The United Church of Christ (UCC) in Cleveland has announced it will sponsor the international Gay Games to be hosted by the city next month, making it the first major religious denomination to do so.
The Gay Games 2014 will be hosted by Cleveland and Akron, both in Ohio, from 9 to 16 August. Anyone over the age of 18 is welcome to participate, including the 10% of participants each year who identify as straight. Other sponsors include advocacy group GLAAD and baseball team the Cleveland Indians.
Rev. J. Bennett Guess, an openly gay executive minister of the United Church of Christ, wrote for Cleveland.com about the church’s sponsorship decision.
“Almost every day, I hear the pain and I see the antipathy that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people – and their families and friends – have for a Christian faith that they view not only as unaccepting, but actively damaging, even dangerous,” he said.
He continued: “When Cleveland, our hometown, was selected to host this summer’s international Gay Games, leaders within the United Church of Christ knew instantly that we had a responsibility, not only as a good corporate citizen, but also as a prominent national religious organization, to do all we could in support, because the lives of LGBT people and their families are at stake.
“That’s the Christian message of faith, equality and justice that we want to emanate from our visible and vocal endorsement.”
The United Church of Christ, which has churches across the US, has long been supported of the LGBT civil rights movement, and was among the first to support marriage equality. In April, the UCC filed a lawsuit challenging North Carolina’s ban on same-sex marriage.