Memorable LGBT Women of Faith

In honor of Women’s History Month, GLAAD’s Religion, Faith, & Values program is profiling women from different faith backgrounds who have dedicated themselves to justice and equality for the LGBT community, both within their faith communities and in society as a whole. Today, GLAAD’s Religion, Faith, and Values Program would like to give a recap of a few of the LGBT women of faith who were highlighted on GLAAD’s blog in the last year.


Dr. Wilhelmina Perry (middle in left photo) is convener of LGBT Faith Leaders of African Descent.  Last fall, she authored an article in Amsterdam News, New York City’s oldest and largest Black newspaper, that called for more acceptance and services for LGBT homeless youth.  In “Opening Our Homes and Hearts to Our Homeless Youth,” Perry stated “These youth belong to all of us,” Dr. Perry stated. “They are our responsibility.” GLAAD worked closely with Dr. Wilhelmina Perry and LGBT Faith Leaders of African Descent to raise awareness around the number of young people left homeless, many due to rejection from their families.


On  July 10, the Presbyterian Church (USA) officially lifted the ban prohibiting the ordination of openly LGBT clergy. In light of the affirmation and celebration of all people by the Presbyterian Church, the Rev. Dr. Janet Edwards, moderator of More Light Presbyterians and a longtime LBGT advocate came out as bisexual in an op-ed written for The Advocate.


The Rev. Amy DeLong, who was found guilty  for conducting a Holy Union celebration between two women in September 2009, was suspended for 20 days of “spiritual discernment” beginning July 1.  DeLong openly considered the outcome a victory, and continues to advocate for LGBT equality in religious communities.


DeJuaii Pace  is the daughter of a Pentecostal preacher and member of the award-winning gospel group, the Anointed Pace Sisters. She also came out as lesbian last fall to The Root and openly discussed her struggles in the closet on the Oprah Winfrey Network.


In February, the General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission of the Presbyterian Church (USA) upheld the censure of Rev. Dr. Janie Spahr, who officiated the weddings of 16 gay and lesbian couples when marriage equality was briefly legalized in California in 2008. She was previously censured by two lower church courts for presiding over the weddings, but was, at the same time, praised for her courage in ministering to LGBT members of the church. 


Sharon Kleinbaum has been a rabbi at Congregation Beit Simchat Torah (CBST), New York’s LGBT synagogue, for nearly 20 years.  In that time, she’s been acknowledged as one of the most influential rabbis and religious leaders in the United States for her work on behalf of LGBT equality. Most recently, Rabbi Kleinbaum was a vocal supporter of marriage equality in New York State.


On November 17, 2011, Chicago’s LGBT community lost a beloved leader when Lois Bates passed away at age 41, following a long illness.   Bates was a licensed minister in Chicago’s Pillar of Love Fellowship United Church of Christ and preached that all people deserve equal treatment.  Many described her as a tireless advocate for the HIV-positive, transgender and LGBT youth communities. 


This February, Katie Ricks became the nation’s first openly lesbian minister to be approved for ordination in the Presbyterian Church (USA).  In 2011, the church passed an amendment to allow openly gay and lesbian ministers to be ordained.  She currently serves as an associate in ministry at Church of the Reconciliation in Durham, North Carolina.

GLAAD applauds Wilhelmina Perry, Janet Edwards, Amy Delong, Dejuaji Pace, and Lois Bates for amplifying the voices of the LGBT community in various struggles for LGBT equality. If you have suggestions of other women to highlight during Women’s History Month, please contact GLAAD’s Faith & Campaigns fellow, Miriam Lazewatsky.  GLAAD also encourages interested parties to refer to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s directory of welcoming places of worship.