July 8, 2015 at 12:07 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
‘Putting the Religious Right on notice’
Americans United for Separation of Church and State, gay news, Washington Blade, Protect Thy Neighbor

Rev. Barry W. Lynn (Photo by Tim Ritz; courtesy Americans United)

Americans United for Separation of Church and State launched a new initiative on Tuesday that it says will fight the “growing idea that ‘religious freedom’ gives people a right to thwart marriage equality for LGBT Americans.”

At a news conference at the National Press Club, Americans United’s top three leaders said the group’s new ‘Protect Thy Neighbor’ project would also challenge efforts by the religious right to deny women access to reproductive care and use taxpayer dollars to discriminate.

“Same-sex couples may have won the right to marry, but that doesn’t mean that extreme fundamentalist zealots who oppose any expansion of LGBT rights are going to sit by quietly,” said Rev. Barry W. Lynn, an attorney who serves as executive director of Americans United.

“In fact, we know what’s coming,” said Lynn. “They will try to erect as many barriers as possible on the road to true equality. It’s an immature reaction, yes, but that doesn’t mean it won’t get traction.”

Lynn was joined at the news conference by Maggie Garrett, Americans United’s legislative director; and Gregory Lipper, the group’s litigation counsel. The three said the new project would be a three-pronged effort to challenge so-called religious freedom advocates seeking to take away rights.

They said the project will fight proposed discriminatory laws in state legislatures and in Congress as well as through litigation and legal work and through public education.

“Emboldened by the Supreme Court’s 2014 ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores and indignant over the high court’s recent ruling in the marriage equality case, legislators across the country are introducing bills that would undermine marriage equality, trump non-discrimination laws, and deny women access to reproductive healthcare — all in the name of religion,” Garrett said at the news conference.

Lipper said that if Americans United and its allied groups aren’t able to block discriminatory legislation, he and his legal team will challenge those laws in court. He pointed to successful efforts in the 1960s to challenge businesses such as restaurants that used ‘religious beliefs’ to refuse service to African Americans.

“But now, we’re seeing bakers, florists, T-shirt makers, and even pizzerias and DJs, argue that their religion allows them to discriminate against same-sex couples,” Lipper said. “We will continue to argue in court that businesses do not have the right to tell customers that ‘we don’t serve your kind.’”

Lynn said the Protect Thy Neighbor project, which can be accessed at protectthyneighbor.org, is aimed at attracting a diverse range of Americans “regardless of where and if they worship, no matter their political beliefs, their gender, their age or who they love.”

“With Protect Thy Neighbor, we are putting the Religious Right on notice,” he said. “Your politics of division, homophobia and exclusion will not stand.”

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

  • Religion has always been the enemy of LGBTs. It is the main reason quoted and the justification most often given by homophobes. I still wonder why any gay man or lesbian is still a Christian, or a Muslim or a Mormon. WHY? For an alternative, consider Humanism.

    • Did you see the recent poll results showing that members of three religions are MORE supportive on the topic of marriage equality than are atheists and agnostics? All religions are not the same. That is why many LGBT folks are still involved with a faith community.

      • Tad,, your claim is so extrordinary that I must doubt its veracity. until you can cite the source. I would say that ALL atheists and agnistics ( and Humanists) are and always have been supportive of LGBT and same-sex marriage. THis cannot be said of Christians, Muslims, Mormons.

        • Yes it is extraordinary. but quite real. I will search the web and find it for you. And you must be joking to think all atheists and agnostics share that view or any view on anything, other than theology/religion.

        • Here ya go Slowe11. I saw it shared on Facebook last week by a Frederick (MD) gay group. There are two graphs, the second of which shows 3 religions being more accepting of homosexuality in general and those stats were blended into the results in the first graph of reactions made post the SCOTUS ruling. I misspoke in remembering it wrong, a week later, and that it was two religions polling ahead of atheists in the first graph and three religions polling ahead of atheists & agnostics polled separately in the second graph. But you can see the point. It was surprising to me – but is also consistent with the very progressive views that I know some people of faith hold on the subject. http://tobingrant.religionnews.com/2015/06/30/ranking-churches-on-acceptance-of-homosexuality-plus-their-reactions-to-scotus-ruling/

          • Ted, this article does not dismiss my claim and certainly hardly supports yours. The two “religions” above the Atheists & Agnostics are UUs and Jews. Remember my question: “why any gay man or lesbian is still a Christian, or a Muslim or a Mormon.” UUs are not color coded as Christian and in fact many are atheists or agnostics. I have been in the Humanist movement for 15 years and never met one that was anti LGBT rights. Note that most, and by far, the largest religions are lowest in this list. It is the exception for a church/religion to support LGBT and even for those that now do, it has only been in the last 10 years or so. For THOUSANDS of years, we were kill, and demeaned by Christians, and they are still the biggest opposition to our rights today. And have any of them even asked for OUR forgiveness?

          • Well then your mind is made up isn’t it? You asked for the source and I provided it. Now you are parsing with “what is a Christian”? And dismissing Jews as if your argument wasn’t clearly geared against all people of faith. So now you’re admitting that those of the Reform branch of Judaism are indeed capable of meeting your standards of what is accepting enough of LGBT issues ? Believe it or not, everyone of faith is not the enemy of all things good nor are all that choose not to believe by default in support of the rights of all.

        • We choose to be that’s why. Those folks have nothing to do with my relationship with God.

  • Good luck. Everyone gets to decide which “beliefs” are “deeply held” for them and trying to pry someone off of the perch they’re clinging to, based on your own version of beliefs, should be interesting.

    • My simple question is: why would anyone remain a member of an organization that is and has been opposed to our acceptance. Organizations That have motivated hate and our deaths? It is like asking why the Log Cabin Republicans have any members, or like why to do some African-Americans wave the Confederate flag. What are they thinking? OF course everyone gets to decide. But should they not, perhaps reconsider that choice?

    • Your concern is easily addressed. The LDS Church stopped discriminating against black men in its priesthood when President Carter told it that if it didn’t stop discriminating, its tax exempt status would be revoked. All of a sudden, the Mormons’ “deeply held religious convictions” of white supremacy weren’t so deep.

  • I used to be overweight. For any ladies having trouble with losing weight, I recommend reading http://inersche.com/2015/03/29/the-venus-factor-a-review/ a review of a weight loss program called The Venus Factor. This program focuses on a hormone called “leptin” that is more concentrated in women. I can’t stress enough that women should try this before wasting her money on things that don’t work. It changed my life..

  • It is time to write religious exemptions out of the tax code and all of our laws leaving only “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” Reason: States get block grants that they turn around and use to fund all kinds of religious nonsense like reparative therapy centers, fake abortion clinics, religious schools, religious hospices, hospitals and clinics, homeless shelters, adoption centers, etc. Religion is so pervasive throughout our federal and state funding system that they get 90 Billion Dollars a year in write offs.
    My greatest point being that in all of these venues LGBT continue to be discriminated against WITH OUR OWN TAX MONEY. It’s not just disturbing, it’s unfair, irrational, and goes against MY DEEPLY HELD BELIEFS that my money shouldn’t be spent on religious discrimination in providing services to the public.

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