Press

Salt Lake City Event to Focus on Religion and GLBT Youth; National Religious Leadership Roundtable meeting

Date: 
July 03, 2001

Leaders in the religious and gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) communities are scheduled to meet in Salt Lake City, Utah in the semi-annual National Religious Leadership Roundtable (NRLR) to discuss issues of faith and sexual orientation and to amplify the voice of pro-GLBT faith organizations in public discourse.

Set to convene from July 31 through Aug. 2, the roundtable meeting will include a public event focusing on the needs of GLBT youth within communities of faith. The event, entitled Free to Be: A Forum on Spiritual Discovery, not Sexual Recovery for GLBT Youth, will feature a conversation with a Mormon family whose son tried to commit suicide a year ago.

NRLR, which has met twice a year since 1998, is an interfaith network of leaders of faith-based organizations, representing Muslim, Hindu, Catholic, Jewish, Protestant, Mormon, Black Church and other religious and spiritual traditions. Convened by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) and founded with Equal Partners in Faith, NRLR promotes a progressive agenda that contrasts the religious right’s line on homosexuality, which champions eternal punishment and repressive "reparative" therapy.

"This is a period of political instability for the GLBT community," said NGLTF Executive Director Lorri L. Jean. "Our rights are under broad attack, often with the declared purpose of representing one definitive religious viewpoint. There are many accepting and affirming religious groups whose perspectives are overlooked."

NRLR, which has previously met in Miami, Florida, Orange County, California and Colorado Springs, Colorado, selected Salt Lake City for the meeting to challenge anti-gay attitudes within the 70 percent-Mormon state. Mormon doctrine states that traditional marriage is the only context for sexuality with the purpose of procreation and that the unmarried will not ascend to the highest level of heaven. The Mormon Church excommunicates gay members, although no statistics are collected on the number of GLBT Mormons forced to give up their religious practices.

The location also has particular relevance for GLBT youth advocates. Salt Lake City was the battleground for a bitter debate on the legitimacy of GLBT student groups in public schools. The school board, in a move eventually fought down after years of legal battles, banned all clubs in order to disallow Gay-Straight Alliances to meet on school property. The state, which hosts many anti-gay "reparative therapy" programs for GLBT youth, has also served as a backdrop for several high-profile GLBT youth suicides and has highest suicide rates in the nation for young men.

Duane Jennings, representative to NRLR from Affirmation International, an organization of GLBT Mormons, explained that support from the religious community is of great importance to many people discovering their sexual orientation, especially youth. "It's my experience that those who are able to heal spiritually, are able to step away from the self-loathing that people have been taught, into a place of personal power and wholeness," he said.

Participants Include: Affirmation, Gay & Lesbian Mormons; Affirmation, United Methodists; Al-Fatiha Foundation; American Friends Service Committee; Americans United for the Separation of Church and State; Brethren Mennonite Council; Christian Lesbians OUT; Christians for Justice Action; Dignity/USA; Disciples, Justice Action Network; Ecumenical Catholic Church; Equal Partners in Faith; Fellowship of Reconciliation; Fellowship Tabernacle; Gay, Lesbian and Affirming Disciples; Human Rights Campaign; Inner Light Unity Fellowship Church; Integrity; The Interfaith Working Group; Interweave Continental; Jewish Reconstructionist Federation; Kashi Ashram; Lutherans Concerned/North America; Methodist Federation for Social Action; More Light Presbyterians; National Gay and Lesbian Task Force; New Ways Ministry; People For the American Way; Parents, Friends, and Families of Lesbians and Gays; Q Spirit; Reconciling Congregations of the United Methodist Church; Reconstructionist Jewish Federation; SDA Kinship International; Soulforce, Inc.; That All May Freely Serve; Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches; Unitarian Universalist Association; UCCG/LC, Woman Vision; Women’s Alliance for Theology Ethics and Ritual; and World Congress of GLB Jewish Organizations.

For more information on the National Religious Leadership Roundtable, please visit www.ngltf.org/nrlr.

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The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the political power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from the ground up. We do this by training activists, organizing broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and by building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement’s premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.