Washington, D.C. — As the Senate Judiciary Committee holds its first hearing today on the Equality Act, the Faith for Equality coalition has presented Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), a member of the committee, with a compilation of statements supporting the measure from member groups. In total, more than 17,000 religious leaders and people of faith* have expressed their support for this critical legislation. Coons is an ordained Presbyterian elder who strongly supports this measure, which would modernize the nation’s civil rights laws for all and expand them to prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ Americans.
The Faith for Equality coalition comprises more than 120 organizations, representing the full spectrum of religious communities across the country. The Equality Act would ensure that all Americans can live freely and openly without fear of discrimination in key aspects of daily life, from renting an apartment to seeking medical care. It would provide LGBTQ Americans with the same equal rights and dignity as other Americans and would protect them from all forms of unlawful discrimination in every state. In addition to the petition delivery, many of the member organizations have submitted written testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Sen. Coons told the delegation from the Faith for Equality coalition that he appreciated receiving the petition and pledged to enter it into the congressional record at the hearing. “To someone who is a divinity school graduate myself—and an active and practicing member of a congregation that celebrates and welcomes folks from all backgrounds and recognizes that inclusion and equality is part of God’s plan for us—I’m grateful for the chance to help witness the breadth and reach of the communities of faith that are fully inclusive,” he said at the meeting.
Coalition members who attended the meeting offered the following comments.
Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice:
As a Catholic sister, I know that my faith mandates that all people be treated with dignity and equality. But today, our LGBTQ friends and family too often face hate and discrimination. It is our duty as Catholics to affirm and protect the God-given dignity of every person. In the Gospel, Jesus makes it abundantly clear that all are to be cared for and no one is an outcast. Passing the Equality Act is a critical step toward ensuring that we have a society where the dignity of all is honored and protected.
Maggie Siddiqi, senior director of the Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative at the Center for American Progress:
People of faith celebrate this week’s Equality Act hearing as a commonsense step in expanding protections for LGBTQ people—a step that majorities of every major U.S. faith group support. The Equality Act will also expand religious freedom protections by updating federal civil rights law to more fully protect people of faith, people of color, immigrants, and others from discrimination.
Rabbi Jack Moline, president of Interfaith Alliance:
Our country is founded on the idea that all are created equal—a value shared across faith traditions and philosophies. The aspirations of our founders, however, have not always managed to find full expression in society. The Equality Act is a step forward to the full—and overdue—citizenship rights for LGBTQ people, all the while preserving existing religious exemptions and even strengthening protections against religious discrimination.
Michael Vazquez, director of the Religion and Faith Program at the Human Rights Campaign:
As a Catholic theologian, I view the Equality Act as the pinnacle of Catholic teaching—the summit of the Gospel’s instructions to create a society that upholds and defends the dignity and human rights of all people. Catholic teaching on human dignity and nondiscrimination has translated directly into the pews, where polls show that an overwhelming majority of Catholics support laws that would finally provide LGBTQ people the full nondiscrimination protections they deserve. Passing the Equality Act is a moral imperative necessary for advancing the common good and is reflective of the spirit of Catholic teaching.
The Rev. Jason Carson Wilson, founding executive director of the Bayard Rustin Liberation Initiative:
No one can enjoy true liberty without equality. Passing the Equality Act would extend the promise of the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of fabulousness to all Americans.
The Rev. Jennifer Butler, CEO of Faith in Public Life Action:
As a pastor, I believe that every person is created in the image of God. The Equality Act honors the dignity and equality of our LGBTQ family and neighbors by guaranteeing them the freedoms and protections promised by the Constitution and our civil rights laws. I pray Congress understands that they are serving justice without undermining religious freedom when they ensure that no one can be evicted, kicked out of a business that’s open to the public, or denied government services because of who they are. There are no second-class citizens in the kingdom of God. The same should be true here in this nation. It’s time to write LGBTQ dignity into law by passing the Equality Act.
* The more than 17,000 religious leaders and people of faith in support of the Equality Act were organized by the following groups: Americans United for Separation of Church and State; Bayard Rustin Liberation Initiative; Faith in Public Life Action; Faithful America; Interfaith Alliance; Keshet; Center for American Progress’ Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative; Religious Institute; Human Rights Campaign; National LGBTQ Task Force; Reformation Project; and Unitarian Universalist Association. The language with which different groups or individuals endorsed the legislation is as diverse as the religious communities, but all are unified in their wholehearted endorsement of the Equality Act.
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