CHICAGO -- Two new initiatives that emphasize the growing embrace of full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals by leaders of religious institutions are being unveiled today by Equality Illinois, the state's largest and oldest LGBT advocacy organization.
The two initiatives, the Marriage Equality Faith Petition and "Equality in Your Faith Community: A Guide to LGBT-Inclusive Religious Practices," are part of the continuing outreach by Equality Illinois that demonstrates that many clergy and lay leaders and their institutions and members are welcoming and supportive of LGBT equality, including marriage.
"In the heat of the presidential election and state and local races, some candidates cite their faith when they actively campaign against full equal rights before the law. Other politicians who are generally supportive of LGBT equality say their religion prevents them from taking the step of legalizing marriage for same-sex couples," said Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois.
"Government cannot and should not force religions to change their beliefs, but in a religiously-pluralistic nation, equality for all must prevail as the law of the land. LGBT-supportive faith leaders and congregations can lead that conversation," Cherkasov said.
To demonstrate that there are many in the faith community who favor full LGBT equality including the right to marry, Equality Illinois is launching the Marriage Equality Faith Petition. Clergy and lay leaders from across the state will sign the petition to openly support the newly proposed "Illinois Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act" that will grant equal marriage rights. The petition, which can be found at tinyurl.com/SupportILMarriageFaithPetition, says, in part:
"Some have misused the name of religion to justify slavery, to deny women the right to vote and deny marriage to interracial couples — people of goodwill find that unconscionable today. We accept our brothers and sisters and recognize that their relationships and families need equal recognition and protections."
The first signatories of the petition will be unveiled at the Equality Prayer Breakfast, planned for May, which will include clergy from a wide array of major religious denominations.
Equality Illinois is also publishing "Equality in Your Faith Community: A Guide to LGBT-Inclusive Religious Practices" and a related brochure. In the guide, which can be found at www.eqil.org/faithandfreedom.html, faith institutions across the state share how they include and celebrate the LGBT community in their everyday practices and worship.
"Contrary to some religious leaders and their followers, there are many people of faith who find no prohibition to full equality in the tenets of their respective religions," said Caroline Staerk, Director of Field Programs of Equality Illinois, who is the liaison with LGBT supporters in the faith community. "In fact, these people find in their faith a mission to actively seek equality and are eager to share that knowledge."
These two new initiatives build on ongoing efforts by Equality Illinois to identify welcoming congregations, to build stronger relationships with communities of faith who share our interest in issues of justice and fairness, and to emphasize the positive relationship between religion and equality for all versus the persistent misconception that the majority of faith communities oppose equality for LGBT people.
Those efforts include a Faith Resource Guide, with references to numerous articles, books, movies and websites that help reconcile faith and sexuality, and a listing of leaders who perform civil union ceremonies. Both can also be found at http://www.eqil.org/faithandfreedom.html.