Faith and LGBT Equality in the News

July 10, 2012Noah Baron

In recent months, LGBT equality has come to the fore in a number of denominations. The United Methodist Church’s governing body, which meets every four years, rejected a proposal to strike passages from its book of doctrine which calls homosexuality “incompatible” with the religion. Last week, the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted down (48% in favor, 52% opposed) a proposal to change its definition of marriage from “one man and one woman” to a more inclusive “two people.” This past weekend, the Episcopal Church voted to allow transgender ministers, and is voting today on whether to approve guidelines for blessing same-sex unions.

The fight for full LGBT inclusion in religious denominations – our own, but others as well – is an important one. As I’ve written before,

The stigmatization of homosexuality, often perpetrated by people of faith citing religious belief, keeps queer people in the closet and eats away at an individual’s self-worth. These are no “mere” spiritual concerns of the soul and the intangible: The effects are very real. The closet has led to gay men being on the “down low” – often involving clandestine sexual encounters – and being too afraid to get tested. Moreover, even among those who are out, studies have shown that those who were raised in conservative communities of faith struggle with internalized homophobia. Other studies have shown that internalized homophobia is linked with risky sexual behavior.


Our nation’s bullies were not born homophobic, and our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender children were not born with an enduring sense of self-loathing – shame and homophobia, like racism, are taught, and our society is a classroom.

In other words, what people of faith and religious leaders say and believe about LGBT people has a very real, direct impact on the lives of many – including kids. One out of every four kids who comes out to their parents is evicted from their home; it’s not coincidental that 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBT. There is good news, though: young Americans of every faith and denomination are more accepting than any older generation. At the Presbyterian general assembly, the close vote masked the overwhelming support among advisory delegates for marriage equality -- where support was particularly pronounced among theological students (82% in favor) and young adults (75% in favor). These results confirm a growing amount of polling data which show that full inclusion for LGBT people in our society is not a matter of if – it’s a matter of when. As Reform Jews, we can share our experiences as members of a faith that believes in, and advocates on behalf of, full LGBT equality. To quote Rabbi David Saperstein, our director, “The Reform Movement's experience sanctifying same-sex marriage has made it absolutely clear that, like heterosexual couples, gay, bisexual, and lesbian men and women find happiness and strength in the holiness of their relationships.” We can share that experience with our friends who are Presbyterian, Methodist, Episcopal, Catholic – any faith at all, in fact – and, by doing so, help provide other faiths the opportunity to, like us, celebrate the love and commitment of couples, both same- and opposite-sex. Image courtesy of the Presbyterian Church (USA) via GLAAD

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