The Faith Leaders Leading the Fight for LGBTQ Equality

by HRC Staff

In honor of LGBTQ History Month, HRC is featuring faith leaders who are also leading the fight for LGBTQ equality.

Post submitted by Prianka Srinivasan, former Content Producer  

In honor of LGBTQ History Month, HRC is releasing a series of blog posts that celebrate the diversity and breadth of our community.

Today, we are featuring faith leaders who are also leading the fight for LGBTQ equality. Their work shows that nobody should be forced to choose between who they are, whom they love and what they believe.

These leaders are LGBTQ advocates who use their faith as the very foundation to spread equality and acceptance. They inspire us to lift up our own voices, confident in the knowledge that the love and compassion that defines the LGBTQ community will always provide a spiritual home.

  • Bishop Yvette Flunder: As a member of HRC’s Religion Council, Flunder is an active voice and advocate for equality. She serves as Presiding Bishop of the Fellowship and senior pastor for the City of Refuge United Church of Christ. She founded the church in 1991 to  “welcome people to be who they are by embracing a theology of acceptance – a radical inclusivity that leaves no one behind.” This “radical inclusivity” is apparent in Flunder’s own life. In the 1980s, in response to the HIV & AIDS crisis, she founded a number of nonprofits to provide health care and services to those affected. In 2011, she participated in HRC’s Clergy Call as a Faith Leader of Equality.

  • Professor Anantanand Rambachan: Rambachan is a Trinidadian Hindu-American Professor of Religion, Philosophy and Asian Studies at Saint Olaf College in Minnesota. His areas of expertise include classical Hinduism, especially Vedanta philosophy. Rambachan is a strong advocate for LGBTQ rights – he has written on marriage equality and sexual diversity in Hinduism. He is also on the advisory board of Sadhana, an organization working toward building a progressive Hindu movement and serving as a platform for progressive Hindus to speak up and act for progressive social values and social justice.
  • Daayiee Abdullah: Abdullah serves as executive director of the MECCA Institute, an inclusive and progressive online Islamic seminary, and is the imam and religious director of Masjid An-Nur Al-Isslaah ("Light of Reform Mosque"), an LGBTQ-inclusive mosque in Washington, D.C. Abdullah is the first openly gay imam in the Americas, and believed to be one of only three openly gay imams in the world. He is a member of HRC’s Religion Council and has written widely on the promotion of progressive values and LGBTQ inclusion within the Muslim community.
  • Professor Joy Ladin: Ladin, of Yeshiva University, is the first openly transgender professor at an Orthodox Jewish institution. She has previously taught on LGBTQ issues and their intersection with Judaism, and has spoken widely about being a transgender woman. Ladin was an advisor to HRC’s 2011 Jewish Organization Equality Index, and shared her experience working within Jewish non-profits, including how the Jewish community can embrace its LGBTQ members.

  • Rev. Ouyang Wen Feng: Feng, who also goes by the name Rev. Boon Lin Ngeo, is Malaysia’s first openly gay pastor. Though he has lived in the U.S. since 1998, he returns to Malaysia regularly, having co-founded the country’s first LGBTQ-friendly church on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur. His views are controversial in Malaysia, where homosexuality is a punishable crime and an “anti-LGBT culture” can prevent people from living openly. Despite these obstacles, Feng continues to promote “honesty, love and justice” and battle homophobia in his country through welcoming the LGBTQ community into his church.
  • Rabbi Denise Eger: As an American Reform rabbi, Eger has been the president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis since 2015, and is the first openly LGBTQ rabbi to hold that position. She is an expert on LGBTQ rights and Jewish teaching, and has written extensively on the subject for Compass, Reform Judaism, The Advocate, The Jewish Journal, the Huffington Post, The Jewish Forward, KCET Blog, the Los Angeles Times and on her own personal blog. Eger helped pass the 2000 Central Conference of American Rabbis resolution in support of officiation and gay and lesbian commitment ceremonies, and is co-author of the official Reform movement gay and lesbian wedding liturgy. She is a founding member of HRC’s Religion and Faith Council.
  • Abby Stein: Stein grew up in the orthodox Hasidic tradition in New York and was ordained as a rabbi in 2011. After leaving the Hasidic community the following year, Stein came out as transgender in 2015 via her blog. Since then, Stein has become a vocal advocate for transgender rights and recognition, particularly within Orthodox religious communities. She started an online group to support transgender people from Orthodox backgrounds, and also participated in the 2016 Philadelphia Trans Health Conference with longtime HRC partner Jazz Jennings.
  • Urooj Arshad: Arshad is the director of the International LGBTQ Youth Health and Rights Programs at Advocates for Youth. She has been at the forefront of tackling issues of racism, homophobia, and Islamophobia. She co-founded Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity, which fosters understanding of the intersection between Islam and the LGBTQ community. She has dedicated her life’s work to creating safe spaces, both for herself and for the next generation of marginalized populations, be they LGBTQ, Muslim, immigrant, or—like herself—all three.
  • Brandan Robertson: Robertson is an acclaimed evangelical leader working at the intersections of spirituality, sexuality, and social renewal. Though he lost a book deal and was ejected from an annual Southern Baptist Convention meeting after coming out as bisexual in 2016, he continues to return to his faith as a source of strength. In 2017, immediately following the release of the anti-LGBTQ “Nashville Statement” signed by more than 150 conservative Evangelical Christian leaders, Robertson helped organize one of the statements in solidarity with LGBTQ Christians, leading the monumental backlash against this anti-LGBTQ manifesto.

You can explore HRC’s Religion and Faith work here.