The United Church of Christ has announced its sponsorship of the 2014 Gay Games, to be held in Cleveland and Akron, Ohio from August 9-16.
Rev. Dr. J. Bennett Guess, a UCC national officer and its first openly-gay church executive, said of the decision:
“Serving as a major sponsor of Gay Games 9 is a perfect fit because of the UCC’s longstanding commitment to social justice issues. We pride ourselves on being a bold voice for progressive Christianity and look forward to offering the UCC’s trademark ‘extravagant welcome’ to the athletes, volunteers and spectators.”
“This partnership allows the UCC to live out our values of diversity, inclusivity, and acceptance of all,” UCC director of communications Ann Poston said.
“We are proud to offer financial support, alongside a range of in-kind, volunteer and support services that are needed by Gay Games 9 organizers. I couldn’t be more proud of the UCC and the city of Cleveland for doing everything possible to ensure that this summer’s games will be a success.”
Commenting on the growth of support the Gay Games have witnessed in recent years, Tom Nobbe, executive director of Gay Games 9, told the New York Times, "The times have changed."
One year ago, on June 26, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the controversial Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which prevented the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages legalized by the states. Since then, LGBT activism has seemingly sped up -- particularly among religious institutions.
In April 2014 the United Church of Christ filed a lawsuit against the state of North Carolina for infringing upon the clergy's ability to perform same-sex marriages. In June, the U.S. Presbyterian Church voted to change its definition of marriage to allow for same-sex marriages in the states where they are legal.
UCC sponsorship of the Gay Games falls in line with previous advocacy on LGBT issues, and Nobbe praised the decision in the denomination's press release.
“We're so appreciative to have the backing of United Church of Christ and other members of the faith community. UCC's sponsorship of the 2014 Gay Games on a national level amplifies their strong commitment to inclusion on and off the playing fields. Our partnership serves to illustrate the open and affirming atmosphere participants will experience when visiting Cleveland and Akron.”