With each new year we have the opportunity to take stock of how we can personally make an impact on the causes we care about. And this year, with the inauguration of a new administration and a breakthrough in the tragedy of the pandemic in sight, I feel a great sense of hope.
This year I feel especially called by my faith to ensure that my community is a safe place to live, work, and raise a family for everyone. I am resolving to do everything in my power to bring Michigan, and the United States, closer to a vision of justice, inclusion, and freedom for all.
That’s why one of my first decisions of 2021 was to join more than 200 other faith leaders from across Michigan in signing a public letter declaring strong support for LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination protections. I am honored to add my name to the long list of faith leaders from every corner of the state, because it is well past time for Michigan to be a place where everyone can thrive, no matter who they are.
Michigan is one of 29 states where LGBTQ people are not fully protected from discrimination in many spheres of life, including housing, health care, and public spaces. That lack of protections leaves our LGBTQ friends, family members, and neighbors vulnerable to discrimination. Now, with a pro-equality majority in both chambers of the U.S. Congress and in the White House, we have the rare opportunity to codify comprehensive protections at the federal level, and there’s no time to waste. It’s time to pass federal nondiscrimination protections once and for all.
This issue is personal for me, of course. I‘ve served as the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan since February 2020, becoming the first lesbian priest elected bishop in this diocese since our founding in 1836. I am also the first female LGBTQ person anywhere in the country to lead a diocese in the Episcopal Church.
But aside from my own identity, I believe the mission of protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination gets right to the heart of our central work as humans and Christians. I understand that the decision to accept, support, and ultimately advocate for LGBTQ people is not always an easy conclusion. I’ve spoken with many people who have struggled to understand their LGBTQ family members and reconcile their deep love with their many years of religious upbringing. But I want to be clear that when we take action to protect the most vulnerable among us — including lesbian, gay and transgender people who are so frequently marginalized through no fault of their own — we are declaring that we will lead with love, with kindness, with compassion.
Now more than ever, our national community needs to heal. And to heal, we must be reminded that we are all connected, and that it is both our responsibility and in our power to improve our communities by ensuring all of our neighbors are cared for.
For decades the faith community across the United States has had an intense and productive conversation about lesbians, gay men and transgender people. It wasn’t so long ago that seeing a member of the clergy or any other person of faith speak out about their support for LGBTQ equality was a rarity — and look at where we are now: More than 200 prominent faith leaders across Michigan speaking out and calling for an end to anti-LGBTQ discrimination.
This letter is a commitment from all of us to keep pushing forward for LGBTQ freedom and dignity, and that change is possible in 2021: Public support for LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections is higher than ever, with 72 percent of Americans saying they support protections, and a majority of the country voting to elect one of the most vocally pro-LGBTQ presidential candidates of our time. That gives me great hope for what’s possible.
This is my prayer for 2021: That Michiganders and Americans across the nation will take the time to consider their own journeys, deliver grace to their neighbors, and work toward a future where all people, including LGBTQ people, have the space to live free from discrimination and oppression.
The Rt. Rev. Dr. Bonnie A. Perry is the 11th Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan.