On June 14, I marched with Boston Medical Center’s (BMC) Gay/Straight Alliance in Boston’s 44th annual Gay Pride Parade. It was far different from Boston’s 3rd Gay Pride Parade in 1973, at which then State Rep. Barney Frank and I were the honored guests—seated in a convertible. The parade route that year took us past Old West Church (United Methodist), where I served as minister for eight years, and had just been forcibly retired after performing the same-sex marriage of two male members of the Church-- which led to my being an honored guest of the 1973 Parade. (For write-up of that Parade, see “300 begin Pride Week with Parade,” By Paul Kneeland, Boston Sunday Globe, June 17, 1973) You could not see it, but as the parade passed Old West Church, I was bleeding inside. (For that story-- and more, See Alberts “Easter Depends on Whistleblowers: The Minister Who Could Not Be ‘Preyed’ Away,” Counterpunch, March 29-31, 2013)
Forty-one years later, at Boston’s 44th Gay Pride Parade, I was beaming inside—and outside from ear to ear. It was very meaningful to be a joyous member of Boston Medical Center’s Gay/Straight Alliance: a contingent of doctors, hospital chaplain and close friend and colleague, Jennie Gould, and other BMC staff -- including two women whose same-sex marriage I had performed on the lawn of Boston University Medical School, the three of us seated at a picnic table, with a beautiful bouquet of flowers, freshly picked from their garden, as the table’s centerpiece. And right behind us BMC Parade marchers was a group from Boston University Medical School, with people from other health care organizations also marching.
Boston Medical Center’s Gay/Straight Alliance was one of 200 groups, representing a record 25,000 people, participating in this year’s Gay Pride Parade. With thousands of people lining the streets, cheering us marchers on. As the Boston Globe reported, the “groups in the parade included bands, advocacy groups, university clubs, churches, and even corporations and political candidates—a sign of the Pride’s shift from a fringe demonstration to a mainstream, family-oriented staple of Boston’s event calendar and marker of an ongoing sea change in public opinion on gay issues.” (For the full Boston Globe story, see http://www.cpspoffice.org/the_archives/2014/06/ “Pride parade becomes a staple,” By Claire McNeill and Dan Adams, June 15, 2014)
The “sea change in public opinion on gay issues” is seen in religious circles. Old South Church (Congregational and member of the United Church of Christ), located where the Parade began, held a pre-march “Parade Worship Service,” its pews filled, with spiritual leaders present, the service including the “Open Door Award” given to Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick for supporting gay rights, Hillary Goodridge, a plaintiff whose case led to the legalizing of gay marriage in Massachusetts in 2003, and to Rev. Frank Schaefer, a United Methodist minister who was defrocked in 2013 for performing his son’s same-sex marriage. (Ibid)
The “sea change in public opinion on gay issues” is also seen in the publicly declared inclusiveness of health care organizations, like Boston Medical Center, with its mission of providing “Exceptional Care. Without Exception.” BMC’s mission professes a commitment to diversity that applies not only to patients and their families. It embraces staff as well. BMC’s 2008 Diversity Statement offers an inspiring model of inclusiveness for any medical, business, political or religious institution:
As part of its stated mission and values, the Medical Center remains committed to creating and sustaining a workplace and a hospital where employees, patients and patients’ families are respected and valued not in spite of, but because of, the differences in their backgrounds and cultures. We believe that there is strength in diversity, not only in race, gender, age, religion and disability, but also in education, politics, family status, national origin, sexual orientation, and all the other factors that make people individuals.
And what makes us individuals? A little boy at this year’s Boston Gay Pride Parade held the answer in his hands. Participating with the throngs of marchers, he continually waved a big sign imprinted with the words, ‘LOVE IS LOVE.’ That is the key factor that makes us individuals-- together.
(Bill Alberts with his then 18-months-old granddaughter, Aoife)
When children are born, they are dearly loved by mother and father and family, and often adored by friends-- and even strangers. That is true of children born everywhere. Why should any child become less loved and less legitimate if his or her sexual orientation develops differently? He or she is still the same human being, with the same need to be loved and the same capacity to love. It is in being loved, that we are able to love and to become individuals, fully. ‘LOVE IS LOVE,’ whoever you are. It is not straight love. Nor gay love. It is human love.
Bill Alberts is a CPSP diplomate and a member of the Dover, New Hampshire Chapter. He was a hospital chaplain at Boston Medical Center for over 18 years, retiring in 2011, and now covers on occasion as a chaplain consultant. His book, A Hospital Chaplain at the Crossroads of Humanity, based on his work at BMC, is available on Amazon.com. His new book, called The Counterpunching Minister (who couldn’t be “preyed” away) is a collection of 56 of his articles in Counterpunch-- its publication planned for this fall. His e-mail address is: firstname.lastname@example.org.