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May 2005 Newsletter
Equal Marriage Rights
The Newsletter of the Interfaith Working Group
The debate over the role of sexual minorities in
Protestant denominations continues in 1998.
So far, Rev. Steven Sabin was told he will be
removed from the clergy roster by the
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America;
a lay pastor was fired by a different ELCA congregation
in Iowa; a date was set by the
United Methodist Church (UMC)
for the trial of Rev. Jimmy Creech;
the debate over ordination standards continued in the
Presbyterian Church (USA),
congregation was expelled from the Texas Convention.
Rev. Steven Sabin, of
Lord of Life Lutheran Church
in Ames, IA,
has been informed that he will be defrocked
effective April 15 for living with another gay man.
His congregation must decide whether they will
defy the ruling. Coverage has mostly been limited
to midwest papers, but will likely be national in April.
Rev. Jimmy Creech's hearing has been scheduled for
March 11-13 Kearney, NE, 186 miles from his Omaha
congregation. Rev. Creech is being tried for
performing a union ceremony, the first time a pastor
has been tried for violating the
Social Principles. The story has already made the
front page of the New York Times. The issues
include the rights of ministers to pastor to
all parishioners, as well as the broader issue of an
inclusive church and society, and demonstrating that
people of faith support this vision.
Proclaiming the Vision, created so organize, support
and coordinate plans among the various groups within
the UMC supporting Rev. Creech, is a project of the
Methodist Federation for Social Action
with the long-term goal of Proclaiming the Vision
of an inclusive church and society. They are preparing
media support and helping with travel and lodging
preparations for supporters around the county.
Rev. Arthur Brandenburg will be among those
going from our area.
University Baptist Church
The Baptist General Convention of Texas
has expelled the
University Baptist Church in Austin.
The Southern Baptist
congregation will have to remove the Convention's
name from their literature and web site. The
web site mentions both the Convention affiliation and
the church's ministry of gay, lesbian, bisexual,
straight and transgendered people working toward
unity and inclusion. Rev. Larry Bethune said,
"Gays and lesbians and their families are damaged
once again by hearing that God hates them. They
hear that [message] the way an African-American
would hear, 'Love the soul and hate the color,' or
a woman would hear 'Love the woman but hate the gender.'"
Voters Veto Maine Anti-Discrimination Law
Voters in Maine overturned a bill designed to prevent
discrimination in housing and employment on
the basis of sexual orientation. State law allows
voters to circulate petitions requesting a veto of
a bill passed by the legislature, and if enough
signatures are collected, the bill must pass a
special election. In this case a petition was circulated
Christian Civic League
Christian Coalition of Maine.
Veto of the "gay rights law" as most commentators
called it, sparked editorials, press releases,
letter-writing campaigns, and feature articles.
One of two schools of thought on the vote is that
most Americans are morally opposed to homosexuality.
A recent study published in the New York Times
Magazine claimed that there is no appreciable
moral support for gay rights among suburbanites;
a number of writers and editors, including Don
Feder, latched onto this idea. In Feder's syndicated
column, he focused on recent legislative setbacks for
gay rights, concluding, "Middle-class Americans have
not come to the conclusion that homosexuality
represents an alternative that is the moral equal
of any other. Nor will they, while the nation
retains its sanity. How many times do we have to
say 'no'--to domestic partners ordinances, gay marriage,
efforts to coerce the Boy Scouts and public-school
indoctrination--before the elite takes this resounding
negative as an answer?"
The second school of thought, reflected in an article
in the Philadelphia Inquirer and papers in
Maine, was that conservative churches and organizations
are still unparalleled in involving constituents in
the democratic process. Only 30% of the people
registered actually voted, so the 52% victory required
the mobilization of less than 16% of the electorate.
Opponents of the veto outspent proponents 5-1 on
advertising featuring Governor Angus King, and polls
showed support for the nondiscrimination law. However,
and Maine Christian Coalitions worked through local churches
to get out the vote; the
Family Research Council
organized an Alveda Celeste King rally and a
state-wide ex-gay tour; and Gary Bauer's other
organization, American Renewal, contributed
$25,000 for ads. According to the Bangor Daily
News, Bauer spoke to veto supporters by phone
after the vote: "You had the common sense of the
people of Maine behind you, and 2,000 years of
Judeo-Christian civilization. We need people
to defend marriage and the family. I'm proud to
be on the same team with you."
The Portland Press Herald wrote about the
members of the
Lisbon Free Baptist Church
rallying to support the veto, with one member alone
manufacturing and distributing 100 lawn signs and
calling 200 people to remind them to vote. The
story also mentioned the local
pastor, who opposed the veto and tried to hold
seminars on the problems faced by gay and lesbian
people, but shop owners were pressured to take down
the signs. According to the AP story, the national
Christian Coalition plans to build on this success
by recruiting 100,000 church liaisons; "Coalition
officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said...
churches are becoming an efficient way to reach voters
in an age of suburban sprawl."
