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      Researchers say homophobia takes years off your life

      A new university study says being homophobic will take two-and-a-half years off of your life. The researchers claim that having an anti-gay attitude breeds stress and an earlier death.

      "From a Christian world view perspective, we understand that homosexuality is a sin," says Pastor Steve Kern of Olivete Baptist Church. He says "homophobic" is an abrasive word, and it's not the way he would describe himself. "We all sin," says Kern, adding that everyone's sin is equal and pardonable. "We, as a church, really need to be reaching out to these folks and saying, 'Listen, there's redemption just as much for you as there is for anyone else,'" says Kern. But, according to the Columbia University study of more than 20,000 heterosexual Americans, researchers say his views on homosexuality breed stress and negativity that lead to cardiovascular-related causes of death.

      "Negative emotion, wherever it comes from, is harmful to an individual," says Scott Hamilton, Executive Director of the Cimarron Alliance, an LGBT advocacy group. "I was thrilled that the study was actually done," he says.

      But, Kern says this isn't something he thinks about every day. "I don't fear these people. I don't hate them. We have ministries here trying to reach out to them. The fear is more on their behalf because there's a judgement coming, and we're wanting to reach out to people so they don't have to fear that judgement," says Kern. He says he doesn't feel anymore stressed than the next person and he questions the validity of the study. "To try to just isolate one thing and say this is the one reason this person died two-and-a-half years sooner.. to me, it's kind of sophomoric," says Kern. "A lot of times, you can be looking for something and actually find it," he adds.

      "Great care was taken in the subjects who were studied in this process to eliminate other factors," counters Hamilton. "For anyone to say-- 'Oh, you can't prove that'-- that's wrong. It has been proven now," he says.

      Hamilton says anti-gay attitudes have an effect on the gay community, as well. "Even when those (comments) aren't directed at me personally, it hurt on some level and it just gnaws. When society continues to push you down or to push you aside, it does have devastating effects. Over 40-percent of all transgender persons attempt suicide before the age of 16," says Hamilton.

      Though the two disagree on this study, they do agree on something-- hate on both sides of this debate is bad for us all. "We have a responsibility to one another to monitor what we say and how we treat each other," says Hamilton.

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