Written by Connie Larkman
With the election of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States, the country's political climate changed overnight, putting the civil rights protections of LGBTQ Americans at risk. The Open and Affirming Coalition of the United Church of Christ, along with pastors of UCC ONA churches are calling on progressive people of faith to align themselves now to ensure the gains made are not lost.
"Our ONA churches embody the reality that being progressive and Christian is not an oxymoron," said the Rev. Molly Baskette, senior minister of the First Church of Berkeley, California. "Our witness and willingness to demonstrate and mobilize in the public and political arenas for our religious values helped drive the movement toward marriage equality--and we will continue to organize and fight to keep civil rights for LGBT folk, including marriage equality, secured even if all three branches of the US government prove committed to overturning those rights."
Marriage equality is not immediately threatened---it would take another ruling of the Supreme Court to overturn that decision. While it's not out of the realm of possibility, since Trump most likely will appoint a justice in the ideological mold of John Scalia to fill the current vacancy, the issue to repeal marriage equality would have to be argued successfully before the Court and that will take time. But transgender protections may be in more immediate jeopardy.
"The future of transgender rights in this country especially requires vigilance," said Andy Lang, executive director of the Open and Affirming Coalition. "In most states, transgender Americans have no legal protection against discrimination in housing, employment, or public accommodations. Under federal law, the protections that do exist are the result of executive orders or expanded interpretations of existing statues by the Justice Department. These could be easily repealed without any legislative action. Even if marriage equality is safe, at least in the near future, transgender rights are not."
The Coalition leadership, in a letter to the UCC's 1392 ONA churches, is urging members to step up to publicly and visibly support all people in their local communities.
"We need to stand with our LGBTQ neighbors and members who with good reason feel under threat," Lang said. "We also need to think seriously about the practical ways we live out our ONA covenants. Most include not only all people of any 'sexual orientation or gender identity and expression,' but people of any race, nationality, ability, age, or circumstance. The coming years will test whether the ONA movement is serious about our commitment to all who live with injustice and threats of violence. Will we stand with immigrant families when threatened by mass arrest and deportation? Will we stand with our Muslim neighbors? Will we stand with refugees? Will we stand with African American communities in our own cities and across this country?"
The coalition is urging public witness, visible support, beginning Sunday, Nov. 20 with Transgender Day of Remembrance on Sunday, to honor those who lost their lives to violence.
One visible sign of support for LGBTQ neighbors many Americans may already be seen wearing - a SAFETY pin. The pin as symbol of solidarity got its start in the United Kingdom this summer after Brexit and spread to the United States after the presidential election last week. The movement, which got its start on social media, encourages those who want to be allies in public places to wear a safety pin.
"I wear a safety pin AND a comma to show that I stand with the teachings of the Stillspeaking God who requires love, hospitality, and kindness to all immigrants, refugees, and anyone else threatened by hate and fearmongering as condemned in the sacred Jewish, Christian, and Muslim texts," said the Rev. Ron Buford, pastor of the Congregational Community Church of Sunnyvale, UCC, Sunnyvale, Calif. "God is still speaking, calling us all to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God and ESPECIALLY all those most vulnerable in our midst -- whether they are the strangers or our estranged brothers and sisters."
Baskett said continued vigilance is key. "Our numbers are only growing, as the UCC and other progressive mainline denominations ally more closely with young evangelical communities and leaders in common cause against the hypocrisy of the alt-right Christian base that overwhelmingly voted for a bigot and a homophobe."
"Open and Affirming churches are needed now more than ever before," said Lang. "We represent an alternative path to the politics of fear and recrimination--a way based on the teachings of Jesus Christ. This is the time for us to live up to our values--not only inside the closed doors of our churches, but visibly and openly in the public square."