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Keeping the Faith The Newsletter of the Interfaith Working Group
October 2000


Texas

In September, Jessica and Robin Wicks received a marriage license and were married by Rev. John Nicholas of Metropolitan Community Church of San Antonio. The women's marriage is legally possible because Christie Lee Littleton's mixed-gender marriage was voided by the 4th Court of Appeals, a decision based in part on the federal Defense of Marriage Act. The decision legally redefined gender in thirty-two Texas counties (out of 254), making chromosomes the deciding factor and presuming that an original birth certificate accurately reflects chromosomal make-up [Keeping the Faith: Jun. 2000, Dec. 1999]. Since the wedding, two women from New Mexico have also received a Texas marriage license. The Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News covered the Wicks marriage.

New Jersey

The ACLU of New Jersey is appealing a case in which a judge denied a woman's appeal for a name change because it might appear that she and her partner were married. The judge reportedly told the couple that if they wanted to be married they should go to Vermont.

California

According to a representative from Marriage Equality California, twenty-five same-gender couples, including Rabbi Lisa Edwards (Bet Chayim Chadashim) and Rev. Elder Nancy Wilson (Metropolitan Community Church) and their partners, applied for marriage licenses in Beverly Hills, California.

Nebraska

An anti-marriage amendment to the state constitution will be on Nebraska's ballot this fall. The Omaha World Herald reports that Nebraska's three Roman Catholic bishops are urging voters to support the "Defense of Marriage Amendment." The Lincoln Journal Star quoted Jimmy Creech: "If it passes, the constitution will be used as a basis for a new apartheid."

Hawaii

Rodney Powell, one of the founders of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and an activist in the African-American civil rights movement with Martin Luther King, is now working to apply the principles of King to the civil rights movement in Hawaii for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. You can visit the Civil Unions--Civil Rights Movement's website at www.civilunions-civilrights.org.

Maine

A new anti-discrimination law is on the ballot this fall in Maine; voters repealed a sexual orientation non-discrimination law in 1998. The Portland Press Herald said that Jerry Falwell spoke against the proposed law at a conference sponsored by the Maine Christian Coalition (which is also reportedly distributing "Gay Agenda" videos); speakers included Family Research Council and American Family Association representatives.

The ballot question: "Do you favor ratifying the action of the 119th Legislature whereby it passed an act extending to all citizens regardless of their sexual orientation the same basic rights to protection against discrimination now guaranteed to citizens on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin in the areas of employment, housing, public accommodation and credit, and where the act expressly states that nothing in the act confers legislative approval of, or special rights to, any person or group of persons?"

Dr. Laura

There were Dr. Laura protests nationwide on September 11; over 100 people were at KYW-TV (5th & Market Sts., Philadelphia), with several religious, medical, and civil rights speakers. Sponsors continue to drop support for the show (according to stopdrlaura.com, sixty-one companies had pledged not to advertise by September 28). Dr. Laura's behavior, her free speech rights, and the rights of her critics have become a major subject of discussion in the media. On September 22, the Los Angeles Times reported that a panel of network executives was asked if there was anything on television they didn't feel they could defend; Garth Ancier, president of NBC entertainment, said "I'm not embarrassed about anything on television, with the exception of 'Dr. Laura.'"

Dr. Laura's website now includes an activism section, and the first topic was advocating for internet filtering in public libraries. Internet filters are well known for filtering out all kinds of non-pornographic material including medical, social, religious, and civil rights information.

Dr. Laura has campaigned against free speech, and sexual and religious minorities in her syndicated column and radio show, and has been extremely inconsistent about whether her opinions are medically or religiously based. People are asking corporations not to reward her for this behavior. Get more info by going to GLAAD's website (glaad.org), the IWG website (iwgonline.org), stopdrlaura.com, or drlaura.com.

Soulforce

Following this summer's actions at the United Methodist General Conference in Cleveland, Southern Baptist Convention in Orlando, Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly in Long Beach, CA and Episcopal Church, USA General Convention in Denver, Soulforce is planning an action November 12-14, in conjunction with the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB) in Washington, DC. Rev. William Sloan Coffin and Rev. Dr. James Lawson are to participate in Soulforce's November 13 rally. Also scheduled: a visit to the Holocaust Museum, a candlelight vigil, and civil disobedience. In addition to trying to silence Sr. Jeannine Gramick and Fr. Robert Nugent (ordered to stop ministering to sexual minorities), the church hierarchy has opposed equal rights and benefits for same-gender couples in Philadelphia, Hawaii, California, Vermont, and now Nebraska.

The Soulforce web page says: "We are Soulforce volunteers from every possible faith tradition. We accuse the Catholic Church of acts of spiritual violence against God's lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered children. We thank the American Bishops for their statement "Always Our Children" but we ask them to end the policies that destroy our children's lives, that divide our families, that lead to discrimination, suffering and death for those we love." In a September 14 letter to Dignity Chapter Leaders and Friends, Mary Louise Cervone (president of Dignity/USA) wrote: "There are differences in the methods and means that Dignity/USA and Soulforce have used, and will use, in our shared vision of reform and renewal. We will be helping to shape the goals and public statements of the NCCB protest so that they reflect Dignity's goals, and the experience we have gained from previous presence at the Bishops' meetings. Specifically, Dignity/USA does not endorse acts of civil disobedience. We leave that as a matter for individuals to determine, and will respect the informed decisions of our members."

