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May 2005 Newsletter
Equal Marriage Rights
The Newsletter of the Interfaith Working Group
Alabama Supreme Court Decision
The Alabama Supreme Court
9-0 not to overturn a lower court's ruling
denying a lesbian mother custody of her children. Although eight justices
signed an opinion that focused on issues other than her orientation, Chief
Justice Ray Moore wrote a separate opinion in which he said: "...homosexual
conduct is, and has been, considered abhorrent, immoral, detestable, a crime
against nature, and a violation of the laws of nature and of Nature's God upon
which this nation and are laws are predicated." He also wrote: "The State
carries the power of the sword, that is, the power to prohibit conduct with
physical penalties, such as confinement and even execution. It must use that
power to prevent the subversion of children toward this lifestyle, to not
encourage a criminal lifestyle." He concluded: "The common law adopted in
this State and upon which our laws are premised likewise declares
homosexuality to be detestable and an abominable sin. Homosexual conduct by
its very nature is immoral, and its consequences are inherently destructive to
the natural order of society. Any person who engages in such conduct is
presumptively unfit to have custody of minor children under the established
laws of this State."
The decision was issued just before both
an Alabama Senate Judiciary Committee
vote to add sexual orientation to the state's hate crimes law and
the third anniversary of the murder of Billy Jack Gaither.
Alabama Supreme Court Protest
Religious leaders from local, state, and national interfaith and denominational
groups and advocacy organizations gathered on the steps of the Alabama state
courthouse to hold a press conference on February 22 which drew approximately
one-hundred fifty supporters and dozens of television cameras and newspaper
reporters. The event was sponsored by the
Alliance for Civility and Tolerance of Alabama,
Equal Partners in Faith (EPF),
Begins at Home of Central Alabama (EBHCA),
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF).
Approximately sixty faith leaders attended and faith traditions represented
included Baptist, Episcopal, Lutheran, Metropolitan Community Church,
Presbyterian, Unitarian Universalist, and United Methodist. A representative
of EBAHCA read the Interfaith Working Group statement.
[see next article]
Lorri L. Jean, Executive Director of NGLTF said in part:
"I am here on behalf of millions of gay, lesbian, bisexual and
transgender people and our families and friends all over the nation who are
appalled that the Alabama Supreme Court purports to be a fair and just
tribunal. There is no justice in the Alabama Supreme Court for gay people. In
an opinion that is stunning in its hatred and ignorance, Chief Justice Moore
has branded an entire class of people as abhorrent, immoral, detestable, evil.
It's bad enough that he has sought to impose his personal religious beliefs
upon all Alabamans - in clear violation of our constitutional mandate of
separation of church and state. But he has even gone so far as to write that
the state should jail and execute homosexuals simply because of whom we love.
In so doing, he has proven he is unfit to serve as a judge, and he should be
IWG Statement Read In Alabama
We believe that Judge Ray Moore's decision in D.H. v. H.H. was in violation of
the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution, which
all judges swear to uphold. As an individual opinion written by the Chief
Justice in concurrence with the unanimous majority, this decision is
insufficiently distinguishable from official state legal opinion. Judge Moore's
conclusions are based not on American law, but on such concepts as "sin,"
"immorality," and "natural order." Neither Alabama nor any other state has
any business deciding what is and is not "sin."
By referring to his own personal religious beliefs and using language and
scriptures specific to Jewish and Christian traditions, Judge Moore has
established a religion over and against those citizens of the state who are
neither Jewish nor Christian as well as the many Jewish and Christian citizens
who are not in agreement with him on matters of sexual orientation, sexual
behavior, gender, and family structure.
Judge Moore's comment on the possible use of state violence to defend the
supposed supremacy of heterosexuality would be disturbing in any context. As
part of a court opinion, rife with religious content, and issued from the
Alabama courthouse on the third anniversary of the murder of a gentle gay
Christian named Billy Jack Gaither, it was completely irresponsible.
