I Pray the Supreme Court Will Open Their Hearts for LGBTQ Workers
By the Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy
One of the most memorable and fulfilling days of my tenure as president of Interfaith Alliance was standing in front of the Supreme Court, urging the justices to establish same-sex marriage as the law of the land.
I was far from the only faith leader urging marriage equality on that day. But my heart still pounded with pride as I thought about how far this critical step was from where I personally began on the issue. It has been a long journey, filled with changes from my narrow loyalty to a fundamentalist church in the South to believing that our nation was founded to assure that all people would experience justice, inclusion and human rights.
My change of mind that led me to become an outspoken ally of the LGBTQ movement was not despite my faith, but because of it. A careful reading of Christian scriptures moved me away from literalism that is often manipulated for political gain and inspired me to embrace people of different sexual orientations. Through my interactions with members of the LGBTQ community, both in the scope of my ministerial work and my personal life, I have come to know people who speak truthfully, live authentically and advocate passionately.
Immediately after marriage equality became the law of the land, I saw demonstrations and heard words that echoed my past of literalism and narrow-mindedness. It was nothing less than bigotry dressed up as morality, harsh criticism leveled at people who were different and hate blessed by fake pietists fearing change.
And, not coincidentally, millions and millions of tax-exempt dollars flowed into the coffers of anti-gay, anti-equality and anti-democracy organizations masquerading under the guise of religious freedom.
This week, I remember all of this as the Supreme Court prepares to once again take up the question of fundamental fairness and equality. The question of federal protections for LGBTQ workers — who even today are often harassed or fired in violation of the law, simply for who they are and who they love — is in the hands of nine justices.
People who were angered and activated by the High Court’s decision about marriage equality have never stopped their efforts to minimize the freedom and equality of LGBTQ people. They’ve organized well and ascended to positions of power and influence in our government, with some even sitting on the very courts that are supposed to defend basic rights for all.
And this session, the Supreme Court has been given the authority to decide whether or not employees can be fired from their jobs because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Strong supporters of this judicial circus argue that the right to discriminate is related to religious liberty. However, religious freedom, guaranteed by the First Amendment, was never intended to deny anyone their human rights. Time and again, people who have no idea about the meaning of religious freedom try, in the name of religion, to abolish civil rights for people of color; to deny immigration rights for members of minority religions or no religion; to take money from the education system to build schools that teach religion but not civics; and to claim that a person’s belief should supercede the freedom and justice promised by our Constitution.
Defenders of fundamental human rights must pay close attention to the Supreme Court on this issue. Just as we fought for marriage equality, we must continue our demand that every resident of the United States who wants to be a member of the work force can do so without experiencing discrimination simply for being themselves.
Working for equality fosters in all of us the kind of citizenship that drives a nation characterized by good neighbors, mutual respect, and empathy. By championing the rights of those historically marginalized in American life, we affirm the dignity and worth of every person and continue the difficult work of making the promises of our Constitution a reality.
I pray the justices open their ears and their hearts — for all of our sake.
The Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy is the President Emeritus of Interfaith Alliance, a national non-partisan advocacy organization dedicated to protecting true religious freedom and combating the political manipulation of religion for partisan purposes. He hosts the weekly State of Belief radio program and serves as Pastor Emeritus at Northminster (Baptist) Church in Monroe, Louisiana.