Faith leaders convene in Puerto Rico to support local efforts to attain LGBT equality

May 12, 2010

Pedro Julio Serrano, Communications Manager/Faith Media Contact
(Cell) 787.602.5954

Inga Sarda-Sorensen, Communications Director
(Office) 646.358.1463

WASHINGTON, May 12 — The National Religious Leadership Roundtable (NRLR), convened by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, is holding its semi-annual meeting this week in Puerto Rico to support the local struggle for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality. The NRLR is an interfaith network of leaders from pro-LGBT faith, spiritual and religious organizations.

"Religion is often used to demonize and persecute lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals, just as religion has and continues to be used to justify oppression of other communities," says the Rev. Rebecca Voelkel, faith work director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. "But as the countless welcoming and affirming churches in Puerto Rico testify, there are faith voices that welcome LGBT people with open arms. As pro-LGBT faith and spiritual leaders, we come to Puerto Rico to offer our support and prayers to the Puerto Rican LGBT community in hopes of fostering a continuing dialogue as we march toward full equality."

Too often, work for justice for LGBT people is seen as disconnected or separate from other justice work. However, many LGBT people live in poverty and face pervasive discrimination, economic injustice and the threat of violence.

Recognizing this interconnection of justice issues, and, with the help of Beth Zemsky, a consultant specializing in multicultural organizational development, the NRLR is meeting in Puerto Rico to gain a better understanding how to highlight these connections and work more deeply at the intersections of oppression and justice.

"A core value in Jewish tradition is working towards tikkun olam, repair of the world," says Zemsky. "The world's brokenness is not just around lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, it is also about enough for everyone to eat, good health care for all, achieving social justice in Puerto Rico and the world. Justice isn't just about one group of people — it is about the fabric of life."

Violence against LGBT people has increased in Puerto Rico of late, with the killings of five LGBT individuals in the past five months. In preparation for the commemoration of the International Day Against Homophobia & Transphobia on May 17, the NRLR is holding a town hall meeting with pro-LGBT people of faith on Thursday, May 13, to discuss the importance of combating religious-based bigotry. NRLR members will also visit local lawmakers at the Capitol to discuss the importance of religious voices speaking out in favor of LGBT equality.

"This visit from the National Religious Leadership Roundtable is as historic as it is inspiring," says Pedro Julio Serrano, communications manager of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. "The town hall meeting with NRLR members and local faith leaders will open lines of communication to continue to counter religious-based bigotry. These voices of pro-LGBT faith leaders are critical in the struggle to achieve full equality. We welcome them to Puerto Rico."

NRLR faith leaders are available for interview.
Contact Pedro Julio Serrano at 787.602.5954 or

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The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the grassroots power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. We do this by training activists, equipping state and local organizations with the skills needed to organize broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and 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.