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May 2005 Newsletter
Equal Marriage Rights
The Newsletter of the Interfaith Working Group
December 2003/January 2004
Marriage in Massachusetts
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled 4-3 that denying equal marriage
rights to same-gender couples violates the state constitution, but it gave the
legislature 180 days to act. A Boston Globe
poll of Massachusetts residents
"indicated that 50 percent agreed with the justices' decision, and 38 percent
oppose it. Eleven percent expressed no opinion." A
Christian Science Monitor
article said, "The ruling means that the cultural divide over one of the most
contentious issues in America will likely only deepen from here." Seven
years ago no major media outlet even recognized that there was contention or a
divide. Newspapers are treating the ruling more as a political issue than a
religious one, though at times it's difficult to tell the difference. In a
Rocky Mountain News article, a state legislator said, "Ultimately,
the principles of marriage are much bigger than our nation's laws and mores.
We are really no more capable of actually redefining marriage than we are of
changing the laws of gravity." An AP story quoted a congressman who called
the ruling "just one more assault on the Judeo-Christian values of our
nation." Many papers around the country ran quotes from their state's
attorneys general assuring the public that Massachusetts' marriages would be
recognized in their states.
The Boston Globe and Cape Cod Times both reported mixed
religious reaction to the ruling. The Globe reported an
overwhelmingly positive reaction at
First Parish Unitarian Universalist
"which has been performing marriages for 325 years" and "same-sex union
ceremonies for several years and will probably perform marriages once the law
is clarified." Negative reactions were reported at
New Covenant Christian Church in Mattapan,
where Bishop Gilbert Thompson said, "We are standing against demonic forces
that are out to destroy not only marriage, but family. We are not against any
person, but certainly we stand in favor of marriage being what it actually is
- the union of a man and a woman."
The Federal Marriage Amendment, which would remove all legal recognition and
protection of same-gender and transgender couples and their families has now
been introduced in both the House and Senate. Please call your Representative
and Senators now, and ask us for as many free copies of
"Religious Support for Equal Marriage Rights"
as you think you can give away.
Schools, Gender and Orientation: Wyoming
Two female Big Piney High School students (Big Piney, WY) were denied
access to the school's homecoming dance by sheriff's deputies at the
principal's request, according to AP and PlanetOut reports. School officials
who told the girls that same-sex dates at dances aren't allowed have been
contacted by the
ACLU, the IWG, and likely many others.
According to the AP story, it has been announced that there will be no more
dances in the district. The two students identify as heterosexual.
Schools, Gender and Orientation: Louisiana
A seven-year-old at Ernest Gallet Elementary School in Youngsville, LA was
punished for telling another student who asked why he had two mothers that
they were gay. His class was told that "gay" is a bad word, and he was forced
to write down that it was a bad word. An
quoted one of the mothers: "I was concerned when the assistant principal
called and told me my son had said a word so bad that he didn't want to repeat
it over the phone. But that was nothing compared to the shock I felt when my
little boy came home and told me that his teacher had told him his family is
a dirty word. No child should ever hear that, especially not from a teacher
he trusted and respected."
Schools, Gender and Orientation: Florida
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Palm Beach Post, and
Jupiter Courier have been reporting on an ongoing legal dispute between
Jupiter Christian School (JCS)
and the mother of an expelled gay senior. The mother claims her son was
expelled for being gay and was outed by school officials; the school denies
both claims. JCS accepts public voucher money. There is an article from the
principal on the web site about the case; it includes a list of local and
national media outlets that covered the story and a long section entitled,
"So What Does Jupiter Christian School Believe About Homosexuality?" which the
Sun-Sentinel quoted in their article. The principal mentions
"bad choices," "conduct that does not meet the expectations and standards of
the school," and "a lifestyle that is not condoned by the school."
He says, "Christ can save us from the power of all sin, even homosexuality,"
and he claims the school is not "anti-gay or anti-homosexual. If we are
anything we are anti-sin and that's because we are pro-Christ."
An article in the Palm Beach Post
quoted the executive director of the
Florida Association of Christian Colleges
"Christian schools do not have to compromise their biblical standards to
accept a child on a voucher." A Courier article said the
Palm Beach County Human Rights Chairman "has dealt with a 'dozen'
identical issues regarding gay students and private schools over the last two
years." A Post columnist wrote "If Woodard was expelled because he is
gay, his dismissal is the kind of heavy-handed discipline that makes the
school a kindred spirit with religious zealotry, Christian and others, that is
willing to destroy people in the name of a loving God." A Post
editorial concluded, "Regardless of how the courts sort out the issue, the
Legislature and the religious schools should opt for the obvious solution:
separation of church and state. When government supports religious schools,
both are corrupted."
Schools, Gender and Orientation: Colorado
The Rocky Mountain News and the
Associated Baptist Press (ABP) reported on a policy change at
Silver State Baptist School in Lakewood, CO to be allowed to accept voucher
students. A school policy had listed "pre-marital sex, homosexuality, and
sexual perversion" as reasons for automatic dismissal. The inclusion of
"homosexuality" was called "promotion of hatred" by the Denver School Board
and is grounds for denying voucher eligibility; the school rewrote the
sentence to say that "premarital sex and sexual perversion, between opposite
and/or same sex students will constitute grounds for disciplinary action,
including suspension or expulsion." With the change the school board decided
that the policy was no longer hateful and approved the school for vouchers.
Of course there is no guarantee that "sexual perversion" will not be defined
by the school to include displays of affection between people of the same
The Rocky Mountain News article made no mention of the
church-state-entanglement issues and said the principal told the school
board, "We teach our children to love one another, regardless of differences
among them. That also means we love all children who enter our doors even as
we set standards for their behavior." The ABP article began, "A theoretical
problem that school-voucher advocates and opponents have argued about for
years may have become reality in Denver," and reported that the principal said
in a phone interview that the policy's "thrust" had not changed, and the
board is "evaluating our policy to make sure that it is strongly, clearly
written to present a biblical position."
In earlier AP and Rocky Mountain News articles, the principal had
vowed to appeal the ruling and stated that "if an openly homosexual person did
enroll, he or she would be counseled about Biblical teaching on same-sex
relationships before a decision is made on whether to expel them," and,
"I would say we would treat it like other students caught with a smoking
problem." The Rocky Mountain News editorialized against the policy
but for their right to accept voucher money with it intact.
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
accepted a statement entitled,
"Between Man and Woman: Questions and Answers About Marriage and Same-Sex
to be distributed as a pamphlet to U.S. parishes. The statement says,
"These truths about marriage are present in the order of nature and can be
perceived by the light of human reason. They have been confirmed by divine
Revelation in Sacred Scripture," and, "Participation in the political process
is a moral obligation. This is particularly urgent in light of the need to
defend marriage and to oppose the legalization of same-sex unions as
The Washington Post quoted Auxiliary Miami Bishop Thomas G. Wenski,
who complained that the statement doesn't mention sin. In a
Soulforce press release,
communications director Laura Montgomery Rutt said the document "is not
only discriminatory, harmful, and confusing, it is a thinly veiled attempt
to influence Catholics to support the proposed anti-family Federal Marriage
Amendment by inserting their politics into a religious document. Although the
Catholic Church is free to discriminate against whomever they choose, the U.S
government has a higher obligation to Americans to ensure equal rights and
protections to all individuals, couples, and families - to do less is not
only discriminatory, it is anti-family and un-American."
The Boston Globe quoted Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley:
"We have failed to perhaps articulate our doctrine clear enough. We want
homosexuals to be part of the community, but we can't change the
Ten Commandments for them."
Up to forty Soulforce volunteers stood vigil outside the Hyatt Regency
during most of the conference, with a banner saying
Stop the unholy crusade against lesbian, gay,
bisexual, and transgender people. After being told that anyone wearing a
rainbow cross would not be served the Eucharist at the Bishops' Mass,
Soulforce passed out rainbow crosses to those entering the mass with a note
explaining that they would not be served. Some went forward with crosses and
were refused; some went forward without crosses and refused the Eucharist.
