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Keeping the Faith The Newsletter of the Interfaith Working Group
July/August 2003

Marriage in Canada

In February 2001 we reported that the Ontario government refused to register the marriages of two same-gender couples officiated by the Rev. Brent Hawkes, MCC Toronto, on January 14, 2001. On June 10, 2003 the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled 3-0 that the Ontario government must recognize those marriages and begin issuing new licenses to same-gender couples. The Toronto government quickly announced that they were ready to start marrying couples, and at 2:30 that afternoon the first same-gender couple was legally married by a judge in chambers. By June 14 Toronto had issued licenses to forty-nine male and forty female couples.

On June 17 the Canadian Prime Minister announced that he would not challenge the ruling and would submit a new marriage law to Parliament for a free vote. The new law, if passed, would remove gender from the legal definition of marriage and stress that religious institutions are under no obligation to marry same-gender couples.

Religious Right organizations in the United States issued panicked alerts, while editorials and columns in papers across the U.S. and Canada were largely favorable. Robert Knight, director of Concerned Women for America's Culture and Family Institue said, "The Court has thus declared 3,500 years of Judaic-Christian [sic] morality dead, replaced with psychological misinformation. God says that people can change and be redeemed from sin; the Ontario court is saying that this is impossible or unacceptable. This places Christians, Jews and Muslims utterly at odds with their government, and sets the stage for outright oppression."

An editorial in the Sudbury (ON) Star said in part, "The right thing for the federal government to do would be to either amend its definition of marriage to become more inclusive, or get out of the marriage business altogether. There is no moral basis for the state to regulate to the institution of marriage. Throughout the world marriage is considered a moral concern, sanctioned by the grace of one's god. At the same time, churches must be free to deal with same-sex marriages as they see fit. For better or worse, the fight over the redefinition of marriage belongs primarily in the religious communities. Indeed, in the Western world, the positions of Christian churches on marriage have splintered and are constantly shifting. It would be impossible for the federal government to sanction each viewpoint, and foolish for it to try."

There is no requirement for Canadian citizenship or residency and no waiting period for marriage, though there is a one-year residency requirement for divorce. MCC Toronto has a FAQ on their web site for couples who want to get married. So many couples across the U.S. have announced their intent to go that a group of five pro-marriage legal organizations (Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, Lambda Legal, National Center for Lesbian Rights, ACLU Lesbian and Gay Rights Project, and Freedom to Marry) issued a joint statement asking newly married couples to coordinate with them before bringing any court challenges.

New Hampshire Episcopalians Vote In Gay Bishop

The Diocese of New Hampshire has elected the Rev. Canon V. Gene Robinson, as Bishop Coadjutor. Canon Robinson is the first openly gay man in the Episcopal Church to be elected a bishop. His election must still be approved by a two-thirds vote of the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies at the Episcopal Church USA General Convention, meeting July 30 - August 8 in Minneapolis. In response to Robinson's election, the Bishops of South Carolina issued a statement that begins, "The Anglican Communion now faces one of its greatest crises ever over the question of whether or not same-sex relationships are sinful or to be blessed by the church."

Integrity issued the following statement:

Integrity welcomes the election of the Rev. Canon Gene Robinson as the next Bishop of New Hampshire. Canon Robinson is a fine priest and, we believe, will make a fine bishop. His election in New Hampshire, in a diocese that has known his ministry for some 28 years, was primarily about the future of that diocese and Canon Robinson's vision for that future. We do not believe it was primarily about sexuality. Nevertheless, we rejoice that this threshold-the election of an honest and open gay person living in a committed relationship-has been crossed. The emphasis should be on the words "honest and open." Canon Robinson will certainly not be the Church's first gay bishop.

We regret that this election is the source of pain and controversy to some in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. Much will be said in the days ahead. We pray that all of it will be respectful of Canon Robinson and his family, the Diocese of New Hampshire, and the process by which bishops are elected and confirmed in the Episcopal Church. Lastly, we call on the leadership of General Convention to enable a fair process for the confirmation hearings and votes in the two Houses of the Convention. Sexuality should not be an issue in those hearings given the Church's canonical prohibition against discrimination based on sexual orientation (among other things) in the process for ordination (Title III, Canon 1).

Cincinnati Presbyterians Vote Out Rev. Van Kuiken

On June 16 the Presbytery of Cincinnati voted 119-45 that the Rev. Stephen Van Kuiken had renounced the denominations' jurisdiction because he had officiated at the Christian marriage of two women after an official rebuke by the Presbytery in April. The conviction was on appeal to the Synod Permanent Judicial Commission at the time of the vote. According to the Presbyterian News Service, the Presbytery "removed him as pastor of Mount Auburn Presbyterian Church in Cincinnati and directed the stated clerk to strike his name from the presbytery's roll." Van Kuiken is the first minister to be removed from the Presbyterian Church (USA) for officiating at a marriage. Volunteers from Soulforce and TAMFS-Michigan stood vigil outside the meeting.

Philadelphia-Area Boy Scouts Kick Out Gay Scout

The Cradle of Liberty Council of the Boy Scouts of America announced they were adding sexual orientation to their non-discrimination policy just before the National Council met at the Marriott in Philadelphia. Two weeks later they changed their minds and revoked the membership of gay Life Scout Gregory Lattera.

