LGBTQ Faith Leaders: Faith and LGBTQ Identity are Not Mutually Exclusive

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Interfaith Alliance is committed to affirming the dignity of all LGBTQ+ Americans, including many beloved members of our faith communities. We recognize that individual faith traditions approach LGBTQ+ identities differently. The First Amendment protects these communities from governmental interference in their religious doctrines. But religious freedom doesn’t include a license to discriminate. 

Religious freedom and equality are complementary – not contradictory – values.

Just as people are free to explore matters of faith and personal conscience, people should also be free to express thier sexual orientation and gender identity without fear of discrimination or harm. But a small group of religious conservatives are working to distort the meaning of religious freedom to include the right to discriminate against those who identify or believe differently than they do. This is a radical departure from the established meaning of the First Amendment – and one that continues to cause harm in the name of faith.

Faith identity and LGBTQ+ identity are not mutually exclusive categories. Sexual orientation  and gender identity play a defining role in each of our lives, informing how we view ourselves, the relationships we build, and the communities we foster. That is why, in honor of National Coming Out Day on Monday, Oct. 11th, we’re joining with the Faith for Equality coalition to uplift the stories LBGTQ+ people of faith. 

No one should be made to feel unwelcome or unsafe in their communities. 

For many LGBTQ+ people, coming out is a process of exploring their identity and sharing their identity with others. Coming out can be a difficult journey, but also a liberating one. National Coming Out Day celebrates the identities of LGBTQ+ people through visibility and recognition of the diverse identities. 

But as we celebrate, it’s important to recognize that coming out is a fraught and complicated process. For many LGBTQ+ people, coming out is not an option. Around the country, LGBTQ+ people live under threat of discrimination, harassment, and even violence. These harms are most pronounced among transgender people, people of color, and people with disabilities. 

Religious freedom is not a license to discriminate. 

Too often, discrimination and harm against LGBTQ+ people is cloaked in the language of religion. Politicians and faith leaders on the Religious Right send a message of exclusion, leaning into the false narrative that religion and LGBTQ+ identity are at odds with one another. But this could not be further from the truth. To build safer, more compassionate communities, we all have have a responsibility to support LGBTQ+ people and policies that protect against harm and discrimination.

Legislative action is needed to protect LGBTQ+ people from discrimination. 

Currently, LGBTQ+ people are protected from discrimination under a patchwork of federal, state, and local laws. But more than 29 states are without adequate nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people. That is why Interfaith Alliance joined a broad coalition of more than 600 organizations, including civil rights, education, health care, and faith-based entities in support of the Equality Act.

This landmark civil rights bill would create consistent nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people in employment, housing, credit, education, public spaces and services, jury service, and federally funded programs. It would also strengthen existing civil rights laws, including prohibitions on religious discrimination, to address contemporary challenges.

Now is the time for real, meaningful change.

National Coming Out Day is an opportunity to raise awareness about faith-based support for LGBTQ+ equality. It is a chance to advocate for real, meaningful anti-discrimination protections that help LGBTQ+ people across the country to experience safety, security and equality in theri communities. People of faith have the power and responsibility to join in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community. In doing so, we can all help make our communities more compassionate and inviting of all people.

Learn more about the Interfaith Alliance’s work around LGBTQ+ rights.