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Keeping the Faith The Newsletter of the Interfaith Working Group
April 2002


Parenting Rights

The legal rights and difficulties of gay and lesbian parents was one of the major news subjects in the last month. Seven separate stories contributed to media- and public-awareness of the subject: Rosie O'Donnell's coming out; a pro-adoption lawsuit by the ACLU in Florida which Rosie O'Donnell is supporting; a bill in Colorado which would prevent two people of the same gender from being listed as parents on a birth certificate; a Nebraska Supreme Court decision forbidding second-parent adoption; an Ohio Supreme Court hearing of a second-parent adoption case; and continued coverage of two stories we mentioned last month: Judge Moore's decision and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) statement in favor of adoption by same-gender couples [see March 2002].

Media coverage and commentary generally favored the right of sexual minorities to raise and adopt children, but lacked supportive statements from people of faith. Religious Right reaction was heated, and oddly (for the most part) not religious in nature. [see below] For more information on this subject we recommend visiting www.lethimstay.com (a web site produced by the ACLU Lesbian and Gay Rights Project) that includes information about the Florida lawsuit, one of the families involved in the suit, and general legal background information.

Religious Right Reaction to Same-Gender Parents

Focus on the Family distributed an article entitled "Rosie's War," which mentioned Judge Moore's decision and the AAP statement, and argued that Rosie, while nice, is atypical; that there are children raised by same-gender parents who find the situation difficult; and parents that reinforce gender-stereotypes are necessary for healthy childhood development.

The Traditional Values Coalition, an organization that has regularly claimed to represent 40,000 churches, made no pretense of being nice. Their newsletter recommended a British book called "Children as Trophies," and their press release noted that Rosie was now referring to herself as a dyke, has "already adopted three innocent children," and that they fear she will eventually have her children marching in pride parades.

The American Family Association, which spends a great deal of time trying to censor sexual references and depictions on television, claimed that Rosie's ABC interview demonstrated "the deathgrip that liberal elites have on the entertainment and news media institutions." They pointed to a resource web page about adoption that includes a link to their main anti-gay propaganda document, which in turn includes numerous statistics about explicit sexual practices.

Syndicated columnist Armstrong Williams wrote, "History, social-science research and all three religions tend to agree that a loving union between man and woman provides the bedrock for a child's emotional health." It was unclear which three religions Mr. Armstrong might have meant.

Media Coverage of the Parenting Debate

CNN Talkback Live featured a discussion of Rosie's coming-out that included extensive comments from Jerry Falwell about his understanding of Christian family structures. The AP circulated several stories, including one about Steve Lofton and Roger Crouteau (Lofton-Crouteau are suing Florida, with some other couples); a story about the ACLU's lawsuit, including quotes about the necessity of gender stereotypes from Ken Conner of the Family Research Council; an article about Rosie's purchase of full-page ads in four Florida newspapers urging the legislature to overturn the adoption ban; and an article about the Nebraska decision which mentioned that the women had had a commitment ceremony and are planning to move to a different state (it also listed some of the organizations that had filed friend-of-the-court briefs without mentioning their positions).

The Wall Street Journal ran a column by Al Hunt in which he suggested that preference should always be given to mixed-gender couples, but that adoption by others should not be automatically blocked. He attacked the Family Research Council and Traditional Values Coalition, quoting an author of a study cited by the Religious Right who said, "They use phony research and then egregiously distort real research." The Washington Times ran an article entitled "Nation divided on gay parenting," excerpting statements from some groups in favor of adoption and directly quoting officials from some opposing groups: the Traditional Values Coalition, Concerned Women for America and NARTH.

The St. Petersburg Times was one of many publications pointing out that the Florida ban was passed in 1977 through the influence of Anita Bryant, and is being challenged twenty-five years later with the influence of Rosie O'Donnell. The article also noted that the Christian Coalition of Florida takes the position that every child should live with a father and a mother. The South Florida Sun Sentinel reported that nine former state legislators who voted for the adoption ban in 1977 have signed a statement saying that they made a mistake.

