Episcopal Church, Pro Sports Teams Endorse LGBT Protections

Tampa Bay Rays players have a conference at the pitcher’s mound mid-game. The Rays currently have a 51-39 record, putting them second in the AL East, fourth in the AL overall. / Image Credit: Mariamichelle

As reported last week, more than 200 major US-based companies signed a brief in support of extending workplace non-discrimination protections to LGBT Americans. That US Supreme Court case, Altitude Express v. Zardawill be heard October 8, and involves three combined plaintiffs alleging workplace discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Now, just days later, a wave of added support has followed from business and other groups, forming the broadest coalition to speak out on these issues in recent memory. Two notable examples show just how broad that coalition has become. 

“Stick To Sports!” No.

“No” was the concise answer provided by the Tampa Bay Rays and Rowdies, the Major League Baseball and UCL soccer teams, respectively, both based in Tampa, Florida. In a July 3 article on the Tampa Bay Rays blog at SB Nation, Ashley MacLennan explained the importance of an MLB team adding its voice to the amicus brief supporting LGBT protections under federal law. 

Let’s talk about why this decision matters, and why the Rays and Rowdies should be an example of the rule rather than the exception.

LGBTQ+ people exist. They are citizens. They should have the same rights available to them as anyone else. Any person should not worry that a hospital will not provide her medical assistance when she needs it based on orientation, or be denied housing if he is otherwise completely suited for the rental or purchase due to a “lifestyle.”

By joining the San Francisco Giants, another MLB franchise, “the Rays and Rowdies … are openly saying that they as business owners welcome everyone,” MacLennan writes.

This isn’t the first time the Rays have signed a brief in support of LGBT equality under law either: In 2015, they added their organization to a long list of those in support of marriage equality. In 2016, MacLennan notes, the Rays also “sold $5 tickets to their Pride night with all proceeds going to the Pulse Victims Fund, and gave fans ‘We Are Orlando’ shirts” in the wake of the then-recent Pulse Nightclub shooting.

As the Tampa Bay Times reported, “Rays president Brian Auld said Friday that the memorable 2016 Pride Night game and Friday’s celebration signify the team’s long-term commitment to setting a tone of inclusion.” Their decision last week to sign in support of LGBT workers’ protections marks another example of that commitment.

“Honor the Sacredness, Dignity and Worth and Equality of Each Person”: Episcopal Church Backs LGBT Protections

One day after the Rays reportedly signed in support of LGBT workplace equality, the Episcopal Church issued a powerfully worded press release explaining their own support for extending Title VII to LGBT Americans. The Episcopal Church’s press release quotes several senior leaders who 

emphasized that The Episcopal Church’s support for legal protections for LGBTQ people stems from its understanding of Christian social teaching grounded in the teaching of Jesus.

“The way of love that Jesus taught us is to honor the sacredness, dignity and worth and equality of each person,” said [Presiding Bishop Michael B.] Curry. “We work for the equality and dignity of LGBTQ people because, like the rest of us, they are created in God’s image and likeness.”

“As Christians, we bear a particular responsibility to speak out, because attempts to deny LGBTQ people their dignity and humanity as children of God are too often made in the name of God,” said [President of the House of Deputies the Rev. Gay Clark] Jennings, who was also the lead signer on a religious leaders friend of the court brief in the Supreme Court case on same-sex marriage in 2015. “This way of fear is not the way of Jesus Christ, who teaches us to cast out fear.”

Like the Rays and Rowdies, this is another in a long sequence of the Episcopal Church’s direct advocacy on behalf of LGBT Americans. In addition to their amicus brief in support of same-sex marriage four years ago, they sent another brief in support of trans-inclusive bathroom use policies.

(That case, G.G. v. Gloucester County School Board, was sent back to the lower courts following a change to a key federal policy under President Trump’s Department of Education. According to the ACLU, the next hearing will take place in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, on July 23.)

My initial coverage last week struck a cautious-yet-hopeful tone. As more institutions sign on in support of LGBT workplace equality, from pro-sports franchises and major corporations to religious groups and others, the harder it could be for Supreme Court justices to rationalize excluding LGBT Americans from their rightful protections under federal law. Let’s hope this wave of support keeps rising. 

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