In the Old Testament, the children of Israel asked Micah, “What does the Lord require of us?” Micah responds, very simply by saying, “To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” It is this idea of acting justly that should call faith communities, specifically Black faith communities, to support full passage of the Equality Act.
For most people of faith, acting justly is rooted in the idea of right versus wrong. In this context, acting justly is rooted in the idea that every child of God, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation, deserves to feel safe and protected and to live a happy, healthy, and whole life. But for Black LGBTQ/SGL believers this is not always the case. Too many Black LGBTQ/SGL people know the pain of being put out and pushed away from family because of who we are and who we are born to love. We know the injustices of losing jobs, homes, and other opportunities because the world says it is okay to discriminate against us.
The Equality Act should be recognized by people of faith and we should commit to loving our neighbors, all of them. Passed on Friday in the U.S. House of Representatives, the Equality Act offers clear and consistent protections on the basis of sex as well as sexual identity and gender orientation to close gaps that enable public service providers like hospitals and hotels to discriminate against members of our community. For Black traditional Christian denominations, the Equality Act offers a way to see every member of the Black community as deserving of love and support as well as civil and legal protection from discrimination and hate.
The Equality Act invites those who believe to change the way we affirm the least of these. Traditionally, in the Black church, it has been ok to be “gay” and direct the choirs, make music great, give tithes and offerings, as long as you did not “flaunt” your
identity. This injustice cannot continue because Black LGBTQ/SGL are more than church entertainers; we are professionals, husbands, wives, committed partners, parents, and community leaders who should have access to jobs, housing, credit, and non-discrimination.
Black churches have yet to include Black LGBTQ/SGL people fully in their congregations, which only further traumatizes those who desire to participate in faith communities without having to sacrifice their truth. Since we are the extension of Christ’s example, we are called to possess and share the radically inclusive love of God. This is a love that extends beyond our personal interpretations of gender identity and sexual orientation to a place where people know they are love because they are created in the image of God.
As a child, I recall vivid moments of being teased, bullied, and antagonized because I was gay. These experiences cause me to flinch each time I remember them -- memories that pushed me to seek therapy to work through the trauma of being discriminated against at school because I was a Black gay boy. I recall an afternoon in middle school when I tried out for the school basketball team and was cut from tryouts because I was gay. In moments like that years ago and now for me, one of the only places I felt safe was in church. This safety should be felt by every child of God; the Equality Act would ensure that.
As we continue to live out faith it is important that we live out love. Love is lived out when we all have equal protection. Love is lived out when we all feel safe. Love is lived out when we support each other. We cannot say we love God and despise our neighbor. Our love for God cannot be separated from our passion for justice. We must stand as people of faith united under God, and declare none of us are free unless we all are free.
As a member of the clergy, here is what we can do to support each child of God:
Push for the passage the Equality Act;
Speak up for your fellow family and friends;
Use the power of the Black pulpit, as we have for many decades, to fight for freedom, equality and civil rights (proclaiming the Gospel message of inclusion and protection).
The justice of Jesus in action calls us to be a voice for those who have none. The Black church in America is known to speak out for those whose voices are not loud enough to expose injustice for the world to see. To this end, the Black church must support the
Equality Act to protect Black LGBTQ/SGL members who are contributing to its continued success, relevance and survival.
As a pillar within the Black community, now is the time to join in one voice to speak an essential truth to our own community -- that we are all created equal, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation.
Rev. E. Taylor Doctor is Director of Programs for the National Black Justice Coaltion, a career public health program administrator and ordained clergyman. He's been recognized by Diversity Richmond as a “Black and Bold LGBT Leader,” and is a member of the National Black Justice Coalition’s “100-To-Watch: Emerging Black LGBTQ Leaders” inaugural class in 2014.
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