Pediatricians Support Second Parent Adoption
On February 4 the
American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a
saying that children who are born to or adopted by one member of a gay or
lesbian couple deserve the security of two legally recognized parents. A new
AAP policy statement supports legal and legislative efforts that provide for
the possibility of adoption of those children by the second parent or
co-parent in same-gender relationships.
Not too surprisingly, reaction from the Religious Right has been very negative.
Richard Land of the
Southern Baptist Convention's
Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission
said, "It would seem to me that the only way you could say that being reared
with such relationships is okay is if you don't see anything abnormal or
unhealthy about same-sex relationships per se. That is a judgment, or lack of
judgment, that the vast majority of Southern Baptists and other evangelical
Christians would reject."
A Focus on the Family
commentary said that the AAP has "neutered parenting." The
Culture and Family Institute
reported that the
Christian Medical Association
mailed letters to 1,000 pediatricians urging them to challenge the decision.
And the American Family Association
urged people to complain to the AAP's president (we wrote a thank you letter).
Media response was generally positive, with many supportive editorials and
columns and articles about local same-gender couples who have adopted children
appearing in papers around the country.
Media Response to Judge Moore and the Protest
A Washington Post editorial compared Judge Moore unfavorably to
Alabaman Olympic Gold Medalist Vonetta Flowers, saying that his "display of
blatant bigotry warrants his removal from the court." Editorials in the
Montgomery Advertiser and the Birmingham News
both made comparisons to interracial relationships. An editorial in the
Mobile Register concluded that it wasn't worth asking whether "a
homosexual person in Alabama [has] any hope of being treated fairly and
impartially by the court over which this chief justice presides."
The Birmingham News
gave good coverage to the protest in an article entitled
Gays, others rally for less of Moore, quoting
Laura Montgomery Rutt of
Equal Partners in Faith:
"Forty years ago, the
laws of Alabama were used to justify oppression and segregation based on race,
and progressive people of faith were speaking out about it. Today, people of
faith are again speaking out about the injustices here, this time based on
sexual orientation...I am here to say, Justice Moore, enough is enough."
The News also quoted from a statement by
Henry N. Parsely Jr.: "Such statements...can lead to fear,
prejudice and violence that tear at the fabric of our life together;"
they also quoted the executive director of the
Christian Family Association,
who was present to protest the protest, and who said that clergy who
"condone the homosexual lifestyle...need to get another job."
Presbyterian Amendment Defeated
More than eighty-seven Presbyteries of the
Presbyterian Church (USA)
have voted against a proposal to completely lift the ban on the ordination of
non-celibate gay, lesbian, and transgender people. The ban will
continue to be part of the Book of Order for at least another year, although
voting on the proposal will continue until all presbyteries have weighed in.
The Presbytery of Philadelphia
voted against the amendment, 221-176. The 44% vote for removing the
ordination ban was a slight improvement over the 1997 and 1998 votes. The
continued a pattern (seen in several other presbyteries) that makes
characterization of the voting problematic. This marks the fourth consecutive
time West Jersey has voted down a GLBT-related amendment (this time it was
83-80). Two of the amendments were pro-GLBT and two were anti-GLBT.
Increased media coverage of the confluence of GLBT rights and religion was
seen in the last month as papers reported on local presbytery votes.
The AP story entitled
Group Wins Fight Over Gay Clergy was reasonably accurate
about the actual amendment, but misidentified
presbyweb.com as the official
denominational website, said the vote was solely a fight between "liberals"
and "conservatives" for control of the PCUSA, and never identified the "group"
to which the headline referred. The Philadelphia Inquirer headline incorrectly
said: Presbyterians Ban Gay Leaders.
The First Presbyterian Church of Palo Alto
issued a press release that concluded with a quote from a church elder:
"We want the people of the Bay Area to know that despite the way this vote
went, there are still many congregations holding their doors wide open to
Lesbian and Gay people. God calls us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked,
provide shelter for the homeless, lift the spirits of those who are mourning,
and speak out against injustice. Those calls are found over and over again in
the Bible. I want everyone to know that any who are called by God to do that
work will be welcomed by More Light Churches like ours and the thousands of
other welcoming organizations found within every single mainstream Protestant
The statement from
More Light Presbyterians
concluded: "[We] will continue to bring before the PCUSA a vision of a
church and world that accepts and affirms all people as created in God's
image. We will continue to faithfully live into that vision and encourage the
church to become all that God would have us be."
