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White, James Melville "Mel" b. 1940  
 
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However, even as he was involved with some of the most bitterly anti-gay religious figures in America, White was painfully coming to terms with his homosexuality. After a suicide attempt in 1984, his wife encouraged him to come out, "You know, you really have a life of your own," she told him, adding, "I like gay people, but I just didn't want you to be one."

In 1984, he met Gary Nixon at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, where White served on the vestry and Nixon sang baritone in the Coventry Choir. A property manager for the Weyerhaeuser Corporation, in charge of corporate properties across Southern California, Nixon shared White's religious convictions but not his tormented attitude toward his homosexuality. The two men soon fell in love.

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In 1986, the Whites divorced, but they remain in close contact with each other to this day. As a measure of her support, Lyla wrote the introduction to White's autobiography, Stranger at the Gate: To Be Gay and Christian in America (1994).

At last reconciling his homosexuality and his religious faith, White was ready to take another challenge, one that would place him in the center of the gay and lesbian community's battle against the religious right, the very movement with which White had been so closely associated. It is worth noting that even when White was struggling with his homosexuality and ghosting the books of Falwell, Robertson, and Kennedy, he refrained from the vicious rhetoric that they so often used.

In 1992, White sent letters to over 5,000 Oregon pastors and church leaders, asking them not to pass Measure Nine, legislation that would take away anti-discrimination protection for gay men and lesbians. He also wrote to every major Christian fundamentalist he had worked with in the past, including Falwell, Robertson, Graham, Kennedy, and James Dobson, effectively severing his connection with the religious right.

In 1993 White accepted the invitation of Reverend Michael Piazza, pastor of Dallas's Cathedral of Hope, to become dean of their new cathedral. Now affiliated with the United Church of Christ, the Cathedral of Hope was then the largest congregation of the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches. It remains the largest Christian church in the world with a primary ministry to lesbians and gay men and their friends and families. At his installation, White declared "I am gay. I am proud. And God loves me without reservation."

White's public coming out triggered a media frenzy. His story was featured in the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post, and he was interviewed on hundreds of radio and television broadcasts including Larry King Live, National Public Radio, and the BBC. In 1994, White, Nixon, and Lyla were featured on Sixty Minutes.

Later that year, White released Stranger at the Gate, which became a best seller. The autobiography chronicles his years in the closet, and encourages gay and lesbian Christians to come out and confront the anti-gay rhetoric of the religious right.

During his first year and a half as Dean of the Cathedral of Hope, White and Nixon traveled to 35 states, speaking, organizing, and protesting injustice. On January 1, 1995, White was appointed national Minister of Justice (an unsalaried position) for the Universal Fellowship of the Metropolitan Community Churches.

Reverend Troy Perry, founder of the denomination, asked White to represent the denomination's 300 churches in the struggle to combat bigotry, hatred and, as White calls it, the religious fundamentalists' "urge to purge."

In February of 1995, White was arrested for "trespassing" at Pat Robertson's CBN Broadcast Center. He began a 22-day prison fast that made news across the United States and prompted Pat Robertson to visit him in prison. During that visit, White convinced Robertson to go on the air to announce that he "abhorred the growing violence against gay and lesbian people."

On September 1, 1996, White and Nixon began a two-week Fast for Justice on the steps of the United States Senate in an attempt to block the passage of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), inviting people of faith across America to join in a prayer vigil that God would change the minds and hearts of the Senators. When the Senate overwhelmingly passed DOMA, White and Nixon moved the protest to the sidewalk in front of the White House, where they and others were arrested while praying. At his arrest, White asked, "How can we stand by in silent acceptance while the President and the Congress sacrifice lesbian and gay Americans for some 'greater political good?'"

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