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May 2005 Newsletter
Equal Marriage Rights
The Newsletter of the Interfaith Working Group
Catholic University Alumni
Actress Susan Sarandon and lawyer Alan Yount have both returned
alumni awards to Catholic University, according to a story in the
Washington Post. Sarandon and Yount reportedly returned
the awards because the University reversed an earlier decision
to give an alumni achievement award to actor Joseph Sicari when
he listed himself as a founding member of ACT-UP in a biography
he sent to the school.
Religious Gay Rights Activist Coverage
The Washington Blade ran two major stories in their December
26 issue about gay rights and religion. One discussed the role
of religious groups in the civil rights struggle, and the other
covered the gay religious rights struggle. The AP did
a story about gay pastors defying their denominations, focusing on
Lutheran pastors in the San Francisco area.
The New Jersey Supreme Court decision to allow same-gender couples
joint adoption made news around the country, and spurred the usual
deluge of commentary. The fact that gays and lesbians could already
adopt as individuals was completely lost in the melee of words.
Syndicated columnist Mona Charen cited the ruling as one more example
of our living in what she now calls a "judgeocracy," failing to note
the the elected governor of New Jersey told her attorney
general not to contest the case. The Washington Post
wrote a confusing editorial supporting the right of same-gender
couples to adopt, but not marry.
The Family Research Council called it
a "landmark defeat for children," saying "children are not commodities
to be parceled out."
Jesse Jackson, Jr. and Mario Cuomo discussed the case on Meet the
Press December 21, with not one of them taking the position
that a same-gender couple could do as good a job as a mixed-gender
couple or that homosexuality was consistent with Jewish or Christian
morality, though at least Jackson and Cuomo defended constitutional
rights and church-state separation.
700 Club Observations
Watchers of the
report that on December 16, Pat Robertson said he couldn't
understand how gays and lesbians, despite small numbers, could
take control of the federal government and use billions of
dollars to educate children in a "bizarre anti-God lifestyle."
He also said that if the United States "officially embraces sodomy"
then "all the pretty lifestyle we have, all riches and all the
nice homes will be taken away from us."
New Episcopal Leader
The Inquirer Magazine's December 28 cover story about
the new presiding bishop of the
Griswold, III, focused on denominational debates over social
issues such as sexual orientation and the recent and unclearly-defined
defection by some conservatives. Griswold signed a statement
saying homosexuality is morally neutral, and says he is in the
"radical center," though conservatives believe he is thoroughly
liberal. The article generally characterized the Episcopal
church as one of the most socially liberal on gay rights and abortion,
but with many wishing sexuality issues would just go away. It
was implied that a ceremony of blessing for unions was the last
remaining gay-related issue, and it would be settled at the next
The US Supreme Court refused without comment to hear the appeal
of Rev. Eugene Lumpkin on December 1. Lumpkin was fired from the
San Francisco Human Relations Commission in 1993 after he said in
an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle: "It's sad
that people have AIDS and what have you, but it says right here
in the Scripture that the homosexual lifestyle is an abomination
against God." In a television interview two weeks later he
indicated that he agreed that a man who sleeps with a man should
be put to death.
Living in the Information Age
The Gary, IN Post-Tribune published a letter on November 3
that said recent archeological excavations of hundreds of dwellings
in Sodom revealed a lack of a nuclear family structure, supporting
the contention that God destroyed the city because of an
abandonment of "family values." The Post-Tribune published
a letter from the archeologist himself on November 27. He noted
that his team had not excavated hundreds of dwellings, and certainly
not enough to make any statements about family structure; the
excavations of burial grounds indicated that extended family
members were buried together; and the team never claimed they were
excavating the Biblical Sodom, but it seemed like a good candidate.
Mel White Wins ACLU Award
The Rev. Dr. Mel White
(Minister of Justice and Reconciliation for the
Universal Fellowship of
Metropolitan Community Churches)
was awarded the
National Civil Liberties Award on December 6 for his efforts
to apply the 'soul force' principles of Gandhi and King to the
struggle for justice for sexual minorities. At the presentation,
Dr. White passed the award to Lynn Cothren, the local gay
activist/founder of Atlanta's Queer Nation chapter who headed
the successful campaign to reform the Cracker Barrel Restaurant
chain. In handing the award to Cothren (Coretta Scott King's
executive assistant), Dr. White asked his friend, Lynn, to keep
it temporarily, "At least until I've earned it."
Creche on the Mall
This month we had a Philadelphia church-state controversy after
a creche sponsored by the
was added to Independence Mall (their name is prominently
featured on the creche as required by the Park Service to
avoid the appearance of government sponsorship). This is a classic
example of the conflicts between the establishment, free exercise,
and free speech clauses of the Constitution. Are free
exercise of religion and free speech permissible if the impression
is given of the government favoring one religion? Is a semi-permanent
display the same as speakers?
The Jewish Community Relations Council,
which opposes the creche and the giant menorah next to it, was
featured in the press (op-ed piece in the Inquirer and a long
article in the Daily News). The Inquirer coverage
initially consisted only of a color photograph, but a more complete
story appeared the next day. The Daily News also ran
an editorial opposing the creche, and printed our letter which
reminded readers of the recent Catholic League opposition to
a Catholic student's artistic expression of her faith at Penn State.