One Gay Man's Act of Charity Shows Us the True Meaning of Tolerance

Source: AP
Source: AP

The news: While we've all heard the maxim "turn the other cheek," it can be hard to live by. But Matt Stolhandske is putting his money where his mouth is.

Stolhandske, a gay rights activist on the board of Evangelicals for Marriage Equality, is on a rather unexpected mission: to raise legal funds for Melissa and Aaron Klein, Christian bakery owners who ignited a national firestorm last year when they refused to make a cake for a lesbian couple's wedding.

Since then, the Kleins have had to close their storefront — they still take orders online — and they currently face a fine of up to $150,000 from the state of Oregon, which they say would bankrupt them. And now, Stolhandske is stepping forward with his other cheek.

Why is he doing this? While it might seem strange for a gay rights activist to financially support a couple that denied service to a same-sex couple, Stolhandske has a simple message: "In the face of intolerance, I am yet called to love."

In a moving op-ed in the Washington Post, Stolhandske writes about how he had a difficult, personal journey reconciling his Christian beliefs with his sexual orientation. And as difficult as it may be for Christians like Klein "to shower love on people like me who represent something she abhors," Stolhandske hopes that his show of goodwill might inspire Klein to reconsider her stance.

"I'll send whatever we raise along to the Klein family with a message of love and peace. I don't want them to suffer. But I am also pleading with them and other Christians to stop using the name of Jesus to explain to the LGBT community why we don't deserve access to the civil rights afforded to heterosexuals through the legal institution of marriage," Stolhandske wrote.

"I hope the Kleins will accept this sign of goodwill. After all, they must see that our goals here are the same — to live our lives as we see fit and be treated equally under the law."

And that means changing attitudes on both sides. Stolhandske also has a message for gay rights activists who might have reservations about funding known anti-gay people: It might be hard, but you have to fight hate with love.

"To them I say: This is what an olive branch looks like," he wrote. "I am not rewarding their behavior, but rather loving them in spite of it. It is time for these two communities, which both cite genuine love as our motivation, to put aside our prejudices and put down our pitchforks to clear the path for progress."

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Eileen Shim

Eileen is a writer living in New York. She studied comparative literature and international studies at Yale University, and enjoys writing about the intersection of culture and politics.

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