Sixty-year-old Lou Ann Smoot also manned a very well-attended booth. She is author of the book, A Christian Coming Out, in which she chronicles her life as a secret lesbian who carried on a pretense for 37 years in a heterosexual marriage until she could no longer take the charade.
She served as a ladies’ Sunday School teacher in Tyler’s First Baptist Church until asking her husband for a divorce.
“It would have been much easier to find a gay-friendly church,” she said. “But I felt God had planted me there.”
She has been a member of First Baptist for 26 years even though the pastor does not agree with her sexual orientation, but they have agreed to disagree. She describes her pastor as “a wonderful person.” Her partner Brenda McWilliams agrees.
“We love him to death,” Smoot said.
Williams also points out that unity in Christ “does not require uniform of thought and action, and that as Christians we are expected to respect and love each other, and “it does not require that we agree or approve.”
The Secular Humanist Society of East Texas (SHSET) was also on hand as a counterpoint to the Longview Baptist Temple pastor who was there speaking out against the Gay-Lesbian lifestyle. SHSET is a non-profit organization open to members interested in atheism, agnosticism, freethought, anti-theism and other such belief systems.
“You can be a good person without God,” said SHSET President Bryan McDowell. “We do not need the Bible to tell us how to be good. We can get that through society.”
Longview Baptist Temple member Dexter Landers attended to express his church’s support for traditional worship and marriage strictly between one man and one woman.
“Without our moms and dads we would not be here,” he said. “And because you can do what you want does not make what you are doing right.”
By Joycelyne Fadojutimi