gay rights

Ryan Hammill 06-28-2016

Image via Martin Witchger/League of Conservation Voters

"The shooting in Orlando shows how much we still need to work on and overcome in terms of violence and bigotry against LGBT people," Witchger, who traveled from Washington, D.C., to join the ceremony, said. "But how beautiful and moving it is to have Stonewall as the first national park unit to honor the LGBT rights movement."
the Web Editors 05-04-2016

Image via Jason Pier in DC /

President Obama will designate Stonewall Inn and some of the surrounding Greenwich Village neighborhood as a national monument, the first to memorialize the struggle for gay liberation, reports The New York Times.

In his second inaugural address, Obama lifted up the gay rights activism at Stonewall along with the women’s suffrage convention at Seneca Falls and the civil rights march in Selma.

Image via a katz /

The Boy Scouts of America and the Unitarian Universalist Association signed a new agreement March 24 after the two organizations had previously been divided over gay rights.

“BSA Scout Law defines a Scout by qualities that Unitarian Universalists also lift up,” reads the memorandum of understanding signed by Scouting and Unitarian Universalist officials at the BSA headquarters in Irving, Texas.

Warren Hall / RNS

Photo via Warren Hall / RNS

In May, the Rev. Warren Hall was abruptly dismissed from his position as the popular campus chaplain at Seton Hall University in New Jersey because the Catholic archbishop of Newark said his advocacy against anti-gay bullying, and his identity as a gay man, undermined church teaching.

Now Hall has written to Pope Francis asking that when the pontiff visits the U.S. in September, he speak out against such actions because they are “alienating” gay Catholics and the many others who support them.

In the letter, which was dated July 14, Hall asked Francis to “find time to listen to the challenges faced by LGBT people, especially those who are Catholic and wish to remain a part of the Church they have grown up in, which they love, and yet which it seems is alienating them more and more.”

Christian Piatt 07-14-2015
Image via Kichigin/Shutterstock

Image via /Shutterstock

“I believe Jesus would. I don’t have any verse in scripture. … I believe Jesus would approve gay marriage, but that’s just my own personal belief. I think Jesus would encourage any love affair if it was honest and sincere and was not damaging to anyone else, and I don’t see that gay marriage damages anyone else…” —Jimmy Carter, from his interview with Huffington Post Live

I grew up in Texas as a churchgoing Baptist. I memorized Bible verses as part of my “sword drills,” went to church camp, took part in the clown ministry and even helped in the nursery.

Then I was kicked out at age seventeen for asking too many questions. My youth minister actually threw a Bible at my head and, in a less than nuanced way, invited me to move on, lest I contaminate the minds and hearts of my friends with my doubt.

Some of my questions had to do with their biblical interpretation, which was literal — and their assertion that the texts we were memorizing were the perfect, infallible Word of God, straight from the mind of the Divine to the paper on which it was written.

I had questions.

Photo via David Gibson / RNS

San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone speaks with a nun on June 3 in New York. Photo via David Gibson / RNS

Amid the national buzz over transgender celebrity Caitlyn (formerly Bruce) Jenner revealing her new female identity, a leading culture warrior in the Catholic hierarchy on June 3 denounced the spread of “gender ideology” and warned that it threatens the very foundation of the church’s faith.

“The clear biological fact is that a human being is born either male or female,” Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco said at the start of an address in Manhattan at a conference aimed at promoting an older form of the Mass in Latin.

Photo via Frances Micklow / The Star-Ledger / RNS

Father Warren Hall gives Mass at Seton Hall on February 14, 2014. Photo via Frances Micklow / The Star-Ledger / RNS

A Catholic priest in New Jersey who says he was dismissed from his campus ministry job over a Facebook post against anti-gay bullying and racism has come out as gay.

The Rev. Warren Hall told Outsports, a magazine for gay athletes, that while he remained committed to his vocation as a priest and to his vow of celibacy, he was not going to hide his sexual orientation.

“I have to be myself,” Hall said.

“I can’t worry what other people think.”

Bono on the #U21e tour in Arizona on May 23, by aliza sherman on

Bono on the #U21e tour in Arizona on May 23, by aliza sherman on

When Ireland became the first country to legalize same-gender marriage by popular mandate, double rainbows appeared over Dublin, and an Irish rock band transformed their Arizona concert into a gay-rights celebration. Almost 30 years ago, Bono endured threats from angry Arizonans for his support of the U.S. national holiday for the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. But on Saturday, Bono invoked King as peacemaker as U2 celebrated the victory of love, turning the song “Pride (In The Name of Love)” into an anthem for gay pride.


