HRC Blog

Communities of Faith Push for Marriage Equality in Philadelphia

The following post comes from Laura Bonner, a volunteer with HRC’s Philadelphia-area Steering Committee:

The YES! Coalition, an organization working to guide and nourish welcoming faith communities in the Greater Philadelphia region, hosted a town hall-type discussion at the University Lutheran Church this last week.Guest speakers Joanna Blotner, HRC’s Religion and Faith Program Coordinator, and Ted Martin, the Executive Director of Equality PA, guided a powerful discussion surrounding the various obstacles and success stories faced when lobbying for LGBT and anti-discrimination policies. 

HRC’s Blotner invited attendees to share personal stories and reflections of faith which contributed to their motivation to advocate for LGBT-related issues in the political realm. Some of those who shared stories include parents of LGBT youth, straight allies, transgender individuals, and those who identify as gay or lesbian. Diverse beliefs in the influence and meaning of a higher power remained focused on the central theme that ALL people are deserving of protection and dignity.  

A member of the YES! Coalition from the Jewish faith cited a phrase from the Torah, “tzedek, tzedek tirdof” meaning “Justice, justice, you shall pursue,” (Deut 16: 20) as being the driving force behind her decision to be not just an ally but an activist for the community. Members of the Baptist church and other Christian denominations extended their own interpretation of the Bible and of the teachings of Jesus Christ. Much of the group nodded in agreement when one described Jesus as being one of the first social activists.  “He teaches us to not only love one another...but to care for one another.”

In the efforts to lobby for social issues such as those impacting the LGBT community, Martin reminded the group that “it begins with a conversation.”  He urged all in attendance to know their representatives, and encourage those representatives to become familiar with the personal stories of those they represent. While advocacy rules can often be intimidating and complicated, Blotner emphasized that clergy and people of faith are well within their rights to engage with their elected officials and lobby for the positive changes they deem necessary. Learn more about c3 advocacy guidelines for religious non-profits.

The Philadelphia HRC Steering Committee and a local volunteer-based group has committed to engaging with welcoming faith communities in the Greater Philadelphia region in order to encourage outreach and connection with the larger LGBT community. Recently, Paul Blore joined the committee as the Faith & Religion Coordinator to begin building relationships and offering support to local groups such as the Yes! Coalition.

Religious voices are essential to achieving justice and equality and it is inspiring to know that there is certainly no indication that any member of last week’s gathering was willing to give up or give in until all people are awarded equal civil rights - as they believe God would intend.  

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