Equality in America
DONALD R. SERFASS/TIMES NEWS Archbishop Bruce J. Simpson
Do you know this person?
He is a U. S. citizen. He can vote. He can teach. He can be a cop and a leader in society.
He pays his taxes like all other Americans and he can fight and die for his country.
Yet, in return, his country doesn't protect him as it does others. And he's not permitted to marry the one he loves.
Who is he?
He is every man and woman of gay America - and his fight for civil rights is the defining social movement of the 21st century.
The headline issue of our time is as politically charged as its predecessors: the black civil rights movement, slavery and suffrage. Like previous human rights issues, marriage equality is coming of age. Change is in the wind. And if it takes one person to effect that change, it just might be a respected leader in government, religion and law enforcement.
The Most Reverend Bruce J. Simpson, former Carbon County archbishop, is a Vietnam veteran, former government security worker, magistrate and city cop. He's also a key figure in support of human rights and a leader in the drive for marriage equality in America.
Pursuit of happiness
Simpson says America was founded on a principle of equal rights. But those rights haven't been doled out equally.
For example, some Americans are guaranteed the pursuit of happiness. Others are not. And it's time for that wrong to be righted.
"Having two separate classes of citizens is unconstitutional," says Simpson, an advocate for equal rights.
When it comes to gay marriage, lawmakers and others struggle with a concept which inevitably boils down to one question: Is there a legal reason to deny adult gay Americans the right to marry? If so, what is that legal reason? An answer has been elusive.
Simpson is recognized nationally on the issue and for his leadership role on behalf of gay, lesbian, transgendered and intersexed Americans.
His finger rests on the pulse of society and his career experience has touched those of all social strata.
For a time he served as bodyguard to the royal family of Saudi Arabia. Back home, Simpson won accolades as security officer for the U.S. Air Force Nuclear Security Helicopter Division and served as U. S. Special Agent for the FDA. Working for the federal government, he was honored by Vice President Al Gore.
In law enforcement, Simpson served as commissioner in the District Court of Maryland and Acting U. S. Magistrate, Pro Tem. He also served as a police officer in the City of Reading and was named cop of the year in Cheverly, Md., where he arrested 14 gang members in one swoop.
Simpson later answered God's call, retiring from government service to enter Mt. St. Mary's Seminary for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. Later, he joined the Old Catholic Church and was elevated to Archbishop Abbot of the Benedictine Order of St. John the Beloved, becoming one of only seven U. S. archbishops.
Simpson and his partner, Jack Bixler, are former residents of Kidder Township. The couple, together 37 years, was wed a few years ago in Massachusetts, where gay marriage is legal. Today, they live in Wilkes-Barre and Simpson volunteers with the Luzerne County Government Council to help drive policy toward extending benefits to same-sex partners.
"We're looking to establish a countywide ordinance for equal protection," he says. It's a large issue.
Pennsylvania doesn't recognize gay marriage. If Simpson or his partner were to become critically ill, a hospital could legally deny either one to be at the bedside, a basic right that most married couples take for granted.
Truth is, the U.S. is a patchwork of inconsistencies for gays in society.
For example, legally married gays in six states and the District of Columbia file their state tax returns as 'married,' but are forced to file their federal tax returns as 'single.'
Simpson, 59, knows all about the unfair and unequal treatment. He has performed hundreds of marriage ceremonies, including presiding over 150 same-sex weddings, and has witnessed the plight of other same-sex couples.
Interestingly, gay marriage is not new. Research has uncovered liturgy for same-sex unions dating back to the second to twelfth century, even as late as the 18th century. Evidence suggests that at one time the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches not only sanctioned unions between partners of the same sex, but sanctified those unions in ceremonies. In fact, Simpson uses a third century same-sex holy union rite to perform the service.
Simpson has traveled extensively and internationally, appearing on television and radio. In 2002, he addressed the United Nations. In 2003, he explained America's same-sex marriage evolution to an international audience via the Australian Radio Network.
He also is a celebrated author. He wrote 'The Gay Face of God,' an eye-opening memoir, and 'Condor One,' a fictional story about America's first gay president. Both works are in discussion for film adaptation.
Fighting spiritual terrorism
Simpson says much harm has been caused in the name of God - all because people try to judge others based on scripture.
He is dedicated to fighting what he calls spiritual terrorism, especially homophobia.
"There is a lot of latent bigotry," he says. He points out that the whole concept of "lifestyle choice" is incorrect. Gayness, he says, is sexuality and is not "chosen." All sexuality has a biological causation. One does not choose to be gay any more than one chooses to be straight. Instead, it is intrinsic to design. You are what you are.
Simpson says that fact is either misunderstood or ignored by many Christians and others who use misinformation to drive a wedge and create division.
Such attitudes, he says, only serve to promote persecution. It's time for everyone to celebrate all of God's children, says Simpson. It's time to forget about barriers that never should have existed.
"God's likeness," says Simpson, "includes black, white, and every hue of color in between, male and female, and yes, gay and straight. Would we limit God in His capacity to create His children restricted to what Man believes to be correct?"
In his book, Simpson dissects biblical references to homosexuality and explains misinterpretations and translation errors that have occurred over ages.
Moreover, Jesus, he says, never questioned homosexuality. Why? "Because love is not a sin," says Simpson. The answer is so simple. Yet, for many, so hard to understand. And so Simpson tries to educate.
"Untold pain and anguish has been caused to the gay community in the name of God," he says. "The Holy Scriptures have been used like a battle ax to cause harm to a significant portion of our society, and to drive these people away from their loving Father." Simpson believes the time has come for it to stop.
The definition of marriage is not static. It evolves. It last evolved in 1967 when the ban against interracial marriage was lifted by the U. S. Supreme Court. The same court likely will rule on gay marriage.
After 236 years, equality in America is a goal, not a reality. But Simpson has faith that the blind will one day see.
Gay love comes from God, he says. Love between two respectable adults is always God-given. And human bigotry is no match for God's love.