Article of Faith: It’s time for people of faith to be visible at this weekend’s National Equality March
Pedro Julio Serrano, Communications Manager
WASHINGTON, Oct. 7 — Members of the National Religious Leadership Roundtable, convened by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, will participate at the National Equality March in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 11. What follows is an Article of Faith addressing the importance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, as well as straight allies, marching for equality, but most importantly it is a call for religion to embrace full inclusion and justice for LGBT people.
Article of Faith by the Rev. Nancy Wilson
Moderator, Metropolitan Community Churches
National Religious Leadership Roundtable Member
It is time for America to be America for my community, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. I say this as a religious leader, and a lesbian activist for 37 years, who first demonstrated for equal rights in front of the White House in 1976.
In 1961, President Obama’s parent’s interracial marriage was illegal in 21 states, which today seems unbelievable in America. Our country faces huge issues of unemployment, a still shaky economy, a desperate need for real health care reform, and two wars. Extending equality to millions of citizens, comparatively speaking, should be a no-brainer!
Recently Metropolitan Community Church of Portland celebrated the centennial of their church building. They are the fourth congregation to own the quaint and lovely building that once housed Universalists, Lutherans and a Divine Science Church.
On Oct. 3, 1909, President William Howard Taft, on a tour of nine American cities, stopped in Portland, and dedicated the Universalist Church on the corner of Broadway and 24th. Taft, who was Unitarian, spoke eloquently and presciently about the importance of the separation of church and state, along with valuing religious diversity. On his way to Portland, in fact, he dedicated an Orthodox Church, a synagogue and a Roman Catholic Church. The role of religion, he said, was to “elevate” communities, and enshrine values of justice and neighborliness.
Perhaps his view of religions seems a little too optimistic today, at least to my community. That day, a little over 100 years ago, in that crowd, there had to be thousands of LGBT people — closeted beyond what most of us had to suffer, but there! Could they ever have imagined a thriving LGBT church in Portland 100 years later, re-dedicated by an openly gay mayor? We have come so far, it seems, yet, we do not have full equality under the law.
Religion has the power to unite or divide; to foster oppression and hatred, or more progressive values, “elevating” us to a new day of justice. Homophobia, in our country’s culture and laws, is undergirded by deeply ingrained religious and moral assumptions. Arguments for equality do not penetrate religious bias.
That religious bias requires two kinds of responses: a reminder of the precious value of the separation of church and state which guarantees religious freedom; and, a clear, religious repudiation of homophobia, and an elevation of spiritual values of justice and inclusion.
That is why I am marching this Sunday, along with many other voices of faith at the National Equality March.
Like the earlier civil rights movement, our LGBT movement is undergirded by spiritual and religious passions. At the same time, our movement itself has a chip on its shoulder about religion and spirituality — believing that religion is the problem: can you blame us? I am marching to say that spiritual and religious values can also be the solution!
As a religious leader, I am aware that we need one more thing: fervent passion, solidarity and visibility from heterosexual allies who are religious leaders. We need the equivalent of white abolitionists, of the men who campaigned for women’s equality, to “show up and suit up” this Sunday.
There may be those who say, “this is not a good time.” It is never a “good time,” and truth be told, it is way past time. Changing laws and hearts and minds is never done at a time when there are less risk or no other priorities. There is no such time. For victims of hate crimes, and discrimination in housing, employment, in the military, in marriage and family law, now is the time.
LGBT people and our families must make our case, and not rest until full equality is ours. It is a matter of life and death for some, and the quality of life for many others. What a difference it could make for hundreds, or thousands of heterosexual religious allies who say they support our cause to show up, publicly, and say that it is time for America to be America for its LGBT citizens. For some, this would be a risky thing to do — which is why it must be done! It’s time.
About the Author: The Rev. Nancy Wilson is the moderator of the Metropolitan Community Churches and a National Religious Leadership Roundtable member.
The National Religious Leadership Roundtable (NRLR), convened by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, is an interfaith network of leaders from pro-lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) faith, spiritual and religious organizations. We work in partnership with other groups to promote understanding of and respect for LGBT people within society at large and in communities of faith. We promote understanding and respect within LGBT communities for a variety of faith paths and for religious liberty, and to achieve commonly held goals that promote equality, spirituality and justice.
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.
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