Press

Two groundbreaking studies find religious voices critical to the advancement of LGBT equality

Date: 
June 04, 2009

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New studies from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force's
National Religious Leadership Roundtable
and the Center for American Progress

WASHINGTON, June 4 — The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force's National Religious Leadership Roundtable and the Center for American Progress released two groundbreaking reports today analyzing religious and secular advocacy of marriage equality ballot initiatives in California and Michigan.

Although examining different campaigns in different states in different years, the two reports draw remarkably similar conclusions about the need for partnerships between religious and secular supporters of equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

The Task Force's report, A Time to Build Up: Analysis of the No on Proposition 8 Campaign and Its Implications for Future Pro-LGBTQQIA Religious Organizing, examines last fall's Proposition 8 battle in California, highlighting religious-secular partnerships relevant to marriage equality. The report was written by the Rev. Rebecca Voelkel, program director, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Institute for Welcoming Resources, and funded by the Arcus Foundation.

The Center's report, The Faithful Divide Over Wedding Vows: A Profile of Michigan's 2004 Battle Over Marriage Equality, examines the role that religious groups played in support of and opposition to Proposal 2, the ballot initiative on marriage equality in Michigan. It was written by Sally Steenland, senior policy advisor, Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative, Center for American Progress; and Jonathan Duffy, senior political science major, Kent State University, and intern, Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative, Center for American Progress.

Similarities in the report findings include:

  • Anti-LGBT ballot initiatives are often rooted in conservative religious rhetoric. Effective responses require faith voices and messages to counteract these claims in order to show religious diversity in support of marriage equality and to disprove the notion that conservative religious voices are the sole guardians of morality on these issues.
  • Secular-religious partnerships are crucial to the success of legislative campaigns and to the broader goals of social justice and equal rights under the law for LGBT people.
  • Advocates should not write off certain religious communities as impossible to win nor overlook any "unlikely" allies, be it the Catholic Church, the Mormon Church or African-American churches. While some communities may have official pronouncements against marriage equality and campaign against it, almost always there are members within that community who by conscience have different views.
  • A narrow political campaign frame hinders effective collaboration with religious communities. LGBT faith advocates and supporters must work within their denominations for full support of LGBT rights, including marriage equality and adoption by same-sex couples.
  • Media work that takes seriously the language and culture of religious people is critical. It is crucial to quickly rebut inaccurate religious arguments and misleading statements from anti-equality forces. Furthermore, the message of LGBT rights should be framed in a mainstream way so that people feel connected to the issue. In addition, non-LGBT organizations, such as civil and human rights and faith groups, should be sought as campaign allies.
  • It is important to have both a robust on-the-ground organization and an effective media campaign, especially in larger states where much of the battle is fought over the airwaves.

Michigan report author Sally Steenland says, "The findings of these two reports are highly relevant for future battles on marriage and family equality because these are deeply moral issues. Faith voices have much to contribute to the debate and authentic religious-secular partnerships are essential to achieving human and civil rights for LGBT Americans."

The Rev. Rebecca Voelkel says of the California report: "As secular and religious organizers, we all strive for a country whose mores, culture and laws reflect the dreams of our forebears — life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and genuine justice for all, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning and intersex people and families. Although there yet remains uncertainty and unknowing between us, these shared visions and values provide us with a solid foundation upon which to build strong partnerships."

Representing the Arcus Foundation, funder of the California report, Tom Kam, director of the Religion and Values Program, says, "Collectively, these reports recognize the power of conservative religious voices to utilize their moral authority to influence public debate on LGBT equality. It is time to respond to these voices with similar authority, fully incorporating within the leadership of the LGBT movement and the public debate, the LGBT and allied religious leaders whose lives and voices speak the truth about our civil and moral equality." The goal of the Arcus Foundation's Religion and Values Program is to achieve LGBT moral equality.

Download the reports:

Download a copy of A Time to Build Up: Analysis of the No on Proposition 8 Campaign and Its Implications for Future Pro-LGBTQQIA Religious Organizing at www.welcomingresources.org.

Download a copy of The Faithful Divide Over Wedding Vows: A Profile of Michigan's 2004 Battle Over Marriage Equality at www.americanprogress.org.

To learn more about the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, follow us on Twitter: @TheTaskForce.

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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.