Richard Lindsay and Fred Toh’s Letter to the Louisiana Family Forum
This open letter is part of a Soulforce effort to reach out to statewide family policy councils, which are introducing “religious freedom” laws in the states. Louisiana Family Forum has not yet convinced the state legislature to move on religious freedom legislation. Richard and Fred decided to address a more recent action by the Forum to convince the legislature not to amend the state’s “Crimes Against Nature” statute which is unconstitutional because of the Supreme Court’s Lawrence v. Texas ruling in 2003. The continuation of this outdated “sodomy” law led to the arrest of several innocent gay men in East Baton Rouge Parish in Louisiana last year. A recent vote in the Louisiana House to change the law was defeated, 27-67, thanks to fear-mongering from the Louisiana Family Forum.
Reverend Gene Mills, President
Louisiana Family Forum
655 St. Ferdinand Street
Baton Rouge, LA 70802
May 2, 2014
Dear Reverend Mills:
This is an open letter, shared in the spirit of Mark 18:15, that we should peacefully confront our brothers and sisters when we have been harmed.
We are hurt and saddened by the Louisiana Family Forum’s role in preventing the amendment of the Crimes Against Nature statute in the Louisiana legislature last month. Apparently there was a letter circulated by your organization to the House of Representatives warning members that repeal of this law would leave children vulnerable to predators and would act as a threat to public health.
Reverend Mills, both you and we know that this change would only align Louisiana law with what has been declared constitutional in the Supreme Court’s 2003 Lawrence vs. Texas ruling. There would be no change to existing laws protecting children from predators.
Furthermore, your insistence that “this behavior” – we assume you mean same-sex sexual relationships – is “dangerous, unhealthy, and immoral” is not reflective of current social, psychological, or public health research. We are willing to believe that your statement stems from a misunderstanding of current scientific research and not from innate bigotry towards gay and lesbian people. However, continuing to spread these falsehoods about the “dangers” of same-sex relationships is doing great harm to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community in Louisiana.
As Louisiana residents, we believe we should be granted the same dignity and respect that all citizens expect. Unfortunately, the current Louisiana Crimes Against Nature statute makes us criminals in our own state, and subject to the specter of state harassment, as several innocent men in East Baton Rouge Parish found out last year. We do not wish to live under perpetual fear of state harassment for our relationship, especially since our relationship is what brought us to Louisiana in the first place.
We met in 2008 while we were pursuing graduate studies in California: Fred working on his Masters in ocean engineering and Richard working on a PhD in religion and the arts. Among our many points of compatibility was our common Christian faith. We considered it a tremendous blessing from God to be able to find in each other compassionate and faithful partners.
Fred is a citizen of the Republic of Singapore, and after he completed his degree in 2010 he was able to apply for an H1-B visa for skilled technical workers and find a job in ship design in South Louisiana. After completing his PhD in spring 2012, Richard came to Louisiana to be with Fred. Since then, he has been an instructor at University of Louisiana-Lafayette, and Director of Communications for Soulforce, an LGBT advocacy organization.
We are proud to have recently celebrated our 6th anniversary as a couple. Together, we have weathered uncertainty about Fred’s immigration status, two years in a long-distance relationship, and leaving behind our friends and faith community in California to move to the Deep South. Although the adjustment has been significant, we are enjoying the vibrant culture and cuisine of South Louisiana, and are proud to be productive professionals in our local economy.
We were recently married in a Christian ceremony in the state of Washington, and will be applying for permanent residency for Fred now that the Supreme Court has declared section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act to be unconstitutional. We consider the actions of the last 11 years decriminalizing same-sex relationships and allowing our marriages equal status under Federal law to be among the great movements of the Holy Spirit in our time. We believe it is only a matter of time before God’s work is complete and these marriages will be taking place in Louisiana. Perhaps one day we will even be featured in Louisiana Family Forum’s Marriage Hall of Fame!
There has been a lot of talk—and action—recently around the idea of religious freedom among the state family policy councils affiliated with Focus on the Family and Family Research Council.
We want you to know that we consider our marriage to be an act of religious freedom. We believe that as gay men we are made in the image and likeness of God (Gen. 1:27); that God has blessed our relationship as a covenant between two baptized Christians; and that what God has joined together, no one – not Immigration and Naturalization Services, not Focus on the Family, not the State of Louisiana – can tear asunder (Mark 10:9).
We share your desire for religious freedom. We pray that we will one day live in a country in which decisions of what constitutes marriage and family will be left up to churches and families. If churches or families do not wish to recognize same-sex marriages, that will be their right, and if churches or families do wish to recognize same-sex relationships, that will be their right. What will tie us together as Americans will be our common responsibility to the Constitution, and the availability of public services that recognize the legal and social equality of all married couples—gay and heterosexual alike. We hope you can come to agree with us on this sensible framework for moving forward on the issue of freedom of religion.
Thank you for your time and attention. We would be glad to meet with you at any time to discuss these issues further. We are including a picture of our wedding in hopes it will dispel any fears you may have that our relationship poses any danger to the public health or general well-being of Louisiana.
Richard Lindsay, PhD, & Fred Toh
P.S. This letter is part of an effort by volunteers, staff, and supporters of Soulforce to reach out to Focus on the Family and Family Research Council’s statewide family policy councils on issues of religious freedom. This letter will be shared with other Soulforce supporters and volunteers online.