Drawing on Conservative Activism and Faith Background, Pennsylvania Man Pushes Toward LGBTQ Nondiscrimination
Randy P. Orso has always been guided by his faith.
As a Religious Studies major at Saint Michael’s College, Randy was Eucharistic minister of the chapel and leader in Campus Ministry as well as the Saint Michael’s College Republicans, where he became the first elected openly gay college Republican chaplain.
He learned early in his professional life that not everyone accepted him for being gay, but he also understood that he had the potential to be a real influence in his community.
“I gave the invocation prayer at the convention of Vermont College Republicans. There, I was told by UVM Republicans that if I went back in the closet, I could be chaplain for the whole state,” Randy said. “And I said, ‘Well, that’s not how it works.” Randy declined the opportunity to pursue the position of chaplain for the state, unable and unwilling to hide who he is. Still, having built a reputation as a powerful conservative voice in Vermont, Randy was approached by the county’s Republicans shortly after, asking him to consider a run for office as a state representative.
Though Randy decided not to pursue a career in politics, he remains active in public service and advocacy. He volunteered and worked with Equality PA and their coalition of people of faith; he ran the Scranton chapter of the Marriage Equality for Pennsylvania Project; and as an ordained minister, he is the founder and moderator of the Interfaith LGBTI Clergy Association. He is also the web designer for Saint Paul’s Voice Centre of Uganda and serves as their technical adviser. Saint Paul’s Voice Centre documents and advocate the need for asylum for LGBTQ Ugandan refugees in Western countries.
To Randy, fighting for LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections falls squarely in line with his conservative values. “I’m a William Weld conservative – a fiscal conservative,” he said. “Small government is best. Government shouldn’t be encroaching on our freedoms, and that is a conservative value. It’s a conservative value because fairness and access to the American Dream is something that everyone should have, regardless of orientation. People should have the freedom to pursue happiness. That’s a founding value of our country.”
“Nondiscrimination is a conservative value because fairness and access to the American Dream is something that everyone should have, regardless of orientation. People should have the freedom to pursue happiness. That’s a founding value of our country.” – Randy P. Orso
In the past Randy has found political inspiration from lawmakers like Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, a Republican. Most recently Randy was proud to see Governor Baker sign a law enacting nondiscrimination protections for transgender people statewide in MA. Freedom for All Americans was proud to be a coalition member of the Freedom for All Massachusetts campaign, which supported the legislation and successfully defended it at the ballot in November 2018.
Randy ties his support for LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination protections back to basic constitutional freedoms and his belief that everyone should have access to the American Dream. Treating all people with dignity and respect, he said, “is promised by the constitution and is the cornerstone of our American freedoms.” He draws parallels to similar campaigns against discrimination throughout American history, recalling a time when he personally knew Jewish people who were denied access to public spaces at resorts in the Poconos, where he currently lives in Pennsylvania. “I wouldn’t want to return to those days when people discriminate against each other based on anything like that. It’s unfair. It’s un-American.”
Randy is part of a growing community of conservative religious individuals speaking out in support of freedom for all Americans. Regardless of ones’ sexual orientation or gender identity, the belief that all Americans should live and work in our country free from anti-LGBTQ discrimination is held by many, including a majority of conservatives. Recent polling tracks that more Americans than ever consider LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination policy to be vital.
Randy and others are using their voices as community leaders and supporters of basic dignity and respect for all people to tell the government that when it comes to LGBTQ Americans’ freedom, we’re ready to move forward – not back.
“Supporting LGBTQ protections is important because it’s about being responsible to the community and responsible to our families,” Randy said. “There are LGBT people in every family, and LGBT people have families. We’re part of the community. If we want a strong community, we can’t victimize them with discrimination. It’s important to have leaders that speak up on that.”
Each of us has the opportunity to be a voice in our community, and standing united with members of all political views and religious backgrounds allows us to send this powerful message to decision-makers across the country.