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Michigan Faith Leaders Make Urgent Call for LGBTQ Equality

Rev.  Dr. Roland Stringfellow

It's time for federal and state legislators to enact strong antidiscrimination laws, the clergy members say.

Election Day is just a few days away, and as Americans nationwide head to the polls, they're having rich conversations with their elected officials about the issues they care about. One of those issues is basic dignity and fairness for their LGBTQ neighbors, friends, and family members.

Last week faith leaders from across Michigan stood with me at my home church, MCC Detroit, to speak out about the urgent need for nondiscrimination protections that cover our state's LGBTQ community. Leaders from multiple denominations and different faith traditions united, speaking with one voice, together: We support LGBTQ people in Michigan, and we need strong, comprehensive protections against anti-LGBTQ discrimination.

It's time for our elected officials to do the same. United States representatives and senators must represent all constituents, including LGBTQ constituents.

Last week's event marked the launch of an ambitious new year-long effort in Michigan coordinated by the Umoja Project to connect clergy and people of faith with federal lawmakers to discuss the harms of discrimination and the need for basic protections. In 29 states, including Michigan, our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender neighbors are left vulnerable to discrimination because of a lack of explicit protections at the state and federal levels.

As a Christian, I know that this gap is unacceptable. We are all called to work toward unity and peace in our communities, and right now a major goal must be to protect LGBTQ people from the scourge of discrimination. It has been great to see Americans organize and push back against anti-LGBTQ attacks, but now we must also push forward and secure greater, stronger protections.

For decades, the faith community in Michigan and beyond has had an intense and productive conversation about our LGBTQ community members. I remember the days when seeing a member of the clergy or any other person of faith share their support for LGBTQ equlity was a rarity. We've been on a journey - all of us - and that journey and those hours and hours of conversations have been positive for our community. They have made us stronger, more accepting, and more inclusive.

Religious leaders have an important responsibility to stand up for what's right whenever possible. Advocating for basic human rights, freedom, and dignity for LGBTQ people is always the right thing to do, and it's a responsibility I don't take lightly. Every day we should be asking ourselves, "What can I do to make the world a better place?" and one critical answer to that question is to advance basic dignity and equality for all.

I've heard stories from LGBTQ congregants, many who are drawn to MCC Detroit specifically because we are a welcoming and affirming faith community. Some of my congregants have been fired from their jobs, excommunicated from their families, and sneered at in public places because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. The harassment takes a toll: LGBTQ people who experience discrimination report higher rates of depression, mental health struggles, and attempts at self-harm.

Just as our faith communities have journeyed, so too have the American people. A supermajority of Americans support stronger nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people, and as more people come out, the community embraces more allies who are rightly horrified by the pervasive discrimination that LGBTQ people face in employment, housing, public spaces, health care, and more.

Now it's time for our federal lawmakers to complete their journey and do the right thing for all LGBTQ Americans. We've made progress before on federal legislation protecting LGBTQ people, but we've always fallen short. It may be my responsibility as a faith leader to speak out for what is just and right, but it is our elected officials' responsibility to craft powerful legislation and pass strong laws that make it clear that no discrimination against any LGBTQ people in the United States will be tolerated.

We are all God's children, and no one should face discrimination because of who they are or who they love. That's the message I'm excited to bring to federal lawmakers here in Michigan. It's well past time for our nation ensure that all people, including LGBTQ people, have a fair shot at the American dream.

REV. DR. ROLAND STRINGFELLOW is the senior pastor of Metropolitan Community Church Detroit and works with congregations on LGBTQ inclusion as the director of ministerial outreach for the African-American Roundtable, a program of the Center for LGBTQ and Gender Studies in Religion on the campus of Pacific School of Religion. Rev. Dr. Stringfellow has been consulted by media outlets regarding his work on marriage equality and religious liberty, and the role people of color and communities of faith play in this national debate.

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