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May 2005 Newsletter
Equal Marriage Rights
The Newsletter of the Interfaith Working Group
Transgender Reform Rabbinical Student
In response to the recent admission of Reuben Zellman
Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR),
which would make him their first transgender rabbinical student,
Rabbi Marla Feldman, Director of the
Commission on Social Action of
issued the following statement:
On behalf of the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism, I welcome the
recent decision of HUC-JIR to accept a fully qualified student who has
transitioned from one gender to another.
Transgenderism remains a virtually unspoken and unaccepted element within
our society; this has led to discrimination in a number of areas: health
care and insurance coverage, access to public facilities and a variety of
legal issues. Transgendered individuals are frequent victims of hate crimes
and employment discrimination.
In light of the urgent need to show support for this often victimized group,
the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism recently adopted a
resolution supporting the inclusion and acceptance of transgender and
bisexual individuals within our Movement, and supporting. Legislation that
opposes discrimination based on gender identity and allows individuals to be
treated under the law as the gender with which they identify.
Throughout the Reform Movement's history, we have worked tirelessly to fight
discrimination, support equality, and strengthen the rights of minorities
and women. We are committed to defending any individual from the
discrimination that arises from ignorance, fear, insensitivity, or hatred.
The decision to admit Reuben Zellman on his own merits is an important step
in bringing our Movement's practice in line with these beliefs.
Transgender Marriage Ruling in Florida
Florida Circuit Court Judge Gerard O'Brien went against recent rulings in
Texas and Kansas by declaring a marriage valid even though the husband had
originally been legally female. The judge awarded custody of the couple's
children to the father. His wife had been trying to claim that the marriage
was invalid and that she should get custody, even though she
had always known about his legal gender change. The
Family Research Council
rant about the case concluded: "Here we see how medical technology
conspires with grotesque interpretations of the law to inflict further
damage on the family."
The American Civil Liberties Union
is challenging officials at Jacksonville Junior High over repeated
punishment of a fourteen-year-old student for being openly gay. In a letter
to school officials, the ACLU demanded that the school stop violating his
ights and remove from his record (by March 21) all unconstitutional
disciplinary actions taken against him or face legal action.
The ACLU letter said that school officials outed the gay student,
Thomas McLaughlin, to his parents against his wishes and have forbidden
him to discuss being gay while at school; forced him to read from the
Bible; and disciplined him for being open about his orientation.
"My school forced me out of the closet when I should have been allowed to
come out to my family on my own terms and when I thought it was the right
time. And now the school has been trying to shove me back into it ever
since," McLaughlin said. "I'm through with being silenced, and I don't
want this happening to other gay kids at my school."
In his March 7 Falwell Confidential,
reported on the creation of Battin' 1000, an organization of current and
former major league baseball players, coaches, and executives organized to
raise funds for the anti-GLBT, anti-contraception, anti-abortion
American Life League.
Two players involved are graduates of his Liberty University.
The least surprising name connected to the group is Tom Monaghan, former
owner of the Detroit Tigers and Domino Pizza, and one of the largest
individual contributors to religious right causes. The American
Life League lists Archbishop Timothy Dolan of the
Archdiocese of Milwaukee
as the group's chaplain.
Georgetown Coming Out
The March 4 edition of the Georgetown Hoya
included a commentary from a 1999 graduate of Georgetown who describes
himself in the opening paragraph as President of the Georgetown
University Committee for Crucifixes in the Classroom, Grand Knight of the
Georgetown University Knights of Columbus, Treasurer of the Philodemic
Society, Georgetown Academy's Man of the Year, one of Georgetown's unofficial
Defenders of the Faith, and a gay man. In the commentary he says,
"I just wish I'd spent less time saving Georgetown's Catholic identity
and more time trying to come to terms with my own identity as a gay man."
After describing his experiences as a gay student at Georgetown and offering
advice to gay students to help them avoid the same mistakes, he concludes,
"Most of all, know the love of God for you. He made you, holds you in the
palm of His hand and loves you as you are."
Conservative Reconsideration Coverage Continues
Articles about a possible reconsideration of anti-GLBT ordination and
marriage policies in
appeared in the March 15 Los Angeles Times and March 24
Newsweek. The extensive Los Angeles Times
article noted upcoming debates in the
Episcopal Church USA
Presbyterian Church (USA)
and suggested the possibility that the Committee on Jewish Law and
Standards could issue multiple conflicting rulings, thus leaving policy
decisions to individual seminaries and synagogues. The very short
Newsweek story was titled "Jews: Oy, Two Boys?"
