June 11, 2009

Reports Show That Relgious Voices Are Critical to Gain LGBT Equality

The NGLTF (National Gay & Lesbian Task Force) has released two reports that I believe you will find of interest:

Although examining different campaigns in different states in different years, the two reports draw remarkably similar conclusions about the need for partnerships between religious and secular supporters of equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

The Task Force's report, A Time to Build Up: Analysis of the No on Proposition 8 Campaign and Its Implications for Future Pro-LGBTQQIA Religious Organizing, examines last fall's Proposition 8 battle in California, highlighting religious-secular partnerships relevant to marriage equality. The report was written by the Rev. Rebecca Voelkel, program director, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Institute for Welcoming Resources, and funded by the Arcus Foundation.

The Center's report, The Faithful Divide Over Wedding Vows: A Profile of Michigan's 2004 Battle Over Marriage Equality, examines the role that religious groups played in support of and opposition to Proposal 2, the ballot initiative on marriage equality in Michigan. It was written by Sally Steenland, senior policy advisor, Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative, Center for American Progress; and Jonathan Duffy, senior political science major, Kent State University, and intern, Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative, Center for American Progress.

Similarities in the report findings include:

* Anti-LGBT ballot initiatives are often rooted in conservative religious rhetoric. Effective responses require faith voices and messages to counteract these claims in order to show religious diversity in support of marriage equality and to disprove the notion that conservative religious voices are the sole guardians of morality on these issues.
* Secular-religious partnerships are crucial to the success of legislative campaigns and to the broader goals of social justice and equal rights under the law for LGBT people.
* Advocates should not write off certain religious communities as impossible to win nor overlook any "unlikely" allies, be it the Catholic Church, the Mormon Church or African-American churches. While some communities may have official pronouncements against marriage equality and campaign against it, almost always there are members within that community who by conscience have different views.
* A narrow political campaign frame hinders effective collaboration with religious communities. LGBT faith advocates and supporters must work within their denominations for full support of LGBT rights, including marriage equality and adoption by same-sex couples.
* Media work that takes seriously the language and culture of religious people is critical. It is crucial to quickly rebut inaccurate religious arguments and misleading statements from anti-equality forces. Furthermore, the message of LGBT rights should be framed in a mainstream way so that people feel connected to the issue. In addition, non-LGBT organizations, such as civil and human rights and faith groups, should be sought as campaign allies.
* It is important to have both a robust on-the-ground organization and an effective media campaign, especially in larger states where much of the battle is fought over the airwaves.

Some of this is common sense, but it is always good to have that verified by objective data gathering and analysis.

LGBT equality will not be achieved by either secular or religious forces. Only when the two align together for the common good will laws be changed and, much more importantly, attitudes moved beyone tollerance into acceptance, where equality is no longer an issue but simply a fact of life.

Click here to read more of the analysis and to download the complete reports.

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