UN Faith Coalition Urges Protections for Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Forty national faith leaders and organizations in support of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people were convened on December 13 by the Faith Coalition for LGBT Human Rights. The group, meeting across the street from the United Nations at the Church Center for the UN, spoke out strongly against the action of a committee in the UN that removed gay people from a list of groups protected from violent targeting and extrajudicial killing. The Coalition expressed strong support for Susan Rice, the U.S. Ambassador of the United States to the United Nations, who is expected to propose reinstatement of sexual orientation to the UN resolution on December 20.The essence of the resolution is reflected in the following comments by leaders in the coalition. The full document can be read on the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office Web site.

Bruce Knotts, Executive Director of the Unitarian Universalist UN Office, said, “Thousands of supporters have been called on to contact US State Department officials and the UN to urge the reinstatement of sexual orientation as a protected class. In addition to this protection, the UN and all countries can add protection for everyone by adopting the Yogyakarta Principles which say, ‘All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. Sexual orientation and gender identity are integral to every person’s dignity and humanity and must not be the basis for discrimination or abuse.'”

Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, retired bishop from Uganda, said, “As a straight ally to LGBT people, I see how countries in Eastern Africa are increasingly persecuting people because of who they are and who they love, in part, because Evangelicals from the USA come to Uganda and preach against LGBT people. This divides families, communities and countries. The UN removal of sexual orientation from a list of protected groups is one more symptom of a deeply disturbing trend.”

Rev. Dr. Cindi Love, Executive Director of Soulforce and member of the Human Rights Campaign Religion Council, said, “Imprisoning or executing people for sexual orientation or gender identity does not just violate human rights, it undermines trust, social cohesion, economic development and public health. Trust is vital for cooperation among nations, communities, families and co-workers. We call on the UN to rebuild this trust by protecting all people who are subject to persecution by unjust laws and mob actions.”

Frank Mugisha, head of Sexual Minorities of Uganda (SMUG) said, “The international community must not ignore the warning signs of persecution and genocide. LGBT people are fleeing from their homes in fear for their lives. Any law that calls for imprisonment or execution based on sexual orientation or gender identity creates a climate ripe for vigilantes. People of good will must speak out.”

The Rev. Pat Bumgardner, head of Metropolitan Community Church’s Global Justice Ministry, said, “All faith traditions support human rights but many faith leaders get cold feet when it comes to LGBT human rights. It is time for faith leaders to step up and support human rights for all people.”

Pastor Joseph Tolton, of The Fellowship, said, “African American people of faith understand that LGBT people have always been part of our faith communities. As part of the African Diaspora, we are saying out loud, that when any of us are targeted, we are all at risk.”

Dr. Philip Moeller, Director of International Programs of Lutherans Concerned/North America, said, “It is alarming to see the human rights of LGBT persons deleted in such a core document of the United Nations. Trust needs to be restored by having the reference to LGBT rights restored.”

Episcopal Canon Albert Ogle, head of St. Paul’s Foundation, said, “When I was in Uganda this year, I saw the needs for pastoral ministry such as Bishop Senyonjo is offering. Today, we call on all faith leaders to know that much rests on their shoulders. They need to follow their conscience to take actions to protect LGBT people both in the US and across the globe.”

The UN Faith Coalition for LGBT Human Rights is a growing coalition: Unitarian Universalist UN Office, Metropolitan Community Church, National Black Justice Coalition, Human Rights Campaign, Soulforce, The Fellowship, Union Theological Seminary, St. Paul’s Foundation for Reconciliation, SMUG(Sexual Minorities Uganda), GALCK (Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya), More Light Presbyterians, Reconciling Ministries (United Methodist), Lutherans Concerned/NA, QSpirit, Keshet, Auburn Theological Seminary, New Ways Ministry, Alliance for Jewish Renewal, National Coalition of American Nuns, Believe Out Loud, Intersections International, Affirmation United Methodists, Other Sheep, Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual, The United Church of Christ Coalition for LGBT Concerns, Institute for Judaism and Sexual Orientation-Hebrew Union College, Brethren Mennonite Council, Religious Institute, Interfaith Coalition for Transgender Equality, Affirmation: Gay & Lesbian Mormons, Equally Blessed: a Catholic Coalition for LGBT Justice and Equality, Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Discrimination, Institute for Welcoming Resources-National Gay and Lesbian Task Force,Welcoming Community Network, Congregation Beit SImchat Torah, DignityUSA, World Congress of GLBT Jews, The Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry PSR.

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