General Synod continues support of LGBT issues with ‘religious exemption law’ resolution
The United Church of Christ underlined its support for full rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people during General Synod 2015 by endorsing a resolution resisting attempts around the country to limit access to services. A considerable majority of the delegates supported the resolution, which passed on Tuesday, June 30, that asks the church to speak out against “religious exemption laws,” believed to be the latest threat to LGBT civil rights now that the Supreme Court has overturned all state bans on same-sex marriage.
“This [resolution] speaks to the next tactical line of attack on LGBT persons,” said the Rev. Chris Davies, a delegate from the Open and Affirming Coalition, speaking in favor of the resolution.
The resolution calls on all congregations and settings of the church to faithfully advocate against any legislative effort or executive order that attempts to “establish a broad ‘religious exemption’ to laws protecting the equal rights of persons of any sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression,” according to the text of the resolution. Such laws threaten to “rob persons of any sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression of the security that they will not be denied services, employment or even a place to live on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or marital relationship.”
“Essentially, ‘religious exemption’ is ‘Plan B’ for the opposition to marriage equality in the United States,” says Andy Lang, the Open and Affirming Coalition’s executive director. “By establishing broad religious exemptions, they hope to limit the application not only of marriage equality but of any existing or future laws protecting LGBT people from discrimination in housing, employment, public accommodations or adoption.”
Some proposed legislation seeks to deny adoption rights allows public employees to refuse to issue marriage licenses, and allow private businesses to disregard discrimination laws, all aimed at same-sex couples. The proposed laws, in as many as 18 states, vary state to state, from Michigan’s law that allow state-funded private adoption agencies to turn away same-sex couples, to North Carolina’s law that allows public officials to “recuse” themselves on religious grounds from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
The General Synod also reaffirmed its commitment to protecting the civil rights of all citizens “regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity and expression,” and urged the settings of the church to advocate for “local, state and federal laws protecting (LGBT) persons against discrimination in public accommodations, housing and employment.”
The UCC first expressed support for LGBT issues since 1969, including advocating for guarantees of liberty, the end of violence against LGBT persons, and advocating for marriage for all couples.
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