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Human Rights Campaign starts election-season focus on LGBTQ, religious relations

The national tour is tied to HRC’s voter mobilization efforts, in which volunteers plan to urge congregants and others to join them in voting.

Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David speaks during the 37th annual HRC New England dinner on Nov. 23, 2019, in Boston. The annual event brings hundreds of LGBTQ advocates and allies together for an evening of celebration across greater New England. (Josh Reynolds/AP Images for Human Rights Campaign)

(RNS) — The Human Rights Campaign — which works to promote LGBTQ equality — has started an election-season tour in which its president will visit houses of worship of different faiths to build relations between the religious and the gay communities.

“The cornerstones of religion and faith and the LGBTQ movement are the same: inclusion and justice,” said HRC President Alphonso David in a statement released Sunday (March 1) as he started the tour.   

“LGBTQ people are in every faith tradition, and LGBTQ people and people of faith have more similarities than they do differences.”

The African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas in Philadelphia was the first stop on the tour. 

The national tour is tied to HRC’s voter mobilization efforts, in which its volunteers plan to urge congregants to get family members and friends to join them in voting in upcoming elections.

Last year, a survey by Public Religion Research Institute showed that there is broad support in all U.S. states for gay rights, with 69% of Americans supporting nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people. Researchers found agreement across religious groups as well, from 90% of Unitarian Universalists and 80% of Jews to 54% of white evangelical Protestants and 53% of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

The pastor of the Philadelphia church, founded in 1792, welcomed David’s visit.

“St. Thomas has a history of engaging in outreach to the community around us and ensuring that the welcoming love we see in the Gospels is felt by everyone we serve — including LGBTQ people,” said the Very Rev. Martini Shaw, rector of the church, in a statement. “As we begin the season of Lent, we encourage everyone to reflect on the ways in which people of faith can begin finding common ground with LGBTQ people in their communities.”

Michael Vazquez, director of the HRC Foundation Religion and Faith Program, said David’s tour is expected to also include evangelical churches, mosques and synagogues.

“As the tour progresses, we will work towards the goal of finding common ground between the LGBTQ community, LGBTQ people of faith and communities of faith, while we work to advance justice and equity for the whole LGBTQ community,” he said in a statement.

The tour comes as the United Methodist Church, one of the nation’s largest Protestant denominations, ponders a breakup in an attempt to end a long-running debate over the status of LGBTQ people in the church.