Episcopal Church bans discrimination against transsexuals

 

Episcopal Church bans discrimination against transsexuals

Author: 

George Conger

“Gender identity and gender expression” have been added as a category of protected classes of personas and behavior for the Episcopal Church.  On 9 July 2012 the House of Deputies adopted resolutions D002 and D019 forbidding discrimination in the employment, ordination and the “life, worship, and governance” of trans-gendered or transsexual persons.
Deputies Sara Lawton of California and Byron Rushing of Massachusetts, who proposed the resolutions, stated their proposals were motivated by an “increased understanding and practice to respect the human dignity of transgender people - transsexuals, and others who differ from majority societal gender norms.”
“Gender identity (one's inner sense of being male or female) and expression (the way in which one manifests that gender identity in the world) should not be bases for exclusion, in and of themselves, from consideration for participation in the ministries of the Church,” the proposers averred.
Speaking in support of Resolution D019, Ms. Lawton stated that she had a transgendered sibling and that some members of her congregation in San Francisco were transgendered.  The Episcopal Church would be “greatly blessed by welcoming” them fully into the life of the church.
Deputy Samuel Gould of Massachusetts urged convention to adopt the resolutions so as to be in tune with the spirit of the age.  Citing a recent survey by the Barna Organization that claimed that 85 per cent of those in their 20s saw churches as being “hypocritical,” Mr. Gould stated “we need not be a hypocritical church” and should “welcome all people.”
A transgendered deputy, the Rev. Carla Robinson of the Diocese of Olympia, urged adoption as well.  “By including gender identity” in the list of protected categories in the canons, “you will rightly name us and put a face on us all.”
The Rev. Charles Holt, Deputy from the Diocese of Central Florida, urged rejection of the resolution.  The Episcopal Church was the “most welcoming” church he knew and he was unsure as to the necessity of the amendment.  However, “laying down the law” on these matters will “only harden the hearts” of those who are prejudiced. 
“To qualify all” in this matter would “harden hearts,” he said.
The Rev. Canon James Lewis, Deputy from South Carolina, said that while “gender identity and expression” may have meaning for the proposers, “to be honest I would be hard pressed to explain the boundary between identity and expression.”
“No explanation of these terms or a theological explanation has been offered,” he said, adding that the arguments put forward by supporters were incoherent and contradictory.  Canon Lewis said that the arguments put forward for the full inclusion of gays and lesbians in the life of the church was that as God had made them that way, and that God did not make mistakes, so the church should not exclude them.
However, the argument put forward by the supporters of the transgendered resolution said in effect that God had made a mistake when he made transgendered people, who by seeking surgery or other means to change their gender were correcting God’s error.
Lay deputies from Connecticut and Kansas who identified themselves as lesbians in their addresses to the House said the LBGT community supported the rights of the transgendered for full inclusion in the church.  Deputy Natalia Vanatta of Kansas said LGBT people “support the trans community as the trans community supports us.”
The Rev. Eric Turner, Deputy from the Diocese of Central Florida, offered an amendment to resolution D019 that would remove “gender identity and expression” from the pertinent canon as well as all other protected classes: race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, disabilities or age.  He said the church “should not have to name all the things” that we dislike, but “deal with people as individuals.”
From a theological and pastoral perspective, it was better to treat people as individuals rather than as members of protected classes and to “welcome all. …  Adding a new minority when it is in vogue or politically correct” to the anti-discrimination list was unwise, he argued.
Mr. Rushing rose in opposition to the amendment, saying that he was “saddened that we need to have a canon” that listed protected classes.  But he was “proud” the Episcopal Church “defines all.”
The Turner amendment was defeated, and both resolutions passed the House on a voice vote.
Reactions from outside the convention have been mixed.  LGBT groups welcomed the changes, but legal scholar Allan Haley noted the convention had not though through the issue.
Transgendered people are “really in a dilemma, if one thinks about it. They say that they cannot let God dictate what they are, by the outward form in which He clothed them at birth; but they also contend that God ordained that they should have equal opportunities for employment throughout the Episcopal Church (USA). In other words: they get to choose (or reserve a decision on) how society must regard them, but all the rest of us cannot choose whether we want them to work for us. The ‘choice,’ in their view, runs only in their favor: heads they win, and tails the rest of us lose.”