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A religious case for LGBT rights
New group hopes to bring faith to political debate
Columbus--“Religion reflects society, and what religion does shapes society,” said Eric Peters of Columbus. “There are already religious groups in Ohio saying LGBT people are okay.”
Peters is trying to organize people of faith in Ohio for the purpose of “using religion as a social institution to change the political economy of Ohio.”
“It’s not about saving the church,” said Peters. “It’s about saving the legislature and the electorate.”
Peters says that is a major difference between what he envisions and what most of the existing LGBT religious organizations are about.
A group of nine people met in Columbus on April 18, and according to Peters, interest is growing throughout the state. Organizational conference calls have also taken place.
The meeting was moderated by Rev. Linda Middleberg of King Avenue United Methodist Church in Columbus. It included members of nearly every mainline Christian denomination in Ohio.
Peters says the group is preparing for another event in July, where the group can hear from organizers of the Interfaith Coalition on Nondiscrimination of Indiana--which has done what the Ohio group wants to do since 1998.
ICON organized a letter signed by 280 affirming clergy and religious professionals across Indiana calling for basic civil rights for LGBT people.
Peters was active in Stonewall Columbus’ now defunct Interfaith Forum. He says he has wanted a coalition like this to form in Ohio since 2003, but got sidetracked when the constitutional amendment to ban marriage equality was on the ballot a year later.
“In 2004, other states had religious groups involved in opposing the marriage amendments,” said Peters. “We didn’t have it on that scale.”
Peters also said a LGBT-affirming faith coalition called No Longer Silent helped defeat an Arizona marriage ban amendment in 2006. Similar groups have been involved in passing LGBT rights legislation in Oregon and Colorado this year.
“The public is paying attention to faith communities,” said Peters, “and there were big political benefits.”
Peters said other Ohio groups organizing around religious influence on progressive politics are not serving the LGBT community because they say gay rights are “too divisive.”
“We want to put the voice of faith around gay issues,” said Peters. “That means getting people of faith involved in LGBT equality, and developing materials for LGBT people of faith to use to talk to faith leaders.”
Interested people can contact Peters at firstname.lastname@example.org or Rev. Middleburg at the King Avenue church.