NBA Player Jason Collins Comes Out

Another barrier has been broken: Jason Collins has become the first professional basketball player to come out as gay. In a thoughtful column in Sports Illustrated, Collins muses on the fears that kept him in the closet, his decision to come out, and the support he has received from his family and friends. He doesn’t talk much about his religious beliefs, but does cite his Christian upbringing as a source of his understanding and tolerant approach to other people:

I’m from a close-knit family. My parents instilled Christian values in me. They taught Sunday school, and I enjoyed lending a hand. I take the teachings of Jesus seriously, particularly the ones that touch on tolerance and understanding. On family trips, my parents made a point to expose us to new things, religious and cultural. In Utah, we visited the Mormon Salt Lake Temple. In Atlanta, the house of Martin Luther King Jr. That early exposure to otherness made me the guy who accepts everyone unconditionally.

Of course it didn’t take long for religious right leaders to bring a different Christian persepctive to the conversation. Liberty Counsel’s Matt Barber tweeted that it was “sad” that Collins was being treated as heroic for admitting his “aberrent, immoral sexual lifestyle.”

Peter Montgomery, an associate editor for Religion Dispatches, is a Senior Fellow at People For the American Way Foundation where he was on staff for 15 years. Before that he was associate director of grassroots lobbying for Common Cause and wrote for Common Cause Magazine, an award-winning journal featuring investigative reporting about the federal government.