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Couple believes homosexuality and Christianity can mix

Putting a human face on homosexuality, religion and marriage is easier said than done.

Vince Pancucci, 21, and Vincent Cervantes, 20, can speak to that statement. And they will — in depth Thursday evening at Merced College’s film night.

The movie will be “Tying the Knot,” a documentary covering the roots of homophobia and the meaning of civil marriage in America.

It portrays a woman, Mickie, whose police officer wife of 13 years died from a robber’s bullet wound. Mickie is honored as the surviving spouse, but denied all pension benefits.

It also discusses Oklahoma rancher Sam, who loses his husband of 22 years. The late husband’s estranged cousins claim everything Sam owned.

The film was shown at the Tribeca Film Festival, Montreal Festival of World Film and 75 other festivals, winning “Best Documentary” in 2004 from the Frameline Film Festival.

And it will be shown from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday in room V-140 of Merced College. The film night is free and open to the public.

Pancucci and Cervantes, both Merced College students and members of the on-campus club, Students 4 Social Justice — which sponsors the film night — will round out the evening with stories of their personal experiences.

From March to May last year, the Merced couple participated in the Soulforce Equality Ride, which travels to Christian universities to discuss homosexuality and religious faith. They went on the East Coast tour with 26 other activists to 18 schools in 17 states, including South Carolina, Oklahoma and Texas.

“If I could describe it in one word — intense,” Cervantes recalled. “It was intense in every way. Intensely good, intensely bad, intensely stressful.”

Their three-month odyssey was part Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, part Kerouac’s “On the Road,” part Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus where he was converted to Christianity in a flash. The young men were arrested—on minor charges, but they saw the insides of a couple of jails.

They were booed, cheered, stared at and hugged.

They learned a lot on the trip about faith, Cervantes said: “It didn’t change — it strengthened.”

However, some disagree with Cervantes and Pancucci’s lifestyle and their views that homosexuality can mix with Christianity and marriage.

Carl Gregory, a member of First Baptist Church in Merced, said the Bible condemns homosexuality in a straightforward way. “People who support homosexuality say the Bible is vague, but it’s very clear,” he said.

He does not believe gay people should be allowed to get married, adding that history has shown that where gay marriages are allowed, there are higher divorce rates. And he finds the concept morally wrong. “A practicing homosexual isn’t living the Christian lifestyle,” he said.

Cervantes disagrees. He considers himself a conservative Evangelical Catholic and believes people misinterpret what the Bible has to say about homosexuality.

The couple met people on their journey who denied their theories. They even received hate mail. But they also got e-mails from Christian college students they met confiding in them with such statements as, “I’m gay, but I don’t talk about it.”Since their return to Merced, they have become more active in speaking out about gay issues.

Both attended Merced College classes with humanities professor Keith Law, faculty adviser of Students 4 Social Justice. Pancucci, a sociology student, asked Law how he could get involved with the club.

“They were new in town, feeling alienated,” Law said. “I told them to join. Then I found out about everything they’ve done in terms of coming out.”

The professor and his club decided it was an ideal opportunity to discuss issues of homosexuality. “This was a perfect match,” he said.

The entire film series began with the start of the school year and is offered the first Thursday of each month. All movies and discussions must be related to a social contemporary moral issue.

Most of the Thursday evening events have covered war, such as last month’s film, “Sir, No Sir.” The film disputed the claim that protestors against the Vietnam War were also against the military.

However, he began to sense that people who attended the series wanted to address other issues. That’s when Cervantes, a religious studies major, suggested they cover homosexuality.

And not only does the couple convey a message appropriate for the event, but they also have an interesting story to tell, Law said.

They met at Christian college Azusa Pacific University in Southern California. Both considered themselves Christians and wanted to learn with other students of the same faith. Neither had yet come out as gay.

But both struggled with homosexual feelings — feelings they tried to overcome.

The couple announced they were gay Oct. 11, 2006, with a three-page statement on a public student bulletin board. The school did not approve.

Its administration encouraged them to leave. While the university respected them as children of God, a spokeswoman said in 2007, it might not be the best community for them. After all, the university has a policy against homosexual activity — a fact the couple was aware of.

They chose to leave there Oct. 18, 2006, and moved to Merced.

And since then, they have spread their belief that Christianity, marriage and homosexuality can mix.

Reporter Dhyana Levey can be reached at 209 385-2472 or dlevey@mercedsun-star.com

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