Article of Faith: It’s Time for People of Faith to Be Visible at This Weekend’s National Equality March

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Article of Faith: It’s Time for People of Faith to Be Visible at This Weekend’s National Equality March

WASHINGTON - 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.

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The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force builds 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, building the organizational capacity of our movement and generating groundbreaking research through our Policy Institute.

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