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Keeping the Faith The Newsletter of the Interfaith Working Group
September 2001


Definition of Marriage Amendment Introduced

The Alliance for Marriage is proposing a radical change to the U.S. Constitution. If adopted, the amendment would add the words: "Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this constitution or the constitution of any state, nor state or federal law, shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups." The Alliance's advisory board includes representatives from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary, American Anglican Council, National Association of Evangelicals, Presbyterian Coalition, Toward Tradition, Evangelicals for Social Action, Institute on Religion and Public Life, National Black Leadership Round Table, Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, African Methodist Episcopal Church, AME Zion Church, Episcopal Diocese of Illinois, Muslim American Society, Islamic Society of North America, Church of God in Christ, and the Presbyterian Layman. Nathan Diament of the Orthodox Union (OU) was at one point listed as an advisory board member, and a July 13 statement supporting the amendment is on the OU web site.

The proposed amendment is consistent with several of the groups' ongoing opposition to equal rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people, though using the Constitution to define marriage is not listed in the Alliance's agenda of reforms, which their mission says are designed to "restore a culture of married fatherhood in American society."

Reform Judaism Responds to Marriage Amendment

Mark J. Pelavin, associate director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (Washington office, Union of American Hebrew Congregations and Central Conference of American Rabbis) issued this statement:

The proposed "Federal Marriage Amendment" to the U.S. Constitution unveiled today would defile the Constitution, enshrining homophobia and intolerance in a document which protects the rights of all Americans. We believe as a fundamental tenant of our faith that all human beings are created b'tselem Elohim (in the Divine image), as it says in Genesis 1:27, "And God created humans in God's own image, in the image of God, God created them; male and female God created them." Over and above the legal issues, we find it difficult to understand why some feel threatened by the loving and committed relationships of gay and lesbian couples throughout the United States. As others today seek to increase the chasm between individuals within this great country, we seek to recommit ourselves to ensuring that no one--whether male, female, straight, or gay--be excluded from right to establish and maintain lasting and loving partnerships. The proponents of this offensive Amendment are right to point to the need to strengthen America's family, but we believe that loving and committed family relationships for gay men and lesbians are part of the solution, not part of the problem.

We understand how controversial marriage between same-sex couples is in the eyes of some; but how can a committed relationship between two individuals be constitutionally wrong? How can two loving adults coming together to form a family harm family values? Are America's families and marriages and communities so fragile and shallow that they are threatened by the love between two adults of the same sex?

We are confident that this Amendment will find little support among the American public, and commit ourselves to work against its ratification.


National Religious Leadership Roundtable

The National Religious Leadership Roundtable met in Salt Lake City in early August. A public event at St. James Episcopal Church in Midvale, UT, focused on spiritual discovery and GLBT youth, and included a discussion with the Hardy family, recently profiled in a Newsweek article on the Boy Scouts. David Hardy is a former Mormon Bishop who resigned after he was unable to reconcile his son's sexual orientation with the teachings of the church. Two other discussions included clergy and youth outreach workers, and local GLBT youth. The event was well-covered in both the Deseret News and the Salt Lake City Tribune. The Tribune quoted the Rev. Lee Shaw of St. James: "All too often in our particular state, issues around sexuality, especially with young people, are hidden. They are not dealt with in a way that is helpful for anyone--the young person, their friends, their families or their religious institutions."

Other Reactions to the Marriage Amendment

A week before the marriage amendment was announced, William F. Buckley's National Review published a supporting editorial, arguing that "To defend a valued institution, an institution the importance of which can hardly be overestimated, from what amounts to an ideological attack is a cause that all conservatives should support." In response, contributing editor Deroy Murdock wrote, "...such profound and deeply personal moral issues belong in America's churches and synagogues rather than Congress or City Hall. Let reverends and rabbis decide what the meaning of the word 'marriage' is."

An Associated Press article characterized the coalition as "religious leaders and family-policy experts," and quoted the Alliance's executive director, Matt Daniels: "Let's challenge the homosexual movement to play fair on the playing field of democracy." (There was no explanation as to how requiring amending the U.S. Constitution to equalize marriage laws in any state is playing fair.) The Conservative News Service article began: "Determined to block the courts from legalizing homosexual marriage, a coalition of minority and religious leaders unveiled plans Thursday to wed traditional marriage with the U.S. Constitution." .

In the Wall Street Journal, Robert Bork called the amendment "an attempt, and perhaps the only hope, to preserve marriage as an institution of incalculable value." Focus on the Family quoted the Urban Family Council's William Devlin: "We have a crisis across the country. "We've seen (it) not only in places like Hawaii and other states on the West Coast, but we've these so-called 'same-sex' civil unions now in Vermont." FoF also quoted Matt Daniels: "We still have public consensus on our side, but that consensus will evaporate over time under the effect of a decade of adverse court rulings."

A Culture and Family Institute report noted that Concerned Women for America, the Family Research Council, and the American Family Association had expressed reservations because it would "protect marriage in name only." The report also stated that "homosexual activists denounced [the amendment] as 'anti-gay,'" even though the coalition said they "welcome 'gay and lesbian' support for the amendment."

