While this year has brought unprecedented progress toward LGBTQ equality in the United States and around the world, we’ve also experienced setbacks in our work toward full equality.
As Christians working toward justice for LGBTQ people, these triumphs and challenges set the stage for our work together in the coming year!
Here are the top ten moments from the Christian movement for LGBTQ equality in 2015:
10. Thousands Leave Mormon Church To Protest New Anti-Gay Policy
In November, thousands of LGBT Mormons quit the Church following its new policy that denies children of parents in same-sex relationships baptism. The new Church policy characterizes a same-sex relationship as a "serious transgression" and labels those in them as "apostates," something typically reserved for those who commit crimes like murder and rape. This united decision to leave the Mormon Church spoke volumes for the level of treatment LGBTQ Mormons and allies will and will not accept from the Mormon Church.
9. Historic Congressional Forum Addresses Transgender Violence
Also in November, the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus hosted a historic congressional forum addressing transgender violence. This forum was one response to the ongoing epidemic of transphobic violence—at least 23 trans women and gender nonconforming people murdered in 2015, the majority of whom were black and/or Latina. This forum brought together advocates and community leaders working toward justice for trans and gender non-conforming people, and it laid the groundwork for comprehensive non-discrimination protections and future concrete action by Congress.
8. LGBTQ People Of Faith And Allies Welcome Pope Francis To White House
In September, when President Obama welcomed Pope Francis to the White house, the chief executive invited a number of LGBTQ Catholics, their allies, and other LGBTQ and social justice advocates to celebrate the occasion. The presence of LGBTQ people and allies at the White House outraged conservative Catholics and, according to some sources, disturbed some Vatican officials, too. However, that did not stop our community from showing up and making our voices heard!
7. Kim Davis Uses Religious Freedom To Justify Discrimination Against LGBTQ People
Kim Davis, a county clerk in Rowan County, Kentucky, refused to issue marriage licenses after the Supreme Court's ruling for marriage equality. Stating that she was acting “under God’s authority,” she continued to defy court orders, opting to serve time in jail rather than issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Her actions sparked a nationwide dialogue about the impact of equality for LGBTQ people on non-affirming Christians across the country. This debate lays the groundwork for harmful laws that use religion to justify discrimination against LGBTQ people. These religious refusal laws passed this year in Michigan and North Carolina (see #4), and we expect over 100 more to be introduced in 2016.
6. Oregon and Illinois Join Efforts To Ban Conversion Therapy
This year, Oregon and Illinois became the third and fourth states to ban the use of "conversion therapy" on minors. This practice, which is often sponsored by non-affirming churches and religious parties, has been denounced as ineffective and harmful by every major mental health and medical organization in the country. The #BornPerfect campaign represents a growing movement that seeks to outlaw the practice of “reparative” or “conversion therapy” in every U.S. state by 2019. In April, President Obama made one of his adminstration's strongest advances in support of LGBTQ rights by calling for an end to gay "conversion" therapies. The statement came in response to a White House petition posted in January 2015 following the December suicide of Leelah Alcorn, a 17 year old transgender teen in Ohio who endured conversion therapy.
5. Presbyterian Church (USA) Approves Marriage Equality
In March, a majority of presbyteries within the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted to update the denomination’s definition of marriage to include all loving and committed couples. This change means LGBTQ Presbyterians can now be married in PC(USA) churches by PC(USA) pastors. The ratification of Amendment 14F was a historic step in the journey toward equality for LGBTQ Presbyterians.
4. Anti-LGBTQ Bills Pass In Michigan & North Carolina
In June, as the country awaited a decision from the Supreme Court on marriage equality, anti-LGBT forces who wished to use religion to justify discrimination introduced over 100 pieces of anti-LGBTQ legislation across the country. These forces were successful in Michigan and North Carolina. North Carolina's "magistrate recusal" law allows magistrates who do not believe in marriage equality to refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Michigan's adoption refusal law allows adiption agencies who receive state funding to turn away LGBTQ parents based on the agency's religious beliefs.
Given the anticipation for the Supreme Court's ruling in favor of marriage equality, these laws were a desperate effort to maintain LGBTQ discrimination in the face of growing equality.
3. Republic of Ireland Celebrates “Year Of Equality”
This year, we’ve seen significant progress toward LGBTQ equality in Ireland, one of the most Catholic nations on earth. In May, voters overwhelmingly passed a referendum to amend the country’s constitution to allow same-sex marriage. In July, Ireland’s President signed the Gender Recognition Act into law, which allows adults in Ireland to self-declare their gender on official documents, including passports, birth certificates, and marriage licenses. And finally, rounding out what New Ways Ministry calls Ireland’s “Year of Equality,” the Irish Parliament passed a bill banning discrimination by religious institutions against LGBT employees in early December.
2. Houston Loses Non-Discrimination Protections Amidst Debate Dominated By Transphobia
In November, Houston's Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) failed by a wide margin, with voters opting to repeal the law that offered broad non-discrimination protections to 15 classes of people, including LGBT Houstonians. Largely conservative opponents of the law alleged that it would allow “men dressed as women,” including sexual predators, to enter women's restrooms. While supporters of the law, including many LGBTQ people of faith and allies, worked to maintain these protections, this blatant transphobia trumped justice in this setback from 2015.
1. Supreme Court Ruling Brings Nationwide Marriage Equality
In June, the Supreme Court issued a ruling that would bring marriage equality to same-sex couples across the United States. This historic ruling followed decades of work by advocates and allies across the LGBTQ movement, including clergy, congregations and believers of all denominations whose Christian faith compelled us to support the freedom to marry. This historic decision represents how far we have come in our work toward LGBTQ equality and how far we can go when LGBTQ Christians and allies work together to advocate for justice for LGBTQ people.
Even with the great progress we have made this year, we know our work is not yet finished! We are so glad you are joining us for our journey toward LGBTQ justice.
Photo by Ray Bagnuolo