Vanessa Collier’s sudden death brought her family to their knees and, on top of that, the church service that was set up was denied just minutes prior to her funeral due to a lesbian engagement photo which ignited a dignity in death rally in protest of the church’s decision. According to USA Today, the Colorado church stopped the progression of the impending funeral service due to a photo of Collier as she proposed to her girlfriend.
The church maintained that they did not have objections to the fact that she was a lesbian, but wished to be respectful to the house of God and did not allow the photo or the video which also included the picture of the engagement. Chaplain Gary Rolando stated that alternative lifestyles should be censored while in church. The outrage was so complete that within minutes of the decision word spread of this church’s insensitive position and many were shocked at the compounded hurt that this family had to go through.
The family refused to omit the photo or the video as it is their right to celebrate the life of their loved one as they see fit. The funeral ultimately was held at the mortuary across the street from the church and Chaplain Rolando did indeed perform the service. The Chaplain maintains his church’s stance on the subject and believed that Colliers friends wanted to turn this into a slight against gays and lesbians, when in fact it was just a long-standing view that the church has always had. Many believe this statement was meant to turn the blame on the gay community and take the spotlight off of the church.
Collier was indeed a lesbian, but she was also a wife and mother of two and grieving her death is hard enough on her family and friends, who do not believe anyone deserves to be shunned based on their sexual preference. The young woman died while cleaning her gun when it accidentally went off, a tragedy of epic proportions, and to deny her family to celebrate her life in the manner they chose is a tragedy in and of itself. Voices rang out loud and clear at the protest held at the church just days after the funeral, demanding dignity to be a right not a choice when a loved one dies. Perhaps the church did not realize that this opens the door to all kinds of bigotry, things that the American people have been fighting against for centuries. Those at the rally want to know who else this church will refuse and the the main sentiment seemed to be that this set this town back years in terms of tolerance.
At a time when many states have adopted the right for those with alternative lifestyles to wed comes this new issue. Lesbians, gays, black, white – everyone has the right to a respectful funeral to celebrate their lives. This slight comes at a time when many believed that the world had become more tolerant of the differences between people. This could indeed set this town back in terms of the advancement of basic human rights.
Opinion by Kristi Cereska