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Rev. Troy Perry reflects on 50 years of Metropolitan Community Church

‘I tried, always, to be fearless and faithful’

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Rev. Troy Perry and Phillip De Blieck with Esteban Montemayor, president of Christopher Street West. (Blade photo by Karen Ocamb)

The battles to secure equal rights for LGBT people have played out in marches, demonstrations, parades, courtrooms, the media, houses of worship, houses of government, hospital wards, and boardrooms. They are all places where Rev. Troy Perry has always been front-and-center, advocating for LGBT issues and everyone’s civil rights. Now, 50 years after starting the Metropolitan Community Church in his Los Angeles apartment living room, the good gay reverend looks back on an extraordinary life.

“Scripture tells us, ‘they overcame him by the word of his testimony and the blood of the lamb.’ In my church, your testimonies—your stories—are remembered,” Perry tells the Los Angeles Blade in a Sept. 17 interview.  “I always tell our community, ‘Remember your stories. Remember how you came out. Remember how you went to your first march with a lot of fear and trepidation. Remember when you talked to your parents for the first time—when you told you best friend that you’re different.’ So, for me, that’s what’s going to happen, and for all of us, on the 25th anniversary of the 1993 March on Washington and on the 50th anniversary of the Metropolitan Community Church.”

Rev. Perry has a lot to remember. In 1970, with activist Morris Kight and Rev. Bob Humphries, he co-founded Christopher Street West to organize what was then the first Pride parade in the world on the West Coast, in conjunction with a commemoration of the Stonewall riots in New York City. Nine years later, Perry helped plan the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. In 1993, the March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay, and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation saw LGBT and allied participants reach close to 1,000,000. During the historic events, Perry performed mass ceremonial marriages, including one for about 2,600 same-sex couples 25 years ago in front of the IRS headquarters.

Rev. Troy Perry performs mass wedding during March on Washington in 1993, while partner Phillip De Blieck goes to help Karen Thompson and her disabled partner Sharon Kowalski, whose parents fought Thompson over the right to care for Karen. (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

On July 16, 2003, Perry and his partner of 18 years, Phillip De Blieck, traveled to Toronto to officially get married. The following year, the couple joined Robin Tyler and Diane Olson in their annual quest for a marriage license at the Beverly Hills Courthouse—only this time their powerhouse feminist attorney Gloria Allred filed a lawsuit against the state for denying Tyler and Olson a license and refusing to recognize Perry and DeBlieck’s Canadian marriage as a result of Prop 22. Their 2004 lawsuit was folded into other lawsuits leading to a 2008 victory for marriage equality in the state.

Rev. Perry’s conviction that LGBT folks should not be excluded from marriage and family, institutions that are especially valued by people and communities of faith, now seems uncontroversial—the sure sign of an authentic pioneer.

“In 1969,” Perry says, “I performed the first wedding at MCC for two young Hispanic men. That’s when I started fighting, right then and there, and decided this would be part of our doctrine.” He was mocked by other LGBT activists who said: “Who do you think you are—Reverend Moon?” (The Korean religious leader famous for performing mass weddings.) “They couldn’t get it through their heads why it was so important. I said, ‘I am fighting for the right of every person to be treated equally under the Constitution of the United States.’” It was a position later articulated by Justice Anthony Kennedy in the Obergefell ruling.

1969 Gay Rights demonstration and march led by Rev. Troy Perry in Hollywood from Hollywood High School, down Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street to the local Los Angeles Police Station. (Screen grab from producer Pat Rocco and Bizarre Productions through UCLA Television Archives)

As a progressive activist, Perry—along with his congregation—faced opposition from people who opposed marriage equality, conservative religious leaders and bigots who committed acts of violence against them. “In 1975,” he says, “our church was burned by an arsonist in Los Angeles. There were four other MCC meeting places that were either burned by arson or desecrated, including the fire in New Orleans where our pastor and his lover and nine of our late members were burned to death in a terrible fire that killed 32 people at the Upstairs Lounge.”

In the next few years, 21 MCC churches were burned by arson or desecrated and eight clergy members were murdered. “They’ll pay for that one day, if not in this life, in the life to come,” Perry says.

Perry was invited to the White House five times—the first on March 26, 1977 in a meeting organized by Midge Costanza, a closeted aide to President Jimmy Carter and twice by President Bill Clinton—one for a conference on AIDS and another on hate crimes, both history-making. “I took a report,” he said, “and the other LGBTQ groups were thrilled because we document everything in our denomination. We took good records.”

Perry also shared stories about hate crimes when the Cuban organization CENESEX honored him last year with an award for his work for human rights and LGBT rights worldwide. “We had the American, Swiss, and French ambassadors sitting in the Karl Marx theatre in Cuba,” he says. “I told the story about all [the violence] that happened. I said, ‘that didn’t happen in your country; it happened in my country.’ And I said that in front of the American ambassador.”

Rev. Perry’s congregation has not been spared from the discrimination caused by homophobia, regardless of their sexual orientation. “I’ve had heterosexual people fired from their jobs because they were a part of Metropolitan Community Church,” Perry says. “I had a woman member in my church in the 1970s and she was a nurse at White Memorial Hospital here in LA. And that Seventh-Day Adventist hospital—it was reported in the newspapers that she had joined Metropolitan Community Church because she was a minister of our denomination—and they fired her. I’ve had to watch that and our heterosexual members have had to pay the same price that we have just for being part of an organization.” 

Conservative religious leaders such as Jerry Falwell and Anita Bryant scorned MCC’s core principle that LGBT identities are perfectly compatible with Christianity. “It gave us a lot of power,” Perry says, “because they couldn’t quit talking about us. They could ignore other groups but trying to ignore us was impossible.”

In the 1970s, he fought against Bryant’s “Save the Children” initiative, a campaign that sought to overturn an inclusive non-discrimination ordinance passed in the city of Miami. He worked with grassroots activists in Los Angeles and activists such as gay Supervisor Harvey Milk in San Francisco to defeat the Briggs Initiative, a ballot measure that would have prohibited gay and lesbian teachers from working in California public schools. He launched a 10-day fast to raise funds for the fight, which was successful in 1978.

Perry’s congregation also suffered tremendously from AIDS while Falwell preached that the disease was divine comeuppance for immoral behavior. More than 5,000 members of MCC died from AIDS, Perry says. The Westboro Baptist Church picketed an MCC service in San Diego in which the worshippers prayed for people who were sick. But the epidemic also brought forth angels.

“Bishop McKinney of the Church of God in Christ,” Perry explains, “which is a black Pentecostal denomination that does not agree with our stance on homosexuality, called a press conference and condemned the Westboro Baptist Church. McKinney said, ‘What a sick group of people who are coming to demonstrate against the church just for praying for people who are sick.’ It completely turned the city of San Diego on its head.” 

To this day, says Perry, MCC is involved in civil rights and believes in inclusion—in both houses of worship and demonstrations like Pride. At the same time, he says, “What worked 40 or 50 years ago for Pride won’t necessarily work today. And that’s a good thing!” Today, amid outrage over the Trump Administration’s policies concerning LGBT issues, Perry supports the inclusion of political protest in Pride. “I absolutely believe with all my heart that it doesn’t have to be one or the other—you can have political messages, too.” 

“For 50 years I tried, always, to be fearless and faithful. I’m faithful to my concept of being a person of faith; but I’ve also tried to be fearless in the LGBTQ community as we fought the good fight,” says Rev. Troy Perry. “I’ve never asked anyone in my community, whether in my church or in any other organization, to do more than I would do…I look back at this incredible life, and I say to people, even if I die tomorrow, I have lived history, and it’s been an incredible journey for me as a gay man.”

Rev. Perry is being honored on Oct. 6 at St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral in downtown Los Angles to commemorate the 50th anniversary of MCC. For more, visit: here.

