A rainbow of balloons on a platform stage dominated the courtyard in front of Building 7. The BriTe SiGnaL Alliance, a student club at Sinclair Community College, hosted their first annual diversity rally on April 29. Gay, lesbian, bisexual, straight and transgender people from the school and beyond gathered for four hours to promote equality for all.
Several prominent community leaders spoke out about the need for equal rights for the gay community. Dayton Board of Education member Joe Lacey recounted the difficulty he and his partner Tony Ballis had adopting a daughter together. City Commissioner Nan Whaley spoke about the importance of being an ally, or a heterosexual person who supports the homosexual community.
Some of the most powerful stories came from student speakers. Some of BriTe SiGnaL’s student members spoke candidly about their experiences in or with the gay community. Mental Health student Tim Kriswell spoke openly about being HIV positive and club secretary Christopher Perkins recalled being threatened in high school, physically abused and the day his mother called him a faggot.
“BriTe SiGnaL Alliance is here to promote tolerance for the LGBT community and keep things like this from happening to other people like me,” Perkins said.
Not everyone agreed on the topic of homosexuality. During the rally, Judah Marx, a member of Kai Alpha, preached to students in the courtyard as part of his regular evangelical outreach efforts on campus. The group was not there to protest the rally, Marx said. He said they speak in the courtyard every Thursday and just happened to be present during the rally.
“We’re not bigots, we do not hate gay people,” said Gustave Bizimana, a member of the group.
Around 12:30 p.m. Sinclair police, who had been present since the rally started at 10 a.m., told Marx he had to stop speaking and leave the courtyard. The police told Marx he was not breaking any laws, but he was being taken away according to school policy. The officers refused to say what the specific policy was despite being asked numerous times by group members.
“They did not tell us the policy,” Bizimana said. “We have the right to be there. We have the freedom of speech. That was a public area, and (Marx’s) rights were violated.”
Other religious views
Marx did not speak for all Christians at the rally, though. Vicki Massman, who teaches religion at Sinclair, attended the rally as an openly bisexual woman. Massman said she has studied what the Bible says about homosexuality on several levels from multiple points of view. She believes that the Bible does not condemn homosexuality. She also thinks many people who oppose homosexuality are afraid of the issue.
“Understanding something is not the same thing as embracing something,” Massman said. “I think sometimes people confuse that and because of that they’re afraid to investigate these sensitive issues.”
Speaker Reverand Lawrence Rezash, former president of the Dayton chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), also addressed homosexuality from a religious standpoint.
“I am a United Church of Christ minister,” Rezash said. “I deplore religious groups and organizations who discriminate against all of you based on the Bible. Jesus, as I said earlier, loved everyone unconditionally, and that’s why he was crucified.”
Club thanks supporters
Club vice president Sean Watkins closed the event with thanks to the speakers and a call for equal gay rights.
“I hope today that we were able to maybe not change minds, but change some perceptions,” Watkins said. “GLBT people are just that—we’re people. We don’t ask for special rights, only equal rights, the same rights afforded to everyone in this country.”
For photos of the event, click here.