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From the Washington Blade:
D.C. pastor bemoans ‘rich homosexuals’
Garrison warns the ‘sinful’ are coming after sale of church
By ELIZABETH WEILL-GREENBERG
Friday, November 18, 2005
Theresa Garrison, a D.C. pastor, told the Washington Post this week that increasing property taxes forced her to sell her church, which is now scheduled to be torn down and replaced by expensive condominium units that she said only rich homosexuals could afford to buy.
Garrison, pastor at the Church of the Rapture at 14th and T streets, NW, agreed to sell the church for $10 million. The new owners plan to build luxury condominiums, known as the T Street Flats, priced between $400,000 and a $1 million, the Post reported.
Garrison told her church that the property would be taken over by the sinful, according to the Post.
“See, I found out that the rent is gonna be so high that only the rich homosexuals and lesbians will be able to buy this condominium,” she told the congregation, the Post reported.
Garrison did not respond to Blade requests for comment.
“We all know gentrification is going on,” said Mary Spencer, an executive board member of D.C.-ACORN, an organization that advocates for low-income and affordable housing in the District. “It’s nothing I feel has to do with gays and lesbians. It has to do with money — the difference between the poor and the well-to-do.”
Some community activists are lobbying the D.C. zoning board to mandate that a certain number of affordable housing units be set aside in each new building. No such units are planned for T Street Flats.
“The poor are pushed aside,” she said. “After all these years of enduring what D.C. has put upon us, we’re run out of D.C.”
The message from the mayor, she said, is “we’re not good enough.”
Gentrification affects gays, too
Sterling Washington, co-chair of the D.C. Coalition, echoed Spencer’s comments and criticized Garrison’s statements as short-sighted and misinformed.
“It’s untrue to assume there are not gays and lesbians who lived in the neighborhood for years who are also affected by sky-rocketing property taxes,” he said. “There have always been gay people in these neighborhoods.”
The central issue in discussions about D.C.’s rapid gentrification should be the lack of services for low-income people and the shrinking amount of affordable housing, he said.
“By building up condos everywhere it gives the indication that we don’t want people currently here to stay here,” he said. “The city, in an effort to increase its tax base, seems to have forgotten about the residents who have been here through the not-so-good times.”
Garrison’s remarks articulated a stereotype that the majority of gays are white and wealthy, gay activists charge. Gay people of color have been increasingly organizing to combat homophobia within black religious communities, as well as fighting for equal rights in local and national politics.
“The best way to combat false stereotypes is to refute them with your own visibility and own voice,” said Rick Rosendall, vice president for political affairs for the Gay & Lesbian Activists Alliance, who is white. “That’s happening more and more. That’s more significant than any kind of background noise that this kind of pastor [is making.]”
Myth of rich gays?
According to Gary Gates, a senior research fellow at the Williams Project at the UCLA School of Law and a demographer who studies same-sex couples, the census data does not support the assertion that gay men and lesbians have more income than anyone else.
“[There is] this perception of gay and lesbian people as overly white, overly male, overly wealthy,” he said. “The census data shows none of those are true.”
On average, gay men individually have incomes about 10 percent lower than married men, he said. He said that, on average, a same-sex male couple has higher household income but a lesbian couple has a lower household income. Census data also indicates that gay men tend to live in more racially diverse urban areas with higher levels of crime, he said.
“Being gay is not this panacea that makes you rich,” he said.
This data doesn’t tell gay rights community activist Phil Pannell anything he doesn’t already know.
“These luxury apartments — most gays and lesbians I know wouldn’t be able to live there,” Pannell said. “I would think the majority of our community [in D.C.] would be African American. You better believe they’re hardly affluent. I know I’m not.”