Bishop: Religion hampers gay civil rights

April 6, 2009 at 4:57 PM
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ATLANTA, April 6 (UPI) -- Outmoded Western religious beliefs are the biggest obstacle to gay and lesbian civil rights, New Hampshire Episcopal Bishop V. Gene Robinson said.

Robinson's 2003 consecration as the first openly gay bishop in a mainline Christian denomination set off a rift in his church's parent body, the Anglican Communion.

"Let's be honest, most of the discrimination ... has come at the hands of religious people, and the greatest single hindrance to the achievement of full civil rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people can be laid at the doorstep of the three Abrahamic faiths: Christianity, Judaism and Islam," Robinson said in Atlanta at Emory University's Center for the Study of Law and Religion.

Justifying anti-homosexuality laws with presumed moral authority from the Bible's Book of Leviticus -- which says a man "shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination" punishable by death -- ignores that life has changed since 400 B.C., Robinson said.

People today routinely do many other things, from eating shellfish to wearing two kinds of cloth, that Leviticus also labeled abominations, said Robinson.

Humanity's beliefs about God and life have evolved in many ways, but Leviticus's few verses about homosexuality "are quoted as if nothing has changed in our understanding since biblical times," Robinson said.

Robinson called on "religious voices and religious people to undo the harm and devastation" by helping the nation and religious communities to question, if not change their minds about, religious convictions that "we've been very sure about for thousands of years."

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