Last week the Supreme Court ruled that it is unconstitutional for states to deny same-sex couples a marriage license. While some opponents use religion as grounds for keeping same-sex couples from marrying, Many Voices, a black church movement for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) justice, applauds the Court for its historic ruling.
“Some people will try to continue this religion versus LGBT theme,” states Rev. Cedric Harmon, co-director of Many Voices. “But many same-sex couples who seek to marry are persons of faith themselves. They are not at odds with religion. This can be a moment for people of God to embrace and respect LGBT people and their families. It’s not a Christian value to perpetuate inequality against any group, but rather to offer love, grace, and compassion.”
When the Supreme Court struck down the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) in 2013, same-sex couples who wedded in states with marriage equality gained federal recognition of their union, regardless of whether or not their state of residence recognized same-sex marriages.
The Court’s new landmark ruling on cases presented by Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee, will prohibit states from placing the freedom to marry on the ballot. As a result, same-sex couples and their families will no longer have to cross state lines for access to over 1,000 federal protections, such as social security and employer-provided health insurance.
However, at the height of marriage equality momentum (the freedom to marry is currently recognized in 37 states and the District of Columbia), a new wave of opposition has emerged in the form of “religious freedom restoration” acts. These legislative bills have multiplied around the country to sanction LGBT discrimination by businesses, employers, and public officials.
Rev. Harmon went on to state that “we are extremely enthusiastic about the protections that will now be available to all loving individuals who want to make a life-long commitment to one another. “This is a significant step in our larger march towards a more equitable society.”
Many Voices was founded in 2010 to offer an online resource center for the many Christians–particularly people of color–who were not being served by the LGBT-focused programs within the mainline Protestant denominations. In 2011, its focus was narrowed to the black church.
According to the organization’s website, black gay and transgender people are too often case studies in discrimination, shame, hardship, insecurity, and isolation. Job insecurity and other financial threats, lack of legal protections, discrimination in employment and housing, heightened violence due to gender non-conformity–all these and more can be a daily reality. The black church, historically a crucible for social change, has been strangely silent and unavailable to confront or address the inequalities and injustices experienced by LGBT people and their families. Many Voices envisions a black church and community that embrace the diversity of the human family and ensures that all are treated with love, compassion, and justice. To fulfill that vision, we are transforming the inaccurate narrative that the entire black church is negative.
The Rev. Harmon and his colleagues will continue to work with African American pastors and faith leaders to create a justice-centered environment that is consistent with the black community’s rich religious heritage. “That heritage includes religious freedom, personal liberty, and the opportunity for all people to affirm their full worth and dignity,” he adds.