This site is maintained for archival purposes only.
May 2005 Newsletter
Equal Marriage Rights
The Newsletter of the Interfaith Working Group
Marriage Amendment Again
The constitutional marriage amendment, originally proposed last summer
has been introduced in the U.S. House with six co-sponsors. The introduction
did not get much media coverage. Many experts think it is unlikely to pass,
but we strongly urge you to tell your Representatives and Senators how you
feel about legal recognition of all families.
The San Francisco Chronicle
quoted the Rev. Steven Baines, of
People for the American Way:
"This is not the message of the Gospel of Jesus, nor the message of the
Torah, nor the message of the Koran. This is a message of intolerance and
injustice." The Chronicle reiterated the
of the ACLU
that the amendment would "wipe out every single law protecting gay and
lesbian families and other unmarried couples."
Rabbi David Saperstein, of the
Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism,
released a statement that said in part:
"The fight for equality is uniquely tied to the history of this nation. From
the suffrage movement to the civil rights movement to the gay rights movement
minorities in this country have worked tirelessly to achieve equal rights as
guaranteed to them by the founding vision of the United States. As long as
injustice remains pervasive within our community, we will continue this fight
for equality until our dream of equal rights for all is realized.
"It is this history and this sense of morality that compels me to condemn the
introduction of the Federal Marriage Amendment, a thinly veiled attempt to
codify homophobia. We cannot push a sizable minority of our nation's
population to the periphery. We cannot send the message that gays, lesbians,
bisexuals, and transgender individuals are second-class citizens, undeserving
of legal protections, benefits and equal rights.
"This Amendment is not about protecting families. Certainly my family will not
be hurt by giving states the freedom to recognize the committed relationship
of two loving adults. How can two loving adults coming together to form a
family harm family values? Are our families and marriages and communities so
fragile and shallow that they are threatened by the love between two adults of
the same sex? This bill is about targeting scapegoats; and as a people who
have been the quintessential scapegoats of Western civilization; we stand with
our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters saying that this bill is immoral and
"This proposed amendment is a stain on America's promise of equal rights to
all. We call on all Members of Congress to ensure that such an effort to
enshrine homophobia, intolerance, and inequality in our Constitution and our
law fails-and does so by an overwhelming margin.
"We are all God's children. We are all one people. Let us stop issuing decrees
of hatred and begin enacting legislation and implementing policies that will
foster healthy, loving, caring, and committed relationships and ensure that in
this nation, none will ever again be discriminated against on the basis of
sexual orientation or sexual identity."
Pullen Memorial Baptist Church
of Raleigh, NC, which is associated with the
American Baptist Churches
Alliance of Baptists
and was the first church to be expelled from the
Southern Baptist Convention
for holding a union ceremony, has elected the Rev. Nancy Petty as co-pastor.
Rev. Petty is a lesbian with a partner and children. The
Los Angeles Times said that Rev. Petty is believed to be the only
lesbian co-pastor of a Baptist church.
On May 16, the AP released a story about the Rev. Kenneth Samuel of the
of Stone Mountain, GA, a 6,000-member African-American congregation that has
"severed links" with "black- and white-led Baptist organizations" and will be
United Church of Christ
in June. According to the article, Rev. Samuel thinks of reaching out to
gays as "a way to revive the commitment of black churches to social justice."
The article also says, "He contends that homophobia in the black community is
an outgrowth of racism."
has invited Dr, James Merritt, president of the
Southern Baptist Convention (SBC),
to attend hearings on June 10 in St. Louis, where "at least twenty-five
Southern Baptists and former Southern Baptists (clergy and laity alike) will
share the stories of their own personal suffering that resulted from
anti-homosexual SBC teachings and actions." Soulforce has also invited
Dr. Merritt to join a press conference on June 11 to denounce a statement by
Judge Ray Moore that the state should use confinement and even execution to
keep gay parents from their children. Should Dr. Merritt not attend, a
delegation of five people will attempt to address the convention from the
podium while the rest of the Soulforce volunteers kneel in prayer outside the
entrances to the convention center.
