Darlene Onita Garner is an American minister and LGBT activist, and a co-founder of the National Coalition of Black Lesbians and Gays (NCBLG). She was the first African-American elder in the Metropolitan Community Church and she helped create (and now leads) the denomination's biannual Conference for People of African Descent (PAD). In 2008 and 2009, she served as MCC Vice-Moderator. She is a nationally recognized speaker on LGBT religious issues; for instance, she was invited to join several other nationally known speakers to announce the "American Prayer Hour", a gay-affirming alternative to the "National Prayer Breakfast". For her work in the LGBT community, Garner was credited in The African American Almanac as "contributing to the visible image of gays in society" and in 2010 was named a "Capital Pride Hero" by Capital Pride.
A native of Columbus, Ohio, Garner was brought up in the National Baptist Convention; she later attended the Episcopal Church and eventually joined the Metropolitan Community Church in 1976.
Before entering the professional ministry, Garner worked as the Executive Director of the Philadelphia Mayor's Commission on Sexual Minorities, beginning in 1987. She has served as the chaplain for an AIDS hospice and as President of the Board of Northern Virginia AIDS Ministry. Darlene has also served as a member of the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations (hearing complaints of discrimination based on sexual orientation, race, gender, and national origin) and the West Hollywood Business License Commission.
From 1977 to 1980, Garner worked to help found the NCBLG, then known as the National Coalition of Black Gays (NCBG). She has described that experience as follows:
At that point in LGBT history, the needs and points of view of African Americans were not reflected in the agendas of other national organizations. We created the National Coalition of Black Gays and Lesbians (NCBGL, originally NCBG), organizing several chapters and transforming those chapters into a national organization. We knew that we were making history. What we were doing had the capacity to change the face of history. Our youth and naiveté helped us do it with a boldness. If we had been seasoned activists, we might not have taken it on. We know that if it was not us, there might be no one. So we took it on.
Garner was ordained in the Metropolitan Community Church in 1988. She has served as an associate pastor in the MCC in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and as an MCC pastor in Baltimore, MD, and northern Virginia from 1991 to 1998, during which time she was used as a source by U.S. News & World Report for stories on LGBT issues. Garner served MCCDC as Church Treasurer and Lay Delegate and later served MCC's former Mid-Atlantic District as assistant district coordinator. She now presides over MCC Region 6, which covers Latin America and southwestern United States.
On 3 March 2010, Garner and her partner, Candy Holmes, were one of the first same-sex couples to apply for a marriage license in the District of Columbia. On March 9, 2010, Garner and Holmes were married along with two other couples at the Human Rights Campaign building.
- Sidney Brinkley, "The National Coalition of Black Lesbians and Gays: Making History" Blacklight magazine online, 2009; accessed 24 February 2011. "In a few short months there was a core group who would eventually serve as officers at various times. In addition to Mr. Jones and Mr. Gerald – who would become the first male executive director – the group included Darlene Garner, Louis Hughes, Renee McCoy, Jon Gee and Delores Berry."
- Jessie Carney Smith and Joseph M. Palmisano, Reference library of Black America: Volume 3 , 2000; accessed through Google Book Search, 24 February 2011: "Darlene Garner, the first African American elder in the Metropolitan Community Church...".
- MCC Baltimore History—The 1990s, accessed 24 February 2011.
- MCC People of African Descent page, "General History", accessed 24 February 2011: "1995: [...] One of the recommendations within this report was that the denomination should begin sponsoring a bi-annual conference for People of African Descent in MCC. The Board of Elders asked Rev. Elder Darlene Garner to be responsible for ensuring follow-through on the recommendations contained in The Report, including convening biennial MCC conferences for people of African descent."
- MCC website, "2011 MCC People of African Descent, Our Friends and Allies ", 9 February 2011; accessed 24 February 2011.
- "Capital Pride Heroes and Engendered Spirit Awards", June 8, 2010, MetroWeekly.com; accessed 24 February 2011.
- "Diversity & Inclusion Council", Human Rights Campaign website; accessed 24 February 2011.
- Good Hope MCC newsletter, "Rev. Elder Darlene Garner Named 2009 Vice-Moderator", 29 October 2008; accessed 24 February 2011.
- Wayne Besen, "Religious Leaders To Announce American Prayer Hour", press release, 20 January 2010 (accessed 24 February 2011). The press conference was held on 2 February 2010 and included such other speakers as Gene Robinson, HRC's Harry Knox, Frank Schaeffer, and Carlton Pearson.
- Rose M. Brewer, "Family and Health", in The African American Almanac, 9th ed., Ed. Jeffrey Lehman. New York: Charles Scribner's, 2003, p.673.
- David J. Hoffman, "Heroic Distinction Very Humbling", Washington Blade, June 10, 2010; accessed 24 February 2011.
- Dell Richards, Lesbian lists: a look at lesbian culture, history, and personalities, 1990; accessed through Google Book Search, 24 February 2011: "DARLENE GARNER, appointed acting director of the Mayor's Commission on Sexual Minorities, Philadelphia, May 1, 1987. Named executive director of the Commission, August 24, 1987."
- "MCC workshop announcement from 2007". Archived from the original on October 23, 2007.
- Brinkley, "The National Coalition of Black Lesbians and Gays: Making History".
- Sylvia Rhue, "'Snatch(ing) our humanity out of the fire of human cruelty': A History of the Black LGBT Movement", National Black Justice Coalition website; accessed 24 February 2011.
- MCC Northern Virginia, The Journey (A Brief History of MCC NOVA), accessed 24 February 2011.
- Jeffery L. Sheler, "FAITH-BASED THERAPIES AIM TO 'CURE' GAYS", U.S. News & World Report 07/27/98, Vol. 125 Issue 4, p. 28; accessed through EBSCOhost, 24 February 2011: "Elder Darlene Garner of the predominantly gay Metropolitan Community Church of Northern Virginia argues that such therapy 'does more harm than good.' She says two congregants 'were torn apart psychologically' after being told by a Christian therapist that 'in essence, you must renounce your sexuality in order to correct God's error.'"
- Bio, accessed 24 February 2011.
- HRC Religion Council, accessed 24 February 2011.
- "D.C. Gay Couple: 'Equality and Justice for All'". Associated Press (YouTube). March 3, 2010. Retrieved June 9, 2010.
- "Same-sex couples in D.C. say 'I do'". CNN. March 3, 2010. Retrieved June 9, 2010.
- "Wrapping Up a Beautiful Day of Weddings". Human Rights Campaign. March 3, 2010. Retrieved June 9, 2010.
- Adam Serwer, "First Same-Sex Marriages Celebrated in D.C.", March 9, 2010, TheRoot.com; accessed 24 February 2011.