LGBT Activists Hold Two-day Vigil Outside Archbishop’s Office

Protesters urge Vatican to sign United Nations Declaration on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: April 22, 2009
For Immediate Release
Contact: Carlos Perez de Alejo, Media Director
Cell: (321) 948-3423 Email: carlos@soulforce.org
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(New York, NY)- Beginning on Wednesday, April 22, members of Soulforce and its allies will hold a two-day vigil outside the office of Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Vatican’s Ambassador to the United Nations, to encourage the Vatican to sign the UN Declaration on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, which protects the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people.

The historic declaration, drafted by France and the Netherlands on behalf of the European Union, condemns “human rights violations based on sexual orientation or gender identity wherever they occur, in particular the use of the death penalty” and “arbitrary arrest or detention and deprivation of economic, social and cultural rights.” Indeed, being gay or lesbian is still illegal in nearly 80 countries and subject to the death penalty in at least seven. 

French Minister of Human Rights and Foreign Affairs Rama Yade initiated the effort in early 2008 to craft a declaration in defense of LGBT people, and on December 18, 2008, Ambassador Jorge Arg塚ィヘ妺契ello of Argentina read the first declaration on LGBT rights in the General Assembly.

While nearly 70 of the 192 member countries of the UN have signed the declaration, including the United States, many remain opposed to the statement.  Archbishop Migliore was among the first to criticize the declaration, claiming it could be used to pressure countries to recognize same-sex marriage.

“If adopted,” said Migliore, “they would create new and implacable discriminations.  For example, states which do not recognize same-sex unions as ‘matrimony’ will be pilloried and made an object of pressure.”

Soulforce sent a letter to the Archbishop in New York City, calling on him to take a personal stand against the denigration of LGBT people and to work with the Vatican on respecting the human rights of everyone.  For nearly a decade Soulforce has challenged the Roman Catholic Church to adhere to the value of inclusion, and on April 22 they will continue that challenge.

The vigil in New York City will coincide with similar actions in solidarity with Soulforce’s demands in Little Rock, AR; Dallas, Tx; Phoenix, AZ; Detroit, MI; Los Angeles, CA; and New Haven, CT. 

“We want to remind the Vatican,” notes Haven Herrin of Soulforce, “that the only path to justice is dignity and respect for all people.”

Soulforce is a national civil rights and social justice organization. Our vision is freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from religious and political oppression through the practice of relentless nonviolent resistance. For more information, visit www.soulforce.org

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Equality Riders Face Trial in Waxahachie, Tx

LGBT Activists Refuse to Apologize for Challenging Discriminatory Practices of Southwestern Assemblies of God University

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SOULFORCE PRESS RELEASE: April 8, 2009
For Immediate Release
Contact: Katie Higgins, Director of Operations
Cell: (843) 259-8876 Email: katie@soulforce.org
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(Waxahachie, Tx) — On Wednesday, April 8, three young adults will face trail on trespassing charges from Southwestern Assemblies of God University (SAGU).  The young men were part of the Equality Ride, a national bus tour that promotes safety and inclusion for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students on faith-based campuses across the country.

Members of the Equality Ride, 16 in all, arrived at SAGU on October 29, 2008, in the hopes of attending a chapel service to initiate dialogue on faith and equality for LGBT students.  Upon their arrival, the Riders were stopped by security and escorted to an empty parking lot at the entrance of the campus, where they were given an official warning not to enter SAGU by a university spokesperson.  Insisting on joining students at the chapel, three Riders, all of whom identify as Christian, ignored the warning and attempted to enter campus.  Police on the scene promptly arrested Manny Lampon, 22, of New York, NY; Zak Rittenhouse, 21, of Lynchburg, VA; and Nicholas Rocco De Finis, 22, of Philadelphia, PA.

After the arrest, the remaining Riders stood in silent vigil on the perimeter of campus until Scott Camp, Dean of Students at SAGU, greeted them along with other student leaders and some university staff.  Camp expressed sympathy for the Riders feelings of exclusion, yet remained staunchly behind the universities decision to keep them off campus, repeatedly saying, “This is where we’re at.” As Camp engaged members of the Equality Ride on the periphery of campus, members of the SAGU community stood watching on the other side.

“In a very real sense, we were divided and distant from Southwestern delegates,” said Jarrett Lucas, Co-Director of the Equality Ride. “Administrators had decided that property and policy were more important than people. And to enforce that judgment, they called upon the local police.”

SAGU officials agreed to drop the charges on the condition that Soulforce Q, the organization that put together the Equality Ride, and the defendants, agree never to come back to the university uninvited and apologize for their actions.  Both Soulforce Q and the defendants have refused to apologize.   

“I didn’t join the Equality Ride to be arrested,” noted Lampon.  “I joined to shine light on the injustice that many LGBT students face on campuses like SAGU.”

Soulforce Q is the young adult division of Soulforce, a social justice organization that works to end political and religious oppression of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people through relentless nonviolent resistance. For more information, go to www.equalityride.org.

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