3 Ways Religion Has Played a Role in LGBTQ Rights
When one considers the global reception of LGBTQ rights issues and looks at those in opposition of those rights, it’s an unfortunate truth that religion — especially Christianity — often comes to take on a particularly negative role. For some groups, this is a role readily taken up, and pridefully displayed, but it is worth taking note that there is a range of opinions from a range of different religious groups.
This matters for reasons beyond those of intolerance, as religious groups in American unquestionably have political and social influence; both voters and politicians ascribe to these beliefs and organizations, so the range of reactions that large or even small but influential bodies have on an important political issue is one worth examining. Let’s take a look at three varied religious responses within the political, legal, or international sphere.
1. North Carolina United Church of Christ Suit
With all the marriage bans being challenged around the United States at present, one challenge in particular is unique. Rather than being a federal lawsuit wrought by a couple or a group of same-sex couples, the lawsuit being made over North Carolina’s ban on same-sex marriage was taken up by clergy members. A group of clergy from the United Church of Christ are challenging the ban on the basis that “North Carolina’s marriage laws are a direct affront to freedom of religion,” according to Reverend J. Bennett Guess, the executive minister with the United Church of Christ.
“We feel that it is important that any person that come into community life of a United Church of Christ congregation be afforded equal care and equal opportunity to religious services that clergy provide,” he said, according to The Associated Press. While the United Church of Christ is admittedly one of the more liberal christian groups in the United States and has a history of being considerably more sympathetic to LGBTQ rights issues, they are not the only ones signed onto the suit. A Baptist pastor, Lutheran priest, rabbi, and two Unitarian Universalist ministers are all involved in the case as well, alongside a number of same-sex couples.
Of course, the suit highlights the other side of religious opinion on the matter, with Tami Fitzgerald, the executive director of North Carolina Values Coalition, an anti-same-sex marriage group, denouncing the suit. “It’s both ironic and sad that an entire religious denomination and its clergy who purport holding to Christian teachings on marriage would look to the courts to justify their errant beliefs,” she said in a statement. “These individuals are simply revisionists that distort the teaching of Scripture to justify sexual revolution, not marital sanctity.”
“We didn’t bring this lawsuit to make others conform to our beliefs, but to vindicate the right of all faiths to freely exercise their religious practices,” said Donald Clark Jr., general counsel of the United Church of Christ, to The New York Times.
2. National Organization for Marriage and Oregon
Many states, especially ones in which the attorney general leans further to the left, are facing marriage ban lawsuits that go undefended. This follows an announcement made by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. back in February where he stated his refusal to defend the bans acceptable. “If I were attorney general in Kansas in 1953,” he said to The New York Times, “I would not have defended a Kansas statute that put in place separate-but-equal facilities.”
Such is the situation in the State of Oregon, where attorney general Ellen Rosenblum (D) has decided not to defend the ban being challenged by four same sex-sex couples. However, it’s possible that a different entity will step in to fill her place — namely, the National Organization for Marriage, which has filed a brief requesting to act as the ban’s defense. The group describes itself as a group that “helps protect the religious liberty of traditional faith communities,” and has been highly supportive of anti-gay corporations such as Chick-Fil-A. The group acts as an excellent foil to the example given in North Carolina, as in this case a religious group steps in to take defense of the ban, rather than stepping into to challenge it.
3. Pope Francis
If anyone has international influence in terms of religion in politics, it’s the Catholic pope — at least when it comes to that religious demographic. Catholicism’s latest appointment, Pope Francis, is considerably more open to acceptance of LGBTQ individuals, though some argue less than he is given credit for, especially in regards to same-sex marriage. Still, on the more general topic of sexuality, he is a significant contrast to past doctrine. “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” he asked, according to The New York Times. He accused the Catholic church of being “obsessed” with issues such as abortion, same-sex marriage, and contraception, saying that, “It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time. The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently. We have to find a new balance,” he said, reports The New York Times.
On the topic of marriage, he is less liberal with his words reports The Times, as he’s said that, “We have to look at the different cases and evaluate them in their variety,” and that civil unions are the state’s attempt to find a way “to regularize different situations of living together” such that healthcare and other benefits are given. His stance has led to a great deal of criticism from both sides — some for supporting what they believe to be against Catholic doctrine, and others for not taking things far enough. Regardless, compared to Benedict XVI, who wrote that homosexuality was “a strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil,” according to The Times, Francis represents an ideological wind of change.
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