For years, I have been at the forefront of efforts challenging the Salvation Army’s policy on LGBT rights. Through my website, The Bilerico Project, I have pointed out that the Salvation Army has turned away gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people seeking help; and fired some LGBT employees based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
I’ve even seen the discrimination first hand. When a former boyfriend and I were homeless, the Salvation Army insisted we break up before they'd offer assistance. We slept on the street instead and declined to break up as they demanded. After years of encouraging folks to investigate the Salvation Army's past, and to call out their anti-gay policies, we are now closer than ever to convincing the Salvation Army to end a decades-long history of discrimination against LGBT people.
Will you please stand with me and call on the Salvation Army to adopt a nationwide nondiscrimination policy for employees, volunteers and clients, and to apologize for the harm they’ve done to the LGBT community?
The Salvation Army has been the target of LGBT rights activists for over a decade. In 2001, the Salvation Army sought to avoid federal laws requiring them to adhere to local non-discrimination policies inclusive of LGBT people. That same year, the organization actively lobbied to change how the Bush administration would distribute over $24 billion in grants and tax deductions by urging the White House deny funding to any cities or states that included LGBT non-discrimination laws. And in 2004, the Salvation Army threatened to close all their soup kitchens in New York City to protest the city's decision to require all vendors and charities doing business with the city to adhere to all civil rights laws.
This work has put a huge dent in their donations; people don’t want to give money to an organization that doesn’t view LGBT people as equals.
But the Salvation Army has been listening. In meetings they’ve had with me over the years, we know that they’re hearing the concerns of LGBT activists. Earlier this year, the Salvation Army even removed an organization from their website that was renowned for promoting “ex-gay therapy” -- therapy that tells gay people that they need to be cured. They're using more inclusive language in some areas and are offering domestic partner benefits where required by law.
Now it’s time for the Salvation Army to go the entire way, and adopt policies that formally end discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity within the organization, and recognize the hurt they’ve caused LGBT staff, volunteers and clients over the years. The first step to repairing any relationship is an apology. The church teaches that forgiveness leads to salvation. So far, the Army has avoided the one thing that can give it the redemption it seeks.
This holiday season could be the last one where LGBT activists and supporters feel like the red kettles need to be synonymous with homophobia.
Will you please join me in in urging the Salvation Army to apologize and end discrimination once and for all?
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As your church teaches, the road to salvation lies through forgiveness. Without a clear apology from the Salvation Army for its anti-LGBT policies and actions, there can be no healing. The church has apologized and begged forgiveness in nations around the world for everything from attacking LGBT people in New Zealand to supporting apartheid in South Africa. Now it needs to do the same in the United States.
The Salvation Army USA needs to adopt a clear nondiscrimination policy that includes sexual orientation and gender identity for all of your clients, employees, and volunteers. The policy should be uniformly implemented nationwide and be posted prominently where everyone can see it. While an apology is necessary to start the ball rolling, words without action accomplish nothing.
It's time for the Salvation Army to get back to doing what it does best - "doing the most good."