The American Humanist Association has a track record of being on the right side of history. It’s always been a strong supporter of women’s equality, an advocate for racial quality, and an ally to the LGBT community. The American public is catching up; last week, the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) released a study that found 71 percent of Americans support laws that protect LGBT individuals from discrimination in the workplace or in housing and assistance programs. While there’s still a long way to go, winning over the majority is a great accomplishment for the LGBT community. It wasn’t long ago that homosexuality was considered either a mental illness, a perversion, or a sexual deviation.
As a supporter of the LGBT community for the seventy-five years of our existence as an organization, we at the American Humanist Association are excited to see this kind of progress. But the truth is, it’s bittersweet. The very idea that there is a group of people in need of protection simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity is in itself an alarming reality. Since AHA’s founding in 1941, it has been challenging the very institutions that promote LGBT hate, abuse, and discrimination.
While the AHA’s main focus has traditionally been on the protection of constitutional rights and the separation of church and state, our relationship with the LGBT community was inevitable. After all, some of the greatest opponents of homosexuality come from conservative religious communities. White, black, and Hispanic Protestants and Jehovah’s Witnesses make up the majority of the opposition to LGBT protection laws today. Efforts to push LGBT individuals out of neighborhoods, deny them entertainment, food, or retail services, and blocking them from employment opportunities or healthcare are just a few examples of how religion has historically used the word of their respective gods to exile the LGBT community.
The AHA formalized its support for the LGBT movement in 1976 with a public statement entitled, “T ,” a document that solidified our support and place within the LGBT movement. With the establishment of the LGBTQ Humanist Council in 2009, AHA dedicated a piece of the organization to programmatic work to advance the LGBT community. And with the help of our adjunct the Appignani Humanist Legal Center, we can do even more in our efforts to support legal protections for all individuals. Every year, AHA chapters and affiliates participate in LGBT pride celebrations across the country. Countless press releases, calls to action, and our legislative work show our dedication to this cause.
As with all social injustices, the American Humanist Association feels a moral obligation to empower and support the LGBT community. No one can define another’s love and no one can define another person’s sexuality. Religious standards of romantic relationships are outdated and harmful. That is why we are, and always have been, here to support the LGBT community.