The U.S. State Department hosted a Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom from July 24 to 27, 2018 in Washington, D.C. A coalition of LGBTQIA faith leaders and human rights activists were present at the summit to bring voice to the needs and concerns of their communities regarding religious practice, social equality, freedom, and human & civil rights.

During the morning session of the summit on Wednesday, July 25, a representative of the Alliance Defending Freedom made comments that LGBTQIA and other attendees experienced as homophobic and needed to be challenged. Several faith leaders spoke eloquently in response; here are my comments made during the closing plenary.

Good afternoon Ambassador and esteemed colleagues:

I feel I must respond to the disturbing comments made in the morning plenary against the beautiful lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community of which I am a part and on whose behalf I am here.

These comments reflect the religious persecution our community continues to face globally in 74 countries where LGBT people are criminalized,14 countries where we face the death penalty, and in this country [the United States] where we still face more hate crimes than any other group, where children are disowned, and have extraordinary rates of suicide, all as a result of religiously based persecution and extreme violence.

Even here, at this ministerial, where LGBT people are official delegates, we are subjected to this kind of hateful speech.

Please know, sisters and brothers, that no persecutory religion will ever take away our faith or separate us from the love of God.

We will always fight for our global community’s right to life, our right to love, for our universal human rights, and for our families to be safe and celebrated.

I truly hope that all of you with anti-LGBT sentiments in your hearts will recognize that it truly hurts us, but it also hurts you, for you can never gain religious freedom by violating the religious and human rights of others.

This freedom we seek can only come from love, acceptance, and from living the golden rule, which all religions share.

Thank you.

Photos courtesy of Michael Adee: (1) State Department summit attendees in session; (2) LGBTQ faith leaders in attendance included Michael Adee, Naomi Washington-Leapheart, Patricia Ackerman, Omair Paul, and Jim Merritt.