An Omaha World-Herald editorial said "We wish the people who are intent on fighting the so-called 'culture wars' would select some other battleground than the Constitution. It was designed as a blueprint for self-government and an enumeration of political rights and responsibilities--not as a bludgeon for one segment of society against another." The Washington Times editorialized against marriage for same-gender couples and the amendment, concluding that: "While marriage is a building block of civilization that has been dangerously undermined, it should not fall to our guide to governance to shore it up. The Constitution may foster this republic, but it is too much to expect it to settle our most fundamental moral and behavioral questions."

IWG Responds to Marriage Amendment

On July 11 the Interfaith Working Group released the following statement:

The United States Constitution is not a dictionary, a religious document, or a tool for oppression. The proposed amendment would give the civil institution of marriage a religious definition that is not shared by all religions. This is oppressive to religious and governmental bodies that may wish to define marriage differently, and to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans who will be denied equal protection under the law. It would trample on free speech, free exercise of religion, freedom from the establishment of religion, free association, and the right to redress for grievances. We are opposed to this misuse of the Constitutional Amendment process. We support equal civil marriage rights for same-gender couples, and the right of religious institutions to define religious marriage for themselves.

Spinning the Census

Focus on the Family published a peculiar item in CitizenLink in which they claimed that "homosexual groups proudly point to the 2000 census as evidence of their dramatic growth in the United States. However, the Census Bureau itself says there is no evidence to support those claims." In fact, national GLBT advocacy groups and newspapers around the country stated that the 2000 census numbers more accurately (but with a great deal of room for improvement) reflected the number of households with same-gender partners. The CitizenLink article then went on to quote Peter LaBarbera and Michael Johnston saying that the supposed claim of increase in numbers was a trick or political ploy and that "Christians should be concerned about any increase in same-sex households."

Letterhead Change

Michael Morrill, one of the first clergy on the IWG letterhead, is currently pursuing political interests that preclude him being listed. We thank him for all his help. There's always room for names. Please call to be listed.

ACLU Responds to Marriage Amendment

In a statement and letter to Congress, the ACLU said "This amendment is the legal equivalent of a nuclear bomb. It will wipe out every single law protecting gay and lesbian families and other unmarried couples." Specifically they stated that it would "reverse the tradition of protecting, not harming, individual liberty...end the role of state governments in protecting unmarried couples and their families in their states...invalidate all state domestic partnership laws....undermine state adoption, foster care and kinship care laws..." and "destroy a wide range of other rights provided to unmarried persons."

United Methodist GLBT and Allies

Several announcements came out of the Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN) 7th Biennial Convocation.

Sixty-seven clergy signed on as members of the new Clergy Alliance, to "provide a network of support and strategy for clergy committed to a fully inclusive church and ministry" and to "challenge UM Church policies and practices that exclude or discriminate against people because of their race, gender, sexual orientation, or other condition of identity." The stated strategies of the Alliance include working to change the denomination's discriminatory policies; challenging "the unjust laws and policies of the denomination through non-violent confrontation;" and establishing a "Professing Church," within the denomination, "developing the parallel infrastructure and resources needed for full inclusive ministry." The Rev. Gregory Dell, pastor of Broadway United Methodist Church in Chicago, Illinois and the Rev. Marilyn Meeker-Williams, pastor of Bering Memorial United Methodist Church in Houston, Texas were named as cocoordinators of the Clergy Alliance.

The Rev. Douglas Fitch, minister of Glide Memorial UMC, vowed to forge a coalition between the UMC Inter Ethnic Caucus and the LGBT advocacy caucus.

A statement was issued by United Methodists of Color for a Fully Inclusive Church, Clergy Alliance, Parents Reconciling Network, MOSAIC--Methodist Students for a Fully Inclusive Church, Affirmation: United Methodists for LGBT Concerns, Methodist Federation for Social Action, and the Reconciling Ministries Network. The statement called the denomination to accountability following the launch of a $20 million advertising campaign touting "Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors."

Soulforce and the ELCA

Fifty Soulforce supporters were arrested while kneeling in prayer outside the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's Churchwide Assembly in Indianapolis after the Assembly voted to study same-sex unions and the ordination of non-celibate GLBT clergy for another four years. Arrestees included Rev. Jeff Johnson (one of the first irregularly-ordained GLBT clergy), Bishop Emeritus Paul W. Egertson (who resigned from the office of Bishop after the irregular ordination of Anita Hill [June, 2001]), Soulforce Chair Jimmy Creech, Jacob Reitan (a 19-year-old openly-gay Lutheran youth) and his parents Randi and Phil from Eden Prairie Minnesota, Robert and Jeannie Graetz (who stood with Martin Luther King during the Montgomery bus boycotts), and Rev. Mel White (co-founder and executive director of Soulforce).

Orthodox Jewish Documentary

Variety reported that Trembling Before G-d, Sandhi Simcha Dubowski's portrait of gay Orthodox Jews, received the grand jury award for documentary feature at the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Film Festival. For more information visit www.tremblingbeforeg-d.com.


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