LGBT Freedoms and Rights Get Support from New Grants

March 18, 2013

Despite increasing recognition of LGBT freedoms by United Nations agencies, human rights organizations, and some governments, persecution based on sexual orientation and gender identity remains a serious threat to the majority of the world’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender populations.

In recent years, some religious interests have opened a new front in the battle against global LGBT human rights on the grounds that granting these rights infringes the religious liberty of others.

A number of Arcus grantees are working to dispel this reasoning and put forward the competing idea that the underlying tenets of the world’s largest religions actually support the equality of all people and oppose discrimination.

Among the latest round of grants supporting the growth and strength of religious individuals and groups that have the courage to speak out for LGBT human rights is one to the Euroregional Center for Public Initiatives, based in Bucharest, Romania.

The Center – which supports the efforts of activists in Romania, Moldova, Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Turkey, and Serbia – works to combat homophobia where the religious right strongly influences public opinion.

It plans to develop tools to document discriminatory thinking and practices and to bring together supportive faith leaders with LGBT activists to share strategies. The Center will also launch public-education campaigns aimed at religious and international LGBT-rights conferences and at congregations around the world.

Building on its success in advocating for LGBT inclusion in U.S. churches, ReconcilingWorks (formerly Lutherans Concerned/North America) plans to expand efforts to identify allies in South America, South Africa, and Eastern Europe.

At the same time, in the United States the organization plans to pursue its anti-bullying program, bring young adults into its policy campaigns, and conduct same-sex marriage work, drawing on the pro-marriage equality platform it has built in a large number of synods.

The Methodist organization Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN) will work to equip LGBT-supportive religious leaders in Ivory Coast, Liberia, and Zimbabwe with materials addressing human sexuality.

In the United States, RMN plans to continue building its network of affiliated communities, train new pro-LGBT coaches and leaders, and reach out to up to 30,000 Methodist congregations to continue building momentum for LGBT acceptance and inclusion.

The Auburn Seminary, whose goal is to bridge religious divides, aims to increase readership of its influential online magazine and convene journalists to articulate what it calls “the theological and moral goodness of LGBT people.”

Arcus support is also being directed to several U.S.-based grantees working through the courts and to secure civil and legal rights for LGBT communities around the country.

The ACLU, which has prevailed in several court cases overturning discriminatory laws on adoption by LGBT parents, is continuing to seek court victories in these cases and others to ensure the rights of transgender prisoners and fight housing and employment discrimination.

The ACLU is joined by the Center for American Progress and Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) in the struggle against “religious exemptions”—in which groups that oppose LGBT inclusion across a range of social and cultural institutions seek exceptions to anti-discrimination laws based on their religious views.

PPFA plans to grow its Global Rights Watch program which identifies and helps grassroots advocates to counter threats to sexual and reproductive health and rights internationally as well as continue its Religious Refusal policy work addressing inappropriate use of religious exemptions in the United States.

In addition, Columbia University is also pursuing strategies that bring together diverse faith leaders to challenge anti-LGBT religious reasoning and to assert that all people should be treated equally. In the next two years, Columbia plans to strengthen its Center on Black Churches, Sexual Politics, and Social Justice, which involves the Black church movement in recognizing the moral and civil rights of black LGBT people.

Among other support announced is a focus on global LGBT movement building, central to the human rights mission of ARC InternationalComité IDAHO, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), and International Lesbian Gay Association (ILGA).

Comité IDAHO plans to continue to build May 17th as the annual International Day against Homophobia. IGLHRC intends to train and facilitate international activism and support groups to promote LGBT advocacy at the U.N. And, ILGA is broadening its considerable research and outreach efforts by locating communications officers in Africa, Asia, and South America.

Three groups received funding to pursue their work toward inclusivity for transgender communities: the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership at Kalamazoo College, Mazzoni Center, and the National Center for Transgender Equality.

In addition, the young-people’s organization Athlete Alley receives support to help make sports safe for LGBT participants; the Rockwood Leadership Institute received a grant for its National LGBT Advocacy Leaders Fellowship, and the Western States Center and Basic Rights Education Fund received support to pursue their unified racial and LGBT justice work.