STEP 1: STAY CURRENT
Effective advocacy begins with a solid grounding in the issues.
Public policy debates, pending legislation and court decisions, and denominational action on LGBT concerns all provide excellent fodder for sermons, congregational forums and public outreach. Following is a list of e-newsletters available from faith-based and secular organizations on the front lines of LGBT advocacy. These sources will connect you to a variety of web sites, blogs, publications and other sources of information, and keep you up-to-date on opportunities for action and advocacy. Also, be sure to get on the mailing lists of local LGBT service and advocacy organizations, which can keep you informed about state and local issues and events.
- Freedom to Marry
- GLAAD Religion, Faith and Values Program
- HRC Religion and Faith Program
- Jewish Mosaic: The National Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity
- Institute for Welcoming Resources / IWR News
- Lambda Legal
STEP 2: GET INVOLVED
Elected officials and policy makers need to hear the voices of progressive religious leaders who support LGBT equality and inclusion. LGBT advocates, both secular and religious, will be delighted to have your support.
- E-mail or call the White House and your U.S. Senators and Representatives when federal issues emerge. For example, right now Congress members need to hear religious voices in support of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would create federal protections against workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
- E-mail or call the governor and members of your state legislature to support state-level nondiscrimination legislation, such as marriage equality and other LGBT civil rights measures.
- Become involved in state and local coalitions addressing LGBT policy issues. Find out if there is a state coalition of clergy committed to LGBT justice and inclusion. Many states have clergy networks on marriage equality and other emerging issues.
- Join the Religious Institute network. Read and endorse the Religious Declaration on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing, the Open Letter to Religious Leaders on Sexual and Gender Diversity and other Open Letters. Encourage your congregants to join the Religious Institute’s Faithful Voices Network to demonstrate their support of sexual health, education and justice.
- Explore the Human Rights Campaign’s Religion and Faith Program, particularly the annual Clergy Call for Justice and Equality, which gathers hundreds of clergy from across the country to Washington, DC to lobby for LGBT equality.
- Contact the welcoming and affirming organization in your denomination, the LGBT equality organization in your state and the local LGBT community center and tell them you want to become involved in LGBT advocacy or in providing pastoral care to LGBT persons in need. Many state and local LGBT organizations have created faith-oriented programs that rely on the participation of local clergy and congregations.
STEP 3: EDUCATE & MOTIVATE
Full inclusion demands the active engagement of both clergy and congregants, each motivating the other to ongoing advocacy.
- Take a stand from the pulpit on a public or denominational issue affecting LGBT people and families, such as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) or marriage equality.
- Participate as a congregation or as members of a clergy coalition in the local LGBT Pride March, World AIDS Day and the Transgender Day of Remembrance, and invite congregants to join you.
- Encourage the social action committee to make LGBT policy issues one of its priorities for action. Ask the committee to set up a bulletin board or information table on upcoming national or state legislation or emerging issues. Ask committee members to meet with federal and state lawmakers on these issues, as representatives of your congregation and as people of faith.
- Post the Open Letter to Religious Leaders on Sexual and Gender Diversity on bulletin boards, or republish it in your congregational web site or newsletter.
- Ask the youth group to take on an issue of LGBT equality or outreach. For example, a youth group might “adopt” a nearby shelter for homeless LGBT youth, taking collections of food, clothing and spending money. Ask them to find out what services are available to LGBT youth in your community and to make their findings known to teens and families in the congregation.
- Find out what the local schools are teaching about sexuality education. Speak out for including sexual and gender orientation in programs for high school youth.
- Ask the local high school if it has a Gay Straight Alliance. Volunteer to speak to the group and make its resources available to teens in your congregation.
- Create an adult education forum on sexual orientation and gender identity, and issues affecting the local LGBT community.
- Use your web site, newsletter or bulletin to alert congregants to emerging public policy actions affecting the LGBT community. Reprint a copy of your denomination’s policy on welcome and inclusion, as appropriate.
STEP 4: SPEAK OUT
Become part of the public dialogue on LGBT equality and full inclusion.
- Write letters to the editor of local and national newspapers and magazines. Post comments on discussion boards and blogs. Identify yourself as a member of the clergy or person of faith who is an advocate of justice for LGBT persons and families. GLAAD (the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) offers a range of resources to help you engage the media.
- Submit an op-ed column to the local newspaper or another publication you read, offering a progressive religious perspective on LGBT equality.
- Write about your views on LGBT inclusion and current civil rights issues on your blog, web site or other communications.
- Inform local cable and broadcast news programs that your clergy are available to speak out on sexual orientation and gender identity, LGBT civil rights and full inclusion in faith communities.
- Call into radio shows when they are discussing marriage equality, employment discrimination, and other LGBT issues. Identity yourself as a clergy person or a person of faith and provide religious support for full inclusion.
- Get involved in local efforts to support comprehensive sexuality education in the public schools. Consult the Religious Institute online resource, A Time to Speak Out: Faith-based Advocacy Guide for Sexuality Education, for information on how to get started.
- Become active in your denomination’s activities on behalf of social justice.
STEP 5: REACH OUT
Opening your doors to the LGBT community can bring new vitality to your congregation.
- Write a letter or column on LGBT inclusion for a local LGBT publication to articulate a progressive religious perspective and help spread the word that your congregation is a welcoming one.
- Advertise in the local LGBT press, inviting members of the community to visit your congregation for an inclusive worship experience.
- Prepare a flyer on your congregation and its welcoming policy be posted in community centers, book stores, restaurants and clubs that are identified with the LGBT community.
- Host an open house for the LGBT community at your congregation.
- Participate with exhibits and tables at local events targeted to the local LGBT community.
- Engage other clergy in the community and within your denomination in a discussion of theological support for LGBT inclusion and the pastoral needs of LGBT persons.
- Enlist other clergy and congregations in the community in organizing support for an LGBT issue or participating in a march or other action.
- Invite leaders of local LGBT organizations (e.g., the local community center, PFLAG and GLSEN chapters) to visit your congregation, meet with your welcoming committee, participate in a special worship service, or offer a presentation for adult education or the social action committee. Ask them how they can help you let their constituents know that you are an inclusive congregation.
- Co-sponsor a community wide forum on these issues, or develop a program for the interfaith clergy council. Bring speakers, share experiences of increasing inclusion, provide opportunities for dialogue.
- Utilize social marketing media to reach LGBT people who may not be familiar with your congregation. Broadcasting sermons and worship services on YouTube and via podcast, writing a blog and creating a Facebook group are all cost-effective means of outreach.