When it comes to marriage, this is one ancient religion that doesn’t discriminate against gays

Posted on 18 Mar 2010 at 4:36am
By DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

Wiccan clergyman invites LGBT couples to historic Jefferson in East Texas for handfasting ceremony


READY TO CELEBRATE | Wiccan clergyman Duane Landziak and restaurant owner Diana Anthony welcome same-sex couples to Jefferson, Texas, for Wiccan handfasting ceremonies. Landziak owns a historic building in downtown Jefferson that houses Anthony’s restaurant, The Sandwich Shop.

JEFFERSON —Before moving to East Texas about nine years ago, Duane Landziak ran one of the largest Wiccan organizations on the West Coast.

And he worked as a psychologist for the California Department of Corrections.

Today, he lives in Jefferson and owns a historic building on the town’s main street across from the Jefferson Hotel.

The building is considered one of the most haunted in Texas.

"We hear voices, footsteps and music. Anytime, day or night," Landziak said.

But he’s never felt threatened by it.

"Sometimes they even help me," he said.

Landziak rents the space to his friend, Diana Anthony, who operates The Sandwich Shop, which has become the town’s main gay hangout. The ghosts might even enjoy the karaoke on weekend nights.

As a Wiccan clergyman, Landziak has performed handfasting ceremonies — the Wiccan term for commitments or weddings — for both gay and straight couples for years.

He and Anthony would like to bring those ceremonies to the gay-friendly café and town.

"We stand up for equal rights for marriage, and we want people to know that," Anthony said.

Landziak said he sees only one difference between gay and straight ceremonies: Since the federal government recognizes Wicca as a religion for tax purposes, states allow him to register heterosexual couples’ handfasting ceremonies as marriages.

He can’t do that in Texas for same-sex couples, he noted.

In inviting people to Jefferson for their ceremonies, he said a number of the town’s guesthouses work with them to put together wedding packages.

Some of the bed and breakfasts are gay-owned.

In creating a ceremony, "We work with people to create an ambiance and environment they wanted," he said.

Within Wicca, sexual orientation is irrelevant.

"We think sex is normal," he said.

Wicca is a decentralized religion, with no single leader or authority and roots that date back thousands of years.

Landziak traces the modern revival of Wicca to the influence of Gerald Gardner, who wrote some definitive religious texts and brought Wicca to public attention beginning in the late 1930s.

Among the important principles of Wicca are the equality of men and women and the importance of caring for the environment.

The only animosity Wiccans claim toward Christianity is when Christians seek to deny freedom of religious practice and belief to others, he said.

Most Wiccans are duotheistic with a belief in a god and goddess.

Landziak said a Mediterranean credo is that the goddess created the god while a more Indo-European tenet is that a single entity divided into the two.

"Reincarnation is a core belief, a cornerstone that you will eventually come back," Landziak said.

Karma is a central tenet. When bad things happen to someone, sometimes it’s a result of something that happened in this life or sometimes a previous one.

"Things will balance out," he said. "It’s not our job to be judgmental of other people."

He said he has no respect for bigots, and his religion teaches nothing about right or wrong regarding sexual orientation.

"Sexuality is not a key issue," he said.

Healthy sexuality is celebrated, but, "It’s not a part of the religion, and we don’t have rules to regulate it."

He mentioned a few terms.

A "pagan," he said, is anyone who is not Christian, so Wiccans are pagan, but not all pagans are Wiccan.

"Witch" is from an Anglo-Saxon pronunciation and is a word sometimes used among themselves.

But, he said, "’Warlock’ doesn’t come from our lexicon."

While he mentioned spells, he laughed at the nose-twitching, finger-snapping "Bewitched" portrayal.

A follower of the Wiccan faith doesn’t do evil to another person.

And that brought him back to handfasting, which he said is a perfect way to unite two people who come from different religious traditions or a couple that wants to create a ceremony unique to them.

Duane Landziak can be contacted at The Sandwich Shop, 123 Austin St., Jefferson. 214-628-6043.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 19, 2010.

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