Bono shared, “This is a moment to thank the people who bring us peace. It’s a moment for us to thank the people who brought peace to our country. We have peace in Ireland today! And in fact on this very day we have true equality in Ireland. Because millions turned up to vote yesterday to say, ‘love is the highest law in the land! Love! The biggest turnout in the history of the state, to say, ‘love is the highest law in the land!’ Because if God loves us, whoever we love, wherever we come from … then why can’t the state?’”

The Rev. Gil Caldwell. Photo via Travis Long / RNS

The Rev. Gil Caldwell. Photo via Travis Long / RNS

Caldwell was a “foot soldier” in King’s civil rights army, and he finally made it to Durham, where he closed out a social justice conference focused on a newer movement — the effort to secure full inclusion of LGBT people in the United Methodist Church.

“In some ways there is a possibility that on gay rights and marriage equality, God is speaking more through the judiciary than God is speaking through the United Methodist Church,” Caldwell said in his sermon at a gay-friendly United Methodist church just three miles away from the seminary he said denied him admission.

Photo via Fredrick Nzwili / RNS

Members of Kenya’s gay community in a recent demonstration in Nairobi. Photo via Fredrick Nzwili / RNS

Kenyan law bans homosexuality, and many clergy regularly preach against it as sin before God. But the ruling means that LGBT Kenyans will have an official platform from which to fight for their rights and freedoms.

“This is what we have been crying for,” said the Rev. Michael Kimindu, a former Anglican priest and now president of Other Sheep-Africa, a gay rights organization.

“It is the beginning of the journey towards freedom. We will now start asking: What happens when two people who are gay want to have a baby or want to go to church to marry?”

Photo via REUTERS / Nate Chute / RNS

Organizers fire up a crowd to protest the law in Indianapolis on March 28, 2015. Photo via REUTERS / Nate Chute / RNS

Indiana Republican legislative leaders, under growing pressure from inside and outside the state, said April 2 that lawmakers had reached agreement to amend Indiana’s controversial “religious freedom” law to ensure it does not discriminate against gay and lesbian customers of Indiana businesses.


The proposal, rolled out at the Statehouse, would grant new protections for LGBT customers, employees and tenants.

“What was intended as a message of inclusion was interpreted as a message of exclusion, especially for the LGBT community,” Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma told reporters at the Statehouse.

“Nothing could have been further from the truth, but it was clear the perception had to be addressed.”

“Hoosiers value gays, straights, blacks, whites, religious and nonreligious,” Bosma said.

“We value each and every Hoosier.”




Photo via The American Life League / RNS

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone speaks at the 2013 March for Marriage. Photo via The American Life League / RNS

San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone has rejected criticism from state lawmakers over the use of morality clauses for Catholic schoolteachers, asking whether they would “hire a campaign manager who advocates policies contrary to those you stand for?”

The archdiocese sparked protests earlier this month when it unveiled morality clauses for four Catholic high school handbooks as well as for teacher labor contracts.

The handbooks single out church teaching against homosexual relations, same-sex marriage, abortion, artificial birth control and “reproductive technology,” women’s ordination, pornography, masturbation and human cloning, according to the National Catholic Reporter.

The language says that “administrators, faculty, and staff of any faith or no faith are expected to arrange and conduct their lives so as not to visibly contradict, undermine or deny” church doctrine and practice on those topics.

Five members of the state Assembly and three state senators sent Cordileone a letter urging him to remove the clauses, which they said were discriminatory and divisive.

Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore, right. Photo via Adelle M. Banks/RNS.

Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore has denounced reparative therapy, the controversial idea that people who are gay or have same-sex attraction could become straight.

Joining a chorus of other religious leaders who have departed from a once-popular therapy, some evangelical attempts at reparative therapy have been “severely counterproductive,” Moore told a group of journalists during a press conference at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission’s national conference in Nashville on Oct. 28. He also gave similar remarks to the conference of about 1,300 people.

“The utopian idea if you come to Christ and if you go through our program, you’re going to immediately set free from attraction or anything you’re struggling with, I don’t think that’s a Christian idea,” Moore told journalists. “Faithfulness to Christ means obedience to Christ. It does not necessarily mean that someone’s attractions are going to change.”

Moore said evangelicals had an “inadequate view” of what same-sex attraction looks like.

William Donohue of the Catholic League. Photo via Patrick Novecosky/Legatus, courtesy of Catholic League/RNS.

After organizers agreed to allow a gay and lesbian group to march, William Donohue of the Catholic League announced that his organization would not take part in next year’s popular celebration of Irish-American culture, New York’s St. Patrick’s Day parade.

Donohue said the parade organizers had “betrayed” him by promising that an anti-abortion group would be allowed to participate if a gay group were given a permit. But he claimed the committee later reversed itself and said abortion opponents would not be marching next year.

“They not only told me one thing, and did another, they decided to include a gay group that is neither Catholic nor Irish while stiffing pro-life Catholics,” Donohue said in a statement issued Sept. 11. “This is as stunning as it is indefensible.”

