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May 2005 Newsletter
Equal Marriage Rights
The Newsletter of the Interfaith Working Group
On April 26, Governor Howard Dean of Vermont
signed the "Civil Union" bill which extends all the rights
and benefits of Vermont's state marriages to same-sex
couples. The vote had passed the House by a vote of 79
to 68 the day before.
A Lambda Legal
press release quoted Director
Beatrice Dorn: "The possibilities for our families and,
indeed, the shape of our movement are forever changed.
Vermonters are to be commended for their thoughtful
and fairminded deliberations. They are the first, but
certainly not the last, to take this giant step toward
equality. Vermont has sent a signal to the entire nation
that it is no longer tolerable to deny lesbian and gay
couples the respect other couples take for granted. When
other states follow suit, they will certainly be grateful to
Vermonters for their leadership. Today is a day of
celebration for lesbians and gay men in Vermont, and
throughout this country. Of course we continue to still
look forward to the day when we win the freedom to
participate fully in marriage itself."
For a momentous legal occasion, it did not spawn the
reaction many recent events have. The story made the
news, but there was very little editorial response,
especially given the furor before the vote. ABC News
saw fit to give
three minutes of air time to
respond to the Governor. On March 30, the Conservative News Service
reported that "Vermont Activists
Put Brakes on 'Civil Unions' Legislation," and they
quoted the president of the Alliance Defense Fund: "This
is not a matter of 'my opinion versus your opinion.' If
the basis of your belief is Biblical truth-if you're a
Jewish person who reads Scripture or a Christian who
reads Scripture-you've got a sincere basis to stand on."
The American Family Association (AFA),
the Family Research Council (FRC)
and Focus on the Family (FOF)
were the only major religious right websites
with Vermont press releases. All claimed the legislature
had gone against the wishes of the electorate.
AFA: "This legislation passed by in [sic] Vermont erodes
the traditional, cultural and historical standard that marriage is a union between a man and a woman. Anything
else is counterfeit." FRC: "No matter what Vermont's
legislators do, marriage will always be the union of a man
and a woman, created by God as the essential intertwining of the sexes. Marriage is the foundation for families, communities and civilizations. It is about much more
than the relationship between two people. Liberal legislators are trying hard to ignore the Word of God, the law
of Nature, and the experience of thousands of years of
human history. But it will eventually catch up with them."
FOF: "It is an unprecedented assault on marriage, redefining what we have held as foundational truth in this
country for generations. The legislature's action today
will influence the position of marriage in every state across the nation. Vermont has now made same-sex marriages their top export, and courts all across this country
will begin to see traditional marriage challenged in an
unparalleled way." The
Traditional Values Coalition
Message to Pastors and Lay Leaders simply stated that the
legislation passed and the governor
signed it into law, in contrast to
many pages of information on other stories, including the
Boy Scouts case. The Rutland Herald quoted the
William Donahue: "What Vermont has
done is really send a message to the rest of country that
marriage is not an institution to be taken seriously."
A pro-Vermont editorial was in the St. Louis
Dispatch. In his Philadelphia Inquirer column, David
Boldt suggested civil unions might be a good line on
which to call a "truce." Boldt cited Gallup polls and the
book "One Nation After All" to support his contention
that Americans are "deeply troubled" by homosexuality.
United Methdist Church
A formal complaint against Bishop Melvin G. Talbert
charges him with "disobedience to the order and discipline"
of the church for his handling of the charges against the
who were charged and then
acquitted for performing the Sacramento same-sex union service.
A statement entitled
"United Methodists of Color for a Fully Inclusive Church"
was released on April 20, signed
by sixty people, including thirty-nine clergy. The statement says in part: "We cannot and will not deny that we
recognize in the experiences of our Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender brothers and sisters the resonance of
our own journeys as people of color in the church. We
see the truth in the words of Coretta Scott King when she
says that the struggles for inclusion of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender people are part of the 'continuing
justice movement' for which Martin Luther King, Jr. gave
his life, a movement that 'thrives on unity and inclusion,
not division and exclusion.'" The signers identified themselves as Aboriginal/Native American, African American,
African-American/Caucasion, Chinese American, Cuban
American, Dominican Republic, Filipina/o American, Filipino, Hispanic, Japanese American, Korean, Korean-American, Mexican American, Peruana/o American, Puerto
Rican, and Tongan American.
On April 16,
United Methodist Church in Boston
held a special service to celebrate their
statement of reconciliation and inclusiveness, which says
in part: "Union United Methodist
Church is a predominantly African-American congregation within the church
universal, The Body of Christ. We aspire to follow Jesus,
who welcomed, received and stood with the oppressed,
the disinherited and scorned persons of his day. He did
likewise in relation to persons with physical challenges
and those born of an ethnic, racial, or cultural parentage
different from his. His was a walk of compassion showing
who was included around 'the welcome table of the Lord'
on earth. That same walk of the Compassionate Jesus
sustains the conviction expressed in a Negro Spiritual:
'There's plenty good room, plenty good room in ma Father's Kingdom, plenty good room, plenty good room --
just choose your seat and sit down'."
The Rev. Mel White's Soulforce
has announced plans for civil disobedience
and arrests which will be led by Yolanda King, Arun Gandhi, Rev.
