Dr. Melissa Deckman is a Professor of Political Science at Washington College and a PRRI Affiliated Scholar. Her research interests center on the intersection of religion, women, and politics. She has written in the past about the Christian Right’s participation in school board politics. Her most recent work is as co-editor and contributor to Curriculum and the Culture Wars: Debating the Bible’s Place in Public Schools. PRRI sat down with Dr. Deckman to discuss the significance of the book.
On Monday, the Episcopal Church’s leadership overwhelmingly voted to allow the ordination of transgender people, by approving a change to the church’s “nondiscrimination canons” to include “gender identity and expression.” The Episcopal Church currently forbids discrimination based on race, ethnicity, national origin, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, disability, and age for Episcopalians who want to become priests. The church also made it illegal to discriminate against transgender people in non-clergy positions.
Last August’s Religion & Politics Tracking Survey showed that 9-in-10 (90%) white mainline Protestants agree that transgender people deserve the same rights and protections as other Americans. The survey also revealed that around 7-in-10 (69%) white mainline Protestants are familiar with the term “transgender,” and that white mainline Protestants strongly support other rights and legal protections for transgender people:
- Eighty-six percent of white mainline Protestants agree that legal protections that apply to gay and lesbian people should also apply to transgender people.
- Nearly three-quarters (73%) of white mainline Protestants believe that Congress should pass laws to protect transgender people from job discrimination.
- Over three-quarters (76%) of white mainline Protestants favor the expansion of federal hate crimes laws to include crimes committed on the basis of the victim’s gender, sexual orientation or gender identity.
Given this level of support, it’s not surprising that the Episcopal Church was so emphatic in its support for policies furthering non-discrimination against transgender people. However, as the Huffington Post’s Jaweed Kaleem points out, the vote on transgender priests could further strain relations between Episcopalians and the Anglican Communion, which recently delayed a vote on whether to allow women bishops.