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This is a chilling report, but not surprising, given the country's
rhetoric of shame and abuse.  This is the way rednecks always behave when
"the better sort of people" gossip, giggle, or turn their backs to us. 
Witness in our own church the hisses at Lambeth.  Witness in our own
church those who brought Bishop Righter to trial merely for counter-stating
our exclusion.  Witness those who have petitioned the primates to rip
ECUSA out of the Anglican Communion merely because a few places have begun
to repent of the unwelcome. 

What is surprising and unusual is a Christian with compassion and
willingness to take risks.  May Bishop Parsley's numbers increase. 

I was conceived in Sylacauga, as was Jim Neighbors (aka Gomer Pile),
sometime companion of Rock Hudson. My father was born and raised in Coosa
County.  Ernest and I own property in Goodwater, and have occasionally
talked of retiring there.

Lutibelle of the Alabama Belles/Louie

from the Birmingham News

                         Gaither Church will honor
                            Gaither with vigil


                        VAL WALTON News staff writer

Billy Jack Gaither, a Sylacauga man who was fatally beaten to death 
last month because he was gay, will be honored in Birmingham at 7 
p.m. Tuesday with a candlelight vigil.

The Rev. Marge Ragona, pastor of the predominantly gay Covenant 
Metropolitan Community Church in Woodlawn, said the vigil will 
allow the gay community to come together in response to Gaither's 
tragedy. He was targeted because of his sexuality. A separate private 
ceremony is planned for the family in Sylacauga.

Two Talladega County men confessed to fatally beating Gaither, 39, 
of Sylacauga last month after claiming he made unwanted sexual 
advances at one of them.

Gaither's slaying brought calls for tolerance Saturday from the head 
of Alabama's Episcopal Diocese of Alabama. Also on Saturday, two 
mothers of gay men who were victims of hate-motivated slayings 
offered their sympathy to the Gaither family.

The Right Rev. Henry N. Parsley, head of the Episcopal Diocese of 
Alabama, called Gaither's death a "tragedy."

"This sad event in our state reminds us all of the terrible consequences 
of prejudice and hate in our life together," Parsley stated. "Let us pray 
that it will spur us to deeper tolerance and understanding in our 
human differences."

Judy Shepard, mother of Matthew Shepard, and Dorothy Hadjys 
Holman, mother of Allen Schindler, asked that the privacy of 
Gaither's family be respected.

"The grief that the Gaithers are surely experiencing is one that I hope 
most people will never know," Mrs. Hadjys-Holman said.

Matthew Shephard, a 21-year-old University of Wyoming student, was 
killed in October, and Allen Schindler was beaten in 1992 by fellow 
Navy shipmates because he was gay.

The suspects in Gaither's death, Steven Eric Mullins, 25, and Charles 
Monroe Butler, 21, remained in the Coosa County Jail on Saturday.  
Coosa County District Attorney Fred Thompson said the two 
men,who have declined media interviews, still do not have attorneys.

The two men admitted leaving Gaither beaten to death and his body 
on fire atop old tires on the banks of Peckerwood Creek in Coosa 
County.  The two men claimed Gaither made a pass at Mullins.

Gaither's family and friends doubt the claim, saying Gaither did not 
flaunt his sexuality.

"He was not a closet gay," said Marion Hammond, who owns The 
Tavern, a neighborhood bar where Gaither was considered family. 
"He was comfortable with who he was. He was not one to deny his life. 
He wouldn't say, 'Hi. I'm Billy Jack. I'm gay.' If you wondered and 
asked him, he would talk about it."

Ms. Hammond said she would discuss with her employees about 
making the trip to Birmingham for Tuesday night's vigil.

She said she just hopes Gaither's life as a positive, upbeat person who 
was willing to go the extra mile to help his family and friends will not 
become loss in the national spotlight.

"I think he would like to be remembered as the person, not what he 
was," she said " He was Billy Jack who lived in Sylacauga."

Members of Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan., who picketed 
Shepard's funeral in Wyoming said they will demonstrate at any rallies 
in Alabama or elsewhere supporting homosexuality following 
Gaither's death.

                 Lutibelle's Neighbors:  John and Mary Strait 

               Our neighbor's a fag and bakes good cakes,
                    as parents are careful to warn children.
               But he's just an undertaker,
                    so there ain't much way
               he could harm no living thing.

               He even married wunts,
                    to a widow schoolteacher;
               but their maid let out
                    how the two lived in separate parts
               of the house right from the beginning,
                    and the teacher, being sickly,
               conveniently upped and died real soon.

               I think those boys were wrong to beat him up
                    when he wrote the paper about Anita.
               A little sugar in his gas tank
                    or a few discreet breathing calls
               oughta been enough to keep him scared
                    to make another public move.

               We ain't got nothin gainst queers, really,
                    long's they don't do nothin or tell nobody.
               We never have let the Baptists 
                    tell us how to run our lives.

                     --From Quean Lutibelle's Pew


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