Happy Monday, Friends! Last night Hanukkah, the festival of lights, began. To my friends and family who celebrate, religiously and/or culturally, I want to wish you a happy and healthy Hanukkah! As Christians we must not forget that Jesus, our Savior, was born, lived, and died as a member of the Jewish faith. He likely celebrated some form of Hanukkah with his family.
A popular English carol from the 16th century, the Coventry Carol reflects on the time in the life of Jesus when his family fled to Egypt to escape King Herod’s order to kill all first-born male children in an effort to kill Jesus: “Herod the king, in his raging, charged he hath this day, his men of might in his own sight, all young children to slay.” Hanukkah, like Christmas, teaches the lesson that even in times of significant struggle, there are reasons to hope.
Last week was a mix of stunning defeat and hard-fought victory for the LGBTQIA+ community in Ohio. On Tuesday the State Board of Education (SBOE) voted to adopt the transphobic, homophobic, misguided, and possibly illegal “Resolution to Oppose the Proposed Changes to Title IX and Affirm Parental Rights and Local Control of Ohio K-12 Education.” Yes, this version of the resolution omitted a particularly harmful preamble and improved on the original “Resolution to Support Parents, Schools, and Districts in Rejecting Harmful, Coercive, and Burdensome Gender Identity Policies,” it nevertheless remained an attack on Queer students and educators throughout Ohio.
While the SBOE has some policy-making power, the adopted resolution is not a part of that power. The resolution is therefore guidance only and nonbinding on either the Ohio legislature or on individual school districts. Districts receiving guidance under this resolution can stick it in a file or a drawer. In fact, Honesty for Ohio Education (of which LOVEboldly is a member) encouraged districts to not even open the letter and return it to sender. This is one reason for hope. We may not appreciate and may openly condemn the action of the SBOE in passing the resolution, but the resolution is nothing more than guidance from one state organization. While it may bolster supportive districts in their campaigns against Queer students, districts in opposition could send the guidance back to the SBOE without another thought.
On Thursday, the Ohio General Assembly failed to pass House Bill 151, the latest incarnation of a ban on transgender female student-athletes in Ohio schools at the middle school and high school levels (higher education had earlier been dropped from the bill). The Ohio High School Athletic Association already has a policy on transgender student-athletes which has been utilized by approximately 15 students since 2015. Currently, only one female student-athlete is approved to play under the policy. This means that House Bill 151 specifically targeted a single Ohio student for discrimination. While nothing prevents legislators from introducing a new ban in the next legislative session, for now this victory is another reason for hope.
Imagine if the state legislature was seriously considering a law that would affect only you or would further marginalize only your community. Those of us who are Queer don’t have to imagine because that is our daily reality. But there is hope in the work of so many people and organizations working to push back against harmful laws and create spaces where Queer people cannot only survive, but flourish and thrive. So was the hope for Jesus and his family and was the hope for both Jews and Queers confined to death camps by the Nazis. And is the hope of many communities around the world this Hanukkah and Christmas as they continue to fight for justice.
What are you hoping for this Hanukkah and Christmas season?
Let us pray: “We are frightened, God. Worried for our loved ones. Worried for our world. Helpless and confused, we turn to You, seeking comfort, faith and hope. Teach us, God, to turn our panic into patience, and our fear into acts of kindness and support. Our strong must watch out for our weak, our young must take care of our old.” ~From “A Prayer for Hope During this Pandemic,” written by Rabbi Naomi Levy.
Blessings on your week, my friends! Let me know if there is anything I can do for you!