Kansas church hosts workshop on LGBTQ+ rights

By Melodie Woerman
Posted Aug 17, 2022

[Episcopal News Service] Trinity Episcopal Church in Lawrence, Kansas, recently offered what its rector, the Very Rev. Rob Baldwin, thinks was a first for even its progressive-leaning city – a workshop on safeguarding LGBTQ+ rights.

The idea for the workshop grew out of marriage preparation sessions Baldwin held earlier this summer for two LGBTQ+ couples. “I’m doing the same pre-marital counseling that I do for every wedding. You talk about marriage as a sacrament, you highlight some big things that every couple should be on the same page about, and you talk a lot about the service itself. But then I found myself saying, ‘You know, you should really think about what happens if your marriage is legally nullified because that is a real possibility,’” he told Episcopal News Service, noting that the U.S. Supreme Court has “telegraphed that punch” in its decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 50-year-old ruling that made abortion a constitutional right. Since that decision was issued in June, LGBTQ+ activists have expressed fear that marriage equality could be next.

Baldwin said he wanted the church to be involved because of its role in the marriage of couples within the congregation. “In the marriage service in the Book of Common Prayer we ask one question of the congregation: ‘Will all of you witnessing these promises do all in your power to uphold these two persons in their marriage?’” he said. “By extension, the entire church community participates in that promise. And I said to myself, ‘Okay, that now means something different.’”

A workshop to help members of the LGBTQ+ community safeguard their rights would be one way to accomplish that, he said, and after seeking advice from attorneys in the congregation, Baldwin asked David Brown, a local attorney with years of experience in LGBTQ+ family law, to lead it.

“I do not know a lot about Christianity, but it seems to me that this is the sort of thing Christians are supposed to be doing,” Brown said as he opened the Aug. 13 workshop.

He said that while he can’t predict the future, he was operating on the assumption that the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision that allowed marriage equality in America, Obergefell v. Hodges, would be overturned. “I feel very confident about that,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a big guess.” Brown said that assumption made it important for him and other attorneys to provide information about what couples can do to control as many aspects of their lives as possible and “to give you as many rights as you can claim.” He also noted other topics on the minds of those attending, including how to protect the rights of a trans child.

It was an important witness that a church hosted this, Baldwin said, because many people in the city aren’t aware that there are Christian denominations, including The Episcopal Church, that support the LGBTQ+ community.

The event was livestreamed on the church’s Facebook page, and is available for viewing.

–Melodie Woerman is a freelance writer and former director of communications for the Diocese of Kansas.