NC Faith Leader Calls On Tillis, Burr to Back Equality Bill: ‘Love Thy Neighbor … Means Every Neighbor’

A North Carolina leader in women's rights explains why the Equality Act isn't just about LGBTQ people. It's about protecting all women. (Image via Shutterstock)

By jennifercopeland

May 17, 2021

The NC Council of Churches head calls on the state’s two US senators to speak up for LGBTQ rights. 

If we listen to some special interest groups and politicians, we might think there’s a deep divide among people of faith about how to relate to the LGBTQ community. 

But when we look closely at faith communities and listen to the people living their faith, we see the truth of their support for the rights and dignity of LGBTQ people. 

Here’s the truth: The majority of adherents of every major religious group in the United States support LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination protections – including 59% of white evangelical Protestants, often thought of as the most conservative group of American Christians. 

Furthermore, almost half of LGBTQ adults are themselves people of faith, claiming that religion is important to them or that they attend worship services regularly, or both.

We have seen the support of LGBTQ people in action in our faith communities.  Recently, one of the largest adoption and foster care agencies in the country, Bethany Christian Services, announced they will begin working with LGBTQ parents. Pope Francis has repeatedly urged Catholics to support their LGBTQ members, proclaiming that LGBTQ people “have a right to be a part of the family.” 

Such public proclamations are rooted in the faith claim that each individual is created in the Image of God, making each individual beloved by God. 

Federal Anti-Discrimination Bill Needs Support   

Here in North Carolina, LGBTQ affirmation is garnering more attention as local communities pass municipal-level ordinances protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination. From small towns to large cities, six strong nondiscrimination ordinances have already been passed, with more cities and towns currently working on proposals. 

At many of the public hearings about these ordinances, constituents and lawmakers alike have declared that their faith compels them to support the LGBTQ-inclusive policy. 

Still, 93% of North Carolinians live in jurisdictions where LGBTQ people remain vulnerable to discrimination in key areas of life, from housing to health care. We need more communities to adopt protective measures, but even as they do, we should be clear that local leadership must act because there is a lack of action from our state and federal lawmakers.

Perhaps this is beginning to change on the federal level as anti-LGBTQ discrimination returns to the conversation in Washington, D.C. Democrats and Republicans alike are coming to the table to work toward full protections. The Equality Act, now before the US Senate, would strenghten the 1964 Civil Rights Act and ban discrimination based on gender identfication or sexual orientation. 

The voices of our US Senators – Thom Tillis and Richard Burr – are critical in this conversation. 

Loving Every Neighbor 

Both of these elected officials are people of faith, one Roman Catholic and one United Methodist, and both read the same Bible as those who know LGBTQ individuals are beloved by God. Thus, theirs is not only a civic duty to ensure our nation is a safe place for all people to live, work, and raise a family – it is also a matter of faith.

As the executive director of the NC Council of Churches, I regularly encounter people who understand that the Christian call to love God and love neighbor can only be heeded by loving every neighbor, especially those whom the world seeks to marginalize. 

Indeed, scripture is replete with examples of God siding with those the world would ignore or persecute. When our LGBTQ neighbors are discriminated against in the workplace, denied equal rights in society, or harassed in the public square, we are called to stand with them and work for justice. Failure to do so is a failure to love God. 

Regardless of one’s faith tradition, including those with no faith tradition, North Carolinians can agree: We must treat others with the same respect and dignity we desire for ourselves.

The North Carolina Council of Churches has been working toward that world for over 85 years, and we will continue to pursue this goal until God’s vision of justice is achieved throughout the land. We expect our lawmakers across the nation to join us in this quest. 

It’s time to support full LGBTQ protections once and for all. 


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