Activist hopeful about gay marriage

Maurice “Bojangles” Blanchard says the first step toward legalizing same-sex marriage is to change people’s hearts through relationships with others who are different from them.

By Bob Allen

A gay Baptist minister arrested after trying to apply for a marriage license in Kentucky says he is optimistic that people opposed to same-sex marriage will change their minds over time, even in conservative places like the Bible belt.

“I'm an optimist, so, yes, I think it's likely,” the Rev. Maurice Blanchard said Jan. 29 on national television. “I think what it's going to take is individual hearts being changed, and moods, through relationships with people that are different than them.”

Bojangles-BlanchardBlanchard, known by his childhood nickname “Bojangles” at Highland Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., which ordained him to the ministry and where he leads an outreach program to the city’s gay community, said he and his partner decided to stage a courthouse sit-in Jan. 22 protesting the state’s ban on gay marriage as a matter of spiritual conviction.

“As a minister and as people of faith, we have to give witness to the fact that this is an unjust law and that it's discrimination,” Blanchard told MSNBC host Thomas Roberts. “And if we don't act, then we're accomplices to our own discrimination.”

Blanchard’s partner, Dominique James, said the reason the couple didn’t just wed in of one of 10 states that now recognize gay marriage is “because we live in Kentucky.”

“We should be able to get married in Kentucky and live in Kentucky and have a happy life together,” James said.

Blanchard said the couple’s act of nonviolent civil disobedience, which led to their arrest on trespassing charges, was to challenge stereotypes that gays are a different class of people undeserving of the same rights afforded to everyone else.

“What we wanted to do by applying for this license and for people seeing it is to say: ‘Those folks are like us. We can't separate them and say "them-and-us" anymore.’”

“And so when people's hearts start being moved, then we call on them to make that real in the ballot,” Blanchard said. “And so, yes, I feel like hearts will be changed and civil rights will be coming to the forefront, for this state and hopefully the rest of the South and other parts of the nation.”

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