April 24, 2012

LGBTQ Equality Riders Met With Mormon Leaders In Salt Lake City

Equality Ride 2012
For The First Time The LGBT Group Was Allowed To Meet In The LDS Administration Building - And Not An Outhouse

Soulforce is a fantastic national non-profit organization who works tirelessly to end religious and political persecution of LGBTQ people. Soulforce is a secular advocacy group, that has embraced the non-violent principles personified by Dr. Martin Luther King.


The Soulforce website describes why they focus on religious organizations.

Our roots are in challenging religion-based oppression because the religious right is a powerful cultural and political agent with financial force underpinning its work.  The beliefs, actions and rhetoric of the religious right lead to the loss of jobs, healthcare, educational access, financial security, and social inclusion for LGBTQ people.  When we challenge the political platform of the religious right from our LGBTQ context, we are also challenging other forms of oppression including sexism, racism and classism.

Every year Soulforce travels across the country visiting cities and towns, big and small. The  Equality Ride engages church leaders, teachers, students, and administrators at schools that openly discriminate against LGBTQ people. They have a conversation, share their personal stories, without the strident and divisive rhetoric that is often so prevalent when two very different groups tend to meet. Soulforce describes the goals of Equality Ride 2012:  

Our mission is simple. We aim to visit the hundreds of schools in the United States that openly discriminate against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer individuals and their Allies (LGBTQA) through their policies and practices. On these campuses LGBTQA students and faculty are forced to suffer in silence. If they come out they are subject to expulsion and can even be forced into harmful “ex-gay” or “reparative” therapy programs.

Since its inception, the Equality Ride has catalyzed conversations and dialogue at these otherwise silent institutions. We have witnessed real change in practices and policies. Riders have worked to establish and strengthen Queer/Straight alliances all across the country. People have been provided with safe spaces in which to address the suffering they often feel at the hands of their schools and/or faith communities. We strive to begin conversations at the institutions we visit. We go into these communities at the request and in collaboration with the very folks who are suffering in silence. We approach these communities with a relentless form of non-violent resistance.



Soulforce Equality Riders 2012 Salt Lake City
 Equality Ride 2012 is currently in Salt Lake City, Utah where they met with officials from the Mormon Church (LDS). According to reporter Peggy Fletcher at the Salt Lake Tribune:

Gay-rights freedom riders met for more than two hours Monday with a handful of LDS officials in Salt Lake City to raise continuing concerns about Mormon policies and language that the advocates see as harmful to their community.

The group, Soulforce’s 2012 Equality Ride, had four specific requests for the LDS Church: to cut all ties with and denounce Evergreen International, which continues to use "reparative" therapy in its treatment of gays; to stop funding groups that are fighting civil marriage equality across the country; to encourage LDS Business College to bring its policies on homosexuality in line with current Mormon teachings; and to add sexual orientation and gender identity/expression to the faith’s policies for church employees.

LDS officials did agree to keep meeting with gay activists on the national and local level. That, he said, is a sign of forward movement.


The television news report of the meeting said this year was the first year that Soulforce was allowed to meet with LDS officials, within the LDS administration building.

Even though I’m skeptical about some of the overtures that the LDS church has made recently  to the LGBT community, due to the fact that Willard Mitt Romney is running for President, the Soulforce crew was optimistic that they would keep the dialogue with the church open.

Peggy Fletcher wrote that Jason Conner, Equality Ride’s co-director, described the meeting as "overall positive," noting that LDS legislative lobbyist Bill Evans in particular was "very gracious and hospitable."

The Soulforce Equality Riders are unsung heroes in my book.

If you’re not familiar with their work, check out their website at soulforce.org. 



straight talk in a queer world.






 



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