Presbyterian Church (USA)
In two separate cases the General Assembly PJC upheld
Rev. Katie Morrision's ordination, and ruled that the Moderator acted
inappropriately in trying to encourage petitioners for a special meeting
to withdraw their signatures, but the prosecution failed to meet its
burden of proof (showing actual harm), and there will be no special meeting
to deal with non-discriminating congergations and clergy.
Rev. Stephen Van Kuiken of
Mt. Auburn Presbyterian
will be tried April 8 and 9 by the Permanent Judicial Commission of the
Presbytery of Cincinnati
for not discriminating on the basis of orientation in ordination or gender
will be at the trial, and has been invited by the congregation to conduct
nonviolent resistance training at Mt. Auburn.
The PCUSA News Service
released obituaries of the Rev. Fred Rogers (PBS's Mr. Rogers), who attended
Sixth Presbyterian in Pittsburgh
(a More Light congregation),
and the Rev. Howard Warren, affectionately known as "God's glorious gadfly,"
who proclaimed the "wildly, extravagant, inclusive love of God" during his
years of advocacy for the full inclusion of gays and lesbians in the life of
Gender and Religious Diversity in Utah
On March 1, The Salt Lake City Tribune
ran an article about Rev. Sean Parker Dennison,
South Valley Unitarian Universalist
who was born female and is the first openly transgender senior UU minister
in the country. On the same day Salt Lake City's other major paper, the
Deseret News, ran an article about welcoming congregations in the
area, including interviews with UCC, MCC, Episcopal, and
Reform Judaism clergy.
The ELCA News Service reports that several members of the
Conference of Bishops of the
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
questioned a decision by the board of the ELCA Division of Outreach to
formally acknowledge the relationship between the division and
Lutherans Concerned North America.
According to the news service, "Many bishops suggested the decision may
have inadvertently signaled an endorsement by the whole church of a political
position and a potential change in ELCA policy related to blessing same
gender relationships and ordination standards."
Episcopal Church, USA
Claiming the Blessing--a coalition of
and diocesan Oasis ministries--is
committed to obtaining approval at the 2003
General Convention of "a liturgical rite of blessing, celebrating the holy
love in faithful relationships between couples for whom marriage is not
available, enabling couples in these relationships to see each other in the
image of God."
A sixteen-page PDF document
with the coalition's theological
position, including a forward from Integrity president
Rev. Michael Hopkins and an interview with Walter Brueggermann,
is available at www.integrityusa.org.
The Episcopal News Service reports that the House of Bishops received a
from their theology committee on the "Gift of Sexuality" and voted to
receive the report with thanks and to offer it to the church for study and
reflection, "though it does not reflect in all points the views of all
members of the House." The report was the product of an eighteen-month study
by a committee of six bishops and seven theologians. The news service said
that the report addresses "the controversial issues of blessing homosexual
relationships and ordaining non-celibate homosexuals." On these two questions
the study concludes, "...because at this time we are nowhere near consensus
in the church regarding the blessing of homosexual relationships, we cannot
recommend authorizing the development of new rites for such blessings;" and
calls on those responsible for ordination to remember that "decisions...made
in one diocese have ramifications on others. We remind all that ordination
is for the whole church."
The Board of Integrity responded to the report, noting that it did not result
in a "Mind of the House Resolution," and calling the vote to receive and
commend the study the document's "sharpest criticism...and most significant
failure." The board's response called the report "a political statement,
designed, we suspect, to build on the fragile foundation of collegiality
which has been carefully constructed in the House of Bishops over the past
few years;" and states that they were "deeply distressed by the
condescending, dismissive, clinical tone of the piece" and "astounded that
the document seems to be blissfully ignorant of the conversation which has
been taking place in the church for the past thirty years."
San Francisco radio talk show host
has been given a national cable television talk show by MSNBC, prompting
and other organizations. On his February 27 radio show, Savage denounced his
critics as "stinking rats who live in the sewers" and said that he would use
his pull with Attorney General John Ashcroft to have them investigated. We
wrote one of many letters to MSNBC asking why they were giving him even more
of a platform than he already has with his book, web site, and radio show.
Church State Separation: A Keystone to Peace
We highly recommend
Church State Separation:
A Keystone to Peace
by Clark Moeller, a new fifty-two page paper from the
Pennsylvania Alliance for Democracy
exploring three questions: What benefits has church-state separation added to
society? To democracy? And to institutional religions in the United States?
For information about the availability of paper copies, contact
PAD at PO Box 366, Harrisburg, PA 17108-3056, or