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Religious Issues Highlighted at 2009 Creating Change Conference

With 60 daytime temperatures in Denver the weekend of January 28, 2008 to February 1, 2009, you’d expect that most people would be outside enjoying the promise of spring. However, over 2,500 people spent those glorious days in hotel meeting rooms, immersed in skill-building sessions designed to help them take their place as leaders of the LGBTQ movement in the years to come. The intensity and focus of the mostly twenty- and early thirty-somethings attending the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) 2009 Creating Change Conference, and the movement leaders presenting sessions on a vast array of topics, were palpable, positive and inspiring. The new opportunities signaled by the election of President Obama and analysis of what can be learned from the unsuccessful campaign to defeat California’s Proposition 8 were the major themes, but many other issues were examined as well.

Religious themes and identity were among the most highly charged topics, in plenary sessions, workshops, and informal discussions throughout the weekend. During the session I presented on “Mobilizing Pro-LGBTQ Catholics,” it was clear that many younger gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Catholics had experienced personal rejection by members of our Church, and had a great longing to find a spiritual home where they could embrace their Catholic culture. Both the pain and longing were raw and intense. Some spoke of the joy of parishes that welcomed all fully, and others told of having harsh and hurtful things yelled at them by other Catholics marching in New York’s St. Patrick’s Day parade as they stood on the sidelines protesting the exclusion of gay community contingents from the parade.

As I gathered with leaders from other religious organizations at a meeting of the National Religious Leadership Roundtable, it was clear that this experience had been echoed in sessions across denominations throughout the conference. We also shared a sense that the voices of people of faith were too often absent during key discussions of priorities and strategies in the larger LGBT justice movement. The Leadership group sent a motion to the convention floor advocating that faith leaders need to be part of any conversations of movement leaders who were planning overall political/civil rights strategy. It was quite exciting to see faith groups come together to celebrate our contri- butions and value.

During the Creating Change weekend, I also had the opportunity to gather with a small group of friends of former DignityUSA Board member Bob Lohrentz to mark the second anniversary of his death. It was a privilege to honor Bob’s leadership and legacy with those who knew him best. In fact, since Bob’s very generous bequest to DignityUSA is part of what made my participation in the Creating Change conference possible, it was quite fitting to be part of this memorial celebration.