When Gene Robinson scheduled his trip to Anchorage from Washington, D.C. several weeks ago, he planned to speak about challenges facing transgender people in Alaska. However, as the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church, he said he felt obligated to discuss the Orlando tragedy during his lecture at the Lutheran Church of Hope Friday evening.


“I don’t think there can be a gathering either about or by LGBT people without acknowledging what has just happened to us in Orlando,” he said.


Robinson did spend some of his lecture talking about discrimination against transgender people. But he also spoke more broadly about divisions in American society and the importance of coming together to improve the lives of LGBT people.


“Just because some laws have been changed, it doesn’t mean hearts have been changed,” said Robinson, referring to the legalization of same-sex marriage last year.


Moreover, he said the shooting should serve as a wakeup call.


“The very best thing that can come out of the events in Orlando is a recommitment … by us to make sure that everywhere in the United States, that lesbian, gay, bisexual [and] transgender people are protected,” said Robinson.



Nearly all of the pews inside the church were filled during the bishop’s speech Friday. The crowd was mixed with people from the LGBT and Christian communities.


“I’m looking for insight and ways we can experience and express love to all people,” said Jo Anne Hayden, a lay leader for the United Methodist Church.


As a prominent gay Christian figure, Robinson understands discrimination faced by LGBT people better than most. While speaking on religious freedom, he said people should not use faith as an excuse to be hateful.


“For religious people to want things to stay unequal seems to me to fly in the face of all we know God to be,” said Robinson.


He said ultimately, people should focus on healing and embracing commonalities instead of differences. He said in the past, people justified discrimination against people of color with scriptures, and doing so to LGBT people is no different.


“I believe that God is now leading us to a new understanding of this part of our population of people who we have rejected,” said Robinson.


KTVA 11's Eric Ruble can be reached via email or on Facebook and Twitter.