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May 2005 Newsletter
Equal Marriage Rights
The Newsletter of the Interfaith Working Group
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)
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
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
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
and representatives from Florida churches, synagogues, and ashrams gathered at
Temple Israel. Following an opening prayer by Christian de la Huerta of
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
synagogue that is part of the
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
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
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
Soulforce Local Groups
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
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
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
"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.
The Most Rev. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Wales, has been appointed
Archbishop of Canterbury,
and will succeed Archbishop George Carey on October 1.
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
is representing seven plaintiffs, including a
Recononstructionist rabbi and an Episcopal priest, who are suing the
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
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."