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Occupy Queer Rights Around the Globe!

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Mic check! Mic check!

Spread the word! Occupy queer rights around the globe!

Spread the word! Occupy queer rights around the globe!

Global human rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people are finally gaining recognition. The first-ever United Nations report on our lives revealed what we have long known -- that in more than 70 countries, we can be thrown in prison for who we are and whom we love. In five countries, we can be legally executed, and in far too many countries, we can be summarily executed on the streets or in our homes with few repercussions for our assailants.

As the moderator for the Metropolitan Community Churches with ministries in 37 countries, I have watched as our people have been torched, bludgeoned, arrested, humiliated, rejected, and executed.

Mic check! Mic check!

We are rising up with hope in our hearts and belief in our equal love!

We are rising up with hope in our hearts and belief in our equal love!

Whether it's marriage equality in California, freedom in Nigeria, or freedom from rape in South Africa, we have found each other in countries around the world, and we will not let go!

In response to the well-documented violence and discrimination, on Dec. 15, 2011, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights urged all countries to eliminate laws that allow imprisonment or execution of lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender people. This declaration and the release of data showing high rates of violence against sexual minorities came days after President Obama issued a White House memo directing U.S. officials around the world to "promote and protect the human rights of LGBT persons." The next day, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton received a standing ovation after her unprecedented speech on global LGBT rights to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights.

The Rev. Pat Bumgardner, pastor of MCC New York and director of the Global Justice Institute, was among the 38 LGBT advocates who were invited to Geneva to hear Hillary's historic address. Rev. Bumgardner said:

What a historic gathering of LGBT people from so many countries where religious and cultural persecution persists. The words of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will go down in history as a turning point for our dignity throughout the world. Clinton cited laws supporting equality in South Africa, Colombia, Argentina, Nepal and Mongolia and declared, "Gay people are born into and belong to every society in the world." Clinton went on to challenge the claim that culture and religion excuse anti-LGBT attitudes and policies and compared criminalization and abuse of LGBT people to the crimes of burning of widows or slavery -- all defended by religion and culture at some time.

Members of Metropolitan Community Churches know that hatred never has the final word. As a church, we have witnessed the rising up of indefatigable spirits who refuse to succumb to the misguided condemnations and attacks, refused to succumb to cynicism or self-loathing. We choose to love God, each other, and, most powerfully, ourselves.

Our faith tradition knows that we cannot hesitate to use our power and our resources to defend our people around the world. Already, anxieties about Western cultural imperialism and counterproductive strategies are springing up.

But there is no time to waste -- only lives will be wasted if we do not push forward. Let us be in conversation with those who would persecute us and claim some kind of religious exemption from the love and respect for humanity that is required in every religious tradition.

Hold up the mirror to the faithful in all traditions. What does your faith require but to do justice and walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8.) Why are you silent in the face of such blatant injustice?

It is time to speak; it is time to act. Anxiety about whether speaking out for human rights will create even more attacks on our brothers and sisters on the ground is well-intentioned but misguided. We are on the ground in country after country; it can't get worse. And in many countries, it is getting worse as we speak.

Mic check! Mic check!

Use the voice given to you! Speak love to power!

Use the voice given to you! Speak love to power!