This site is maintained for archival purposes only.
May 2005 Newsletter
Equal Marriage Rights
The Newsletter of the Interfaith Working Group
December 2001/January 2002
Reform Judaism and Domestic Partnership
On November 8, the Reform Movement sent a
signed by Rabbi David Saperstein (Director,
Religious Action Center) and Judge
David S. Davidson (Chairman, Commission on Social Action) to forty-nine
state governors encouraging them to follow the lead of California Governor
Gray Davis and publicly support domestic partnership benefits for gays and
lesbians. The text of the letter follows:
On behalf of the
Union of American Hebrew Congregations
(UAHC), whose over 900 congregations across North America encompass
1.5 million Reform Jews, the
Central Conference of American Rabbis
(CCAR), whose membership exceeds 1800 rabbis, and the
Women of Reform Judaism (WRJ),
whose membership exceeds 100,000 Reform Jewish women, we write urging you to
publicly support the expansion of domestic partnership benefits for gay and
On October 14, California Governor Gray Davis signed A.B. 25, landmark
legislation that allows domestic partners to make medical decisions in
hospitals, sue for wrongful death, use sick leave to care for an ill partner
or the child of a domestic partner, administer a partner's estate, and
relocate with a domestic partner without losing unemployment benefits.
Additionally, the law exempts partners from state income tax for the health
benefits provided to domestic partners and ensures the continuation of health
benefits for surviving partners of government employees and retirees. The law
also protects domestic partners under second-parent adoption law, guaranteeing
domestic partners the right to adopt a partner's child as a stepparent.
Recognizing both the legitimacy and the reality of gay and lesbian
relationships is, we believe, a statement in favor of family values.
Providing increased access to health care and expanded family benefits,
such as those guaranteed in A.B. 25, should serve as a model for our nation's
Now is the time to act. Your leadership is necessary to break a legal
barrier that stands in the way of equality for all Americans. By publicly
supporting domestic partnership benefits, you will provide a powerful voice
to the campaign to strengthen American families.
In a November, 2000 resolution, the Commission on Social Action, a joint
instrumentality of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and the Central
Conference of American Rabbis, called upon state governments to "adopt
legislation that will afford all legal protections currently available to
married couples to committed lesbian and gay domestic partners." In 1997,
the Women of Reform Judaism passed a resolution urging the "support of
federal, state, provincial and local legislation that will require spousal
benefits for lesbian and gay individuals in committed relationships."
Jewish tradition teaches us that we are all created in the image of God
(b'tselem Elohim). Each of us is uniquely capable of working to repair the
world, and thus inherently valuable. It is in this spirit that as a nation,
we celebrate our diversity and insist on equality for all. Especially in
these troubled times, equality, along with our other constitutionally
guaranteed freedoms, must reign supreme if we are to remain united and strong.
We have added a donors page to the web site
All organizations and trusts that donate in the future will be listed
automatically, and any individual who donates will be listed on request.
If you or your organization or trust have donated in the past and would like
to be listed, please let us know, and we will be happy to add you.
You Can Help
As the end of the calendar year approaches, many congregations may be
considering what organizations to support with monetary gifts in the coming
year. We are an all-volunteer 501(c)(3) with a small budget, so every little
bit helps. For individuals who make contributions before the end of the year,
you may include the gift in your itemizations on your 2001 tax return. (All
donors receive confirmation letters, so you can keep this for your records.)
Please consider making a contribution to the Interfaith Working Group this
December or January to help us carry on our work. Thank you!
Salvation Army and Domestic Partnership
A statement from the
USA Western Territory
announced that the organization was looking into providing Domestic Partnership
benefits, "recognizing the vital role played by employees in facilitating the
delivery of many of the Army's ministries." The proposed change in policy,
while a step in the right direction, was accompanied by a reiteration of the
Salvation Army's belief that same-gender sexual relationships are wrong, and
an unfortunate comparison was made between such relationships and wife beating.
Reaction from the Radical Religious Right was immediate and furious, and on
November 12, the
American Family Association (AFA)
that the Salvation Army's Commissioner's Conference had established a
national policy to extend health benefits to an employee's spouse and dependant
Basic Rights Oregon,
Chi Rho Press,
Equal Partners in Faith,
are among the organizations encouraging individuals to put notes in
Salvation Army kettles explaining why the money that normally would have
been contributed is going to other charities.
