Did you know that half of LGBTQ people in this country live in states where there are no protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity? Many people think such discrimination is already illegal, but only 21 states and the District of Columbia ban discrimination in employment and housing; one other state, Wisconsin, covers only sexual orientation. Twenty states and DC prohibit discrimination in public accommodations; the other thirty states do not. Three states—North Carolina, Tennessee and Arkansas— even have state laws banning local governments from enacting non-discrimination laws. You can see more details here, from the Movement Advancement Project.
As we seek to expand the welcome in our communities of faith, it is critical that we recognize that LGBTQ people continue to face discrimination. Sometimes in our inclusive spaces we forget that people continue to face hostility in the world. Decisions like the recent Supreme Court ruling in favor of a baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same sex couple are deeply painful reminders that we are not equal in the eyes of many in this country. And those who seek to protect their rights to discriminate cite religion as their primary reason.
This is why it is crucial that people of faith clearly denounce anti-LGBTQ attitudes within our congregations but also in the wider society. This means defending laws already on the books and supporting new legislation that prohibits public acts of discrimination. It can also mean reaching out to faith leaders who have negative attitudes and opening a dialogue about the impact of homophobia, biphobia and transphobia.
A few suggestions:
- Acknowledge the pain that some LGBTQ people are feeling in the wake of the Masterpiece Cake decision and other efforts to legalize exclusion;
- Recognize that discrimination—both that experienced personally and by others in your community—takes a toll on people’s health and sense of well-being, and can cause people to limit their interactions in public (read more about that from the Center for American Progress);
- Learn what laws apply in your state and local area. Take actions to add new laws or strengthen existing ones. Testify at public hearings about why you feel religion is not a reason to promote discrimination;
- Speak out about the need for public spaces, including businesses, to be open to everyone, and serve everyone equally;
- Respectfully open dialogues with those who believe differently. One resource for African-Americans is CLGS’s Umoja: Unity in the Community curriculum;
- Pray for those who have been subjected to discrimination and consider praying for those who perpetrate acts of exclusion, that we might heal these rifts in our communities.