HRC Blog

Religious Groups Making Progress on LGBT Equality

Church; LGBTPost submitted by Sharon Groves, former HRC Director, Religion and Faith Program

The past week saw several defining moments for the relationship between LGBT people and mainline American churches. On Friday, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) narrowly defeated a proposal to redefine marriage in its church constitution from “a civil contract between a woman and a man” to “a covenant between two people.” Better news came out of the Episcopal Church’s 77 General Convention where, on Monday, the bishops overwhelmingly voted in favor of a transgender-inclusive non-discrimination policy for ordination and the establishment of a standard liturgy for same-sex unions.

Many Presbyterians were disappointed by the General Assembly’s failure to recognize same-sex unions.  However, the amendment’s proposal was an important step in recognizing the presence of LGBT people of faith. The fact that it was so narrowly defeated (with 52 percent voting in opposition) demonstrates that faith communities are moving in the right direction. As Michael J. Adee, executive director of More Light Presbyterians (a group that champions LGBT inclusion in the church), rightfully notes:  “While it is disappointing that the church missed this historic opportunity to move toward full inclusion, the fact that so many Presbyterians from around the country called for the church to recognize love between committed same-gender couples was awe-inspiring to see.”

The historic decisions made by the Episcopal General Convention confirm that the mainline denominations are moving toward equality and inclusion. Rev. Susan Russell’s remarks demonstrate the importance of the Episcopal Church’s actions: “And now -- because of today's landmark decision by our General Convention we can advocate from a place of integrity, knowing that the change we want to see in the world has begun in us - in our canons, in our structures, in our church.”

Just as more and more people are supporting marriage equality (53 percent of Americans, according to recent polling), many of our congregations and denominations are living the core faith values of loving God and neighbor.  Churches like the Episcopal Church are providing a model for the rest of society of what it means to be welcoming and affirming.

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