James Lawson, and Rev. Bob Graetz on May 10
in Cleveland, where the
United Methodist Church
General Conference meeting is to be held.
Presbyterian Church (USA)
The Permanent Judicial Commission of the Presbytery
of Southern New England has lifted the stay of installation against Wayne Osborne and the First Presbyterian Church of Stamford, so Osborne can now be installed as a member of the Session. At least seventeen
overtures dealing with sexual orientation, ordination,
marriage ceremonies, and a potential split in the denomination will be
considered at the
212th General Assembly
in Long Beach California, June 24 to July 1.
Within the last month,
Christian Coalition affiliates in
Maine, Florida, Oregon, and New Mexico have been
reported engaging in anti-gay activities. The Lewiston
(ME) Sun-Journal reported on April 12 that the
Chrisian Coalition of Maine
mailed copies of a study by Paul Cameron to "every board chairman,
superintendent and legislator in Maine, about 700 in all," with a letter
"...knowingly employing homosexual teachers after receipt of this study places you in a precarious legal situation." The
Sun-Journal followed up the article with an
editorial condeming the Coalition's action. In Florida, a
group of organizations led by the
Christian Coalition and
the Florida Family Association
failed to get enough signatures to put a repeal of the Miami-Dade Human
Rights Ordinance on the ballot. On March 27,
Christian Coalition of
Oregon was helping the
Citizens Alliance gather signatures for an anti-gay initiative
on the November 2000 state ballot which reads in
part, "the instruction of behaviors relating to homosexuality and
bisexuality shall not be presented in a public
school in a manner which encourages, promotes or sanctions such behaviors."
On March 21, the Albuquerque Journal
reported that the
Christian Coalition of New Mexico
filed a complaint with the Public Regulation Commission against
U.S. West because U.S. West offers
domestic partnership benefits.
Dr. Laura Update
National Religious Broadcasters
sent a letter to
Paramount supporting yet another national media venue
for Dr. Laura Schlessinger. The
Family Research Council,
which has supported actual censorship laws, has created a
Free Speech for Dr. Laura web page,
and ran a full page ad in
the Washington Times entitled: "The Thought Police are
Out to Get Dr. Laura."
Leaders of the worldwide Anglican Communion met in
Portugal and again warned that the ordination of gay
priests "threaten[s] the unity of the communion in a profound way."
After a five-day retreat by a hundred
Episcopal Bishops, the
Frank T. Griswold III
said he "cannot imagine any diocese altering its present
direction in the light of anything that has happened, either
here or in Portugal," according to the Los Angeles Times.
Campolos in the Inquirer
FaithLife editor Jim Remsen profiled Peggy and Rev.
Tony Campolo in the April 30 Philadelphia Inquirer
about their marriage, their differing views on homosexuality, the
reaction of conservative Christians to their
willingness to speak out on the subject, and their hopes
for Christian denominations struggling with the issue.
Peggy (board member of
Welcoming and Affirming Baptists
and friend of the IWG) will be in Cleveland with
[see page 2].
Parents Television Council
The Parents Television Council,
which regularly buys
full-page newspaper ads featuring Steve Allen, released a
study called "What a Difference a Decade Makes," detailing increased vulgarity on television. One category of
"vulgarity" was "homosexuality," and one example in the
report was a man referring to another man as his husband.
Boy Scouts of America
The US Supreme Court has heard arguments in Dale
Boy Scouts of America. The
Unitarian Universalist Association,
General Board of Church and Society of the
United Methodist Church,
United Church Board for
(United Church of Christ),
Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism,
and Diocesan Council of the
Episcopal Diocese of Newark (NJ)
Mr. Dale's behalf. The Arizona Daily Star reported
American Jewish Congress
also filed a pro-Dale brief.
People of Faith 2000
Jerry Falwell has launched
"People of Faith 2000" a
project he claims will raise up to $25 million to register
10 million religious conservatives by November.
In addition to the unfortunate name,
Rev. Falwell has told both the USA Today
that his project is intended to help one
candidate and one political party,
according to Americans United
This is improper behavior for a 501(c)(3). The project has
already raised $1 million in tax-deductible donations.
Institute for Democracy Studies
The Instititute for Democracy Studies (IDS) is continuing the work started by the Center for Democracy
Studies and The Body Politic. The first issue of IDS
Insights is 12 pages, and includes articles on anti-feminist
ecumenical organizations and "Spiritual Warfare in the
Presbyterian Church." IDS also has publications about
struggles in the
Presbyterian Church (USA),
activist organizations, and the
Promise Keepers. Call
212-493-9237 or visit
The Religious Right vs. the Environment
A number of people associated with the
(five are listed by the
Institute for First Amendment Studies
as Council for National Policy members) are mentioned in a press release
for the launch of the
for Ecological Stewardship. The press release
says: "...modern environmentalism too often travels down
a dangerous path of extremism." Those listed include Dr.
(Focus on the Family),
Rev. Dr. D. James Kennedy
(Coral Ridge Ministries/Center for
(Institute for Religion and Democracy),
Dr. Richard Land
(Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission)
Rabbi Daniel Lapin
Father Robert Sirico
and Rev. Donald Wildmon
(American Family Association)
Rabbi Marjorie Yudkin,
Beth Chaim Reform Congregation,
West Chester, has been added to the letterhead.