The Pew Forum on Religion and Public
Religious Beliefs Underpin
Opposition to Homosexuality. Subtitles include
"Opposition to Gay Marriage Grows Among Faithful."
Despite problematic language in the report, the numbers are worth reading.
An unsurprising quote: "...55% of evangelicals who attend services where the
issue of homosexuality is addressed have very unfavorable views of homosexuals.
This compares with 28% of those who regularly attend services in
non-evangelical Protestant and Catholic churches where clergy discuss
homosexuality... evangelicals who hear
sermons on this issue are much more apt than others to believe that gays and
lesbians can change their sexual orientation and to view homosexuality as a
threat to the country."
Church Attacked in Seattle
Following an October wedding for two men,
All Pilgrims Christian Church,
a Seattle UCC/Disciples congregation, was invaded by people calling themselves
"Deliverance Unlimited." According to a
Seattle Gay News article, they told Rev. Mark Travis they were there to
cleanse the church of its sins, insulted Travis and his staff, sprayed and wiped oil on
furniture and walls, attempted to enter the reception, tore down decorations,
threw chairs, pounded on the organ and piano, and tried to tear down the cross
in the sanctuary. Two were charged with malicious harassment and held on $20,000 bail.
The attackers' pastor has agreed to meet with the co-pastors of All Pilgrims to discuss
Reactions to the Massachusetts Ruling
The Rev. Troy Perry said,
"Metropolitan Community Churches,
which performs more than 6000 same-sex weddings each year, celebrates today's
decision and re-affirms its work to assure that equality under the law is provided to all
The American Society for the Defense of Tradition,
Family, and Property
asked their members to "do some prayer or act of reparation for what was done. We feel God
was greatly offended by this public recognition of sodomy and so we are asking for
prayers and sacrifices."
Americans Unitedís Rev. Barry Lynn:
"Religious Right groups will no doubt try to spread hysteria about the
decision, and I
hope the American people firmly reject their overheated appeals to intolerance
The Family Research Councilís
Tony Perkin wants a Constitutional amendment to
"stop a tyrannical judiciary from
redefining marriage to the point of extinction."
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism's
Mark J. Pelavin called the decision
"a landmark step toward ensuring the right of gay and
lesbian Americans to share in the joys, and privileges, of marriage afforded
Americans. As the Court rightly noted,
'Whether and whom to marry, how to express sexual
intimacy, and whether and how to establish a family - these are among the most basic of
every individual's liberty and due process rights.' These rights belong to same sex
couples just as much as to heterosexual couples."
"The goal of the radical homosexual agenda is to eliminate any and all
laws that uphold traditional family values."
The Family Pride Coalition's
"We are elated that the State
Supreme Court of Massachusetts has chosen to rule for fairness and equality
for all its
citizens. Too many American families have been left at risk because they have been
denied the legal protections that come with civil marriage. It is clear that states can no
longer accept legal systems that deny basic protections to gay and lesbian couples and
Southern Baptist Convention
The Southern Baptist Conventionís
Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC)
Kansas City Declaration on Marriage on Nov. 2, claiming: "Any weakening of the
traditional, Judeo-Christian definition of marriage will undermine the foundation of
Western culture and result in deep, permanent fractures that will fundamentally alter
American culture, indeed all of Western civilization." The statement calls for
"The immediate passage of a Federal Marriage Amendment that will place in the U.S.
Constitution the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman; the
strengthening of marriage laws in all states that will emphasize the covenant nature of
marriage; the restriction of marriage by every state to the union of one man and one woman,
including civil unions or any other marriage-like union; [and] the abolition of no-fault
divorce." A Nov. 5 AP story about the SBC and the pending release of the statement quoted
the ERLC's Richard Land: "The homosexual activists are out to normalize and affirm their
lifestyle and to marginalize those of us who believe it's unnatural and unholy. When we get
attacked, we fight back. They want a war for the high ground of this culture, they got it,
and we intend to win it."