The parade organizers had sent mixed signals about whether an anti-abortion group would be marching in the parade.

A group of student involved with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. Photo courtesy of Sonoma State Star/RNS.

A well-established international Christian student group is being denied recognition at almost two dozen California college campuses because it requires leaders to adhere to Christian beliefs, effectively closing its leadership ranks to non-Christians and gays.

California State University, which has 23 campuses, is “de-recognizing” local chapters of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, an evangelical Christian group with 860 chapters in the United States. The university system says InterVarsity’s leadership policy conflicts with its state-mandated nondiscrimination policy requiring membership and leadership in all official student groups be open to all.

“For an organization to be recognized, they must sign a general nondiscrimination policy,” said Mike Uhlencamp, director of public affairs for the California State University system. “We have engaged with (InterVarsity) for the better part of a year and informed them they would have to sign a general nondiscrimination statement. They have not.”

President Obama signing an executive order on July 21 against hiring discrimination by federal contractors. Public domain image

One of the toughest political calculations in Washington is balancing competing claims of gay rights with the traditional prerogatives of religious freedom. After a number of setbacks on that front, President Obama may have finally found a small patch of middle ground with Monday’s move to bar federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation.

Obama’s executive order shields gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees from discrimination by companies that do work for the federal government by adding sexual orientation and gender identity to long-standing protections from bias based on “race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.”

Yet Monday’s action also leaves in place a 2002 order signed by President George W. Bush that gives religious groups with federal contracts some leeway by allowing them to use religious beliefs as a criterion in making hiring and firing decisions; as a candidate in 2008 Obama pledged to overturn that exemption.

At the same time, Obama did not expand the exemption to explicitly allow religious groups that receive federal funds to use sexual orientation as grounds for hiring and firing, as some demanded.

RNS photo by Jon Warren/World Vision

Richard Stearns, seen here during a visit to Zambia, is the U.S. President of World Vision. RNS photo by Jon Warren/World Vision

In an attempt to create unity, World Vision managed to create a hornet’s nest around the issue of same-sex marriage. Its president Rich Stearns openly acknowledges the mistakes the relief organization made while flip-flopping on the issue.

Earlier this week, the World Vision announced that it would allow employees to be in same-sex marriages. Within 48 hours, the $1 billion Christian organization reversed course, saying on Wednesday that it had made a mistake. The backlash illustrated how evangelicals will continue to wrestle with a growing cultural acceptance of same-sex marriage.

In an interview with RNS on Thursday, Stearns suggested that the number of sponsors lost was under but around 5,000. Those who sponsor a child pay $35 each month, so the loss could have tallied up to $2.1 million a year.

Stearns also spoke with RNS on how the decision and its reversal has impacted the organization, the number of staff who have resigned and the regret he has had this week. Some answers have been edited for length and clarity.

Pope Francis greets a crowd on his way to a meeting with cardinals at the Vatican on Feb. 21, 2014. RNS photo by David Gibson.

When President Obama and Pope Francis sit down at the Vatican on Thursday, the meeting may well offer a vision of what could have been for Democrats and the Catholic Church over the last six years: a leader of the state and a leader of the church working on the many issues where they agree while working through the issues where they don’t.

Of course, that’s not exactly how it’s gone for Obama and the U.S. hierarchy, even though Obama and the church both stress economic justice and the priority of the common good, universal health care, robust government support for the needy and comprehensive immigration reform.

The potential for a robust alliance fizzled almost from the start of Obama’s candidacy in 2007, and a relationship that began badly went downhill when he was elected.

"Never in my life has my very faith been called into question like this." That's what young evangelical writer Jonathan Merritt told me this week. His statement followed a media firestorm, ignited when both he and Kirsten Powers weighed in on proposed laws in Kansas and Arizona that would have allowed business owners to deny service to gay couples, based on conservative religious beliefs about homosexuality. Merritt and Powers each suggested that justifying legal discrimination against gay and lesbian couples might not be the best form of Christian outreach and raised consistency issues of whether discrimination would also be applied to other less than "biblical" marriages, or if just gays and lesbians were being singled out.

A man holds a gay pride flag in front of the Supreme Court on June 26, 2013. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks.

Gay rights are colliding with religious rights in states like Arizona and Kansas as the national debate over gay marriage morphs into a fight over the dividing line between religious liberty and anti-gay discrimination.

More broadly, the fight mirrors the national debate on whether the religious rights of business owners also extend to their for-profit companies. Next month, the U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether companies like Hobby Lobby must provide contraceptive services that their owners consider immoral.

The Arizona bill, which is headed to Gov. Jan Brewer’s desk for her signature, would allow people who object to same-sex marriage to use their religious beliefs as a defense in a discrimination lawsuit.