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LGBT AND ATHEISTS: A NATURAL ALLIANCE?
LGBT people and atheists share many characteristics, including the struggle for respect and equality. By
working together, both groups can benefit.
LGBT people and atheists are often presumed to be heterosexual or religious if they do not identify
themselves. LGBT and atheist are both affirmative identities, and each group is developing pride to
counteract negative societal attitudes. Both groups are subject to social stigma and discrimination. Five
hundred years ago, both atheism and homosexuality were crimes punishable by death. Even in some countries
today, both homosexual activity and apostasy remain punishable by death. The Boy Scouts of America says
both LGBT people and atheists are unfit for membership. The Christian right attacks LGBT people and
atheists with equal fervor.
Perhaps because of the condemnation of religious groups, LGBT people are more likely to be atheists than
heterosexuals. Conversely, perhaps because they lack religious beliefs that condemn LGBT people, atheists
and agnostics are more supportive of LGBT rights, including marriage equality, than any other segment of the
American public. Yet the connection between the two groups remains largely unexplored.
In his new book Born Atheist, Tim Covell reviews the parallels between the LGBT and atheist movements and
recommends that atheists learn from the LGBT rights movement. LGBT people, formerly the lowest ranked
American minority, are now ranked higher than atheists. Through coming out and organizing, LGBT people
have raised their approval rating by 20 points. Hoping to duplicate LGBT success, atheists have adopted the
term “coming out,” to describe living openly as atheists.
Covell says that besides learning from one another, LGBT and atheist groups should ally to oppose
discrimination by groups like the Boy Scouts and the Salvation Army. Further, he says, the groups should
share support and strategies in their struggle for equal rights.