Laura Montgomery (Rutt) Williams was born in Illinois in 1960. In 1966, her family moved to Atlanta so her father could go to graduate school at Atlanta University, a predominately African American University. As a sheltered Midwest Caucasian family, this was her first experience in understanding prejudice. While in Atlanta her father participated in the funeral procession of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., driving a car for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. After graduate school he became a guidance counselor and then a union organizer for teachers in South Central Pennsylvania – experiences that would fuel Laura’s commitment and passion for activism and equality.
Fast forward to 1990, Laura was married with two children, working in corporate America when her brother came out as gay. She quickly started an organization in the very conservative area of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. The organization, The Alliance for Tolerance and Freedom, took on several issues locally, including promoting equality for LGBT people, supporting religious liberty, protecting separation of church and state and defending public education against creationism, vouchers and the Christian Coalition.
Locally Laura also organized a chapter of the Interfaith Alliance and served on its advisory board as well as the local board of the National Conference of Christians and Jews.
Attending the Task Force's Creating Change Conference in the 90s as a non-gay person really opened my eyes to what being a sexual minority feels like. I had to decide whether or not to mention my husband or come out as straight! It was a profound and enlightening experience.
After researching and publishing an article on the Promise Keepers, Laura was contacted by Equal Partners in Faith, a Washington, D.C. based coalition of progressive religious people and organizations. Laura worked as the Executive Director of Equal Partners in Faith and a consultant for Americans United for Separation of Church and State. She also did volunteer work nationally for People for the American Way, the Human Rights Campaign, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the Freedom to Marry Coalition, the Interfaith Alliance, and other LGBT affirming organizations. In her spare time, she attended Lancaster Theological Seminary part-time working on her Master’s Degree in Religion.
As Director of Equal Partners in Faith, Laura joined with Urvashi Vaid (then executive director of NGLTF) as co-founders of the National Religious Leadership Roundtable for LGBT Equality. This group of religious leaders supporting full equality for LGBTQ people met two times a year to network and help craft the movement and the language for full inclusion.
In 1999, Laura was hired to be the “Media, Publicity, and Logistics Coordinator” for the United Methodist Church trial of Rev. Jimmy Creech. Creech was ordered to stand trial for performing a ceremony in his Nebraska church for two women. This was only the first of many UMC trials that Laura would serve as Media Coordinator.
It was at this trial in Carney, Nebraska, that Laura was introduced to Soulforce, a spiritual organization of LGBTQA individuals based on the nonviolent principles of Jesus, Gandhi and King, founded by Rev. Mel White. For the next six years, Soulforce would conduct relentless non-violent civil disobedience actions around religious denominations that demonized LGBTA people with Laura as the Communications and Media Coordinator. These actions took place in Rome, Cleveland, Seattle, Pittsburgh, Washington DC, Dallas, Denver and more.
In April 2005, Soulforce conducted a civil disobedience at the headquarters of James Dobson’s Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Laura fell in love with the mountains and a small hamlet at the base of Pikes Peak called Manitou Springs. Within three months, Laura packed up her camping gear in her car, gave away all her “stuff”, and headed West knowing no one.
Laura met her future husband in Colorado Springs in 2006 and joined her husband’s business, Lane Mitchell Jewelers. Together the couple has sponsored Gay Pride Festivals in Colorado Springs and given employees paid vacation for International Women’s Day.
Laura is still an activist. She was recently arrested at a civil disobedience in the office of Senator Cory Gardner. She founded the Manitou Environmental Citizens Action. She is a delegate to the El Paso County Colorado Democratic Assembly. She has protested again at Focus on the Family and taken part in countless protests in Colorado Springs.
Activism is in my blood. I am an unapologetic liberal. And I will be an activist for as long as I live!
(This biographical statement provided by Laura Montgomery Williams.)
Biography Date: March 2018
Creech, Jimmy | White, Mel | Equal Partners in Faith | National Gay & Lesbian Task Force | Soulforce | Activist (church change) | Ally
“I met Laura when she was hired by MFSA National to be the media coordinator for my church trial in Kearney, Nebraska, in 1998. She was an extraordinary media coordinator, fully committed to the cause with unlimited energy! After the trial, we worked together with Soulforce where she continued her advocacy for LGBTQ people with her media savvy and hard work. It’s great that she’s now included in the profiles of the LGBT Religious Archives Network.”
– as remembered by Jimmy Creech on March 30, 2018
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