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
The thirteen-member Task Force for
Studies on Sexuality held its first
meeting May 3-5. The group is to issue a report on homosexuality in 2005,
and a general sexuality report in 2007. The ELCA News Service said the
executive director of the Division for Ministry told task force members they
would have to listen hard for the church's conservative voices because many
people "don't want to be embarrassed or have to defend themselves." When the
task force meets again in September, each member is to identify "the strongest
arguments both for and against change" of current church policies regarding
Presbyterian Church (USA)
At a revival led by
Anne Graham Lotz
(Billy Graham's daughter) in Charlotte, NC,
seven members of the
Seigle Avenue Presbyterian Church
choir walked out when Lotz described homosexuality as a sin.
Presbyterians for Renewal
(one of several organizations in the PCUSA working to maintain the ban on the
ordination of GLBT people) has announced a "high-level partnership" with the
ex-gay ministry One By One.
Saying that "complainants failed to state a claim upon which relief can be
Synod of the Pacific's
Permanent Judicial Commission dismissed two complaints that the
Redwoods Presbytery failed to adequately examine the Rev. Katie Morrison
before ordaining her last fall. The two complaints were from the
San Joaquin Presbytery and from members of the Redwoods Presbytery. Charges by
Paul Rolf Jensen against Rev. Morrison and other individuals involved in the
ordination itself have not yet been resolved.
Presbytery of Cincinnati
has appointed a commission to look into an overture against the session of
Mt. Auburn Presbyterian
Madeira-Silverwood Presbyterian Church,
after Mt. Auburn's session declared and informed all relevant parties that it
"has not and cannot comply with G-6.0106b of the Book of Order," and that
"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." Charges by Paul Rolf Jensen against the minister and former
minister of Mt. Auburn have not yet been addressed. Cincinnati Enquirer
columnist Denise Smith Amos wrote a very favorable piece about Mt. Auburn,
comparing the reactions that gay Christians get in many churches, and the
reaction Mt. Auburn has gotten from some of the other churches in the
Presbytery, to the reaction she gets at some churches when she is the only
non-white person in the pews.
The Presbytery of Shenango
(Western PA) has sent overture 02-59 to the General Assembly, asking the GA to
do something about the
Presbytery of Northern New England
and the Session of
Christ Church of Burlington, VT.
The Presbytery was ordered two years ago to work with the session of Christ
Church to rescind their statement of dissent, which has not happened.
Rabbi Elyse Wechterman is no longer on the letterhead, as she has left the
area. Please contact us at 215-235-3050 if you, your congregation or
religious organization would like to be listed.
Philadelphia Passes Gender Identity Protection
We are pleased to report that City Council voted 15-2 to add gender identity
to Philadelphia's Fair Practices ordinance outlawing discrimination in
housing, employment, and public accommodation. The Inquirer
and Daily News made absolutely no mention of religion in their articles
about the vote, showing how far we've come since the Life Partnership
Traditional Values Coalition
(TVC), however, did report the vote, quoting Bill Devlin of the
Urban Family Council,
who warned of a hypothetical employee: "Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, he's a
man. Tuesday and Thursday, he's a woman." The TVC also referred to people who
have undergone partial sex-reassignment as "sexually confused men and women,"
"radicalized She/Males" and "creatures."
Roundtable Returns to Miami
In 1977 Anita Bryant led the "Save Our Children" campaign, which overturned
legislation in Miami (the first-of-its-kind in a major municipality) that
extended basic rights to gays and lesbians. Twenty-two years later, in 1999,
Miami passed an amendment to the Human Rights Ordinance that extended
protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation in housing,
employment, financing, and public accommodations. This year, on September 10,
twenty-five years after Anita Bryant's original campaign, a repeal of the 1999
ordinance will be on the ballot in Miami.
