Faith Leaders across the country call on urgent passage of the Equality Act

Thousands of faith leaders in states across the country are organizing on-the-ground events, sign-on letters, and other efforts to call on senators to support the urgent passage of the Equality Act — federal legislation that would modernize and improve our nation’s civil rights laws by including explicit, permanent protections for LGBTQ people, as well as women, people of color and different national origins, and people of all faiths.

From in-person events in states like Ohio and West Virginia, to virtual roundtable discussions in states like Maine, faith voices of nearly every denomination are making the faith case for the Equality Act this week, mobilizing faith communities to make their voices heard. Among the efforts being organized this week are a series of sign-on letters, uniting faith leaders in their calls for action — including nearly 500 in Florida, more than 110 in West Virginia, more than 200 in Ohio, more than 90 in Alaska, more than 130 in North Carolina, more than 40 in New York, more than 100 in Indiana, more than 150 in Pennsylvania, and more than 100 in Iowa.

“We are all God's children and worthy of being treated with dignity and respect. That's why I’m proud to join this diverse list of more than 100 faith leaders across Iowa calling for LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination protections for all Americans. Together we are sending a unified message to our elected officials that no one should face mistreatment because of who they are, who they love, or where they live.”

Rev. Gary Sneller of the Christian Church, Cedar Rapids

“I’m proud to join a chorus of diverse faith leaders across North Carolina united in our fundamental belief that we’re all God’s children,” said the Rt. Rev. Sam Rodman, Bishop of the Diocese of North Carolina. “As faith leaders, we see the harm caused to communities when our country lacks the vital protections to ensure that no one is fired from a job, denied housing, or refused service simply because of who they are or who they love. LGBTQ people are our family members, friends, and neighbors, and should be treated with dignity and respect.”

“Our faith teaches us that all people are created with sacred dignity and worth – and that we must respect and love others not only in our words but also through our actions and laws. In a nation that does not protect LGBTQ people from discrimination, it is impossible for us to live into these universal truths that transcend our faith traditions,” said Pastor Bob Roberts, Morgantown's First Christian Church, Disciples of Christ, WV. “That’s why I am called to support and advocate for the Equality Act, which would ensure that no LGBTQ person is left vulnerable to discrimination in any area of life. I am honored to unite with faith leaders across West Virginia in urging our Senators to pass this vital legislation – because I want all who come through the doors of my church to feel welcomed with the love of Christ.”

“We are all made in the image of our creator and therefore believe all people should be treated with dignity and respect,” said Rev. Jeffrey L. Bower, Assoc. Rector for Stewardship and Community Engagement at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church of Indianapolis, IN. “It’s surprising and shocking to realize that in this day and age, it's actually still legal in many states to fire a hardworking employee, deny them an apartment, refuse service in a restaurant, and otherwise discriminate. As people of faith, we support all families working and living in our community. We need a law that protects LGBTQ Americans in every zip code across our nation."

In recent months, prominent faith leaders have been speaking out in support of the Equality Act, including Bishop John Stowe, Catholic Diocese of Lexington, KY, who testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in March:

"As a Catholic Bishop, I hate to see any form of harmful discrimination protected by law and it is consistent with our teaching to ensure that LGBTQ people have the protections they need. For this reason, I urge you and your colleagues in the U.S. Senate to pass the Equality Act into law."

Among the many faith-led events and efforts being organized in nearly a dozen states this week to urge support for the Equality Act include:

Alaska — Nearly 100 faith voices across the state are calling on Sen. Murkowski and Sullivan to support the Equality Act, signing onto a letter urging support.

Florida — Nearly 500 faith leaders in Central Florida convened to call on elected officials to honor the 49 lives taken at Pulse five years ago this month by supporting federal nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ Americans. “The country needs bipartisan cooperation and solutions to the ongoing discrimination of LGBTQ people. I’m praying that Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott will help lead the way by supporting federal legislation that provides equal protection from discrimination to all,” said Rev. Dr. Joel Hunter, Chairman, Community Resource Network.

Indiana — More than 100 faith leaders across Indiana have signed onto a letter calling on Sen. Young and Braun to support the Equality Act.

Iowa — More than 100 faith leaders in Iowa have signed onto a letter calling for urgent passage of the Equality Act.

Maine — Nearly a dozen faith leaders across Maine will come together for a virtual roundtable on Thursday to call on Sens. Collins and King to pass the Equality Act.

North Carolina — More than 130 faith leaders across the state have united in their call on Sens. Burr and Tillis to pass the Equality Act, signing onto a letter calling for its urgent passage, including Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman, who penned an op-ed in The Durham Herald-Sun last week asserting, “Supporting fundamental protections for all Americans is important to people of faith like me because LGBTQ Americans are our friends, our neighbors, our family members, and our coworkers. For many Americans, values like treating others fairly, equally, and with respect are rooted in faith and religious teachings – and many of us support comprehensive nondiscrimination protections because of our faith, not in spite of it.”

Ohio — On Wednesday, Ohio faith leaders gathered in Cincinnati to host a press event calling on Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) to take action to protect LGBTQ Ohioans by passing the Equality Act.

Pennsylvania — More than 150 faith voices across Pennsylvania are mobilizing to urge Sen. Toomey to pass the Equality Act, signing onto a letter urging support for the legislation. Faith leaders will convene on June 23 to hold a virtual event including Reverend Brandan Robertson (Faith Organizer, Bradbury-Sulivan LGBT Community Center), Reverend Naomi Washington-Leapheart (Director of Faith-Based and Interfaith Affairs, City of Philadelphia), Sister Jeannine Gramick (Founder, New Ways Ministries), Reverend Dr. Bonnie Bates (Conference Minister, Penn Northeast Conference, United Church of Christ), Reverend Dr. Richard McCarty (Associate Professor of Religious Studies, Mercyhurst University), Reverend James Williams (Pastor, First Baptist Church of Philadelphia).

West Virginia — More than 110 faith voices across the state have united in their call on Sens. Manchin and Capito to support the Equality Act, signing onto a letter urging support. This week, faith voices will convene on Wednesday at First Presbyterian Church in Morgantown and on Thursday in Charleston to hold events that will also be streamed virtually, which will feature top faith voices, including Rev. Ron English (Ferguson Memorial Baptist in Huntington).

Currently, 29 states do not have laws that explicitly protect LGBTQ people from discrimination. Without the Equality Act, LGBTQ Americans remain vulnerable to being evicted from their homes, kicked out of a business that’s open to the public, denied health care, or denied government services in a majority of states simply because of who they are.

The Equality Act also extends protections to millions of women who aren’t covered under existing federal anti-discrimination laws and expands the types of public spaces and services that can’t discriminate against people of color and people of all faiths — ensuring that women cannot be charged more by a dry cleaner for cleaning a shirt; that taxis and car-sharing services cannot refuse service to Black people; or that an accountant cannot refuse to work for someone because he disagrees with their religion.

Photo by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash

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