Indiana Republicans Introduce LGBT Civil Rights Legislation

Indiana State Capitol. Image via Jimmy Emerson, DVM /

In the legislation, the state’s schools and businesses would be allowed to write their own policies on the use of bathrooms or showers based on sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity. They also could decide for themselves what dress code to impose on students and workers.

Under the bill, those rules wouldn’t count as discriminatory.

House and Senate Democrats have called for simpler solution, saying a fix could be had by adding four words and a comma: “sexual orientation, gender identity” to the Indiana’s civil rights law.

How Jesus Overcomes 'Us Versus Them' Thinking

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When I was eighteen years old I knew that I knew everything there was to know, especially in regards to the “us” and the “them” of the world. Eighteen-year-old me knew that being gay was a sin and that LGBTQ people were not called to leadership in the church (and my conservative Christian college did nothing but reinforce these beliefs). But four short years later I found myself on a hill across from my alma mater, standing in solidarity with dozens of LGBTQ young adults and allies, advocating for change in Christian universities with policies that discriminated against LGBTQ people.

How did I get from “there” to “here”? How did my view of “us” and “them” shift so radically?

Why Speaking 'On Behalf' of Others Can Hurt The People You're Trying to Help

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I was at a retreat recently with a facilitator who is known for pushing the envelope a bit regarding Roman Catholic Church teaching. The question posited throughout the weekend: Whom should we accept as brothers and sisters in faith?

During the retreat someone asked the facilitator how we should approach ministry in our churches in regard to the gay and lesbian community. A fellow retreatant replied, “Invite us to speak for ourselves.”

Who better to speak on challenging topics than those who are living inside the issue?

Cardinal Wuerl: Catholic Church Moving From Legalism to Mercy

Cardinal Donald Wuerl. Image via Paul Haring / Catholic News Service / RNS

“The frame of reference is now going to be: ‘What does the gospel really say here?’ That’s our first task.”

That’s Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl summing up the new course for Catholicism set by the momentous Vatican meeting of 270 bishops from around the world that concluded last weekend, a three-week marathon in which he played a key role.

After often contentious talks on whether to adapt the church’s approach to issues such as divorce and cohabitation, the high-level synod succeeded in giving Pope Francis a document that offers him significant new flexibility in shaping more pastoral policies.

Pope Francis' Language on LGBT Catholics Helps Illuminate What's Next for the Church

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At the conclusion of the most recent synod, Pope Francis encouraged bishops assembled to continue their journey. During this ongoing journey, Pope Francis warned against “hostile inflexibility” and to allow one’s self to “be surprised by God.”

Will seeking an understanding into the differences between civil and sacramental marriage help to diffuse church tension? Can religious and civil liberties peacefully coexist?

The words and actions of Pope Francis certainly indicate a desire to explore such a path. The question then becomes: will others follow him on this journey?

Vatican Synod's Language Games Will Have Real-Life Consequences

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The overriding interest in the global meeting of Roman Catholic bishops that finishes here on Oct. 25 has centered on whether the churchmen will actually do anything in the end — as in vote to make changes in church doctrines or policies — or leave well enough alone.

In reality, the gathering of 270 bishops from around the world, called a synod, has no authority to legislate doctrinal or other changes, and wasn’t expected to try anything that bold anyway.

Its real purpose — thanks to reforms instituted by Pope Francis — is to discuss issues openly and frankly, and to advise the pontiff about what they think the church ought to do about the challenges facing families today, or, as is likely the case for this divided synod, to kick the hard questions upstairs for him to decide.

Safe House in South Africa Offers Gays Refuge, Hope, and Ministry

Hlubi George. Image via Brian Pellot / RNS

Sipping ginger beer at an outdoor restaurant in Gugulethu, one of South Africa’s murder hubs, Prince January said he feels safe.

Across the train tracks at their shared home in Manenberg, Hlubi George said she can finally sleep through the night.

January, who is gay, and George, who is lesbian, are both temporary residents at Inclusive and Affirming Ministries’ iThemba Lam LGBTI safe house on the outskirts of Cape Town. The two-bedroom center provides refuge and counseling for at-risk sexual minorities from across the continent and a safe space for residents to integrate “God’s gift of faith with God’s gift of sexuality.”

Can Religious Liberty and LGBT Rights Coexist in Indiana?

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Just before the Religious Freedom Restoration Act controversy exploded in Indiana earlier this year, a compromise was playing out 1,500 miles away.

In Utah, as the Salt Lake Tribune noted, same-sex marriage had been banned both through state law and constitutional amendment. Attempts to pass lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender anti-discrimination measures had failed six times.

But in March, lawmakers brought together representatives from the Mormon and LGBT communities and passed landmark legislation.

Utah law now lists sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes in housing and employment — but, without buy-in from the religious community, it does not include “public accommodations,” a broad legal term used to describe everything from bus services to restaurants and other private businesses.

In Meeting Kim Davis, Pope Francis Confounds and Challenges

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Pope Francis passes the crowd along the street of Philadelphia on September 27, 2015. Photo via Kimberly Winston / RNS

Pope Francis’ visit to the United States last week was a huge hit with the media and with the public. This week, Americans may have wondered whether he would provide ongoing unity and inspiration for our public discourse, or whether we would return to culture warring and ideological sniping.

Liberals inside and outside the Catholic Church noted that the pope made only brief allusions to abortion and same-sex marriage but spoke at length about immigration, climate change, and economic inequality.

Yet as progressives were ebullient, news broke Sept. 29 that Pope Francis met privately with Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who refuses to sign marriage licenses for same-sex couples.

In Catholic Colombia, LGBT People Find Growing Acceptance

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Not long ago, the thought of a transgender person speaking openly to a Roman Catholic priest in Colombia would have seemed unthinkable. Now cultural shifts are making way for LGBT acceptance, at least in some urban areas.

“We are liberal,” said Marcela Sánchez, director of Colombia Diversa, the nation’s most prominent LGBT rights organization. “Please don’t say Colombia isn’t liberal!”

Recent polls estimate that two-thirds of Colombians oppose same-sex marriage, but that is less opposition than in many Latin American countries, including neighboring Ecuador. Support for same-sex marriage is highest in Bogotá, the nation’s capital, where, in a 2010 poll conducted by local newspaper El Tiempo, 63 percent of residents endorsed the right of same-sex couples to marry in civil ceremonies.