BY ARI EZRA WALDMAN
To celebrate Pride 2012 and to honor the great civil rights and political successes we have earned recently, I would like to offer a series of columns on the lawyers, advocates, scholars, and individual leaders who have sacrificed so much, developed novel legal arguments, and won the legal victories upon which we stand today. It is impossible to include everyone; an entire life's work would fail to honor all of our forefathers. But these few representatives symbolize the contributions of the greater whole: a group of men and women, young and old, who have sacrificed so that we can live a life of freedom today. Today, the men of faith.
The conventional wisdom is that faith is the enemy of gay equality. But, although few days go by without this or that pastor condemning gays in the name of God or calling for unspeakable horrors against us in His name, faith itself can be an ally in our quest for honor and equal treatment.
Some of this nation's greatest liberal icons -- William Jennings Bryan, Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy -- were either deeply religious or used the language of religion to reach the people. Today, there are men and women of faith who are vocal supporters of gay rights, many of whom have taken their cues from religious leaders like the Reverends Troy Perry (right) and Brent Hawkes of the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) and the Reverends John V. Moore and Cecil Williams of Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco. These men and their religious orders have not only made waves advocating on behalf of LGBT persons, but they have also put the weight of faith behind opposition to Prop 8, DOMA, and Don't Ask, Don't Tell; in support of students' rights to identity-affirming expression in schools; and in support of marriage recognition legislation in New York, Maine, North Carolina, and other states.
Troy Perry founded the MCC in Los Angeles in 1968 as a place where gays could come together, pray, and explore their relationship with God. While Rev. Perry's sermonizing was described as rather conservative, he started performing same-sex marriages as early as 1970 and began ordaining women pastors in 1972. Brent Hawkes is probably the most famous LGBT pastor in Canada; he served as head of the MCC in Toronto since 1977 and was the catalyst behind Canadian recognition of same-sex marriages. As pastor of Glide Memorial Church in the early 1960s, John Moore delivered a series of groundbreaking sermons on Christianity and sexuality in which he advocated a progressive rapprochement between gays and people of faith. When Cecil Williams became Glide's pastor in 1963, he doubled down on Glide's liberal Christianity, welcoming gays and affirming their membership in the community of man, not to mention reaching out into the Tenderloin district of San Francisco to aid an impoverished population.
On the shoulders of these men stand people like happy warrior Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum (right), Senior Rabbi at Congregation Beit Simchat Torah (CBST), the gay synagogue in New York; Rabbi David Greenberg, who came out in 1999 while serving as an Orthodox rabbi; the incomparable Randy Roberts Potts, the openly gay grandson of Oral Roberts who recently married his long-time partner and has served as a strong link between the gay and religious communities; and the outspoken Father Bob Pierson, a gay Catholic priest, who argues that it is the Catholic thing to do to vote against bans on gay marriage. But, more than that, these religious trailblazers for equality offer us an emotional and linguistic link to a community of potential allies and a wealth of compelling arguments in favor of LGBT honor, equality, and acceptance.
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