As a Christian and a United Methodist pastor, I know what it’s like to have hard conversations about and with the LGBTQ community. I am not writing to express the views of the entire United Methodist Church or that of my congregation, but simply as a pastor compelled by my faith to speak for the dignity and sacred worth of every person.
Holy Scripture teaches us that all people are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27) and have sacred worth in the eyes of God. All of us, including our LGBTQ neighbors, are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Ps. 139:14) by God and should be treated with dignity, respect and compassion.
As someone with an older brother who is gay, I have witnessed what happens when someone is treated as less than a person made in the image of God. Through my brother’s middle and high school years, he was harassed and bullied on an almost constant basis. It is my love for him which led me to stand for the basic human rights of the LGBTQ community so that they may live free from discrimination. Sadly, this kind of bullying and discrimination is not only in the past, but a current reality for many people in the LGBTQ community.
Many people in our community would be shocked to know that, despite being equal in God’s eyes, the laws of our state treat LGBTQ people differently. It’s perfectly legal to fire, evict or deny an LGBTQ person public services just because of who they are or who they love. This has to change.
That’s why I was proud to recently join forces with more than 100 faith leaders from across our great state to support the Fairness Act. The Fairness Act is a common-sense, bipartisan solution to the discrimination LGBTQ people face. It would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected classes in the Human Rights Act and the Fair Housing Act. It specifically exempts churches and other houses of worship from being compelled to go against their conscience or religious faith.
For the past couple of weeks, Senate President Mitch Carmichael has engaged with members of the LGBTQ community about the need to end discrimination. I live and lead a church in his district, and it meant a lot to me to see him denounce discrimination. But I was frustrated to see him recently backing away from his commitment to having a substantive discussion of the Fairness Act.
The social principles of the United Methodist Church call on all Christians to protect the civil and human rights of LGBTQ people: “Certain basic human rights and civil liberties are due all persons. We are committed to supporting those rights and liberties for all persons, regardless of sexual orientation.”
It’s not enough for our leaders to merely oppose discrimination. That’s the easy part. It’s easy to say you want everyone to be able to live free from discrimination. The hard part — the part that matters — is what you’re willing to do about it. The Fairness Act ensures that LGBTQ people are protected in employment, housing and public spaces. I urge Sen. Carmichael to keep his promise to let senators have a full and open debate about the Fairness Act, and I urge him to put this important bill on the legislative agenda.