Donald Wildmon, head of the AFA was quoted in AgapePress responding to the
original announcement that benefits would be offered: "Unfortunately, I'm
going to have to say that when I pass the kettles going in or out of a
store this Christmas, I'm going to have to keep my money and put it into
another place that I'll trust to be more in keeping with the biblical
mandate of the family and human sexuality."
Gary Glenn, head of the
AFA of Michigan
was quoted in cnsnews.com responding to reports that PFLAG was encouraging
leaving notes in kettles: "Nothing could be more cold-hearted and callous,
especially at Christmas, than trying to advance a political cause by
attacking charitable efforts to help the poorest and neediest citizens of
Debra Haffner, former SIECUS CEO,
and Rev. Larry Greenfield, an ordained
minister in the
American Baptist Churches of the USA
are now co-directors of the Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice,
and Healing. According to their web site
the Religious Declaration on Sexual Morality, Justice and Healing, originally
distributed by SIECUS and endorsed by the IWG Coordinators and several IWG
supporters, is now under the aegis of the Institute.
The Institute "develops and supports an expanding religious network of clergy,
religious educators, theologians, theological ethicists, and other religious
leaders committed to this vision of religion and sexuality. It builds the
capacity of religious institutions and clergy to offer sexuality education
within the context of their own faith traditions and to advocate for sexual
rights; helps congregations become sexually healthy faith communities; and
educates the public and policy makers about this vision of sexual morality,
justice, and healing."
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
The Church Council of the
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)
voted to set aside $250,000 in start-up funds for the development of a social
statement on human sexuality and a church-wide study on homosexuality; it also
voted "to affirm that there are no preconceived conclusions on the content of
the recommendations that will be submitted to the 2005 and subsequent
According to the ELCA News Service, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Key West,
FL, became "the first Lutheran congregation in Florida to install a
non-celibate, gay pastor," namely the Rev. Arlo David Peterson. The
Miami Herald quoted Greg Egertson, of
Lutheran Lesbian and Gay Ministries,
who said that Peterson is one of "more than a dozen gay or lesbian Lutheran
pastors nationwide serving in defiance of church rules."
U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops
volunteers stood in prayerful
vigil outside the annual meeting of the
U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops
in Washington, DC. After they sang a Taize hymn, one of the bishops greeted
each person in line and accepted, blessed, and donned a rainbow cross; the next
day at least five bishops agreed to meet with Soulforce volunteers with whom
they had corresponded, and two nuns participating in
the conference joined in the vigil.
We have been using the phrase "sexual minorities" as shorthand for "gay,
lesbian, bisexual and transgender" in our written materials, including the
mission statement. While we will continue to use the expression in situations
where it seems appropriate, we are clarifying the mission statement, which now
We believe that the characterization of religion as inherently conservative,
and the subsequent portrayal of social debates as disagreements between the
religious and the irreligious undermine faith in religious institutions and
the ideal of religious diversity.
Our mission is to inform the public of the diversity of religious opinion on
social issues where it is not widely recognized by providing a voice and a
forum for religious organizations, congregations and clergy who support equal
rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people; reproductive
freedom; and the separation of church and state.
Presbyterian Church (USA)
has published a
calling for the creation of a temporary "shadow denomination," followed by the
restructuring and downsizing of the PCUSA and the expulsion or discipline of
congregations who disagree with them about a "Biblical" ordination standard (a
phrase not defined in the document, but the meaning of which can probably be
inferred, based on other statements, to mean ordination of non-GLBT individuals
San Joaquin Presbytery has filed complaints against the Presbytery of the
Redwoods for failing to conduct "the appropriate examination" of the Rev. Katie
Morrison, and against the Synod of the Pacific for not preventing her
ordination in the first place.
Lancaster, PA Human Relations Commission
Ten years ago, Lancaster City Council passed an ordinance prohibiting
discrimination within the city. Jurisdictional conflicts arose between the
city (which did not have a human relations commission) and the county (which
has no protections for orientation or marital status), so the ordinance was
never enforced. On November 27, the City Council unanimously amended the
discrimination code to establish a city human relations commission, to provide
for enforcement, and to clarify existing provisions.
