As a pastor with the United Church of Christ, it is my life’s work to make the transformative teachings of Christianity real and accessible to all people. Jesus told us that the greatest commandment is love. Christians are tasked with loving our neighbors as ourselves – it is our highest duty.

At my church we work hard to model this. We teach our children that God loves them and they are his special and beloved creations. We teach that it is our job to respect the fundamental dignity of all people and to treat others as we want to be treated, including (maybe especially!) those who may seem different from us.

For me, this includes all people, including our LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning) neighbors.

As someone who spends much of her time preaching, teaching and trying to inhabit Jesus’s commandment that we love one another as he loved us (John 15:12), I am praying that our nation’s laws will soon protect all Americans from unfair treatment.

Here in Maine and across the country, LGBTQ Americans are our friends, our neighbors, our fellow churchgoers, our family members and our coworkers. I know that our senators, Susan Collins and Angus King, support equality, so I hope they will help lead the way in passing a federal law to protect LGBTQ Americans from discrimination in all 50 states. They have both been bipartisan champions on these issues in the past, and we need their leadership again now more than ever.

While Christians and people of faith can debate religious doctrine between churches (and we do!) the state’s job is clear: to treat all citizens as equal and exclude no one.

Freedom of religion is one of our most cherished and fundamental rights as Americans, forever enshrined in our Constitution, and that is a true blessing. However, our freedom to preach and practice our faith does not give us the right to harm or discriminate against others in the public sphere. Excluding people from civil protections based on who they are or who they love hurts us all.

I worry some members of our congregation could be treated as second-class citizens outside the walls of our church. I worry about the children in our congregation who might grow up and, based on who they are or who they love, be excluded or have to live in fear. The idea they could be subjected to discrimination in a misguided attempt to protect the church would be especially hurtful.

Taking a stand against discrimination has been an extension of my faith for many years. Years before being called to the ministry, I served as part of the faith team for the marriage equality legislative campaign in Maine. I knocked on doors all across the state. What I learned from these conversations is that Mainers care about fairness. We’re hardworking people, and we believe that everyone should have the freedom and opportunity to work hard, earn a living, provide for their families and contribute to their communities. I was grateful that our state was a leader in securing the freedom to marry for loving same-sex couples and our state’s leadership, including Sens. Collins and King, were supportive of those efforts.

Talking to Mainers from all walks of life, I know that many people in this state are deeply faithful, and we care deeply about the well-being of our neighbors and communities. These touchstones in our personal ethics compel us to support the protection of all Americans from discrimination and ensure all people are protected equally under the law.

Across America today, millions of worshipers and believers hold our faith to be one of the primary lenses through which we understand the world. Overwhelmingly, major religious groups and organizations support nondiscrimination laws that protect LGBTQ people. Today, faith leaders and devout followers from all walks of life are leading the conversation about why protecting our LGBTQ brothers and sisters matters. We speak up to support nondiscrimination protections because of our faith, not in spite of it.

The Rev. Amelia Edson is a pastor ordained in the United Church of Christ who is serving in Falmouth.

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