Submitted by Rev. Sean Savoy
We have begun the month of June, observed as Pride Month by the LGBTQ+ community. Pride Season is a time recognized popularly as a global period of merriment punctuated by colorful displays, music and dancing in the streets. At this time precisely, we take time to remember, to see beyond the images of rainbows, unicorns and scantily clad revelers to a far more serious scene, one that jogs the memory and stirs the heart.
While on the surface these celebrations brim with prideful and free‐flowing self‐expression, we dare not forget that the origins of these celebrations are rooted in pain and suffering, discrimination and violence. Let us remember that Pride Month began some 50 years ago to observe the Stonewall Riots, the origins of the Gay Liberation Movement, when minority transgender activists like Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera stood up to lead the charge.
The Stonewall Uprising, as it is also known, was the result of ceaseless harassment, discrimination and police brutality against our community. That brutality reached a fever pitch at the Stonewall Inn in New York City on June 28, 1969, leading to six days of protests and violent clashes with law enforcement.
Among the leaders of those impassioned and embattled days and nights were many black activists and community members without whom the LGBTQ+ community would not be able today to celebrate 50+ years of activism, solidarity and pride. We remember that it was a community together, acting in solidarity and under protest, that provided the hard‐won freedom to celebrate. While the struggle for equality for and in the LGBTQ+ community continues, we have been emboldened and inspired by our black brothers and sisters in the Movement.
As a coalition of “welcoming and affirming” religious congregations, spiritual groups and religious leaders, NiCE advocates for the religious liberty and spiritual freedom of LGBTQ+ people in particular, but also of all people who are seeking equal representation as human beings with equal spiritual worth and value.
We do not tolerate any form of religious persecution or discrimination; and we do not condone the use of religion to harm, hinder, suppress, repress or oppress any person in search of a spiritual life or connection. We most adamantly do not condone the misuse of religion for institutional or personal gain or as a tool or weapon to incite violence, stir unrest or divide people along any lines ‐‐ be they religious, political, economic, ethnic, racial, sexual or otherwise.
Too often, in efforts to keep the proverbial peace or in attempts to remain outside the fray of the mundane, religious institutions and spiritual leaders fail to step forward to steer the rudder of decency. For fear of rocking the boat or of governmental or societal retaliation, there is failure to recalibrate the moral compass of the community. Spiritual teachers have warned against such apathy, often experiencing its danger at risk to their own lives.
We are in a time of crisis. Now is not the time to feign righteous immunity. Now is the time to stand up and speak loudly to decry all acts or messages – including political ones – that either incite or justify discrimination, anger and violence. By so doing, we do not disrespect the separation of church and state; we honor it. The intrinsic worth of every person and of the nation as a whole must be considered sacred and primary above all else.
It is incumbent upon this coalition to call upon our nation’s leaders, most especially the President of these United States, to cease from any word or deed, publicly or privately expressed, that supports or promotes in any way violence, racism, xenophobia, misogyny, homophobia and transphobia, or any other form of discrimination. In light of this plea, we denounce and condemn the weaponizing of religion by any person, including the President, to serve wrongdoing instead of righteousness, injustice in favor of justice, domination over inclusion.
It is impossible to foster peace when fear rules the day or the night, informs the heart or the hand, or governs the people or the land. Only love has the power to bring peace. Real love cannot do its work when it is relegated to the position of an afterthought or a convenient side effect of some other hidden agenda.
We are on the eve of the anniversary of the Orlando Pulse Nightclub massacre, the intentional horrific killing of LGBTQ+ people of color. We are in the midst of Pride Month when we honor the sacrifices and remember the senseless deaths of far too many LGBTQ+ activists and allies, including countless people of color.
We are facing the ongoing challenges of exposing and routing out a painful history of racial discrimination against our black community. We are in the throes of a pandemic, the likes of which has not been seen for a century. And we are in an economic crisis not experienced since the Great Depression.
In consideration of the aforementioned, we stand with conviction, insisting that the nation’s leaders be motivated by love, first and foremost, for the health of our people and the healing of our Union in these times of moral distress and indignation.
Rev. Sean Savoy is the Founder‐Director of NiCE, the Nevada Interfaith Coalition for Equality & Inclusion. He is a leading advocate and figure in northern Nevada’s LGBTQ+ community.
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