The amended discrimination code covers employment, housing, education, public
accommodations, and lending, and includes sexual orientation, defined for
purposes of the ordinance as "male or female homosexuality, heterosexuality,
bisexuality, and any other gender identity, by practice, or as perceived by
Maryland Non-Discrimination Law
Maryland became the twelfth state to outlaw discrimination based on sexual
orientation when a recently-passed anti-discrimination law survived an
attempted ballot challenge.
(the organization which
attempted to challenge the law) reached an agreement with civil rights
advocates in which they acknowledged that they did not have enough signatures
for the challenge to be included on the November 2002 ballot.
Equal Partners in Faith
released a statement saying, "Although this is a great step forward for
gays and lesbians, this is only the beginning; work to include 'gender
identity' in all anti-discrimination and civil rights laws must continue
until all people are free from discrimination."
Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice
In the November 14 issue of The Hilland the November 15 issue of
Roll Call, the
Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice
(RCRC) purchased advertisements reminding readers that since 1977,
abortion providers have suffered 7 murders, 17 attempted murders, 41 bombings,
165 arsons, 948 acts of vandalism, 557 anthrax threats, 122 assaults, 343 death
threats, and 3 kidnappings. "Like other extremists who cloak themselves in
religion, anti-abortion zealots are certain God wants them to terrorize and
even kill for their beliefs," said RCRC President Rev. Carlton W. Veazey.
"Tragically, America is now feeling the kind of fear abortion providers and
women have long known."
Florida Choose Life License Plates
A Florida Circuit Court Judge dismissed a lawsuit by the
National Organization for Women
and a Palm Beach synagogue who argued that "Choose Life" license plates
have a phrase from Deuteronomy that is "inextricably linked to the
anti-abortion movement" and is in conflict with the
separation of church and state. The judge said the plaintiffs "failed to
prove there were any constitutional flaws" with the tags; an appeal is in the
The license plates are supported by a group called
Choose Life, Inc.
Sales by the state have raised $688,280 for groups that support adoption
programs and are not involved or associated with abortion activities,
including counseling for or referrals to abortion clinics, providing medical
abortion-related procedures, or "pro-abortion" advertising. Seventy percent of
the funds received must be used to provide for the material needs of pregnant
women. The remaining 30% can be spent on other activities, including
The Constitution Again
Rep. Ernest Istook has announced a third attempt to change the text of the
Constitution and the balance between the free exercise and establishment
clauses of the First Amendment. Istook's proposed Amendment reportedly says:
"To secure the people's right to acknowledge God according to the dictates of
conscience: Neither the United States nor any State shall establish any
official religion, but the people's right to pray and to recognize their
religious beliefs, heritage, or traditions on public property, including
schools, shall not be infringed. Neither the United States nor any State shall
require any person to join in prayer or other religious activity, or prescribe
Rev. Barry Lynn, of
said the proposed change "would bring sweeping changes to the church-state
landscape and alter the First Amendment for the first time in American history.
Among the likely consequences are coercive school-sponsored prayer in public
school classrooms, government endorsement of religious texts on public
property and divisiveness among religious groups as they are forced to compete
with one another for government recognition."
On November 30,
Catholics For A Free Choice (CFFC)
launched worldwide ad campaign focused on the web site
Billboards and ads in subways, on bus shelters and in newspapers say:
"Catholic people care. Do our bishops? Banning Condoms Kills." This public
education effort is aimed at Catholics and non-Catholics alike to raise
awareness of the effect of the bishops' ban on condoms. The web site invites
people to contact policy makers and express support for condom availability
and a concern that the bishops not undermine responsible HIV/AIDS public
health policy. "The Vatican and the world's bishops bear significant
responsibility for the death of thousands of people who have died from AIDS,"
said Frances Kissling, president of CFFC. "For individuals who follow the
Vatican policy and Catholic health care providers who are forced to deny
condoms, the bishops' ban is a disaster. Real people are dying from AIDS. Real
bishops are silently acquiescent. We can no longer stand by and allow the ban
to go unchallenged."