Phil, Randi, Jacob Reitan

2008 Honoree

For LGBTQ individuals, coming out is a difficult process, and one of the toughest challenges is coming out to parents.  Like most parents, former Mankato residents Phil and Randi Reitan initially struggled when their son, Jake, came out to them as gay.  Though it came as a shock, they never doubted their love for Jake, and soon the Reitans were able to accept him for who he was.

Phil and Randi did not feel it was enough, however, just to accept him.  They wanted to support him and join him in his efforts to fight for equality.  Since high school, Jake has been active creating positive change.  He founded the Gay-Straight Alliance at West High School as well as organized and directed Soulforce’s Equality Ride, where members travel to various schools with discriminatory policies toward LGBTQ individuals.  He is currently pursuing a master’s in theology at Harvard Divinity School.

The Reitan family has actively protested the Lutheran church and religious figures such as James Dobson who have shut their doors to and advocated against the LGBTQ community.  The Reitans have faced threats, attacks, and arrest along the way, but they continue their work because they firmly believe that there is no room for intolerance in religion, and that all LGBTQ individuals should be able to freely practice their religion and enjoy the same rights as others.  Their efforts have not gone unnoticed.  Along with four other families, the Reitans are featured in the highly-praised and well-received documentary For the Bible Tells Me So, a must-see for all who have struggled with their identity and their religion.

Randi and Phil have a clear message – parents must understand, accept, and love their children as they are.  Everyone deserves equal rights, and in order to change the attitudes that prevent them, those who are in the LGBTQ community need to come out and be proud. Those who are straight can become a part of the community by being an ally and fighting for equal rights.