Activist for marriage equality to be laid to rest in St. Johnsville next month

By WKTV News

ST. JOHNSVILLE, N.Y. - A man who was well-known throughout the community for his advocacy and fight for equality will be laid to rest next month in the area where he spent his boyhood.

More than 200 mourners attended a memorial service in Utica on April 21 for Milford Decker at Plymouth-Bethesda United Church of Christ, where Decker was a deacon. It was there that Decker requested to be named the minister to the LGBT community. Decker passed away on April 14.

At Noon on June 9, a graveside committal will be held at Ingham Mills Rural Cemetery and a Celebration of his life will follow at his boyhood church in St. Johnsville. His partner of 8 years, Jeff Sterling, says that all wanting to pay their final respects and enjoy a great hymn-sing and potluck dinner are welcome.

Although those close to him say he felt very strongly about protecting our environment, racial and gender equality, feeding and medically treating the poor, historic preservation and the arts, many throughout the community say he will be most remembered for his unending support of LGBT rights.

Attending New Brunswick Seminary in New Jersey, Decker became an ordained pastor in the Reformed Church of America. He was also a newspaper reporter, a child protective caseworker, historian and archivist for Montgomery County. According to Sterling, Decker was outed in the 1980s while a married father of five children.

"Despite being rejected and spurned by those around him, Milford's deep faith in God kept him probing. He knew that God made him and also knew that he was gay, and pieced together that God had no hatred toward His gay children. God loved everyone, no exceptions," Sterling said. "Homophobes who misquote Leviticus as proof of God's unchanging condemnation need only list the numerous other admonitions from that same Book that no one accepts or follows in the 21st century, to confront the silliness of their rhetoric."

Decker wrote countless letters to the editor in response to condemnation of those who are gay, marched in protests, parades, and visited many officials at the local, state, and federal level in his efforts to further the human rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender citizens.

He was a New York State Pride Agenda Marriage Ambassador and was proud when the legislature passed marriage equality.

"We are no longer second-class citizens," Sterling says Decker shouted at the time it was passed.

Sterling says that the potluck dinners that were dear to Decker will continue to be held in his honor every month at various locations, with as many 50 people or more in attendance.

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