With the notoriously anti-LGBT conference for the World Congress of Families to be hosted nearby a week later, some 200 faith organizers got together to combat religious homophobia.
The National LGBTQ Task Force hosted the Faith & Family LGBTQ Power Summit in Salt Lake City this week with leaders from 33 states gathered for the four-day power summit. The planning committee wanted to unite both LGBTQ people of faith and those non-religious to combat religious homophobia.
"This conference lifts up the light: you can be fully [a person of faith] and LGBTQ. We must stop the exportation of hatred and homophobia to Africa," clergyman Bishop Tolton said in a press conference. "We understand the issues are interconnected.... We want to build a campaign to lift up light and hope."
The power summit equipped faith organizers with tools to address religious homophobia both domestically and internationally. Here are a few areas they addressed:
LGBT people of faith need to share their stories. In the opening keynote address, Bishop Flunder encouraged LGBT people to come out not just as queer individuals but also as people of faith in their faith communities. This message continued throughout the conference. For example, workshops like “Telling Effective Stories for Change,” sponsored by Believe Out Loud, which provided LGBT people of faith with tools to effectively tell their own stories.
Address Christian hemegony. The conference was not Christian centered. In fact, Task Force organizers were intentional in including Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, and other faith traditions in the programming. Faith organizers were encouraged to be inclusive and use interfaith coalitions to address religious homophobia.
Racial justice is key. In the first day of the power summit, a four-hour racial justice institute was central to the program followed by a white caucus and people of color caucus. The institute taught attendees about privilege, colonialism, structural oppression, and intersectionality. The institute suggested ways to actively incorporate racial justice in faith organizing work.
Bisexual, trans, gender variant and non-binary inclusion. Conversations in faith traditions have focused on theology on same-sex relationships. More specifically, gays and lesbians have been the focal point. Workshops about bisexuality, trans, and gender variant identities educated attendees on the unique challenges of each community and on the importance to be inclusive of these marginalized communities.
Address broad religious exemption laws using faith voices. Post marriage equality, LGBT activists are gearing up for fighting broad Religious Freedom Restoration Acts (RFRAs) that allow Americans to cite their religion as protection when discriminating against LGBT people. Movement for Advancement Map shared arenas in which messaging is most effective in fighting this legislation, and columnist Jay Michaelson informed attendees on the key players, and organizations, of the anti-LGBT right.
After the conference, The National LGBTQ Task Force gave attendees the homework of creating a "40 Days of Action" plan in their respective religious communities by using the tools learned at the power summit.