Monday, March 01, 2004

More Like This, Please


The 58-year-old state representative from Richland Township opposes abortion and gun control. He backs small government and tax cuts.

A member of a fundamentalist church, he includes a verse of Scripture on his business card and participates in a Bible-study group for state legislators.

One would be hard-pressed to find a more unlikely advocate for gay rights.

Yet Wenke plans to be one of perhaps only two House Republicans voting against putting on the November ballot a Marriage Protection Amendment, which would change Michigan's constitution to ban gay marriage.

And he is opposing the bill, he said, out of a long-held and deeply felt belief that discrimination against homosexuals violates democratic principles and his Christian values.

"I kept quiet when African-Americans were facing discrimination," he said. "There have been too many people who have been discriminated against in my lifetime, and this time I'm not going to sit quietly while somebody is being mistreated.

"This is a matter of conscience. There's nothing in it for me."

He said his vote "will hurt me personally," and it already has.

Two Sundays ago, while Wenke and his wife were attending services at Richland Bible Church, the parking lot was blanketed with leaflets informing church members of Wenke's opposition to the Marriage Protection Amendment and urging them to take Wenke to task.


He offers quotes from the Bible to support his point that the Scripture is even more condemning of divorce than homosexuality. Yet divorced and remarried couples are now welcomed at even fundamentalist churches, he said. Likewise, he said, many denominations, including Christian Reformed, have moved beyond the Biblical teaching against women speaking in church.

While he supports the new role of women in the church and greater acceptance of divorce, he said, it shows how "we Christians have decided that parts of the Bible don't apply to us anymore."

"So if we can put aside the teachings on women, on divorce, on the Sabbath -- and those are all things that we choose -- then why not on homosexuality, when we don't choose our sexual orientation?" Wenke said.

"Why can't we be as kind and generous in interpreting the Bible for homosexuals as we are for ourselves?"