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West Hollywood

West Hollywood in brief- City government in action this week

The new mural “Our Pride” by LaToya Peoples at City of West Hollywood City Hall, WeHo Pride 2022 Update, WeHo Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival

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Photo by Uriel Malak Brewer/Facebook

WEST HOLLYWOOD – The City of West Hollywood is reminding community members about events surrounding the upcoming #WeHoPride season. The City will provide regularly updated information about WeHo Pride 2022 programming as it becomes available:

  • WeHo Pride Weekend will take place on Friday, June 3, 2022, Saturday, June 4, 2022, and Sunday, June 5, 2022 in and around West Hollywood Park, located at 647 N. San Vicente Boulevard and will include will include a free WeHo Pride Street Fair representing a diverse array of LGBTQ+ community groups as part of visibility, expression, and celebration.
  • The annual Dyke March and the new Women’s Freedom Festival will take place beginning on Friday, June 3, 2022 at 5 p.m. The Dyke March will feature the presentation of the Melissa Etheridge and Community Activist awards, a poetry reading, sign-making and supplies, speakers, a DJ, and the Dykes on Bikes contingent. The Dyke March will step off and return to the corner of Robertson and Santa Monica Boulevards. The Women’s Freedom Festival will take place immediately following the Dyke March at the #WeHoPride Street Fair stage and will feature emerging LGBTQ and BIPOC women and non-binary musicians, comedians, poets, and activists, along with a featured performance from Milck, singing her latest protest song, We Won’t Go Back
  • WeHo Pride Weekend will feature OUTLOUD: Raising Voices, the award-winning three-day LGBTQ concert series produced by JJLA at West Hollywood Park. Headliners, artist lineup, and ticket information are available by visiting https://weareoutloud.com
  • The City of West Hollywood’s Pride Parade will step-off at noon at Crescent Heights Boulevard on Sunday, June 5, 2022 and will make its way west along Santa Monica Boulevard to the City’s Rainbow District.
  • WeHo Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival (formerly known as the One City One Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival) will take place during 40 days from Harvey Milk Day on Sunday, May 22, 2022 to Thursday, June 30, 2022 live at various locations throughout the City of West Hollywood, along with selected online programming. The theme for 2022 is With Liberty, Diversity, Inclusion, and Progress For All. The WeHo Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival runs for 40 days, from Harvey Milk Day through the end of Pride month and is organized by the City of West Hollywood’s Arts Division with input from the City’s Lesbian & Gay Advisory Board, Transgender Advisory Board, Arts and Cultural Affairs Commission, and community partners. A full calendar of events is available online.

More information and details about WeHo Pride Weekend will be posted as it becomes available at www.weho.org/pride.

Dyke March and Women’s Freedom Festival is scheduled to take place on Friday June 3, 2022

WeHo Pride Weekend will Take Place from Friday, June 3 to Sunday, June 5

OUTLOUD: Raising Voices Three-Day LGBTQ Concert Series Produced by JJLA Take Place from Friday, June 3 to Sunday, June 5

WeHo Pride Parade will Step-Off at Noon on Sunday, June 5 Along Santa Monica Boulevard

WeHo Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival Will Take Place from Sunday, May 22 to Thursday, June 30

For more than three decades, the City of West Hollywood has been home to the largest Pride celebration in Southern California, as hundreds of thousands of LGBTQ people and allies from around the world make West Hollywood their destination for the Pride season. Home to the “Rainbow District” along Santa Monica Boulevard, which features a concentration of historic LGBTQ clubs, restaurants, and retail shops, the City consistently tops lists of “most LGBTQ friendly cities” in the nation.

Since incorporation in 1984, the City of West Hollywood has become one of the most influential cities in the nation for its outspoken advocacy on LGBTQ issues. No other city of its size has had a greater impact on the national public policy discourse on fairness and inclusiveness for LGBTQ people. More than 40 percent of residents in West Hollywood identify as LGBTQ and three of the five members of the West Hollywood City Council are openly gay. The City has advocated for nearly four decades for measures that support LGBTQ individuals and the City is in the vanguard on efforts to gain and protect equality for all people on a state, national, and international level.

The City of West Hollywood is one of the first municipalities to form a Lesbian & Gay Advisory Board and a Transgender Advisory Board, which each address matters of advocacy. As part of its support of the transgender community, the City has a Transgender Resource Guide available on the City’s website, which provides information about a variety of resources including legal, health, and social services, available in the Greater Los Angeles area to enhance and improve the well-being of transgender people.

For more information about WeHo Pride, please contact the City of West Hollywood’s Events Services Division at [email protected].

For more information about the WeHo Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival, please contact the City of West Hollywood’s Arts Coordinator Mike Che at (323) 848-6377 or [email protected].

For people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, please call TTY (323) 848-6496.