Neo-Nazis In Pennsylvania

The Southern Poverty Law Center won a $6.3 million judgment against Aryan Nation; their Idaho compound was seized to pay the penalty. However, it appears that the organization will be reconstituting itself in Potter County, PA. Pennsylvania-based civil rights educator and activist Floyd Cochran (director of the Education and Vigilance Network and a former recruiter for Aryan Nation) warns that the leader at the new site has "embarked on a mission that will eventually lead to violence."

Boy Scouts of America

The bill which would have repealed the BSA federal charter lost in the House of Representatives. Public land and public school access for the Scouts, as well as public, corporate and United Way funding continue to be a topic of editorials, columns, and letters to the editor around the country. Several basic points have consistently gone unnoted: 1) Just because the BSA has a right to discriminate doesn't mean the public has to support them. 2) The BSA is now officially a private, discriminatory organization, theoretically to be treated like any other private, discriminatory organization by government agencies. 3) The BSA also discriminates against atheists. 4) What level of discrimination would be unacceptable to those who say that the good the organization does outweighs the harm caused by discriminating?

Emergency Contraception

The Kaiser Reproductive Health Report says the US House voted 250-170 to approve a Senate provision barring use of federal funds to distribute emergency contraception to minors in elementary and secondary schools.

United Methodist Church

Responding to anti-GLBT resolutions passed at the UMC General Conference, delegates to the Western Jurisdictional Conference almost unanimously approved a statement entitled "We Will Not Be Silent," which says: "...we cannot accept discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender persons and, therefore, we will work toward their full participation at all levels in the life of the church and society."

The council of Chicago's Broadway United Methodist Church announced the adoption of a new "policy regarding legal weddings and holy unions," which reaffirms the Church's "intent to minister to all people and exclude no group or individual. Celebrating a covenant between two people is one of our ministries. We see such covenants as not only a commitment of two people to each other, but also a declaration of new ministry and relationship to the Broadway congregation and the world." Under the policy, the pastor "will no longer 'conduct' legal weddings or holy union covenants. The couples will 'conduct' their Holy Union or legal wedding covenant....with the pastor present at a site separate from the church building and at a time chosen by the couple. This is in keeping with the United Methodist Book of Discipline." The church will "construct a special archway that is moveable and designed as a symbol of the BUMC congregation's support of the couple...[to] be used at the covenanting site."

Rev. Greg Dell's response to the policy (also on the BUMC website) says in part: "I begin with an assumption that it is unconscionable for a church to deny ministry to some people and make it available to others when that denial is based solely on the God-given identity of the excluded group. It is a practice that undercuts the foundation of our faith in the God who created all in the divine image. The ban against Holy Unions by the United Methodist denomination is nothing less than blasphemous." Rev. Dell also states: "A final assumption is that concessions to bigotry or evil of any kind are dangerous. Policies that are simply designed to 'skirt' the rules or find loopholes are only a short distance from complicity with the evil behind the rules. On the other hand, the presence of evil can also stimulate creative proactive responses. At their core, such responses can carry and represent clear statements of new or reclaimed faithful understandings or practices too long ignored (e.g. the appropriate role of laity and clergy in services of covenant). Thus, in exploring ways to include services of Holy Union we can take a step forward rather than one of retreat."

Solidarity Sunday

October 8 is Solidarity Sunday, the annual observance created by Dignity/USA. Please wear a rainbow ribbon, and pray and/or pledge to work for an end to anti-gay violence. This year, please remember the victims of the recent shootings in the bar in Roanoke, VA.

Religious Right Roundup

The Traditional Values Coalition and the American Family Association are selling advance copies of the film of Tim LeHaye's novel, "Left Behind," slated for theaters February 3, and called by the TVC "the most anticipated Christian film in history." Five dollars of every sale over $30 supports the anti-GLBT, anti-reproductive freedom, pro-church-state entanglement work of these groups.

The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) sent a fund-raising appeal saying that the ACLU is trying to "strip Christians of their freedoms." Oddly, this assertion was followed by two examples of ACLJ "major victories" (defeat of marriage in Hawaii and Domestic Partnerships in Boston) involving denying rights to others.

Seeking Common Ground

Erin Cross and Karlene Burrell-McRae of the University of Pennsylvania conducted a workshop at the recent SPARC conference in State College on creating alliances between LGBT communities and communities of color. This list of recommendations from their workshop is reprinted with permission, and is probably applicable to any two groups unfamiliar with each other trying to learn to work together:

Take risks. Be honest. Recognize that both entities need to have something to gain. Create relationships. Be proactive and reactive when necessary. Ask about needs, do not assume. Be willing to stand out, as people will stare at your difference. Identify activities being sponsored by different groups and attend them. Recognize your areas of privilege and use them both individually and institutionally to affect others. Be comfortable with who you are. Admit ignorance and ask questions. Remember that there are perceived stigmas attached to oppressed groups. Seek common ground: it will be difficult and take time, but it is all of our shared responsibility.

Letterhead Updates

Rev. Brad Greeley, one of the first to lend his name to the Interfaith Working Group letterhead, has retired and left the Philadelphia area. Since last month's story about the summer letterhead additions, we've added Rev. Douglas Fauth of the Christian Association at the University of Pennsylvania, Rabbi Caryn Broitman of Congregation Tzedek V'Shalom in Newtown (PA), and Rev. Kerry Mueller of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Delaware County.


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