The Miami Herald ran a column about Rosie and local couples who have adopted or are trying to adopt, with opposing quotes from the American Family Association and Focus on the Family. The Palm Beach Post ran a long article about a single gay Jewish father and his adopted son. The Columbian of Vancouver, WA, ran a very positive column about the Lofton-Crouteau family, who are foster parents under Florida's supervision although they live in Portland, OR.

The Lincoln Journal Star, reporting on the Nebraska decision, quoted a spokesperson for the Nebraska Family Council, saying that a ruling in favor of giving a child two legal parents would have undermined Nebraska's marriage ban. The Omaha World Herald ran a cartoon about a teenage boy with two mothers who is confused about girls, and several letters responding to the cartoon. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that a legal brief in the Ohio case filed on behalf of eight state legislators, the American Family Association of Ohio, and Citizens for Community Values warned that a decision in favor of the two women having joint custody of their six children would "...create a slippery slope that could render Ohio a haven for morally repugnant relationships."

The Denver Post ran a column against same-gender parents being listed on a birth certificate, but another column and an editorial supporting the practice. The editorial quoted Matthew 7:3-- "Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?"

The Arizona Republic ran a pro-adoption opinion piece from a pediatrician, an anti-adoption piece from the Family Research Council, and a piece by a gay couple who are a year into the adoption process. The Des Moines Register ran an article explaining Iowa adoption policy, and pointing out that Florida is the only state to specifically ban adoption by gay, lesbian, and bisexual people. The Lansing (MI) State Journal ran three articles, one about co-adoption policies in Michigan, one with interviews with legislators, gubernatorial candidates and the head of the Michigan Family Association, and one with a summary of positions taken by various advocacy organizations, including the Michigan Family Association.

The Cavalier Daily of the University of Virginia and the Dallas Morning News ran columns in favor of adoption by gay parents. The Chicago Tribune Magazine had a long cover story about the daily lives of three families with same-gender parents, as well as information about local and national public policy, which unfortunately only offered religious opinion from the Family Research Council (they complained about "gender confusion" and stated that "the Bible considers homosexuality a sin") and a local Baptist pastor who said the families "go against what I'd call the created order in both Scripture and nature."

Syndicated columnist Robert Scheer concluded: "Florida's discriminatory adoption law reflects the blinding intolerance of those who would deny the humanity and decency of the Croteaus, Loftons and O'Donnells of this world, at the expense of innocents."

Presbyterian Church (USA)

As predicted, numerous charges have been filed (more are expected) against clergy and laity who want to end the ban on ordaining non-celibate gay, lesbian, and transgender people.

The PCUSA News Service reports that Paul Rolf Jensen has charged Rev. Katie Morrison (an out lesbian), her father, and six people involved in her ordination; the co-pastors of First Presbyterian in Anaconda, MT (one is Executive Presbyter of Yellowstone) who signed a statement of dissent the session passed; and the current and former pastors of Cincinnati's Mt. Auburn Presbyterian (the session declared it "has not and cannot comply with G-6.0106b of the Book of Order," and said "marriage between two persons, man and woman, or a man and a man, or woman and woman, is the same in the eyes of the Session of Mt. Auburn Presbyterian.").

Central Florida PJC has ruled unanimously that sessions of PCUSA congregations do not have authority to draft confessional statements or bind officers to theological standards not explicitly stated in the Book of Order. Charges were filed by an elder against First Presbyterian Church of Sebastian, FL, a Confessing Church Movement member congregation.

The Confessing Movement held its first national convention and launched a new web site. They appear to be following a model proposed in the Presbyterian Coalition's vision statement: the creation of a temporary "shadow denomination;" restructuring and downsizing of the denomination and expelling or disciplining congregations who disagree with them on a "Biblical" ordination standard. The phrase "Biblical ordination standard" is not defined (it is strongly inferred that this means ordination only of non-GLBT individuals).

More Light Presbyterians responded to the announcement of Jenson's charges in part: "On this Maundy Thursday, a day of reflection upon the life, death and resurrection of Christ, and the betrayal from his own followers, we pray for our Church. We pray for our Church to seek and be open to God's Spirit leading us to new understandings and ways to be the Church."

