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White, James Melville "Mel" b. 1940  
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In 1997, White was awarded the ACLU's National Civil Liberties Award for his efforts to apply the "soul force" principles of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. to the struggle for justice for sexual minorities.

In 1999, White and Nixon founded Soulforce, Inc., an organization whose purpose is to confront the anti-gay words and actions of fundamentalist Christians. Soulforce operates on the principle of "soul force," Gandhi's term for nonviolent resistance.

Thousands of Soulforce volunteers have participated in silent vigils and nonviolent protests at national conventions of the United Methodist, Southern Baptist, Presbyterian, Episcopal, Lutheran, and Roman Catholic churches in the United States and the Vatican. More than 1,000 members have been arrested in nonviolent direct actions protesting anti-gay policies.

From the first "journey to Lynchburg" in 1999 to confront Jerry Falwell to the 2006 Equality Ride and the 2008 direct action at the United Methodist Church conference, Soulforce volunteers have tirelessly confronted religious fundamentalists, determined to end the suffering of gay men and lesbians and to educate anti-gay religious leaders.

White now takes his message to college campuses across the country. After twenty-five years in the closet trying to change his sexual orientation, he now also directly confronts ex-gay ministries that try to "cure" lesbians and gay men.

Campus Crusades for Christ and other conservative religious organizations have attempted to disrupt White's appearances, sometimes even taking over the microphones at Soulforce events. But having dedicated his life to a ministry of change, he persists in delivering his message of love and acceptance. "Until this nation accepts God's gay and lesbian children as full members of the human family," White has declared, "we must go on telling that truth in love, whatever it might cost us."

White and Nixon were married on June 18, 2008 at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, soon after same-sex marriage became legal in California.

Victoria Shannon

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social sciences >> Overview:  Anglicanism / Episcopal Church

The Anglican Communion, of which the Episcopal Church in the U. S. A. is a part, has dealt with issues of sexuality in complex ways, not all of them favorable to its glbtq membership.

social sciences >> Overview:  Aversion Therapy

A form of behavior modification that employs unpleasant and sometimes painful stimuli, aversion therapy was one of the more popular treatments for homosexuality and cross-dressing in the 1950s and 1960s.

social sciences >> Overview:  The Closet

If the closet has served to institutionalize homosexuality as shameful and inferior vis-à-vis the legitimate heterosexual culture, it has also provided a space of possibility for subversive sexual and political acts.

social sciences >> Overview:  Evangelical Christians

Evangelical Christians, who tend to be fundamentalists and socially conservative, have not been welcoming to glbtq people.

social sciences >> Overview:  Metropolitan Community Church

The Metropolitan Community Church, a Christian denomination founded to minister to the glbtq community, has grown into a worldwide ministry with over 40,000 members in 18 countries.

social sciences >> Overview:  Mixed-Orientation Marriages

Mixed-orientation marriages--those in which one partner is straight and the other is gay or lesbian--often end in divorce, but such an ending is not inevitable.

social sciences >> Overview:  New Right

The New Right, which emerged during the last two decades of the twentieth century, combines evangelical Christian morality with a political agenda in opposition to glbtq equality.

social sciences >> Overview:  Reparative Therapy

Reparative therapy is a dangerously misguided attempt, supported by homophobic religious organizations, to change a person's sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual.

social sciences >> Overview:  Roman Catholicism

Historically, the Roman Catholic Church may be the institution most responsible for the suffering of individuals involved in same-sex sexual relationships.

social sciences >> Overview:  Same-Sex Marriage

Lesbian and gay couples have been fighting for the freedom to marry since the dawn of the modern glbtq struggle for equality; despite some success abroad, progress toward same-sex marriage in the United States has been slow.

social sciences >> Overview:  Southern Baptists

The Southern Baptists have become the most intolerant of the major American religious denominations, especially (but not exclusively) for their opposition to equal rights for gay men and lesbians.

social sciences >> Overview:  United Church of Christ / Congregationalism

The United Church of Christ has attempted to make its churches a "place of extravagant welcome" for glbtq people.

social sciences >> Don't Ask, Don't Tell

The "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, in effect from 1993 until 2011, was a compromise intended to end discrimination against gay men and lesbians in the U. S. military, but it failed to halt discharges based solely on sexual orientation.

social sciences >> Perry, Troy

Troy Perry is the founder of the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches, a Protestant denomination devoted to ministering to the spiritual needs of glbtq people.

social sciences >> Soulforce

Utilizing the principles of relentless nonviolent resistance, Soulforce is an activist organization founded in 1999 to combat the anti-gay rhetoric and polical actions of the religious right


Chellew, Candace. "Storming the Gate: An Interview with Mel White." Whosoever: An Online Magazine for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered Christians 4 (January-February 1997):

Garcia, Michael. "The Reverend Mel White Remembers the Late Jerry Falwell." The (May 17, 2007):

Soulforce Website:

White, Mel. Religion Gone Bad: The Hidden Dangers of the Christian Right. New York: Penguin, 2006.

_____. Stranger at the Gate: To Be Gay and Christian in America. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994.

_____. Website:


    Citation Information
    Author: Shannon, Victoria  
    Entry Title: White, James Melville "Mel"  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2008  
    Date Last Updated August 4, 2008  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2008 glbtq, Inc.  


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