FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 17th, 2019
Drew Konow | firstname.lastname@example.org | 202-222-0055
People of Faith Celebrate Historic Passage of the Equality Act in the U.S. House of Representatives
House votes to pass groundbreaking LGBTQ and civil rights bill following unprecedented level of support from people of faith and religious communities.
WASHINGTON—People of faith and religious leaders celebrate today’s vote in the U.S. House of Representatives to pass the Equality Act. This groundbreaking civil rights bill provides consistent and explicit non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people across key areas of life, including employment, housing, credit, education, public spaces and services, federally funded programs, and jury service. As the bill has made its way towards passage in the House, there has been an unprecedented level of support from people of faith and religious leaders.
Religious communities have been outspoken champions of the bill since its introduction. Seventy faith groups have formally endorsed the bill——including multiple denominations, graduate theological schools, and faith-based organizations. Religious leaders also offered testimony in support of the Equality Act in both the Judiciary and Education and Labor Committees’ hearings.
“As a queer Christian pastor and the leader of a multifaith social justice organization, I know that my faith calls me to view each and every human being as created in the divine image and imbued with sacred dignity and worth,” said Rev. Marie Alford-Harkey, president and CEO of the Religious Institute. “That’s why the Equality Act is so important. It advances civil rights and prohibits discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. Today’s vote is an important step toward advancing dignity and justice.”
On Tuesday, May 14, in advance of the vote, people of faith held an interfaith prayer vigil on Capitol Hill to raise a strong religious voice in support of LGBTQ non-discrimination protections outlined in the Equality Act. Following the vigil, people of faith and religious leaders hand-delivered a statement urging Congress to pass the bill, which was signed by more than 5,000 people of faith. The statement articulates why people of faith support the Equality Act, lifting up religious beliefs in the sacred dignity and worth of LGBTQ people, the obligation to treat our LGBTQ neighbors as ourselves, and the right to live free from discrimination.
“In every age, Christians are called to stop and assess our complicity in marginalizing those we consider to be other,” said Rev. Fred Davie, Executive Vice President of Union Theological Seminary. “Today, in this age, we have a chance to undo centuries of dehumanization and denial of full citizenship to members of the LGBTQ community in the U.S. We exhibit the compassion and profound love inherent to all faiths by supporting measures fighting discrimination.”
Today’s historic vote comes after numerous religious organizations released statements or submitted letters to Congress in support of the bill, including from Bend the Arc, Interfaith Alliance, the National Council of Jewish Women, NETWORK, 15 major Jewish organizations, Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, and Religious Institute. On Thursday, May 16, religious leaders joined leaders from across the civil rights community to deliver more than 165,000 petitions in support of the Equality Act to the bill’s sponsor, Rep. David Cicilline. Rev. Peter Simmons-Scie, Associate Minister of the Metropolitan African American Episcopal Church in D.C., also spoke at an Equality Act coalition-wide press conference this morning, ahead of the vote. Religious leaders were also present in the House Gallery during the vote, at the invitation of Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
“As a Jew, I believe that each and every human being is created b’tzelem Elohim—in God’s likeness,” said Rabbi Peter S. Berg, Senior Rabbi of The Temple in Atlanta, Georgia. “When we exclude anyone from our community, we lessen the potential we have to make the world more whole. The moral issue of our day is to provide support for non-discrimination protection to all Americans. Any discrimination of the LGBTQ community is completely inconsistent with Jewish values—for God is present in each of us.”
Religious support for the Equality Act has emphasized the harms of discrimination and the moral imperative to uphold the sacred dignity and worth of all people. According to a recent study from PRRI, millions of people of faith and majorities of all religious traditions support non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people.
“When LGBTQ Muslims face Islamophobia, discrimination, harassment, rejection from family, and lack of cultural competence and exclusion from mainstream LGBTQ organizations, it is hard to figure out where to turn for support,” said Urooj Arshad, International LGBTQ Youth Health and Rights Programs Director at Advocates for Youth. “I am forced to constantly choose between my religious identity and my queer identity, never able to be my full self and able to live with dignity and joy. This is why support for the Equality Act by people of faith is so necessary.”