United Methodist Church
The Reconciling Ministries Network
announced that forty United Methodists from across the country convened in
Atlanta on February 8 and 9 to launch the Church Within A Church (CWC)
movement, which is committed to "create and support faithful communities of
grace, mercy and justice where all persons are empowered to live as God
created them;" and will "embody a theological foundation within the Wesleyan
tradition," "grow a network," "create resources," and "start new local
churches and revive present ones."
Trembling Before G-d
is getting good media coverage and has even influenced coverage of other
Jewish groups with no discernible connection to the film. The
Washington Post [Feb. 13] ran a story about the 100th Anniversary
convention of the
and even though there were no GLBT-related items on the agenda, the article
focused on the rabbis' reaction to the film, and summarized the various
policies of the movement in regard to same-gender-attracted people, including
membership, a ban on ordination, opposition to anti-gay violence and support
for full civil equality.
St. Louis in June with Soulforce
will again confront the discriminatory policies of the
Southern Baptist Convention (SBC)
at the SBC's annual meeting, to be held this year in St. Louis. The
"Journey to St. Louis" will include the Soulforce Institute for Nonviolent
Change, June 7-9, which will include training in the principles and techniques
of non-violence, and will be taught by
grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, the Rev. Dr. Mel White, co-founder of Soulforce,
and civil rights leaders from the '50s and '60s.
"Sharing Our Stories," in which Baptists will describe their faith journeys,
will be held the morning and afternoon of June 10.
That evening, Soulforce's "24 Hours of Justice" will begin with continued
training in the techniques of non-violence and direct action, and resume the
next day with prayerful vigils at the America's Center, where the SBC annual
meeting will be held.
Soulforce invites people to publicize this event, participate, or
Weldin, co-chair, Journey to St. Louis, at 1-877-705-6393 or (918) 452-2761 or
email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Judge Moore and Rev. Kennedy
A week before the
ruling in the Alabama custody case,
issued a press release regarding Moore's relationship with the
Rev. D. James Kennedy of
Coral Ridge Ministries
and the Center for Reclaiming America.
The AU release notes that Kennedy announced he will be hosting a summer cruise
to Alaska (starting at $1,200) featuring Moore, who will be sharing his ideas
on "America's Christian heritage," and that Moore offered Kennedy an exclusive
opportunity to film the after-hours installation of his two-ton
Ten Commandments monument at the state courthouse. Kennedy offered tapes of
the installation for a suggested donation of $19, and announced he was
planning to raise $200,000 for Moore's legal defense.
Rev. Troy Perry's Response to Judge Moore
"...[T]here are six predominantly gay
MCC churches across Alabama. I have
frequently visited these churches and I know these congregations. I have
observed first-hand the many GLBT parents in Alabama who are raising
wonderful, loving, healthy children -- and the thousands of GLBT citizens of
Alabama who seek nothing more and nothing less than equality under the
Marriage in Connecticut
Marriage and civil union bills are under consideration by the state
legislature in Connecticut. The Hartford Courant
published an article about marriage that was one of the best we've seen
(minus the unfortunate phrase "gay marriage"), entitled,
Clergy is Divided on Gay Marriage Bill.
An accurate distinction was drawn between civil and religious marriage, and
clergy on both sides of the issue were quoted: the rector of
St. Peter's Episcopal Church in South Windsor,
the pastor of the
First Church of Christ
in Wethersfield, and Rabbi Daniel Lapin of
(all opposed to the bills) and the pastor of
First Baptist Church in Bridgeport
and the Rabbi of
Congregation Mishkan Israel,
a reform Synagogue in Hamden (supporting the bills).