Sexual orientation and gender identity play a defining role in each of our lives, whether we think about them or not. These essential characteristics inform how we view ourselves, the relationships we build, and the communities we foster.
For many Americans, religious affiliation is similarly integral to our sense of self and how we find meaning in daily life. Each person embodies their faith in a unique way, one that is largely protected under the free exercise clause of the First Amendment. Every American has the right to believe as they see fit with the secure knowledge that no other person, nor the government, can force them to change their beliefs.
But a small group of religious conservatives continue to push a misinterpretation of the First Amendment that would give them the right to force their beliefs on others – expecting those around them to conform to their views. Some argue this includes the right to refuse service to LGBTQ+ people and others.
Religious freedom does not include a license to discriminate.
Interfaith Alliance was among the first faith-based organizations to shift the perspective on LGBTQ+ equality from problem to solution, from a scriptural argument to a religious freedom agreement. We recognize that individual faith traditions approach LGBTQ+ identities differently. The First Amendment protects these communities from governmental interference in their religious doctrines. But we count on our elected representatives and judges to ensure that each of us is treated with dignity and respect within the public sphere.
The Equality Act
Reintroduced on March 13, 2019, the Equality Act would provide consistent federal non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people while modernizing and strengthening existing civil rights laws. With robust backing from non-profit, faith, and business leaders across the country, the House passed the Equality Act 236-173. Interfaith Alliance joined our partners and members of the Faith for Equality Coalition in the gallery for this historic occasion.
Interfaith Alliance is committed to affirming the dignity of all LGBTQ+ Americans, including many beloved members of our faith communities. The Equality Act ensures that LGBTQ+ people – including religious and non-religiously affiliated people – enjoy the same freedoms under the law as their neighbors. Learn more.
The Every Child Deserves a Family Coalition
Religious freedom and non-discrimination protections are complementary values, rooted in the fundamental principle that every person should be treated equally under the law. But religious freedom claims have increasingly been used to ostracize LGBTQ+ people and members of minority faiths, excluding them from public life.
Miracle Hill Ministries, an Evangelical child welfare provider that receives government funding, drew national attention for discriminating against qualified Jewish and Catholic foster care applicants. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently issued Miracle Hill a waiver to violate federal non-discrimination laws as an exercise of “religious freedom.” But they are far from the only provider that is using public funds to discriminate in this way.
On June 11, 2019, the bipartisan Every Child Deserves a Family Act was reintroduced in the House and the Senate. The ECDF Act would prohibit discrimination by federally funded child welfare providers on the basis of religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, and marital status. Learn more.
Interfaith Alliance is a proud member of the Every Child Deserves a Family Campaign, which promotes the best interests of all children in the foster care and adoption system by increasing their access to loving, stable, forever homes. Together, we challenge state and federal laws permitting discrimination and amplify the voices of LGBTQ+ parents and youth. Learn more about the Campaign.
Learn more about Interfaith Alliance’s work and how to get involved through our one pager on LGBTQ+ equality.
The landmark green paper Same-Gender Marriage and Religious Freedom: A Call to Quiet Conversations and Public Debates by former Interfaith Alliance president Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy offered a diversity of ideas based on Interfaith Alliance’s unique advocacy for religious freedom and interfaith exchange. This project’s cross-denominational nature is at the core of Interfaith Alliance’s efforts and sparked national conversation and action. It was made possible through the support of the Arcus Foundation and the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation.
Terminology around sexual orientation and gender identity shifts as language and culture evolve. Using the correct terms can prevent miscommunication and stereotyping while communicating a sense of welcome and understanding. Explore Religious Institute’s Sexuality and Gender Identity Definitions.