2016 GA Letter

POFEV Open Letter to Virginia General Assembly

To the Editor:

On behalf of People of Faith for Equality in Virginia, I commend the House of Delegates for passing House Resolution 75 commemorating Virginia’s stand for religious liberty and freedom from political persecution on the 230th anniversary of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. The original statute passed when Virginia law excluded Roman Catholics, many Protestant sects, and Muslims from much of public life. On this anniversary delegates have acknowledged the remaining threads of this intolerance and stated unequivocally “neither the Islamic faith nor the billion Muslims around the world who wish to simply live and practice their religion in peace” should be subjected to derision or discrimination.

However, we are concerned the General Assembly’s welcome has stopped here. This same General Assembly is poised to enact legislation to exclude and discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Virginians. Under the Virginia imagined by these pending bills, clerks of court could refuse marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Government employees and contractors could deny services and jobs to persons whose experience of their own gender is not captured by the sex assigned them in their first moments after birth. Students and members of the public would be forced to use bathrooms designated for a gender they do not identify as their own. Gay couples would be denied public accommodations. Cities and counties could not prohibit discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender persons. Conversion therapy could continue damaging young people in futile attempts to change their sexual orientation.

As people of faith, we acknowledge the complicity of our many faith traditions in nurturing attitudes that have led to discriminatory legislation. Driven by fear of the unfamiliar and unknown, we have allowed our traditions to be co-opted to justify unjustifiable social norms. We instead should be fearlessly following the commands of our faiths to condemn injustice and welcome the diversity of God’s creation. We oppose continued use of faith to justify oppression. We call on faith leaders, senators and delegates to do the same and reject legislation that stigmatizes and discriminates against the LGBT community or any other community in our great Commonwealth.

John Humphrey
President, People of Faith for Equality in Virginia

This letter was published in slightly modified form in the Richmond Times Dispatch on February 5, 2016 at http://ow.ly/Y0KZJ.