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Gay Catholics Work to Stop Hate Crimes

"Solidarity Sunday is just what we need to help stop hate crimes against lesbians and gay men!"
— From an anonymous letter

Washington, DC — October 1, 1998 — DignityUSA, an organization of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Catholics and their friends, announces the fourth annual observance of Solidarity Sunday on October 4, 1998.

DignityUSA established the observance of Solidarity Sunday in 1995 when it was decided to invite the vast majority of Americans who support civil rights for lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender persons to demonstrate their solidarity by wearing a short piece of rainbow ribbon and take the Solidarity Pledge. The Solidarity Pledge asks all people to work for civil and human rights for all people. Stop jokes and unkind language about anyone. Speak out against any slander, debasement, lies, and dehumanization of anyone, especially when spoken by religious or political leaders. Work to end verbal and physical abuse against anyone, including gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender persons.

It is expected that over 100,000 people will observe Solidarity Sunday this year. Since its inception in 1995, Solidarity Sunday has reached almost 400,000 people.

Commenting on why every person of faith needs to participate in Solidarity Sunday, DignityUSA President Robert F. Miailovich said, "Solidarity Sunday sends a very clear message that all hate crimes, especially those that are inspired by a distorted understanding of religion, have no place in our society. The men and women whose language of intolerance leads to hate crimes need to know that their views are not shared by the majority of women and men of faith." Miailovich went on to say, "Solidarity Sunday is our best hope for seeing an end to religiously inspired hate crimes."

Marianne T. Duddy, co-chair of the Solidarity Sunday Project commenting on the need for Solidarity Sunday said, "Following the February vote in Maine to repeal lesbian and gay civil rights, a man was brutally beaten. The campaign that led to that repeal was financed and coordinated by radical, religious conservatives. The language of that campaign is the same language that can inspire someone to attack a lesbian or gay man simply because of their sexual orientation."

Violence against men and women based on their sexual orientation or gender identity continues in our country. For several years, it has been documented that when anti-gay rhetoric increases, so does anti-gay crime. Newsweek reported that while overall crime in the United States decreased by 3% in 1997, anti-gay crime increased by 4%. It is important to note that hate crimes are not limited to rural and suburban areas, and that urban areas like have witnessed a serious increase in anti-gay crime.

Organizations participating again this year include Dignity and PFLAG chapters, Catholic, Episcopal, Unitarian, Methodist, Baptist, Metropolitan Community Churches, United Churches of Christ, and other churches. Several college and university organizations are joining in as well, including those at Misericordia College, Georgetown University, Gannon University, and many others.

Letters of support and endorsement have been received from President Clinton, Vice-president Gore and members of the United States Congress, New Ways Ministry, Gays and Lesbians Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) and Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG). In addition, New Hampshire governor Jean Sheehan has proclaimed October 4 Solidarity Sunday in the State of New Hampshire.

DignityUSA, founded in 1969, is the nation's largest organization of Catholic lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, and transgender persons, and their loved ones, families and friends.

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