Beliefnet
The Rev. Michael Piazza is dean of Cathedral of Hope, which bills itself as the largest gay and lesbian church in the world, with 3,000 members. The church owns 14 acres of land near downtown Dallas and is in the process of building a $30 million sanctuary designed by famed architect Philip Johnson.

Beliefnet's senior religion producer, Deborah Caldwell, interviewed Piazza after the Supreme Court's ruling on sodomy laws was announced Thursday.

What is your reaction to Justice Scalia's comments? He said that the court has "signed on to the homosexual agenda."

It seems to me to be rank hypocrisy, because here we have the most conservative Supreme Court justice [saying these things], yet once upon a time, conservatism in this country believed the government should not be in a private individual's life, that the government didn't have any business interfering with consenting adults in the privacy of their homes. They valued privacy rights. That's what this really is all about.

The ironic thing is that people on the right oppose hate crimes legislation, for example, saying it gives gay people special privileges or singles out gay and lesbian people as a protected class. Ironically, what this law did was that it singled out heterosexuals as a group who got special rights.

Explain that.

The old law didn't allow gay and lesbian folks to do something in the privacy of their own homes that heterosexuals had already been doing anyway. So the sexual act was legal for heterosexuals, but gay and lesbian people couldn't do it. So really, equal protection is at the heart of this. Gay and lesbian taxpayers deserve the same rights as heterosexual taxpayers.

From a spiritual point-of-view, what does this mean for your members?

One of the great things is that this happened in the midst of Gay Pride Week, and this Sunday is our gay pride celebration, so it gives us one more reason to celebrate.

But I want to point out that the law itself was essentially unenforceable. At the time of the case in the early 1980s that got to the Supreme Court in 1986, I was the executive director of the Atlanta gay center. And when Michael Hardwick was arrested I was one of the ones who founded GOALS (Georgians Opposed to Archaic Laws). The purpose of that group was to raise the money to pursue the case to the Supreme Court. Now it's all come back around. The Michael Hardwick case was also about consenting adults in the privacy of their own home. Most of the times when this law has been enforced it's been about public sex. But because the Lawrence case and the Hardwick cases were about behavior between consenting adults in the privacy of their own home, the law was so unenforceable that it didn't have much daily impact on behavior.

What it will impact is attitudes. One of the most beautiful and powerful gifts from God is our sexuality. When we [gays] express it in an intimate way with another adult whom we love, it has been called illegal, and we were criminals. So one of the most beautiful things we did with our lives was criminalized in Texas. And of course this ruling now says, "No, that was wrong, a wrong value, a wrong law, a wrong approach to life in general." So that's a good thing.

It must have impact on your congregation because you preach and teach on sexuality, and also you're a family-oriented congregation.

Yes, we have tons of kids in the church and lots of foster parents. We have 150-300 children in the church.

So do you preach on sexuality and on creating and adopting children?

Yes, because too much of religion has been geared toward making people feel shame and guilt around sexuality. I grew up not all that long ago-I'm in my late 40s-and when I was growing up no one ever said anything about sex one way or the other. I grew up Methodist in the south. It was as if it was God's dirty little secret. That created a conspiracy of silence about sexuality and a compartmentalizing-here is our spirituality, and here is our sexuality and they never mix. So much of society's problems and so much of the problems gays and lesbians have around sexuality is that separation, not recognizing that sexuality is a gift from God to be celebrated, cherished and to be responsible with under the guidance of the spirit.

This ruling will help people to be free of that, to see sexuality as a gift.

So the ruling makes them feel freer in general?

The ruling says that what we've been saying all along really is true. The government and the church almost always lag behind society. We live in a post- "Will and Grace" world now [as opposed to the 1980s], where almost everyone has lesbian and gay friends, and knows that those people are as moral and ethical as heterosexual people. The law was incongruent with where most Americans live today--even in Texas.

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