Nine pastors signed a letter asking that sexual orientation and gender identity be added to the non-discrimination ordinance in Manhattan.
Richard Gehring, co-pastor at Manhattan Mennonite Church, read a letter Tuesday during the Manhattan City Commission meeting to push for employment, housing and public accommodation protections for members of the LGBT community, according to the Manhattan Mercury.
“Now this is a group that feels that the religious voice needs to be heard,” Gehring said. “That makes the case for civil rights for all.”
In 2011, an ordinance was passed by the commission that would have achieved this, but it was appealed before it took effect. There were pastors and clergy in the community who had opposed the ordinance.
“At this point, we’re just adding our voice (to the support),” Gehring said. “Ultimately, it is up to the City Commission to make that change. We are simply hoping to encourage them to do that.”
David Jones, campus pastor of the Ecumenical Campus Ministry, said no one should be valued less than another person.
“There shouldn’t be any second-class citizens,” Jones said. “This has been a persecuted minority population in recent years, and we just want to make sure that they’re welcomed in the community.”
Lukus Ebert, Ecumenical Campus Ministry leadership board member, said that in the past, members of the LGBT community have not been treated the way they deserve. Ebert said that for him, seeing religious figures stepping in gives him optimism for the future.
“It’s kind of a relief to know that the pastors are on the side of LGBT civil rights equality,” Ebert said.
Gehring said that supporting the rights of LGBT members within the Manhattan community is important.
“We may not all agree on questions of morality in regards to LGBT persons and behavior, but we do believe that all should be afforded to the same civil rights regardless of that,” Gehring said.
According to Ebert, these Manhattan clergy members feel the need to speak out on this issue since religion is cited as a justification for discriminatory action against the LGBT community.
“Personally, as a gay man who grew up in the church, it can be really difficult finding your place,” Ebert said. “Frequently, especially growing up for the LGBT community, there was a lot of disappointment and shunning from the church, and so to see this turn around is really awesome and definitely gives myself hope.”
As of this week, three more pastors have signed the letter, and according to Gehring, more may sign in the future.