CELEBRATING BLACK HISTORY MONTH

Those who have made history.. Those who learn from history… And those making history today…

To end religion-based bigotry's harm to LGBT youth and families.

As today marks the beginning of Black History Month, Faith In America would like to take this opportunity to thank all African Americans who have joined us and others in the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community working to end religion-based bigotry's harm to LGBT youth and families.

The list is long as over the years we have met countless African American men and women who recognize that religion-based bigotry is friend to no minority and in fact by its very nature targets minority populations with one of the worst forms of stigma and hostility. But there are several individuals who have joined Faith In America's efforts that we would like to offer special honor and thanks.

lovings_275x150The late Mildred Loving, a Civil Rights Movement icon, is one of those individuals. When we sat down with Mrs. Loving in 2007, she said she knew what it felt like to have the Bible used to deny her the freedom to marry her husband in the 1960s when interracial marriage was illegal in Virginia. Her historic Supreme Court case, Virginia v. Loving, said those bans were unconstitutional. Recently, Virginia's attorney general said the ban on gay marriage in Virginia is unconstitutional. Religion-based bigotry, the same form of bigotry that Mildred Loving once faced, has been used to justify each and every anti-gay marriage amendment in America. In coming months, we indeed look forward to the abolishment of anti-gay marriage amendments in other states as this nation's courts continue to agree that this unique form of bigotry must never be sanctioned by our Constitution. Read the marriage equality statement from Mildred Loving.

rodney_275x150Rodney Powell, a member of Faith In America's board of directors, is another Civil Rights Movement icon who many years ago came to understand that religion-based bigotry is a common denominator of the oppression experienced by African Americans for so very long in this nation's history and the oppression experienced by gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals. But Powell also understands that religion-based bigotry toward LGBT people takes on an insidious nature in today's social climate because of the immense harm it continues to cause to LGBT youth and their families. Placing a religious and moral stamp of disapproval on the very being of a young person can literally result in the tragic end to that young life and the terrible aftermath of such tragedy for that young person's family. Rodney Powell since joining Faith In America's board in 2005 has been resolute in advocating that this insidious form of bigotry must garner no respect in society. And he is so very correct. Last year, the Tennessean newspaper in Nasheville developed a series that highlights individuals from the Nasheville community who were stalwarts in the Civil Rights Movement. I hope you'll watch this video of Rodney from that series.

longcrier_275x150Rev. Reggie Longcrier has served as a spokesperson for Faith In America on numerous occasions and continues today to speak out for the full human dignity and full equal rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans. Longcrier in 2007 appeared before millions of CNN viewers during the first-ever You Tube/CNN debate in Charleston, S.C. to ask a question that was rated as the best question of the evening – "why is it still OK to use religion to justify discrimination against gay and lesbian Americans?" Today, we are seeing that question being asked in states across this country in which gay marriage is still illegal and it is being answered with a resounding "It's no longer OK!" Watch Longcrier ask the question at the CNN/You Tube debate.

spearman_275x150Dr. Rev. Anthony Spearman also serves as spokesperson for Faith In America. Spearman decided to take up the call for social justice for LGBT individuals after attending a Faith In America dialogue with CNN's Soledad O'Brien in 2010. Spearman traveled to New Jersey to speak with Jane Clementi in 2012. Mrs. Clementi today recognizes Dr. Spearman as an individual who helped her to better understand the harm from religion-based stigma and hostility and the adverse effect it had on her son Tyler and her entire family following her son's tragic death in 2010. In addition, Spearman also served as an outspoken advocate for marriage equality during the anti-gay marriage amendment campaign in 2012 in North Carolina and served as panelist during a Faith In America dialogue with CNN Anchor Wolf Blitzer last September. Watch Dr. Spearman's video at FaithandEquality.com

obama_275x150And finally but certainly not least because of the correlation to the history of religion-based bigotry toward both African-Americans and gay Americans, we recognize and honor U.S. President Barack Obama. Our president understands the fundamental precept behind efforts to end the harm from religion-based bigotry. In addition, our president also has faced some of the worst expressions of religion-based bigotry toward African Americans in recent memory. It is a sad commentary indeed on the Christian faith when many who identify with that faith direct prejudice and hostility toward their president. He also knows that this same unique and insidious form of bigotry is at play today in expressions of stigma and hostility toward gay Americans. He addressed that point when he spoke in favor of marriage equality in 2012. Watch the segment from the ABC interview.

While President Obama spoke in favor of gay marriage, he also alluded to the mistreatment of gay and lesbian Americans that we see in so many areas outside the marriage equality debate. Nowhere is this mistreatment worse and the call to action more pressing than the harm being caused to LGBT youth and families.

When innocent people, especially children, are subjected to the type of oppression that comes with a societal label of being morally inferior based solely on gender, race or sexual orientation, the harm to those individuals can be immense. Yet the harm to society as a whole, and particularly to faith communities, can be great as well.

Perhaps no minority in America understands this better than the African American community. And despite the fact that religion-based bigotry toward African Americans lingers still today, so many in the African American community have committed themselves to helping ensure that LGBT youth and families, nor society, will have to face the lingering harm of religion-based bigotry.

Today as we begin Black History Month, we recognize all African Americans as a minority that has faced religion-based bigotry's immense harm and in doing so has afforded all Americans, and particularly people of faith, an important lesson from their own history. And we honor those who today are applying that lesson to end the religion-based bigotry's oppression of LGBT youth and families and the LGBT community at large.