The new mural “Our Pride” by LaToya Peoples at City of West Hollywood City Hall! Commissioned through WeHo Arts is now on display swing by and check it out.

Photo by Uriel Malak Brewer/Facebook

The City of West Hollywood is debuting a new mural at West Hollywood City Hall on its east-facing exterior wall facing N. Sweetzer Avenue. The mural celebrates LGBTQ Pride and is installed as part of the City’s WeHo Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival. City Hall is located at 8300 Santa Monica Boulevard. The LGBTQ Arts Festival is part of the City of West Hollywood’s annual Pride celebration.

Our Pride’ by artist LaToya D. Peoples features four hands to symbolize aspects of LGBTQ equality and activism. The first hand is in a rising fist shape, symbolizing the fight against oppression throughout history. Next, a painter’s hand, symbolizing LGBTQ creativity and openness as a community. A hand holding a sunflower comes next, as a symbol for self-love and seeking light. And finally, a hand in a classic peace sign. The background color is a gradient bright blue sky, symbolic of the progress the LGBTQ community has made and will continue to make. Each hand is painted as a realistic representation of the diverse people of our communities.

LaToya D. Peoples is a BIPOC, queer, multidisciplinary artist, educator, and entrepreneur working in the realms of visual art, public/community arts, and design. Her work focuses on figuration, natural elements, color, and pattern, as a way of exploring identity and history. She carries these themes over to her mural and sculptural installation work, creating transformative pieces guided by youth and community engagement. Her commissioned works live in the collections of University Maryland Medical Center, Denver Urban Arts & Venues, Baltimore Office of Promotion and Arts, and Baltimore Department of Parks and Recreation.

Peoples has also worked as an educator and coordinator for visual arts programming in Pennsylvania and Maryland. She has served youth and adults through teaching partnerships with the Baltimore City Public School System, National Museum of Ceramic Art, Arts Everyday, Jubilee Arts Center, Enoch Pratt Free Library, and the McDonogh School.

Our Pride’ will be on display through Sunday, April 30, 2023 at West Hollywood City Hall, located at 8300 Santa Monica Boulevard.

The WeHo Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival runs over the course of 40 days from May 22 (Harvey Milk Day) through the end of Pride Month (June 30) in-person at various locations throughout West Hollywood, along with selected online programming. For full details about the Festival and for information about #WeHoPride weekend (June 3-5, 2022) events, please visit www.weho.org/pride.

For more information about the Our Pride mural, please contact Mike Che, Arts Coordinator, City of West Hollywood at (323) 848-6377 or [email protected]. For people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, please call TTY (323) 848-6496.

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Orange County

Mass shooting at a church in Orange County- 1 dead, 4 wounded

Deputies were dispatched to a scene of a shooting in the 24000 block of El Toro Road at around 2 p.m Sunday

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Screenshot/KABC 7 News LA

LAGUNA WOOD – Orange County Sheriff’s Department deputies were dispatched to a scene of shooting at 1:26 p.m. at the Geneva Presbyterian Church in the 24000 block of El Toro Road Sunday afternoon.

The Orange County officials on scene confirmed that one person was killed and four others were critically wounded during the incident, one other individual also suffered minor injuries.

UPDATED SUNDAY: Churchgoers stopped and hogtied the shooter, described as an Asian male in his 60s, preventing further carnage. “That group of churchgoers displayed what we believe is exceptional heroism … and bravery,” Orange County Undersheriff Jeff Hallock told reporters.

UPDATED MONDAY: Orange County sheriff’s officials have identified David Wenwei Chou, 68, of Las Vegas as the suspect in Sunday’s shooting at the Geneva Presbyterian Church. Chou was arrested Sunday and is being held in lieu of $1-million, jail records show.

Sheriff’s spokeswoman Carrie Braun said he was booked on one count of murder and five counts attempted murder. But authorities are still trying to determine the motive for the shooting, which left one churchgoer dead and five others injured.

The Los Angeles Times reported Monday that Chou appeared to be motivated by political hatred of the Taiwanese community, Orange County sheriff’s officials said. While investigators provided few details, they said their investigation suggests the deadly attack was a “politically motivated hate crime” carried out by David Wenwei Chou, 68, of Las Vegas.

