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


Miami-Dade Non-Discrimination Vote

In 1977, Anita Bryant led the "Save Our Children" campaign, which overturned Miami legislation (the first of its kind in a major municipality) that extended basic civil rights to gays and lesbians. In 1999, Miami-Dade County passed an amendment to the Human Rights Ordinance, ex-tending protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation in housing, employment, financing, and public accommodations. On September 10, twenty-five years after Bryant's original campaign, a repeal of the 1999 ordinance will be on the ballot in Miami-Dade. Please keep the people of Miami-Dade in your thoughts and prayers at this time.

The Miami organizations People United to Lead the Struggle for Equality (PULSE) and the African-American Council of Christian Clergy distributed a flyer saying that the Rev. Martin Luther King would be outraged "if he knew that homosexualist extremists were abusing the civil rights movement to get special rights based on their sexual behavior." The flyer was denounced by the immediate past president of PULSE, and by King's widow, Coretta Scott King. The >Sarasota Herald Tribune noted that the NAACP supports keeping the amendment.

In a July 13 column about religious support for the ordinance, the Miami Herald's Steve Rothaus wrote about the work of Coral Gables Congregational Church and quoted Rabbi Mitchell Chefitz of Temple Israel of Greater Miami: "To retreat behind old stereotypes is a form of regression that will throw Miami-Dade County back some generations. It will make us a laughing stock in the eyes of all civilized nations."

On Sunday, August 10, about 150 people of faith, including members of the National Religious Leadership Roundtable and representatives from Florida churches, synagogues, and ashrams gathered at Temple Israel. Following an opening prayer by Christian de la Huerta of Q-Spirit and a quick training, they spent two hours going door-to-door in neighborhoods throughout the county, talking to registered voters about the importance of keeping sexual orientation in the non-discrimination ordinance. The door-to-door effort was followed by dinner and a rally featuring Rabbi Russell Fox of Miami's Temple Beth Or (a Reconstructionist synagogue that is part of the Network of Jewish Renewal Communities), Rev. Steven Baines of People for the American Way, Kaye Whitlock of the American Friends Service Committee, and Bishop S.F. Irons-MaHee of The Great Congregation, a largely African-American GLBT Ft. Lauderdale church.

On August 16 and 17, Florida papers reported that the leader of the Miami-Dade Christian Coalition and two petition drive volunteers had been arrested by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement following an investigation by the Polk County state attorney into allegations of forged signatures and other irregularities in the effort to get the repeal onto the September ballot. The Traditional Values Coalition newsletter called the arrests evidence of "increasingly aggressive and dishonest... attempts to violate the civil rights of Americans who oppose the normalization of sodomy in our nation."

Presbyterian Church (USA)

The clergy and session of South Presbyterian Church (Dobbs Ferry, NY) released an open letter to the PCUSA on August 6, detailing their dissent from and non-compliance with G6.0106b, listing times when they have ordained "self affirming, unrepentant, practicing homosexuals" and "conducted services of worship joining lesbian and gay persons in same-sex unions, which are, in every important respect, marriages: two hearts declaring themselves home to each other, before God, with gratitude."

The General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission (GAPJC) has dismissed an appeal by the Presbytery of San Joaquin seeking to overturn decisions made by the Synod of the Pacific's PJC in upholding the Presbytery of the Redwoods' ordination of Katie Morrison. An appeal by several members of Redwoods Presbytery is still pending before the General Assembly's PJC and is tentatively scheduled for Nov. 1. Charges brought by Paul Rolf Jensen against the Rev. Morrison and seven others involved in her ordination are unresolved.

The committee of the Baltimore Presbytery investigating Jensen's accusation of heresy against the Rev. Don Stroud of TAMFS (That All May Freely Serve) has decided not to bring charges against Rev. Stroud.

TAMFS-Michigan announced the call of Rev. Paul Peterson to fill the new position of Minister of Outreach and Education. Peterson is currently General Presbyter of Yellowstone Presbytery, and has also had charges filed against him by Jensen. Peterson is the first heterosexual ally to be hired by TAMFS. "I don't care if people assume I'm gay because I work with TAMFS and speak out on these issues," said Peterson, "it's not important to me to identify my sexual orientation."

Soulforce Local Groups

Leaders of Soulforce, Inc. recently announced the creation of a network of licensed affiliated Soulforce groups all across the country. The purpose of these groups is to support and carry out the struggle for justice and equality in which Soulforce volunteers are involved at the national level, and at the same time, take that struggle for justice to the local level.

Soulforce, a national interfaith movement committed to ending spiritual violence perpetuated by religious policies and teachings against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) people, announced that there are already sixteen licensed affiliated Soulforce local groups active in Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and Washington, D.C.

"So much physical and spiritual violence against sexual and gender minorities flows out of the misguided religious teachings heard in local congregations each Sunday," said Mel White (Exec. Dir/founder, Soulforce, Inc.). "We need to work at all levels to stop the source of misinformation that leads to suffering and death."

All local groups are autonomous but members agree to abide by the basic "soul force" principles of non-violent resistance as taught by Gandhi and King and to work relentlessly to apply those principles for the liberation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. Over the last two years, over five-thousand people have been trained through Soulforce in the principles of non-violence, and over five-hundred people have been arrested in nonviolent civil disobedience.

