Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Soulforce Founders Leaving Virginia; Say It’s No Longer Safe for Gays — A Special Comment

Lynchburg, Virginia – In a wakeup call to gays and their allies, Mel White and Gary Nixon, co-founders of LGBTQ advocacy group Soulforce, are leaving their home in Virginia for California–because they believe the Old Dominion is not safe for LGBTQ people any longer.  Rev. Dr. White writes today in the News and Advance: “With a great deal of sadness and a real sense of failure, Gary and I are leaving this beautiful city and the wonderful new friends we’ve made here. We thought that in 10 years our witness would have helped in some small way to change Virginia for the better.” In fact, Dr. White goes on to say, it has gotten dangerously worse.  “During our 10 years in Virginia,” he writes, “we’ve watched this great state turn against its gay and lesbian residents. Not only are we denied the rights and protections of marriage, our relationships are no longer safe here even when “protected” by wills or powers of attorney.”

Dr. White and his partner of 30 years, Gary Nixon, embody the heart and soul of advocacy for LGBTQ people in America.  After ghostwriting Jerry Falwell’s life story, Dr. White had to acknowledge the extremist homophobia generated by the so-called Moral Majority and the rest of the Religious Right Wing–coming out to the world as a gay man and ordained minister.  He and Gary established and led Soulforce to provide a voice countering religion-based bigotry throughout America’s faith communities–one based on the non-violent principles of Gandhi and King.  Their advocacy against hate crimes of violence against the LGBTQ community has been legendary, inspiring many gays and lesbians to resist the damnation cynical religious leaders wished on them.

But now this courageous, generous couple have seen things in Virginia cross the line for queer folk. As Dr. White goes on to say in the News and Advance, the long slide toward bigotry took off in 2006 when the citizens of Virginia gave in to hate and wrote anti-gay discrimination into the Virginia state constitution.  “Of all the states with constitutional amendments prohibiting marriage equality,” he writes, “Virginia became the most strident and mean-spirited.”  Most recently, legislation banning adoption of children by gay and lesbian couples in the Old Dominion passed into law: “When the General Assembly denies lesbians and gays the right to adopt or provide foster care, they are implying that we aren’t capable of being loving and trustworthy parents and even worse that we are a threat to children.”

Hundreds of friends and well-wishers have visited White and Nixon’s home to show their love, appreciation, and support of the work for justice they have done, as WSET-TV Channel 13 reported.  Ever gracious, Dr. White said to the gathering, “We’re starting a new chapter of our lives, we don’t know what’s gonna happen next, but we’re gonna be close to the family, we’re gonna be in our favorite church, All Saint’s Episcopal, we’re gonna be by my favorite beach, so we’re gonna let God do the rest.” He and Gary look forward to a new day in Virginia and the nation, when freedom and equality for LGBTQ people can flourish in safety.

Many LGBTQ people leave advocacy to people like Mel White and Gary Nixon.  Many live in a bubble of false security.  They persist to believe that if some must die or suffer violence and discrimination, it will always befall “the other guy,” and not them.  Straight allies of the queer community commit the same error, living in a fantasy that President Obama will surely be re-elected, and radical extremists who are besieging women, racial/ethnic minorities and immigrants will leave the LGBTQ population alone.  Nothing could be further from the truth, as White and Nixon’s decision to move back to California fairly shouts out to anyone who will listen.

We at the Unfinished Lives Project wish Mel and Gary well as they go on to the next chapter in their lives.  No couple deserves more appreciation for standing tall against anti-gay violence.  We can only hope they will find a safer, better place in the Golden State.  But to the hundreds of thousands of LGBTQ people who continue to live in Virginia, and to any queer person in a so-called “Red” state (like us in Texas), or in any “Purple” swing state, we say that the job of advocating for non-violence, justice and equality is now yours to do.  No more fantasies of safety.  No more passing the buck.  As White and Nixon warn us, we could lose everything in this political and spiritual climate if we do not step up and join the struggle for ourselves.  ~ Rev. Dr. Stephen V. Sprinkle, founder of the Unfinished Lives Project 

April 16, 2012 - Posted by | Anti-Gay Hate Groups, Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, religious hate speech, religious intolerance, Social Justice Advocacy, transphobia, Virginia | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. I was born and raised in va. I moved to florida 9 Years ago..i always felt an under tow of discrimination…

    Comment by cj lambert | April 18, 2012

  2. Believing in “God” is equally as stupid as discriminating against gays. If you want to be progressive, give up your childish, foolish beliefs in deities and religions.

    Comment by Truth B. Told | April 18, 2012

    • Opinions vary, Truth. I do believe, and hold for your right not to. But I wouldn’t call you “stupid,” or “childish.”


      Comment by unfinishedlives | April 18, 2012

  3. […] group, Soulforce’s 2012 Equality Ride (see story: Soulforce Founders Leaving Virginia; Say It’s No Longer Safe for Gays — A Special Comment, and Kentucky Equality Federation sponsors Soulforce’s 2007 Equality Ride to Kentucky) had […]

    Pingback by Gay-rights advocates meet with LDS officials - Kentucky Guardian | April 23, 2012

  4. They should have moved to the Great State of Massachusetts to have their relationship fully recognized.

    Comment by Dan | April 26, 2012

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