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After Controversy, Elle Goulding Set to Go Forward with Halftime Gig Associated with Salvation Army

by Kilian Melloy
Friday Nov 15, 2019
Elle Goulding
Elle Goulding  (Source:Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP)

After initial reports said that Elle Goulding was wavering about whether to go forward with a planned halftime performance at a Thanksgiving Day football match, the Salvation Army — which has ties to the annual game, which serves as the official start of the Salvation Army's holiday season "Red Kettle" charitable drive — denied having an anti-LGBTQ history.

Rolling Stone reports that Goulding's gig is back on, with a spokesperson for the evangelical organization offering the following comment on the fracas:

"We applaud [Goulding] for taking the time to learn about the services we provide to the LGBTQ community. Regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or gender identity, we're committed to serving anyone in need. Every day, we provide services such as shelter for the transgender community and resources for homeless youth — 40 percent of whom identify as gay or transgender. Ellie's performance in the 23rd annual Salvation Army Red Kettle Kickoff during the Dallas Cowboys game Thanksgiving Day on CBS will kick off a season of giving that helps support these and many other programs and services throughout the country."

Initial reports — including one carried by NBC — said that Goulding's fans spoke out after her halftime show was announced, pointing to a long history of anti-LGBTQ policies and actions.

Goulding responded by making a statement on Instagram in which she said she would seek "a solid, committed pledge" of LGBTQ support from the century-and-a-half old charity or else possibly bow out of the gig.

Posted Goulding:

"I am a committed philanthropist as you probably know, and my heart has always been in helping the homeless, but supporting an anti-LGBTQ charity is clearly not something I would ever intentionally do."

View this post on Instagram

Ok so maybe hairnet not my strongest look but thank you @salvationarmyus for having us in New York. As you know, I have spent a lot of time in shelters in London, and this was my first time in NYC... The Salvation Army annually helps more than 23 million Americans overcome poverty, addiction and economic hardships through a range of social services. By providing food for the hungry, emergency relief for disaster survivors, rehabilitation for those suffering from drug and alcohol abuse, and clothing and shelter for people in need. I sat and spoke to several people who had come in from the bitter cold for some food (they serve to over 150 per day here) , warmth and perhaps a chat with one of the volunteers. ????????

A post shared by elliegoulding (@elliegoulding) on

Though the Salvation Army shrugged off charges of anti-LGBTQ bias as "myths," the gay press has long given credence to stories about trans people being denied aid, shelters run by the charity refusing to help same-sex couples, and policies aimed at keeping sexual minorities out of leadership positions within the organization.

AS EDGE reported in 2014:

In 2000, Scotland's Salvation Army submitted a letter to Parliament opposing the repeal of a law prohibiting teaching the "acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship."

In 1998, Salvation Army in the United States opted to turn down $3.5 million in municipal contracts with San Francisco due to the city's requirement that contractors extend spousal benefits to gay employees.

In 1986, New Zealand's Salvation Army campaigned and collected signatures against repealing the law criminalizing sex between adult men.

A year earlier, EDGE reported:

In 2012, Andrew Craibe, an Australian major, made headlines all over the world when he notoriously told queer journalist Serena Ryan all gay people should be put to death. Soon after, reports surfaced claiming LGBTQ employees of the Army were being fired for their orientation.

That does not mean that the Salvation Army has not become more accepting in current times than it one was, though. Even in 2013, the Human Rights Campaign took note of the organization's efforts to step away from anti-LGBTQ bias.

The charity has even taken the step of dedicating a section of its website to issues around how it interacts with the LGBTQ community.

In 2018, as questions about the charity's policies and conduct around sexual minorities resurfaced, Steve Starkey, the executive director of an LGBTQ community center in Madison, Wisconsin, told the media:

"When I first started working here a dozen years ago, the Salvation Army was not accepting transgender clients.... They have changed their policies and now do accept transgender people."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


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