On Tuesday, September 24, at 7:30 pm, a Philadelphia Soulforce organizing meeting will be held in the Barnes Room at Overbrook Presbyterian Church, City Line & Lancaster Aves. (Route 30). Future meeting places and days/times will be coordinated to be convenient for those interested in the group. If you are coming, email Laurie Pollack (webpoet @ aol.com) or Kathy Stayton (kstayton @ aol.com). Also contact them if you cannot make this meeting but would like to know about future activities. Laurie and Kathy need to know what the interest level is and how many plan to attend.

University of Maryland/Laramie Project

According to the Baltimore Sun, freshmen and students living on the University of Maryland campus this year will be given copies of The Laramie Project, a play about the reactions of the people of Laramie, WY to Matthew Shepard's murder. The Sun reports that the American Family Association may sue the University "for attempting to impose an orthodoxy of belief in favor of homosexuality, coercing students to accept one particular side of a hotly contested political and, indeed, religious subject."

Second-Parent Adoption for Same-gender Couples

On August 20 the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the Pennsylvania Adoption Act unequivocally allows a lesbian or gay partner to adopt a partner's children.

"This ruling will provide the opportunity for legal protections for hundreds of children in Pennsylvania that have been in legal limbo for years. Now these children will be able to access the critical legal rights of the parent-child relationship with both of their parents," said Tiffany L. Palmer, Esq., Legal Director of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights.

The Superior Court held that the Pennsylvania Adoption Act, as it stands, would first require a legal parent to relinquish his or her parental rights before allowing a same-sex partner to adopt the children being raised by both of them. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court reversed that decision, calling the Superior Court interpretation of the Adoption Act "absurd," and remanded the cases for full evidentiary hearings.

"There is no language in the Adoption Act precluding two unmarried same-sex partners... from adopting a child who had no legal parents. It is therefore absurd to prohibit their adoption merely because their children were the biological or adopted children of one of the partners prior to the filing of the adoption petition," reads the unanimous decision authored by Chief Justice Zappala.

The decision is critical to providing children with the rights associated with a legal parent-child relationship inheritance rights, social security survivor benefits, eligibility for health insurance benefits, medical decision-making authority, child support payments and custody.

Big Brothers/Big Sisters

Religious Right organizations have been having fits over the national Big Brothers/Big Sisters mandate that local chapters not discriminate against mentors based on orientation, and the policy and complaints have been the subject of editorials, articles, and columns in papers around the country. Focus on the Family (FoF) ran a story in CitizenLink about complaints to local chapters from parents and to the national organization from chapters, and reported that the organization known as "Public Advocate of the U.S." has asked Congress to require parental notification if a child is placed with non-heterosexual mentor through a public school. Both FoF and the American Family Association (AFA) encouraged people to complain to corporate sponsors for Big Brothers/Big Sisters. We sent brief thank yous to the CEOs of Verizon and UPS for their support of the organization.

Anglicans

The Most Rev. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Wales, has been appointed Archbishop of Canterbury, and will succeed Archbishop George Carey on October 1. Integrity USA reports that Archbishop Williams "not only has written extensively on human sexuality and the full inclusion of homosexual persons in the life of the Church, he has relationships with many people in the leadership of the various groups that make up the Alliance of Gay and Lesbian Anglicans."

However, PlanetOut reports that Williams sent a letter to the primates of the Anglican church, saying that the Lambeth resolution "declares clearly what is the mind of the overwhelming majority in the Communion and what the Communion will or will not approve or authorize. I accept that any individual diocese or even province that officially overturns this resolution poses a substantial problem for the sacramental unity of the Communion."

United Methodist Church

The Seattle Times reports that lesbian pastor Karen Dammann won't face a church trial. This is the second time this year that an investigating committee of the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference has dismissed charges of homosexuality

Lambda Legal is representing seven plaintiffs, including a Recononstructionist rabbi and an Episcopal priest, who are suing the state-funded United Methodist Children's Home in Decatur, GA for firing a lesbian social worker because of her orientation and refusing to hire a Jewish psychotherapist because of his religion. The home is an agency of the UMC North GA Conference.

New York Times

On August 17 the New York Times announced that starting in September, the Sunday Styles section will publish reports "of same-sex commitment ceremonies and of some types of formal registration of gay and lesbian partnerships" and that "on occasion, the Vows column will be devoted to a same-sex couple." The reports will be seen where "Weddings" currently appear, and the title will change to "Weddings/Celebrations."

The Times quoted Howell Raines, executive editor: "In making this change, we acknowledge the news-worthiness of a growing and visible trend in society toward public celebrations of commitment by gay and lesbian couples - celebrations important to many of our readers, their families and their friends. We recognize that the society remains divided about the legal and religious definition of marriage, and our news columns will remain impartial in that debate, reporting fully on all points of view. The Styles pages will treat same-sex celebrations as a discrete phenomenon meriting coverage in their own right."

In our letter of thanks to the Times, we said: "Thank you very much for your decision to publish reports of the commitment ceremonies of same-gender couples. We agree that there are many different religious definitions of marriage, and we are very happy that the pages of the New York Times will more accurately reflect that diversity."



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