New faith-based festival reaches out to gay communityAugust 19, 2019 8:16pm

Aug. 16--Just two months after a Lake County pastor led a "Make America Straight Again" event at a Clermont church, a grassroots advocacy group will present a Faith and Diversity Festival on Saturday, Aug. 17, in downtown Orlando.

"Faith is one of the pillars of the Puerto Rican culture and Hispanics at large," says Nancy Rosado, who together with Ricardo Negron founded Del Ambiente, the organization presenting the festival. "We want our community to know and feel that in spite of the hateful noise made by a few, being LGBTQ+ is not mutually exclusive with celebrating one's faith."

Del Ambiente focuses on supporting gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Puerto Ricans, though the Faith and Diversity Festival is open to non-Hispanics and straight allies of the gay community as well.

"Many in the LGBTQ+ communities are interested in religion and spirituality but don't know where to turn after a long history of rejection by mainstream churches," said Negron in the festival announcement. "This festival will give them an opportunity to connect with communities of faith ready to embrace them."

Among the faith organizations represented at the festival will be Joy Metropolitan Community Church, Longwood Hills Congregational Church, Oasis Church and Iglesia Episcopal Jesus de Nazaret.

Entertainment will be provided by three notable local arts organizations. The Orlando Gay Chorus, Opera Orlando and the Orlando Choral Society will join forces to form a mass chorus that will be conducted by Grammy award-winner Jeffrey Redding. Puerto Rican singers Yaire and Lissy Estrella also will perform.

A study by the British gay-advocacy organization Stonewall found that 32 percent of lesbian, gay and bisexual people, and 25 percent of transgender individuals, don't feel comfortable revealing their gender identity or sexual orientation to their faith community. Only 2 in 5 of those surveyed said their congregation was welcoming to gay, lesbian or bisexual people. Only 25 percent thought transgender worshipers were welcomed by their faith.

The Make America Straight Again event, which took place in June at Revival Baptist Church in Clermont, drew pastors from as far away as Arizona. Pastor Steven Anderson, who founded Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe, established a doctrine that says "homosexuality is a sin and an abomination which God punishes with the death penalty." He also posted a video to social media after the 2016 massacre at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, saying that the "good news is that there's 50 less pedophiles in this world," according to the New York Times.

"We need to continue the dialogue we started three years ago after Pulse and give voice to the voiceless," said Myrna Maysonet, a partner with law firm Greenspoon Marder, which is sponsoring Saturday's festival.

"We will not stop advocating for diversity in all of its plurality," said Maysonet, the firm's chief diversity officer. "A vocal minority will not control our narrative."

Greenspoon Marder donated funds to build a permanent memorial for the 49 Pulse shooting victims at Orlando's historic Greenwood Cemetery and made a $60K gift on their behalf to the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, which hosted a public memorial after the attack.

The Faith and Diversity Festival begins at 5 p.m. at Stonewall bar, 541 W. Church St. in Orlando. Festivalgoers must be 21 or older to attend.


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