In 2008 in California, many leaders of the Mormon, Catholic and Evangelical churches lobbied successfully for the passage of Proposition 8, a law that would define marriage as being between a man and a woman and would make same sex marriages illegal. Though several Catholics, Mormons and Evangelicals spoke out for LGBT rights and against the passage of Proposition 8, a majority of Catholics, Mormons, and Evangelicals in 2008 voted for Proposition 8. Six years later, in 2014, a huge change has taken place in the opinions of many Catholics, Mormons and Evangelicals about marriage equality and LGBT rights. Recent polls have found that 58% of American Catholics now support marriage equality and LGBT rights. Though 70% of older white Evangelicals are holding firm against LGBT rights, around 50% of younger Evangelicals now support same-sex marriage and LGBT rights. Around 32% of Utah’s Mormons think same-sex couples should be allowed to get state-issued marriage licenses, and 65 percent say they should be permitted to form civil unions or domestic partnerships. One of the groups that are leading the charge in these denominations for changing attitudes on gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people have been the parents of LGBT Christians.
Many of these parents initially had trouble adjusting to the fact that their child was gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. Several Christian parents have kicked out their children from their homes or disavowed them. A growing number of Christian parents, however, have adjusted to their children’s sexuality after a period of time and have learned that what their churches taught about homosexuality did not jibe with what they knew about their children. These parents have grown with their children in understanding about LGBT issues, and many of them have become leading advocates of marriage equality and other LGBT issues. They have also pushed their churches to respect the dignity and value of their children and other LGBT individuals, both inside the church and outside.
If a person knows a family member, a friend, or an employee who is gay or lesbian, that person is a lot more likely to support LGBT rights than someone who does not know an LGBT individual. This is one of the reasons that Harvey Milk pushed for gays and lesbians to come out to their friends, family members and to the people around them. When someone knows an LGBT individual, a lot of myths and stereotypes get broken and they realize that the prejudices against gays and lesbians are false. Milk said in a speech:
Gay brothers and sisters,… You must come out. Come out… to your parents… I know that it is hard and will hurt them but think about how they will hurt you in the voting booth! Come out to your relatives… come out to your friends… if indeed they are your friends. Come out to your neighbors… to your fellow workers… to the people who work where you eat and shop… come out only to the people you know, and who know you. Not to anyone else. But once and for all, break down the myths, destroy the lies and distortions. For your sake. For their sake. For the sake of the youngsters who are becoming scared by the votes from Dade to Eugene.
Straight people who advocate LGBT rights have to come out in public as well as gays and lesbians. Christian parents of LGBT children have played leading roles in the recent fights in Catholic institutions that have been firing LGBT employees, in the fight to accept gay and lesbian clergy, in the fight to change church doctrines on homosexuality.
Many of these parents and friends have joined PFLAG a group of parents, family, friends, and straight allies united in the fight for LGBT rights. The idea for PFLAG began in 1972 when Jeanne Manford marched with her son, Morty, in a gay pride parade in New York. After many gay and lesbian people ran up to Jeanne during the parade and begged her to talk to their parents, she decided to begin a support group. The first formal meeting took place on March 26, 1973 at the Metropolitan-Duane Methodist Church in Greenwich Village. Similar groups sprang up around the country for parents with gay and lesbian children, and the group expanded to include friends and allies. Currently PFLAG has over 200,000 members and supporters, and local affiliates in more than 350 communities across the U.S. and abroad.
PFLAG has publications and support groups that can be of use for Christian parents, friends and relatives of LGBT individuals. One pamphlet Faith In Our Families is designed to facilitate talk among parents, relatives, and friends about religion, the faith community and LGBT issues. The PFLAG Faith Field Guide is helpful for groups to know how to best serve people of faith.
PFLAG also has a list of pro-LGBT faith groups that are specific to Christians, Jews, Muslims, and other faith traditions. Straight for Equality, a group for straight people who want to contribute to the fight for LGBT equality, has a pamphlet called Be Not Afraid: Straight for Equality for Faith Communities that has suggestions on ways allies can help fight for equality for LGBT individuals.
Here are some articles for Christian parents of LGBT children:
Dear Moms and Dads, A Letter to Christian Parents of LGBT Youth by Kathy Baldock
Story of a Listening Parent by Joan Abele
Our Children’s “Coming Out Stories” by Artemae Anderson
Fortunate Families Founders Feted for Ministry to Catholic Parents of LGBT People from the New Ways Ministry website
Here are two youtube videos of Catholic parents of LGBTQ children discussing their journeys in discovering, accepting and affirming their child’s sexual orientation
A youtube video of Mormon Parents of Gay Children Speak Out On Their Behalf
A 2008 youtube video of Claudia Bradshaw, a Mormon mother of a gay son and the founder of the southern Utah PFLAG chapter, speaking out in a candle light vigil in St. George, Utah. The vigil was organized to show support and love for the gay and lesbian community in light of negativity expressed toward gays and lesbians by the Mormon Church and other Christian organizations
A youtube video that describes PFLAG Tennessee
A youtube video of PFLAG New York City
Rachel Maddow talks about the story Jeanne Manford and the founding of PFLA
In 2002, PFLAG San Francisco hosted Jeanne Manford and her daughter, Suzanne. Jeanne recounts her story with her son and the founding of PFLAG