Welcome to Pride Week 2012: Activists will take over the Seattle Center for PrideFest, a hot dog will be blessed at The Bottleneck Lounge, and a gay reverend is coming to town to speak out in support of gay rights.
Perry founded Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC) in 1968, making it the first Christian church in the world to minister primarily to LGBT groups. In 1972 MCC planted a church in the University District, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. In honor of the anniversary, and as part of this year's Pride Week, Perry is speaking at the Seattle MCC banquet dinner on Friday, at an interfaith worship service on Saturday, and after the Pride Parade on Sunday.
With Perry's visit from Los Angeles, and especially his speech on love and marriage after the Pride Parade, Perry says he wants "to rabble rouse the troops for the fight ahead."
The fight Perry refers to is the quest to legalize gay marriage, which he believes is the biggest challenge currently facing the LGBT community. "It's the big enchilada," Perry says. "Once you win marriage, you've won it."
In Washington state, Referendum 74 could squash the gay marriage law signed by Gov. Christine Gregoire in February. The referendum officially qualified for the November ballot last Tuesday after sponsors collected 247,331 signatures.
Some of the push for Referendum 74 in Washington has come from religious groups, but Perry says Christianity is actually in line with LGBT goals.
"MCC Churches believe in Christian salvation for the GLBT community," Perry says. "Where you find oppression, you will find deliverance."
When he has spoken with groups in the LGBT community in the past, Perry says about 90 percent of the people claim to be spiritual, but not religious. Perry says most of this community feels alienated by the church, but MCC's goal is to counteract that reaction and offer people a spiritual home regardless of sexual orientation.
"We want them to know they can have a spiritual walk," Perry says.
In terms of religion, MCC has helped make it so the LGBT community can have its cake and eat it too. But Perry says he has seen this type of progress in other Christian churches and denominations as well. For example, some Mormons have begun to walk away from an ultra-conservative, critical view of gays and lesbians, as seen when 300 Mormon families marched alongside LGBT groups in the Salt Lake City pride parade this year. Also, as of 2010, about 40 percent of Unitarian Universalist churches welcome the LGBT community.
"When MCC was founded, you could get fired for being gay," Perry says. "Police called us criminals and psychiatrists called us sick."
In moving toward the legalization of gay marriage and maintaining gay rights, Perry says the best approach is to spread awareness.
"I have always maintained that if all of us would come out of the closet, a majority of Americans would know someone gay," says Perry. "Knowing us is to love us, and getting to know gay people makes all the difference in the world."
Rev. Troy Perry will speak at the MCC 40th Anniversary Dinner on Friday, June 22, 6:30 p.m., at University Congregational United Church of Christ, 4515 16th Ave. N.E., at the Interfaith Worship Service, on Saturday, June 23, 1 p.m, at All Pilgrims Christian Church, 500 Broadway E., and on Sunday, June 24, at the Pride Festival, Seattle Center, 321 Mercer St.