A Soulforce statement of support said in part: "The spirit of justice and hope that the actions of the Session of Mt. Auburn Presbyterian display creates a ripple effect that will be felt beyond the walls of the church. The spiritual violence that is committed by the PC(USA) when it denies the sanctity of the call of gays and lesbians and the holiness of relationships is being loudly challenged by Mt. Auburn. Gays and lesbians will be healed and affirmed by this courageous and just act."

Kansas Supreme Court

The Kansas Supreme Court followed the dubious example of the Texas Fourth Circuit Court in ruling that J'Noel Gardiner is a man under Kansas law, because it says so on her birth certificate, and that she is not entitled to share in the estate of her late husband. Since the legality of marriage in Kansas is now dependant on the gender assigned at birth it will be possible (as it is in thirty-two counties in Texas) for two people with the same legal gender to marry, as long as they have birth certificates that don't display the same gender.

Ten Commandments and the IWG on TV

"It's Your Call With Lynne Doyle," a talk show on Comcast's CN8, featured an hour-long discussion of the Ten Commandments plaque on the Chester County Courthouse and a federal court order to remove it. IWG Co-coordinator Chris Purdom was on the panel.

Many thanks to everyone who supports the IWG financially and/or in name, for giving us the reputation to occasionally ensure a progressive religious presence in the media, and to hopefully represent your interests. Your continued tax-deductible financial support and/or your name on the letterhead is greatly appreciated. Contact us to borrow a tape of the program.

9/11 Fund

The final rule for the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund of 2001 has been posted on the web. The fund is administered by the Department of Justice, and was authorized by Congress for "compensation to any individual (or the personal representative of a deceased individual) who was physically injured or killed as a result of the terrorist-related aircraft crashes on that day." Comments from the Special Master (the executive who determines the criteria for compensation) note that Amnesty International was among the organizations urging that compensation be awarded "regardless of sexual orientation or marital status" but "the final rule continues to rely upon state law for the determination of the personal representative." Same-gender partners not specifically named in wills can only get compensation in Vermont; California's law was not in place as of September 11, and no other state recognizes same-gender couples. Comment upon the final rule or read other comments at http://www.usdoj.gov/victimcompensation/final.html. New comments can be posted until April 5.

UU Ministers Association and Judge Moore

From the March 10 annual meeting in Birmingham:

We Unitarian Universalist ministers, gathered in convocation in Birmingham, Alabama, are compelled by our religious beliefs to speak out in opposition to the recent homophobic comments of Chief Justice Roy Moore of the Supreme Court of Alabama.

Unitarian Universalism affirms the inherent worth and dignity of each person, and our faith tradition has long been a strong supporter of equal rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. Judge Moore's description of homosexuality as "an inherent evil," "abhorrent," "immoral," and "detestable," and his suggestion that execution is an appropriate penalty for gay people are shameful expressions of bigotry and hatred. As clergy people, we are called to condemn such hateful and divisive comments, especially when expressed by a person in a position of civic leadership and trust.

We Unitarian Universalist ministers are proud that our faith tradition has long ordained openly gay and lesbian ministers. We are deeply concerned that Judge Moore's comments have created a climate of fear for gay and lesbian citizens of Alabama as well as visitors to this state. More than 450 Unitarian Universalist ministers have gathered here in Birmingham for the past several days, but we, and many groups who share our concern for equal rights for all citizens, will have second thoughts about convening our meetings in a state characterized by the oppression of its gay and lesbian citizens. Let it be very clear that we condemn the legitimizing of hatred and the oppression of a significant part of our population.

Almost four decades ago, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote from a ail-cell here in Birmingham words that apply today: "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." Just as Unitarian Universalists worked for the equal rights for African Americans during the civil rights movement and beyond, we pledge our support to the struggle for full civil rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender citizens of our country.

As Unitarian Universalists, we believe that it is homophobia that is the sin, not homosexuality. We encourage the citizens of Alabama to oppose Judge Moore and those who think and act in like manner; to work to change existing laws that criminalize private sexual expression between consenting adults; to reach out in support of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people; and to make Alabama a safe place to live, work, and worship for all people.




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