The Washington Post notes that while the annual gay pride parade and festival is now something of a fixture in the District, one thing has changed: the visible and active presence of religious groups, in particular the National Cathedral.
Michelle Boorstein reports:
Churches, synagogues and other faith-based groups are stepping up their outreach to gays and lesbians, part of a general opening of doors that have been firmly shut, including in the U.S. military (which dropped “don’t ask don’t tell” in late 2011) and the Boy Scouts of America (which dropped its ban on openly gay boys last month).
Organizers of this weekend’s Capital Pride named 14 faith-based groups participating in Sunday’s festival for the first time. They include Baptist, Lutheran and Quaker churches as well as the country’s largest Buddhist denomination, a Conservative synagogue and a Mormon advocacy group.
Perhaps the most prominent first in 2013 will be the participation in Saturday’s parade of Washington National Cathedral, the seat of the Episcopal Church and the site of many presidential funerals and major national interfaith gatherings. The Episcopal Church, a small but prominent Protestant denomination, has been generally in favor of gay equality for years but the Cathedral leadership has been raising the bar in the last few months.
While the Cathedral has been a supporter of gay rights for a long time, Boorstien says that the new Dean, Gary Hall, has kicked up a notch.
…[Hall] announced the Cathedral would begin hosting same-sex weddings in its dramatic nave. Last month he hosted the first reception ever in the elegant official-dean digs for the LGBT community, an event attended by nearly 100 advocates and their allies.
His speech there echoes what you often hear from faith groups making a new push: We want to reclaim the mantle of what is truly Godlike.
“Sadly, as many of you no doubt know first-hand, much of the homophobia that exists in our culture is a result of so-called religious teachings, and what certain denominations have been preaching for decades in the name of Christianity,” Hall told the crowd. “I refuse to believe that anyone who has read the whole Bible can miss its message of love and compassion for all of God’s children.”
And what is the reaction to this change?
I met a few young men recently who are devout members of a Dupont Circle area church and who work a booth at the Pride festival each year for the congregation. They told me festival-goers are still very moved by seeing houses of worship coming to the gay community. Touched, but also sometimes wary.
“For many it was the club they could never go to,” said Jeff Wells, who works a booth for All Soul’s Episcopal and is gay. “We get a lot of: ‘Wow, you’re here!’ They may come from a part of the country where this would never happen.”
Wells has been going to Pride events in Washington since the mid-1980s.
“In the past it wasn’t the denomination or the congregation, it was some small group [of that faith] saying: ‘Don’t be so closed!’” Wells said. “Now you’ve got the bishop, the head of the Reform [Jewish] congregation, the whomever marching there with them. Now it’s not the agitators trying to change from the far outer edge. Now you have the head of the institution there.”