I get it. It's summer. The living is mostly easy. There's so many causes -- political, social, cultural -- that demand your attention. But please give some serious thought to spending a few minutes to help some people close to home: Salem's LGBTQ communities.
Here's the issue they need your help with.
The Salem Public Library has to be relocated while renovations are made to the library building at the Civic Center. City officials favor using the old Capital Press building adjacent to the Broadway Commons as a temporary library.
Problem is, the Capital Press building is owned by the Salem Alliance Church, as is the Broadway Commons. The church isn't LGBTQ friendly.
Now, if you're either already familiar with this issue, or don't need further convincing to support the LGBTQ communities in Salem who oppose leasing of the church-owned property for a temporary public library, I urge you to do one or more of these things as soon as possible -- since the City Council will be discussing this issue, and likely acting on it, at the Monday, July 22 council meeting.
(1) Sign the “Stand up for LGBTQ rights in Salem!” petition that will be submitted to the City Council.
OK, with this important citizen activism request out of the way, we return to the subject of this blog post: why Salem's LGBTQ communities need the help described in 1-3 above.
Here's excerpts from the full Human Rights Commission statement:
"The Salem Human Rights Commission (Commission) is deeply concerned about the proposed lease of the property owned by the Salem Alliance Church for the temporary location of the Salem Public Library.
The Commission values having a library that they can reasonably expect all persons will access, to be consistent with the purpose and intent of the City's Human Rights Code. The Commission believes that some members of the community, including some in LGBTQ communities, will not be comfortable accessing the space.
…The Commission respectfully requests that the City review the available properties for other potential options, and select another location, even if that location is not as ideal in cost or operations."
There are indeed other properties available to serve as a temporary library. I'm confident of this because I've listened to audio recordings of several meetings of the Library Renovation Subcommittee of the City Council, including the most recent meeting in June.
One of the facts I discussed in "Three facts about the controversy over Salem library moving to church property" was Seemingly there are alternatives to the building owned by the Salem Alliance Church. Two days ago I asked City officials to let me know if they disagreed with any of the facts in that post. I've heard nothing back.
City officials don't see much wrong with using the church-owned building because the church isn't going to be running the temporary library. However, this quote in a Salem Reporter story, "Plan to move Salem library to church-owned property stirs discrimination concerns," captures why the Human Rights Commission opposes this plan.
Daniel Rollings, president of the Salem chapter of PFLAG, a national organization that advocates for LGBTQ rights, said the plan is still tantamount to partnering with a hate group.
“I am completely opposed to the city partnering with any organization, regardless of what it is, that actively discriminates against anyone,” he said. “The city should not put out bids to work with the (Ku Klux Klan) nor should they work with anti-LGBTQ organizations that actively discriminate against the LGBTQ community.”
If you find what Rollings said to be unduly provocative, here's how I see the situation.
Imagine an alternative reality. Most people are gay, attracted to the same sex. But there's a minority who are heterosexual. One of the largest churches in Salem wants to lease a building to the City of Salem for a temporary library. It's well known that the church will only marry LGBTQ individuals. And it considers sex between people of the opposite sex to be a sin.
If you're heterosexual, wanting to marry a woman if you're a man, or a man if you're a woman, would you feel comfortable using a library in a building owned by a church that denies your right to marry? And not only that. Whether you're married or not, the church says that you shouldn't be having sex with someone of the opposite gender, because that would be a sin.
How would you feel about taxpayer money being used to lease space in a building that opposes what you consider to be fundamental human rights: the right to marry whoever you love, and the right to have sexual relations with someone of the opposite sex?
Speaking as a heterosexual man, I wouldn't like that at all.
Which is why I'm supporting the Human Rights Commission, because I understand why members of Salem's LGBTQ communities don't want the City of Salem to lease space from a church that denies their basic human rights.