The Christian Coalition's Randy Tate was quoted in
papers around the country, calling the vote a
"victory for people of faith." The
produced a national letter-writing alert in response.
As if to back up Tate, the Washington Post,
in interviews with Maine citizens, cited the
religious affiliations of those opposed to the
law, but not supporters. In contrast, papers in
Maine did a far better job of highlighting religious
people on both sides of the debate, and a Philadelphia
Inquirer article concluded with a quote from
Rev. Susan Jamison, pastor of the
Unitarian-Universalist Church of Bangor,
who said, "Many of us are very embarrassed by this vote.
We hope the rest of the country sees this as a
wake-up call." The San Francisco Chronicle's
editorial said "The Maine repeal vote demonstrates
that any complacency in the civil rights movement
for gays and lesbians is risky and premature."
National Freedom to Marry Report
On February 12, the mayors of San Francisco,
Las Vegas, and Ithaca declared the first National
Freedom to Marry Day. Events around the country
included one on February 13 on the Penn campus,
with Rev. Dr. Beverly Dale, executive director of the
at the University of Pennsylvania
(and IWG supporter),
speaking. Reuters wrote about the tying of
a large knot on the steps of New York's City Hall
officiated by Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum; a "just married"
procession of cars in Kansas City; and a wedding cake
ceremony in Atlanta. The Boston Globe reported
on a prayer breakfast sponsored by the
Boston Freedom to Marry Coalition
which included Rabbi Howard Berman, rabbi emeritus of
Sinai Temple in Chicago,
who talked about the practice which persisted for
some centuries in some European countries of limiting
(by law) the number of marriage licenses available
to Jewish couples.
Opposition in Vermont
On February 11 (the day before Freedom to Marry Day)
a group in Vermont announced their intent to
pass a state constitutional amendment defining
marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
A clergy member of the group was quoted in the
Burlington Free Press: "The basic unit of
social order in our country is the family, which is
defined in the Judeo-Christian documents that our
country was founded on as one man and one woman.
Anything else would lead to social deterioration."
Philadelphia Yet Again
Gay rights are a religious issue in our city again,
though the level of publicity has not approached the
media circus from last time. This time the
send a hand-delivered letter to City Council members
and the mayor complaining about the three proposed
life-partner ordinances. According to the
Inquirer, it said, "Ordinances of this type
are destructive to our city's moral and social
structure because they are, in essence, a means to
promote and protect homosexual relationships."
The archdiocese said parishioners would be reminded
how their council people voted. William Devlin,
director of the
Philadelphia Family Policy Council,
said in the Daily News he was "working behind
the scenes" on strategy and lining up "a vast host
of black, Hispanic and Asian clergy...opposed to
expanding the definition of family."
So far this has not received major coverage; there
has been a Reuters story, a Philadelphia Daily
News story, Cynthia Burton's Inquirer
column, a story in some editions of the Inquirer,
and 30 seconds on the Channel 6 news. The
Daily News mentioned support by "liberal
clergy," and ran three letters criticizing comments
by the Cardinal and John Street, and praising
Councilman John Kenney, who indicated in the
Daily News that his duty is to the city and not
Deb Price Writes about Synagogue
On February 20, syndicated columnist Deb Price wrote
about the inspirational history of New York's
Congregation Beth Simchat Torah,
led since 1992
by Reconstructionist Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, which
has grown from 10 members to 800 in 25 years, and is
the world's largest gay synagogue, attracting 3,000
worshipers for Yom Kippur. Rabbi Kleinbaum was
also mentioned in the Reuter's story on National
Freedom to Marry Day.
Rev. Victoria Weinstein of
Mainline Unitarian Church
is number sixty-six and the Rev. Jim Littrell of
St. Mary's Episcopal Church,
is the sixty-seventh
supporter of the IWG.
Promise Keepers Broke
According to published reports and their own web page,
is out of money and has laid off all staff (345
people). The Detroit Free Press reported
that Bill McCartney said he would ask every church
in the country to give $1,000: "It's the will of
God for churches to give this money. If the church
fails to do this, they will have missed the heart of
God. If they're a small church, that doesn't let
them off the hook. They need to ask a large church
for the money." According to the web page, events
announced for the rest of the year will be held.
Local Presbyterian Votes
Amendment A, passed this year by the
Presbyterian Church (USA)
General Assembly, lost in both the
Presbyteries during the February monthly meetings.
The proposed amendment replaces heterosexist
ordination requirements voted into the
Book of Order by the General Assembly and presbyteries
last year (Amendment B). The Philadelphia Presbytery
passed an overture suggesting alternative language
which cleans up theological problems with Amendment
B while clarifying the original intent as an
anti-gay-ordination measure. Whatever happens, it is
clear that the denomination is deeply divided over
issues of sexuality.