Members of Pittsburgh’s LGBTQIA community are up in arms today after they say Turahn Jenkins, who announced his candidacy earlier this week for Allegheny County District Attorney, told them in a meeting Friday that being gay or trans was a sin.
That comment has led at least one activist to suggest that Jenkins should withdraw from the race in favor of a candidate who was inclusive of all of the county’s marginalized communities. According to LGBTQIA and labor activist Maria Montano, the meeting was assembled by Jenkins’ campaign after several people became wary of the candidate’s ties to the Bible Chapel in Wilkinsburg.
“We looked into the background of this church and we found content that was disturbingly homophobic,” Montano says.
The Bible Chapel is a nondenominational church that is part of a type of Christian Church known as a “Bible Church,” which adheres strictly to the Bible’s scriptures. There have been concerns about the beliefs of these churches which believes that being gay is a sin, that same-sex marriage is improper, and subscribes to bogus theories like conversion therapy. The sect also contributes to anti-abortion causes.
“He spoke to us first and then the first question asked was if he thought being gay or trans was a sin,” Montano says, describing the meeting as “intense. “And he said he believed it was a sin like adultery.
“I was absolutely shocked. When he announced his candidacy earlier this week to run against Stephen Zappala, I supported him. I can no longer do that.”
Posts began hitting Twitter on Friday night from several well-known LGBTQIA activists and those in attendance also criticizing Jenkins:
Tonight I was asked to meet with new D.A. candidate, Turahn Jenkins, to talk about his stance on LGBTQIA+ issues. After the meeting I can not support his candidacy – my full response below. pic.twitter.com/MPv9GJjEcv
— Maria Montano (@TheMariaMontano) July 7, 2018
Turahn Jenkins for District Attorney just said gay and trans people are a sin.
Goodbye and goodnight?
— sisTers United (@sistersPGH) July 6, 2018
The Bible Church’s support of anti-abortion groups also got some attention.
Another frustrating takeaway from tonight’s meeting with Turahn Jenkins is that he expressed no issue with his tithes to the Bible Chapel supporting fake clinics that lie to people about their bodies + options with regard to pregnancy, despite affirming that he is pro-choice.
— Jessica Benham (@jessicalbenham) July 7, 2018
Another individual, quoted in the Current’s earlier coverage of Jenkins asked that his quote be removed from the original story because he no longer can support Jenkins. PC reached out to Jenkins’ campaign and will update with his response if it is received.
Montano is saddened that the people who brought Jenkins forward as a candidate didn’t more deeply vet the candidate. She says Jenkins’ description of being gay as a “sin,” brought back painful memories because that term was used as a cudgel to bully her in the past for being gay. Someone who believes that, she says, can’t be trusted to stand up equally for all victims.
“If a trans person was sexually assaulted, I don’t think they’d be comfortable going to a DA who says being trans is a sin,” Montano says.
In fact, she says, she hopes Jenkins withdraws from the race to allow someone else to take on DA Stephen Zappala, whom, she says, should be removed from office for not representing the entire community.
“If the 2019 primary came down to choosing a candidate between Jenkins or Zappala?” Montano says repeating a reporter’s question. “I don’t think I can push a button for either.”