“Based on preliminary information in the investigation, it is believed the suspect involved was upset about political tensions between China and Taiwan,” Sheriff Don Barnes said.

Another man who saw the attack Sunday at Geneva Presbyterian Church told the Los Angeles Times and other media outlets that a pastor struck the gunman with a chair while he was reloading, giving others a chance to tackle and hogtie the suspect. The shooting marred what was meant to be a special occasion: The pastor had just returned from two years in Taiwan

According to the OCSD on Twitter: “Deputies are responding to reports of a shooting at a church on the 24000 block of El Toro Road in Laguna Woods. Multiple victims have been shot. More details to follow, PIO en route. We have detained one person and have recovered a weapon that may be involved.

The Orange County Fire Department tweeted “Our FF/PM’s are on scene and treating and transporting multiple patients. Updates will follow.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office released a statement Sunday afternoon that said it was monitoring the shooting and working closely with local law enforcement.

“No one should have to fear going to their place of worship. Our thoughts are with the victims, community, and all those impacted by this tragic event,” the statement read.

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Southern California

Triple A: National gas price average races to new records

The average price for self-serve regular gasoline in California is $5.85, which is nine cents higher than last week

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Screenshot/CBS News Money Watch

LOS ANGELES – While gas prices throughout the U.S. continued skyrocketing at levels not seen since the start of the Ukraine war due to continued uncertainties about world gasoline supply, Southern California pump prices rose more moderately in response to one major supplier being offline for maintenance, according to the Auto Club’s Weekend Gas Watch.

The average price for self-serve regular gasoline in California is $5.85, which is nine cents higher than last week. The average national price is $4.37, which is 17 cents higher than a week ago.

The average price of self-serve regular gasoline in the Los Angeles-Long Beach area is $5.90 per gallon, which is six cents higher than last week, five cents higher than last month, and $1.74 higher than last year. In San Diego, the average price is $5.86, which is five cents higher than last week, five cents higher than last month, and $1.72 higher than last year.

On the Central Coast, the average price is $5.86, which is two cents higher than last week, one cent higher than last month and $1.73 higher than last year. In Riverside, the average per-gallon price is $5.81, which is four cents higher than last week, four cents higher than last month and $1.74 higher than last year. In Bakersfield, the $5.84 average price is five cents more than last Thursday, two cents higher than last month and $1.84 higher than a year ago today.

Local Refinery Maintenance Pushes Up SoCal Prices

aaa of southern california

“The Phillips 66 Wilmington refinery has been undergoing planned maintenance for nearly a month, keeping upward pressure on local prices, according to Oil Price Information Service,” said Auto Club spokesman Doug Shupe. “Another phenomenon that has occurred during this latest price runup is that premium gasoline has become even more expensive compared to regular grade gasoline. The Auto Club’s Automotive Research Center has found that if your vehicle’s manual just recommends premium fuel and does not require it, the vehicle will operate safely and efficiently with the much less expensive regular gas.”

The Auto Club recommends the following tips to save money on gas:

  • Look into carpooling if you commute a significant distance. Carpooling with one other person cuts commute costs in half, and you can cut your commute costs by two-thirds by carpooling with two other people.
  • Make sure your tires are properly maintained and inflated to the correct level.
  • Maintain your car according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Regular service will ensure optimum fuel economy.
  • Avoid “jackrabbit” starts and hard accelerations. These actions greatly increase fuel consumption.
  • Slow down and drive the speed limit. Fuel economy peaks around 50 mph on most cars, then drops off as speed increases. Reducing freeway speeds by 5 to 10 mph can increase fuel economy by as much as 14%.
  • Use cruise control on the highway to help maintain a constant speed and save fuel. However, never use cruise control on slippery roads because you could lose control of the vehicle.
  • Minimize your use of air conditioning.
  • Avoid extended idling to warm up the engine, even in colder temperatures. It’s unnecessary and wastes fuel.
  • Remove  unnecessary and heavy items from your car.
  • Minimize your use of roof racks and remove special carriers when not in use.
  • Download the AAA App to find the cheapest gas prices near you.

The Weekend Gas Watch monitors the average price of gasoline. As of 9 a.m. on May 12, averages are:

May 12

Gas prices soar to new record highs:

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