by Karen Kulm, First Congregational United Church of Christ, Vancouver, WA
June is International LGBT Pride month, commemorating the anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion of June 1969. Stonewall is celebrated as the beginning of the modern movement for the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
In 1972, the United Church of Christ (UCC) ordained the Rev. Bill Johnson, the first openly gay person ordained in a mainline Protestant church. In 2005, the General Synod of the UCC voted overwhelmingly to “affirm equal marriage rights for couples regardless of gender,” thereby becoming the first mainline denomination, and the largest Christian denomination in the world, to support same-sex marriage. Yet now in 2013, only twelve states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriage. Twenty-nine states still have no law barring workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation, and 34 states also lack such state protections based on gender identity.
We have no federal safe schools/anti-bullying law, and many LGBT youth face discrimination or bullying every day at school, often resulting in high absenteeism. This is true even in schools that do have anti-bullying policies, either because kids are afraid to report the abuse, or because the administration doesn’t respond appropriately. LGBT youth represent 20-40% of all homeless youth. Many of these young people left their homes because of conflict over their families’ religious beliefs.
As people of faith in the UCC, we must continue to be out and louder with our extravagant welcome. We must speak out in the public square, our work places, our schools, and our neighborhoods—all year ‘round, not just during Pride Season! In Oregonwe now have a wonderful opportunity to bring marriage equality to the state in 2014. Organizations like the Community of Welcoming Congregations and Basic Rights Oregon have worked tirelessly for years to educate and build a broad coalition around the state. They and other progressive groups have formed Oregon United for Marriage to build this grassroots effort.
Let’s celebrate Pride Season by marching in parades and tabling at Pride festivals, but let’s also host community forums at our churches on the importance of marriage equality, volunteer to phone bank and canvass for Oregon United for Marriage, and continue to talk with our legislators about national legislation that would protect gay and lesbian couples and children. Let’s be inspired by heroes like the Rev. Dr. Bill Johnson, but let us never forget that our work of bringing extravagant welcome to our communities is never finished.