Both Religious Right and LGBTI sectors have many points in common. Both are confronted with various types of discrimination and inequalities. These sectors believe that no should have to suffer the denial of his or her rights because every person has an absolute value. For both communities, freedom of expression is foundational. We want a society that supports families. We strive to live ethically.
Sometimes, however, these commonalities become invisible in human rights. Freedom of religion cannot be situated as an absolute right or as a platform to host hateful and violent debates, especially towards religious minority groups and LGBTI individuals. The challenge is to take ethics and values talk back from the hands of fundamentalists. We simply cannot fold when they play their God versus gay card or God against women’s rights. Likewise, the LGBTI movement must fight against those who harbor stereotypes about people of faith and belief.
One example of successful advocacy occurred when the European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups and a number of organizations from around the world managed to reintroduce human sexuality as a topic of interest for the World Council of Churches. This was a gradual way to present sexuality and gender issues to various conservative churches as an antidiscrimination-related topic that cannot be avoided anymore. The forum is also preparing a new generation of activists from Eastern Europe to be visible and articulate and make their voices heard as both LGBTI individuals and people of faith.
Last year in Romania, the forum joined the Metropolitan Community Churches in support of the civil partnership bill in Parliament. This was an attempt to dismantle the fundamentalists’ perceived monopoly on family values. The campaign was part of efforts to depict marriage and family as responsible, value-based self-regarded relationships—a commitment that exists regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
We are preparing for a faith-based 2016 International Day Against Homophobia to mobilize religious leaders, faith representatives, theologians and laypeople from various parts of Europe. We want to expose how freedom of religion has been misappropriated to incite condemnation, discrimination and violence towards LGBTI individuals and communities.
Freedom of religion and LGBTI rights are not mutually exclusive, but rather are an integral part of our human rights system conceived to treat anyone with respect and dignity, irrespective of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression.