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May 2005 Newsletter
Equal Marriage Rights
The Newsletter of the Interfaith Working Group
Bethlehem September 11
At an ecumenical September 11 service at
First Presbyterian Church
sponsored by the
Greater Bethlehem Area Council of Churches,
a participating minister asked, "Where were you when God needed you, when
prayer was taken out of schools and we started allowing same-sex marriages?"
The Allentown Morning Call has featured extensive coverage and
commentary about the remarks and reaction to the remarks.
Rev. Elizabeth Goudy, of the
Metropolitan Community Church
of the Lehigh Valley,
participated in the service and asked First Presbyterian and the
Council of Churches for statements of regret and intent. A letter from
Rev. Goudy to members and friends of MCCLV on their website says in part:
"I want to especially thank this evening the gay and lesbian couples of MCCLV.
After sitting through a spiritually hostile and horrifying worship service,
we were all asked to go to the front of the church with candles to close the
service. The couples of MCCLV walked out proudly holding hands!!!! What a
powerful image of showing truth to power! What a powerful witness! What a
powerful example of living out MCCLV's Vision of 'bold and courageous action.'"
A letter from the senior pastor and the clerk of session of First
Presbyterian of Bethlehem to the Rev. Goudy and members of MCCLV said in
part: "It was unfortunate that at a moment when we were gathered as Christians
to send a greater message of hope and national unity, your community was
wounded. We especially regret that this occurred within the walls of our
household of faith. We also acknowledge that there is much diversity within
the Christian community. However, we're saddened when that diversity causes
division rather than unity around Jesus Christ."
The Morning Call reported that the Greater Bethlehem Area Council of
Churches issued a statement which said in part: "it is with
deep sadness and regret that, for some, the service exacerbated divisions that
are already within the religious community, causing pain and anger."
The Easton Express-Times reported on September 26 that
Fred Phelps' Westboro Baptist Church
congregation will be picketing churches in the Bethlehem area in reaction to
these events some time in December.
On September 10, the
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF)
issued a press release claiming victory in the ballot initiative to remove
sexual orientation from Miami-Dade's non-discrimination ordinance. The release
quoted NGLTF's Lori L. Jean: "Twenty-five years ago, Anita Bryant passed an
anti-gay ballot measure virtually identical to the one that was resoundingly
defeated tonight. Thankfully, this time, the people of Miami-Dade County have
and its small band of gay-obsessed zealots packing! Best of all, tonight's
victory signals the death knell of what has been the favored tactic of
religious political extremists for the last decade-trying to foist their brand
of bigotry on everyone through anti-gay ballot measures."
An Equal Partners In Faith (EPF)
press release quoted EPF director Sylvia Rhue and the Rev. Donna Schaper,
senior pastor of
Coral Gables Congregational Church. Rhue said, "As progressive people of
faith, we rejoice with the people of Miami-Dade who have chosen inclusion over
discrimination. This should send a strong message to
Religious Right activists that most people-
including people of faith-do not share their extreme and divisive agenda."
The Rev. Schaper said, "People of faith played a key role in making this
victory happen. Alongside others, we worked hard to counter the
misinformation of the Religious Right and to promote a more inclusive
society for all Miami-Dade citizens."
Religious Right organizations were particularly alarmist before the vote, but
afterward promised to keep trying to overturn the ordinance. In their
September 4 report, the
Culture and Family Institute
said that one-hundred NGLTF volunteers would be going to Miami before the
election, and noted that people trained by NGLTF have previously worked to
convince people not to sign petitions to put anti-gay measures on the ballot,
an activity CFI characterizes as "harassment." On September 5 the
Traditional Values Coalition
escalated this dubious criticism into a crisis, reporting
that CFI had said that NGLTF was "sending 100 militants to Florida to harass
citizens who are trying to overturn a pro-homosexual ordinance in
After the election, TVC reported that the activists had been sent to harass
voters. In post-election analysis CFI claimed that proponents "nearly
pulled off an upset victory" in the 53-47% vote and predicted that "resistance
will grow to this radical agenda."
Focus on the Family
quoted the executive director of
Family First of Florida:
"I don't think, ultimately, it reflects the will of the people in the
Soulforce Return to Lynchburg
executive director Mel White and his partner Gary Nixon moved from California
to a house across from
Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, VA, and are attending services
there. The move was covered by the
Lynchburg News and Advance, the Lynchburg ABC, CBS and NBC affiliates,
AP, and Religion News Service. Stories appeared in papers as far away as
Seattle and England. It was a front-page Washington Post
story, White and Nixon were interviewed by several radio stations, and they
appeared on CNN Sunday after turning down a Crossfire debate. The bulk of the
Sept. 19 Falwell Confidential was devoted to a criticism of Rev. White, the
move, and pro-GLBT theology.
We are pleased to announce the additions of Rev. Deborah L. Coggin,
Vision of Hope MCC
(replacing Rev. Christen Chew); Rev. Fred Day,
First United Methodist Church
and Rev. Melanie Morel Sullivan,
The Unitarian Universalist Church in
The number of official supporters ebbs and flows with the seasons, but the
101 names on the current letterhead are the most we have ever had.
Jewish Bulletin of Northern California
The Jewish Bulletin of Northern California
reported that their board of directors voted unanimously to "print homosexual
unions alongside heterosexual announcements" under "weddings" in the
lifecycles section. The Bulletin reports that they were the first
Jewish paper in the nation to run commitment ceremony announcements and are
now the first to list them under weddings. The article quoted Board President
Louis Hass: "We thought it was time to acknowledge that gay and lesbian
couples join together and form families just as heterosexual couples do.
Especially given the times and the area which the Bulletin serves, it only
makes sense to treat all Jewish couples the same in our lifecycles section."
At least one of the partners must be Jewish, the couple must have
participated in a public Jewish ceremony, and the couple must have filed in
some city or town as registered domestic partners. The article concluded with
a quote from editor and publisher Marc Klein: "Undoubtedly, our move will be
followed by other Jewish newspapers, as their communities better understand
the important role gays and lesbians play in Jewish life."
The Topeka, KS city council voted 5-4 against extending the city's
non-discrimination ordinance to cover sexual orientation, gender identity and
expression, and voted 7-2 to toughen penalties hate crime penalties only after
voting 8-1 to remove the words "sexual orientation, gender identity or
expression." Testimony against equal protection for GLBT people came from
Fred Phelps' Westboro
Baptist Church, and Rabbi Yehuda Levin of the
Union of Orthodox Rabbis,
who was invited by the County Treasurer to come from New York to speak,
according to the Topeka Capital-Journal.
The paper interviewed Rabbi Lawrence P. Karol, of
Temple Beth Sholom (Topeka)
who pointed out that Rabbi Levin was known for his opposition to Congressional
funding of the Holocaust Museum because of its inclusion of sexual minorities
Archbishop of Canterbury
The BBC reported that in a farewell speech to the
Anglican Consultative Council, outgoing
Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. George Carey
criticized pro-GLBT bish-ops and called disagreement over sexual issues
between traditionalists and liberals his greatest worry.
The BBC also noted his mention of globalization, September 11's aftermath,
and the clash of world religions.
Life Partnership in Philadelphia
In 1998, Philadelphia's City Council passed three Life Partnership ordinances
providing limited benefits to same-gender couples; they passed after
considerable religious debate and with
extensive support from religious organizations, congregations and clergy in
Support for the ordinances was originally primarily organized by the
Center for Lesbian and Gay
Civil Rights, and opposition by Bill Devlin of the
Urban Family Council.
On August 29, in a suit instigated by Bill Devlin,
Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court ruled that provisions in two of the
ordinances are invalid. Stacey L. Sobel, executive director of the
Center for Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights, called the ruling "a travesty for
lesbian and gay couples in Philadelphia." On August 31 the
profiled three couples who would lose their city benefits, in which Devlin was
quoted as saying the ruling was a victory for Philadelphia and the nation.
On September 4 The Inquirer
reported that the mayor, who originally opposed the ordinances, has announced
his intent to appeal the ruling to the State Supreme Court and to request a
stay of the opinion so that couples can continue receiving benefits. Devlin
was quoted again: "It's unfortunate that John, as a man of faith and a
has decided to appeal something his own denomination
doesn't support. I guess John Street feels he knows more than God on this
The September 12
Culture and Family Institute
Report had an article devoted largely to quotes from Devlin that concluded
with a variation on the Inquirer quotes: "Urban Family's victory at the PA
Commonwealth Court level has been the most significant pro-marriage
legal victory in this nation in a decade It is unfortunate that, now, the
City of Philadelphia has appealed the decision-and those leading the charge
for the appeal, our mayor and our city solicitor, both claim to be evangelical,
born-again Christians. In fact, our city solicitor, who is filing the appeal
in favor of 'gay' marriage, is the former co-chair of the 1992
Billy Graham crusade."
On September 6 the Inquirer
reported that the executive director of the Human Relations Commission
assured those at a meeting at
that all of the rights provided
would remain in place.
On September 10, New Hope became the first borough in Pennsylvania to pass a
non-discrimination law including sexual orientation, according to the
Philadelphia Inquirer. The Inquirer
quoted favorable testimony from both the Rev. Charles Stevens of the
Unitarian Universalist Church of New Hope and
Rabbi Sandy Roth Parian of Kehilat HaNahar.
The Rev. Rudy Nemser, former minister of the
Unitarian Universalist Church
in Cherry Hill
and one of the first clergy people to sign on to the
died of cancer on August 3 at his home in Massachusetts; he was 74 years old.
A memorial service will be held at UUCCH, 401 North Kings Highway, Cherry Hill,
on Saturday, October 26 at 2 pm.
Rev. Nemser's obituary is available online
Bill O'Reilly vs. Stephen Bennett
To the dismay of the
Fox TV host Bill O'Reilly, generally
considered to be extremely conservative, gave an interview to
The Advocate in which he was fairly supportive of equal rights for
gay and lesbian people and dismissive of the Religious Right. This led to
Concerned Women for America (CWA),
parent organization of the
Culture and Family Institute,
that O'Reilly is not a "real Irish Catholic," and a subsequent appearance on
O'Reilly's show by Stephen Bennett, ex-gay spokesperson for CWA, in which
O'Reilly noted that CWA President Sandy Rios called O'Reilly "an exemplary
example of the American Christian who does not know what God's word said."
The interview consisted largely of arguing about the purpose of the Bible, the
meaning of certain Bible passages, the nature of the trinity, whether O'Reilly
is really Irish Catholic, and whether Bennett is really a religious fanatic.
An American Family Association
statement said O'Reilly had "crossed the line," wondered "why such
an intelligent man would stoop to such personal attacks" and claimed O'Reilly
was "being insulting to millions of Christians who are faithful to Jesus
Christ." In a WorldNetDaily commentary, Bennett said O'Reilly turned from
"Dr. Jeckyl to Mr. Hyde" and his "views on 'gay' marriage and homosexual
adoptions don't hold water-and are in complete rebellion to that of Jesus, the
Bible, as well as the
The day after the Bennett interview, O'Reilly interviewed Baptist minister
Rev. Charles Kimball, chairman of the Wake Forest University religion
department and author of "When Religion Becomes Evil;" they discussed the
interview and the hate mail he'd received since the day before.