Last year, SFGN covered five openly gay and allied Christian musicians — men and women, old and young, gay or allies — and fortunately, there are more artists to add to the mix. These six musicians have pushed past pressures to stay closeted and are proud to be who they are.
Byron Keith was a contemporary Christian artist for over a decade before dropping off the music scene in 2005. Seven years later, he came back with a new name — Byron Rice. But that wasn’t the only change he made.
He changed his music to follow the Americana folk fusion genre. On top of that, was outed as a gay HIV-positive man following a public divorce with his wife.
"Between being told I wasn't a man of God anymore, and that I wasn't welcome at a lot of churches because I'd gotten divorced — they didn't even know I was also dealing with the fact that I was gay, and we were trying to deal with that issue as well — it was definitely a hard time,” Rice told HIV Plus Magazine. “I just basically didn't have anything relevant to say anymore, because I'd been beaten down by so many people."
He was outed as HIV-plus and allowed it to become public because he “didn’t want to have something I felt I regretted and didn’t stand up for my daughters.”
“When I found out [I was poz] I kind of went into a depression,” he said. “Finally coming out and realizing I had a lot more to say and a lot more to do, I was just trying to find a voice that I could still feel like I was making a difference.”
Despite moving away from the Christian music scene, Rice remains strong in his faith.
“Sometimes I forget that God is there, and I need to remind myself that he said he's there every moment of the day, and he's going to be there every moment of the day. He's there through all of the pains I go through with HIV, and he's there for all of the rejoicing I get to have when it's undetectable."
Most of all, Rice wants people to understand that being HIV positive is not a sin.
“I think a lot of churches still view it that way. It’s because of something you do but that it doesn’t define who you are. It isn’t defining who I am, and that is why I’m openly talking about it versus trying to be private about it, because for me, I need to let people know that I’m living with it, yes, but it is still something that isn’t going to control me or determine who I am.”
Rice still performs music and recently released a single “Sink In” on Jan. 19. Check out the single on Amazon here.
Jason Warner and deMarco Deciccio
This Christian musical duo has been a couple for nearly 14 years.
Jason Warner and deMarco Deciccio are contemporary Christian, pop, and rock music artists who share their love of music together while running a non-profit.
“We were pretty much made aware that there was no room for any openly gay artists in the CCM world,” Warner told The Washington Blade. “People just didn’t really know what to do with us. … I think that industry is changing though.”
The two were no strangers to issues surfacing in the Christian contemporary music (CCM) world because of their sexuality.
“We had some people who told us if they worked with us, they’d lose everything and I know there are people in the CCM world that are gay and just can’t be open about it,” said Warner. “For us, we just didn’t have a choice, there was no hiding who we were. If we’d been solo artists maybe we wouldn’t have been so out, but there was such a story around us being a pop duo and a couple that we just said early on, ‘Look, we are who we are.’”
They have two sons through surrogacy, “each a biological child with the same biological mother” according to their website.
Warner and Deciccio also work in the nonprofit sector. They launched Safe, Affirming, Family Environment (SAFE) in 2011, which opened with a drop-in center and foster care for homeless youth.
They also purchased a six-acre ranch together, calling it “Gratitude Ranch.” The ranch serves as “a place where foster youth and foster families can come to experience community, nature, working and playing with animals and one another,” Deciccio said.
The couple is currently touring and will reach Fort Lauderdale on Mar. 19 at the United Church of Christ Ft Lauderdale. More touring information is available here.
Although they have gone their separate ways, the inclusive inspirational gospel group Micah’s Rule stood apart from the rest by having a trio of a lesbian woman, a gay man and a transgender woman.
Despite this fact, Mary Anne Hewett, Gregg McCaw and Chasity Scott never tried to keep the focus on their sexuality and genders.
“It’s just our back story, plain and simple, but we’re not using that as a marketing tool for our music, positively or negatively,” McCaw told The Huffington Post. “We want to be a musical group like any other, but we realize our back story will get out.”
Their group name was a reference to Micah 6:8: “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
Micah’s Rule first brought their voices together at a funeral for Hewett’s brother. From there, they wrote and began rehearsing songs together.
“When we got together, we got to talking about our own philosophy on religion to see if we melded that way as well,” Scott told THP. “The way Mary Anne and I write, it’s more of a storytelling with our faith being the force that drives us forward.”
According to their Facebook page, the group split in 2015 to “emerge as individual artists.”
“We go in peace and we go in love,” they wrote. “Please keep us in your prayers as you will always be in ours. Thank you for being a friend!”