The National Religious Leadership Roundtable is working in collaboration with
SAVE Dade and a newly organized local
group of progressive religious leaders called the Interfaith Coalition on
Human Rights in Miami-Dade, to identify a variety of ways that congregations
and religious leaders can help stop the repeal of this ordinance. The first
planning meeting was held at
St. John's United
Methodist Church in Miami, which was Anita Bryant's family church
for many years, and is now a Reconciling Congregation.
The August meeting of the Roundtable will be held in Miami and will include an
action-centered public witness. On Sunday, August 11, the Roundtable plans to
engage 500 people of faith to speak with the people of Miami door-to-door
about the importance of the human rights ordinance.
The Roundtable is asking for the support of religious leaders and
organizations from across the country. Send email to Deb Kolodny,
Traditional Values Coalition
(TVC) initiated a petition to Nickelodeon president Herb Scannell to ask
that Nickelodeon not air a particular installment of Linda Ellerbee's
Nick News (aimed at 8-13-year-olds) which would deal with anti-gay
discrimination. The TVC claimed that 40,000 people signed the online
petition. We sent Mr. Scannell an advance letter of thanks for airing
Last month we reported that Allentown is now the two-hundred and twentieth
municipality in the country to list sexual orientation in its
non-discrimination ordinance and was the first city in Pennsylvania to
explicitly list gender identity. On May 22 the Allentown Morning Call
reported that a group called Citizens for Traditional Values is trying to
gather two-thousand signatures to put a repeal vote on the ballot.
Pennsylvania Hate Crimes Report
The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) released its annual,
nationally-recognized report on violence against lesbians, gay men, bisexuals,
and transgender (LGBT) individuals. The 2001 report is the first in which
Pennsylvania statistics have been included. Pennsylvania statistics were
collected by the
Center for Lesbian and Gay
Civil Rights, a statewide nonprofit agency that launched an anti-violence
project last fall.
In its first year of data collection, the Center reported eighty-one incidents
of anti-LGBT harassment. Twelve of those incidents involved some sort of
physical assault, and nine percent of the reported incidents resulted in
victims requiring hospitalization.
Thirty-seven percent of reporting victims were women, fifty-nine percent were
men, and four victims identified as transgender. Sixty-seven percent of the
vic-tims were white, twenty-four percent were African-American, and eight
percent were Latino/a.
The majority of perpetrators of anti-LGBT hate violence had a pre-existing
elationship with the victim or victims. Sixty-six percent of known offenders
were acquaintances, friends, coworkers, employers, landlords, tenants,
neighbors, or relatives.
Marriage in Massachusetts
A Massachusetts Superior Court judge has ruled that the constitutional rights
of seven couples were not violated when the state denied them the right to
marry. The court based its denial of marriage licenses on a legal conclusion
that having and raising children is central to the purpose of marriage,
despite acknowledging that four of the seven couples in the case have children
and that Massachusetts law allows same-sex couples to jointly adopt. The
organization representing the couples,
Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders,
has announced that an appeal will be filed.
What's In a Name?
The Ypsilanti Campaign for Equality
reports that a measure that would remove sexual orientation from Ypsilanti's
1998 non-discrimination ordinance will be on the ballot in November.
The organization sponsoring the initiative,
Ypsilanti Citizens Voting Yes for Equal Rights Not Special Rights,
was funded entirely by Tom Monaghan, former CEO of Domino's Pizza, who doesn't
live in Ypsilanti. All but twenty-six of the 1,100+ signatures to get the
measure on the ballot were collected by a California petition circulation
United Methodist Church
The United Methodist Bishops meeting April 28-May 3 included the first of
four church-wide discussions about homosexuality, and the "deep wounds"
experienced by the church, according to the United Methodist News Service.
Future discussions will involve members of the General Council on Ministries,
youth and young adults, and people of color in leadership in the denomination.
Planners hope to encourage similar conversations at the regional and local
The campus ministry at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro has
Reconciling Ministries Network.