ORLANDO, Fla. — Hundreds of faith leaders in Florida on Monday called on state lawmakers to pass more legal protections for the LGBTQ community. 

What You Need To Know

  • About 500 faith leaders from across the state stand up for LGBTQ protections

  • It was to remember the lives lost five years after the Pulse attack

  • Faith leaders signed a letter calling for anti-discrimination legislation

The event, An Evening of Reflection and Promise, brought Central Florida representatives together at the Dr. Phillips Center in downtown Orlando.

Executive Director of One Orlando Alliance Josh Bell has a story that many LGBTQ people share. 

“Like a lot of people who grow up in more conservative religious spaces, I received a message pretty early on that it’s not OK to be gay,” he said.  

Not only did he grow up religious, but he became an ordained minister, which made coming out a painful and difficult process. 

“When it was time for me to come out, which was just a few years ago, I stepped out of that role and so that credential is kind of on hold, but it’s still a part of who I am,” Bell said. 

That is why he says it is so uplifting to see not only Central Florida clergy, but around 500 faith leaders from across the state stand up for LGBTQ protections to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the Pulse terror attack. 

“Some really wonderful religious leaders who are stepping up and standing up and saying ‘things need to change,’ and I’m really grateful for that,” Bell said.  

The hundreds of faith leaders signed a letter calling for anti-discrimination legislation from state and federal leaders. 

In the letter they call for "legislation (that) would address discrimination in the workplace by making it illegal to fire, refuse to hire or refuse to promote an employee simply based on that person's sexual orientation."

They also state that that "Florida must update its exiting anti-discrimination laws to include LGBTQ people and avoid passing laws that would harm Floridians by allowing religion to be used as a weapon to discriminate." 

One of those faith leaders, associate pastor at St. Luke’s Methodist, Jeremy Green said, “It starts a conversation to see someone in a stole, or a collar fully affirming the queer community.”  

Green and Bell appreciate the faith community standing up for LGBTQ people after Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill banning transgender athletes from competing in women’s and girls’ sports.

“We are so disappointed and frustrated by those legislative actions,” Bell said.  

Green says the pulpit has been known to help bring about change. 

“We’ve seen what faith communities and those who are being marginalized can do when they come together,” Green said.  

And that is just what Bell hopes this letter to the state will accomplish.

“I’m gay and I’m also a follower of Jesus … no religion is a monolith,” Bell said.