Category Archives: Religious Allies

Intelligent Impassioned Catholic Voice for LGBT Equality

Pat Gozemba
Would like you all to check out the FreeCatholic808 blog of my friend and ally, Dawn Webster. Here is one of her recent blogs on a “local girl,” Connie Florez–a long time LGBT activist.

Let Love Prevail

February 9, 2011

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. John 1:4-8

Connie Florez, Director/Producer and supporter of civil unions in Hawaii

Connie Florez is the founder and CEO of Hula Girl Productions and the director/producer of several award-winning films that perpetuate the stories of the past through the digital technology of the present.

Yesterday she told her own story in under two minutes, in person. The cameras in the State Capitol auditorium were trained on her as she stood at the podium to testify in front of the Hawaii House Judiciary Committee in support of civil unions legislation.

She spoke with love and pride about the diversity of her inclusive extended family, of growing up in Hilo and going to St.Joseph’s.

Connie & siblings after church: memories of a Catholic childhood

She spoke of her gay brother, his long committed relationship with his partner and their four successful children, three college-educated, one in the military.

She spoke of being an Aunty to 26 nieces and nephews.

She spoke of family gatherings where all were welcome, whatever their ethnic heritage or their sexual orientation.

She spoke of how she and her sister cared for their mother in her final years before she died.

A Hilo family where all are welcome.

Her voice was heard in an auditorium where other voices were also raised by those who would perpetuate the past by preserving old prejudices and sustaining old inequalities.

To those who would deny LGBT families equal rights under the law, Connie said: “Let love prevail. “

Bill Corona Florez and Genevieve Florez, parents of Connie

She spoke of the Catholic values she was raised with, many of which she still holds dear. But holding up her mother’s wedding ring, she said: “My mother also hoped I would someday be able to use this. To have what she had had.”

In supporting civil unions in Hawaii, Connie Florez asked for nothing more than what anyone hopes for: “To love the one you are with.”

Hawaii legislators appear ready to listen to what she and other advocates had to say. The civil unions bill has passed its second reading in the Hawaii House of Representatives and has been tabled for a third reading, expected this Friday.

See the great photos for this article and check out other posts on: FreeCatholic808

Faith Ally Speaks Out on Religion and Government

The LGBT civil rights movement in Hawaii has constantly been blocked by Christian evangelicals and the Catholic Church. This unholy alliance that prevents LGBT people from full citizenship is being unmasked by courageous faith leaders who take the risk of speaking truth to power in this small island community.

In a culture where “the nail that stands out, gets pounded down” we still have brave leaders like retired Lutheran minister the Rev. Jory Watland. His letter appeared in the Honolulu Star Bulletin on March 30, 2010. Thank you Rev. Watland!

Keep religion out of politics

It was very upsetting to see the article by Richard Borreca headlined “Broadcaster Robertson speaks highly of Duke Aiona on ‘700 Club'” (Star-Bulletin, March 21). I was very disappointed to see Mr. Borreca give credence to any of the content of a talk show, to treat the content of the show as newsworthy, and to interview and elicit from local community members comments that in some cases were as offensive as the quotes from Robertson.

Our Hawaiian community has not used personal religious beliefs as a political campaign tool out of respect for, and celebration of, our diverse cultures and beliefs, and the respect for the privacy of each individual. For Mr. Borreca to report on what has become antithetical to our local culture as a newsworthy story is sad.

It is even more disturbing to have Dennis Arakaki, a former public official (and long-time friend), suggest that if a person is a Christian he/she will be prone to vote for a particular candidate for governor.

As a Christian minister, serving in Hawaii for over40 years, I find this perspective abhorrent and contrary to everything I value in a state and nation that constitutionally mandate the separation of church and state. Hawaii has fought to ensure the integrity of all by preserving the constitutional mandate against the “establishment” of a state religion.

Jory Watland

Episcopal Church Celebrates Gay Marriage

Officially the Episcopal Church does not support marriage equality. Unoffically many leading clerics in the Episcopal church do. Bishop Thomas Shaw of the Episcopal Diocese in Eastern Massachusetts is quoted in Courting Equality,

The only God that I know from my studying of scripture is a god of justice, a god who demands that every single person have the rights that they need to flourish and live in society.

Shaw was one of the prominent leaders in the Religious Coalition for the Freedom (RCFM) to Marry, a group of 23 Faith Traditions in Massachusetts that lobbied with us for marriage equality. Their tenacity and commitment is credited by many for helping us protect the Massachusetts Constitution and preserve same-sex marriage.

On May 17, 2007, RCFM held a ceremony at the State House where the 1,000th faith leader in Massachusetts signed their petition in support of marriage equality.

On June 14, 2007, the day that the Massachusetts Legislature turned down a November 2008 constitutional ballot amendment–like the one Florida is facing and California may very well be–RCFM staged an amazing show of support. They held a prayer service at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and then in their ceremonial robes members of all the faith traditions marched across Boston Common to the State House.

There they stood witness for hours–lest anyone in Massachusetts believe that church leaders were not in support of marriage equality.

On May 18, 2008, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Natick, Massachusetts invited us to present our iMovie of all the photos in Courting Equality and to share our experiences of the movement. Representative David Linsky of Natick joined us for a truly memorable occasion. Read the MetroWest Daily News account of the event. See the mention of the event in

Many in the Episcopal Church are on our side! We want to keep the dialogue going with faith groups.

Straight Allies in Asheville

When progressive activists Frank and Margaret Adams learned that we were going to present on marriage equality at Highlander’s 75th Anniversary outside of Knoxville, TN, they insisted that we come to their home town of Asheville, NC and do a reading and presentation. Frank, a former director of Highlander, and Margaret, both in their 70’s know what struggles for equality look like and they have always been ready to become involved. Agitating and organizing against economic, racial, environmental, you-name-it discrimination  are part of their daily lives–have been for years. Now they are allies for marriage equality. 

In Frank Adams’ 1975 book Unearthing Seeds of Fire (now in its fifth printing), he shares compelling stories of the work of allies in struggles for justice–the motivating force of Highlander. Now he and Margaret are unearthing other seeds of fire in this struggle for marriage equality. They are motivated by a deep appreciation of  what Frank calls “freedom’s joy.”

What many LGBT people in the marriage equality movement do not understand is how many allies we have in the straight community around the country. The compelling factor for most of these allies is knowing someone in the LGBT community.  Frank and Margaret know many LGBT people, but others sometimes know only their child or their co-worker or their friend. In Courting Equality, a woman holds a sign that reads, “My Son Is Not a Second-Class Citizen.” Few legislators in Massachusetts argued with that. That mother’s activism and the activism of others in Parents, Friends and Families of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) held great sway with our legislators.

The important step for those of us striving for gay marriage equality is to come out. Very old concept. Very effective strategy. We have many straight allies in Asheville, NC,and we have many committed LGBT people who are building alliances. On September 5th over 60 people came out to Malaprop’s Books to learn about Courting Equality. At least six ministers were in the audience, three of them straight. These allies are critical to our achieving full equality.