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WASHINGTON – Hundreds of faith leaders from all 50 states, including the largest number ever of heads of Christian denominations and inter-faith religious leaders, lobbied members of Congress on Tuesday.
The faith leaders were part of the Human Rights Campaign's Clergy Call for Justice and Equality 2011 to support legislation to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, to ban employment discrimination against LGBT people and protect students from discrimination and bullying.
“Religious leaders from across the country that run the gamut of faith traditions are speaking out on why, as a matter of faith, equality for all citizens is vital to our communities and our country,” said Dr. Sharon Groves, director of the HRC Foundation Religion and Faith Program.
“Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people can legally be fired in more than two thirds of the country. Our young people are being bullied and our marriages are not treated equally. These faith leaders will send a powerful message to Congress that it’s time to pass legislation against bullying and job discrimination and ensure everyone’s marriage is respected by the federal government.”
Four polls since March 2011 show the majority of people in this country want equality for everyone. In a brand new poll from HRC, 86% of Christians say that "my faith leads me to the conclusion that the law should treat all people equally, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people."
The poll clearly shows that the days when religious people believed they had to choose between religion and equality are thankfully coming to an end.
The weekend of activity included panels looking at issues like LGBT youth homelessness as well as an inter-faith celebration held at Mt. Vernon Place United Methodist Church. Prior to lobbying, hundreds of faith leaders encircled the speakers in a sea of collars, kippahs, stoles and robes at a press conference held at Upper Senate Park by the Russell Senate Office Building.
The faith leaders represent millions of members and include dignitaries from the United Church of Christ, the Unitarian Universalist Association, Presbyterian Church (USA), Reform Judaism, United Methodist Church, and the Metropolitan Community Churches. Participants come from dozens of faith traditions and the invocation was given by Buddhists from Hawaii.
“It is time to speak: in the faith communities in which we gather, in the schools that nurture our children and in the halls of government tasked with protecting its citizens. People of faith, let us no longer be silent about the struggles facing LGBTQ people. Let us no longer be silent, the time to speak is now,” said the Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow, former Moderator of the Presbyterian Church (USA) which weeks ago lifted all prohibitions to ordained leadership.
The Rev. Peter Morales, president of the Unitarian Universalist Association, brought greetings from Massachusetts where they celebrated seven years of marriage equality.
“We are proud to report that Massachusetts has the lowest divorce rate in the nation. I can tell you that Unitarian Universalists are committed to marriage equality, job security and the safety of our young people in schools. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people for years have urged Congress to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and it is shameful that here we are still lobbying for the most basic level of respect and legal protection,” he said.
The Rev. Dr. Nancy Wilson, global leader of the Metropolitan Community Church, with churches in 40 countries, is a member of President Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
“We come to our nation’s capital to advocate on behalf of thousands of LGBT citizens who ask nothing more than the right to live, study, and work free from violence, discrimination, and unfair treatment. We are mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, sisters and brothers, uncles and aunts. We are often the providers or caretakers for families who deserve to know that, our lives and families will be valued and protected in the way every citizen expects,” she said.
The Rev. Geoffrey Black, president of the United Church of Christ, also attended.
“Communities that embrace justice and equality for everyone, benefit everyone,” he said. “Students reach higher levels of educational achievement because they are not pre-occupied with their personal safety. Workers are more productive when they don’t have to worry about job security. Respect for all families means everyone wins. So, we need Congress to act. We who have gathered here, representing millions from our faith traditions, urge our elected officials to stand with us and vote for protections and equality until justice and equality, applies to everyone”
Legislation being supported by clergy at this event included efforts to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that would allow for federal rights and responsibilities to legally married same-sex couples; the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) to ban workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity; as well as the Student Non-Discrimination Act and the Safe Schools Improvement Act to protect students from anti-LGBT discrimination and bullying.