I am a Christian pastor and I support the Equality Act. And I am not alone.
Majorities of all major religious groups in the US support laws protecting LGBT people from discrimination. This includes Christian religious groups and even Christian evangelicals. You may have heard otherwise, even from members of the LGBT community.
For example, the article “Gay Republicans Denounce the Equality Act” contains a number of specious claims from the Log Cabin Republicans, such as, “…[the Equality Act] would enshrine the gender identity agenda that is counter to gay rights.” They also claim that it “dismantles religious freedom protections.” Neither of those statements is true and they reveal much about the group’s opposition to the act, which is rooted in transphobia and a misunderstanding of the concept of religious freedom. (Every point made in the linked article is hyperbolic with barely a nod to the truth of what the Equality Act actually says.)
My faith calls me to work for justice. As a follower of Jesus, I take seriously his call to “love my neighbor as myself,” so when a group that claims to be a part of the LGBT community attacks another part of the community, it is my duty to speak out.
When the LCR talks about a “gender identity agenda” they are talking about transgender people. Transgender rights are hardly counter to gay rights. In fact, there would be no “gay rights” without transgender people. In 1969, a Black transgender woman named Marsha P. Johnson began the riot at the Stonewall Inn nightclub in New York City that set off the movement for LGBT rights. In addition, plenty (but not all) transgender people identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual.
My faith also teaches that we are to leave no one behind in our struggle for justice. In Jesus’ time this was expressed by the admonition to care for “the least of these.”
In our movement for LGBT liberation, transgender folks have often been relegated to the place of “the least of these.” This is unacceptable. True liberation cannot happen while any part of our community remains marginalized. The LCR’s transphobia is actively harmful to members of our queer community as they promote myths and lies to incite fear. Transgender people, like all people are created with inherent dignity and worth, or as my faith teaches, in the image of God. Justice for transgender people in no way threatens justice for lesbian, gay, and bisexual people.
But what of religious freedom?
Don’t LGTB civil rights protections infringe on Christians’ religious freedom? The answer is clearly no. Religious freedom is well-protected by the First Amendment and is not threatened by the Equality Act. The act doesn’t change religious exemptions currently in place under federal law. It does say that claims of religious freedom cannot be used to deny civil rights protections or defend against discrimination, which has never been the purpose of the principle of religious freedom.
As a queer pastor of a queer congregation, I see firsthand the harm done by the lack of federal civil rights protections for LGBT people. I have congregants who can’t use the bathroom in many public places and who have increased anxiety any time they have to see a medical professional.
I see the toll it takes on the transgender members of my community to hear themselves reviled in congressional “debates.”
My heart breaks for them, for all of us, and even for the members of our queer community who have so internalized their own oppression that they would oppose a bill clearly benefits all LGBT people. While it may seem surprising for a Christian pastor to support protections for LGBT rights, we are in the majority and we are supported and sustained by our faith.
Rev. Marie Alford-Harkey (she/her) is the Senior Pastor of Metropolitan Community Church of the Palm Beaches in Palm Beach Gardens, FLA, a Christian church founded by LGBTQ+ people for LGBTQ+ people. MCC of the Palm Beaches is part of the global fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches, a denomination founded by and for LGBTQ+ people in 1968.