I was delighted to learn this week that the City of Philadelphia has passed new legislation extending rights and encouraging businesses to participate in extending equal rights to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Trans* people. Some of the most signiﬁcant aspects of the legislation relate to providing greater equality for trans* people in Philadelphia. Particularly, the city is providing tax beneﬁts for businesses that provide trans*-friendly health insurance options for employees, and the city has committed to provide gender neutral restrooms in all new or newly remodeled city-owned buildings.
Philadelphia’s Mayor Michael Nutter said, “My goal is for Philadelphia to be one of, if not the most, LGBT-friendly cities in the world and a leader on equality issues.”
As a priest in Philadelphia and as a passionate advocate for LGBT equality, I am deeply grateful to Mayor Nutter and the other leaders of the City of Philadelphia who have worked to craft and have supported this legislation.
This Sunday, Episcopalians across the church will be celebrating All Saints’ Sunday, and many of us, as we are in my own parish, will be celebrating with baptisms in church. Many more churches will recite the Baptismal Covenant, even if there are no baptisms, as this is one of the Sundays that is set apart as particularly appropriate for remembering the covenant we share as Christians. In the Baptismal Covenant we will ask and answer those now-celebrated ﬁve questions about how we will live as baptized Christians in the church and in the world.
The last question (and I might argue, the culmination of the covenant) is, “Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?”
Of course the answer is always that we will with God’s help.
I rejoice that this Sunday, as we say these words at the Memorial Church of the Good Shepherd, we will be saying them in a city that is one step closer to living in a world that is deﬁned by justice and peace among all people and respect for the dignity of every human being.
Pennsylvania is a state that has a long way to go on the struggle for true equality, but it is inspiring to live in one of the cities that is helping to lead the way. And, I am heartened to be serving as a priest in a church that supports this progress in the words of our liturgies and in our actions in the world.
The Rev. Jon M. Richardson is Integrity's Vice President for National Affairs and the Rector of Memorial Church of the Good Shepherd in Philadelphia, PA. His blog (at www.JonMRichardson.com) features his sermons and theater reviews.