Union Pride joins with local religious institutions for open dialogue

Hayley Newman, Staff Writer

On Monday, May 13 Union Pride arranged an event with religious leaders from the Schenectady and Union communities. Leaders from Union included Campus Protestant Minister Heather Kirk-Davidoff and Director of Hillel Bonnie Cramer. Churches represented from the community were the Unitarian Universalist Church, United Methodist Church and a branch of the American Church of Christ. Students, faculty and religious leaders gathered to discuss the overlaps of religion and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) community. Around 30 people showed up, including members of Greek organizations, to eat food and talk about their experiences and opinions.

Those who identify with the LGBTQ+ community, as well as those who did not, got a chance to share their religious experiences growing up. Former President of Union Pride and active member of the club Sam Fogarty ’19 spoke about his belief that addressing problems between religion and queer people has importance because “within a lot of religions LGBTQ youth suicides are driven by religious intolerance of their identities.” Experiences with regards to LGBTQ+ topics in church ranged from ignorance of the issue to an accepting community. The students with a more accepting experience in their church stated that they would not have stayed in that church if their Parish had not been so accepting. Even though a majority shared the belief that the queer community was treated poorly in their religions, someone commented, “If all progressives remove themselves from the Catholic Church, it will stay conservative.”

The Reverend Dr. Mark Ledbetter of the Eastern Parkway United Methodist Church in Schenectady talked of his religious experience and how he became an activist. He explained that growing up in Alabama during the time period where segregation was very prevalent, led him to be involved with racial activism. From there, he had friends in the queer community who also needed support during that time.

Ledbetter believed in justice for all and to him it “wasn’t just about God.” He spoke on the difference between pride in schools now and when he was in school.

Ledbetter gave advice on how modern pride movements could learn from past ones, saying that the most important factor back then was creating a safe space for queer people.

This still applies today, according to Ledbetter and in addition to safe spaces for queer people and their allies, spaces where people can ask questions and not be judged are needed.

This event was one of a series that has been held by Union Pride in order to bring together groups from around campus and beyond to increase the acceptance of LGBTQ+ students at Union.

With LGBTQ+ rights being discussed both in the US and abroad, the Union Pride group believes that it is important for college students especially to be taking a strong stance toward protecting the rights of the community.