Protestors from Scouting for All (including Lattera) were at the national meeting all three days, and a press conference at the Philadelphia Ethical Society featuring organizations opposed to the BSA's discriminatory policies against gays and atheists included IWG co-coordinator Barbara Lamond Purdom and Rev. Benjamin Maucere of First Unitarian A Friday night walk down the Parkway from 22nd and Winter to the Marriott at 12th and Market by about twenty people in memory of all GLBTQ children who have killed themselves because they were told they didn't belong, drew a great deal of attention from pedestrians, motorists, and diners along the route. The walkers included representatives from the IWG and the Ethical Society.

On June 2, Focus on the Family issued an alert asking Philadelphia-area residents to complain to the Council. On June 8 we wrote a thank you letter instead and then had to write another letter on June 14 when the Council announced they had kicked out Lattera.

Marriage Debate in Massachusetts

On June 1, the Roman Catholic Bishops of Massachusetts required all priests to read from the pulpit a statement against legal marriage for same-gender couples. On June 2, UCC Massachusetts Conference President Nancy Taylor wrote a letter to the more than 400 UCC congregations in the state, saying in part, "What the bishops fail to recognize is that families come in every size and configuration: extended, nuclear, patriarchal, matriarchal, single mom, single dad, adoptive, foster, childless, broken, mended, and blended. Among these configurations of family there are many gay and lesbian people who, living in committed relationships with life-partners, are gifted parents."

On June 5, the Religious Coalition for the Freedom to Marry, representing more than 450 religious leaders from over a dozen different traditions, held a press conference at the headquarters of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) in Boston calling for civil marriage rights in the U.S. for same-gender couples. Speaking at the press conference were the Rabbi Devon Lerner, co-chair of the Coalition, Rev. William G. Sinkford, president of the UUA, Rabbi Ronne Friedman, senior Rabbi of Temple Israel in Boston, and the Rev. Anne Fowler, rector of St. John's Episcopal Church in Jamaica Plain.

Rev. Fowler said that in supporting civil marriage for gays and lesbians, "I believe we are working for God's promise of freedom and justice for all. No longer must our lesbian and gay sisters and brothers be forced to demonstrate why they should be allowed to marry...this is a justice issue, a matter of equality."

Rabbi Friedman said, "We have come together today not to assert what is, but what ought to be. We insist that the Catholic criteria for marriage not be imposed on civil society. The Catholic Church's history is full of efforts to say this is God's will...but we believe in a loving God, and we affirm that gays and lesbians have a right to our blessings as well."

Supreme Court Invalidates Sexual Control Laws

On June 26 the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Texas law that criminalized consensual private same-gender sexual behavior. So-called "sodomy" laws have allowed states to presume self-identified gay, lesbian and bisexual people to be criminals, and have been used as validation for discrimination in hiring, housing, adoption, child custody, and marriage, and as an excuse not to fund comprehensive sex education and AIDS programs, in addition to adding government weight to a particular highly debated scriptural interpretation of the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. Rev. Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State called the ruling "a strong reaffirmation of the principles of secular government and personal freedom." DignityUSA executive director Marianne Duddy called it "a huge step towards enabling gay and lesbian people to feel like we are no longer second-class citizens of our nations."

Parade Report

The Philadelphia Pride Parade was held on June 8. Crowds were good along much of the route, especially around the reviewing stand on the 500 block of Market Street, where a small group of anti-gay religious hecklers were shouting their Bible interpretations. We did not have a huge turnout this year, but we did have a few representatives from Tabernacle United Church, Central Baptist, and Soulforce Philadelphia, and other religious organizations were in the parade. We distributed copies of the new edition of our Guide to Welcoming Congregations to the crowd on the 500 block of Market and at a table at the festival that was shared by Central Baptist, Soulforce Philadelphia, and YES/WOW.

A positive religious presence in the parade is necessary, appreciated, and if you can stand the noise and the chaos, just plain fun. Thanks to everyone who participated this year. If your organization or congregation has enough people to march on your own next year, please do, but if it's just you or your family, please join us.

Southern Baptist Convention

The Southern Baptist Convention met in Phoenix June 15-18 and announced a new initiative to convert gay people to Christianity and heterosexuality. The AP quoted the SBC's Richard Land, who said, "Homosexuals can find freedom from this sinful, destructive lifestyle. They can be redeemed. They can be liberated." The SBC also passed a resolution that said "Legalizing same-sex 'marriage' would convey a societal approval of a homosexual lifestyle, which the Bible calls sinful and dangerous," and another resolution complaining that Southern Baptists are portrayed as "intolerant and even dangerous because of our commitment to Christ." The SBC took extra measures to keep Soulforce away this year, including renting public areas between the hotel and convention center and hiring extra security, but Soulforce was there anyway along with PFLAG Phoenix and the Phoenix-area clergy group No Longer Silent. Soulforce had a new banner saying: "Jesus Welcomed Outcasts...Southern Baptist Teachings Create Them." They also distributed a new booklet entitled, "Southern Baptists May Not Say 'God Hates Fags' as Fred Phelps Does, But the Effect is the Same," and released a statement urging "all people, regardless of sexual orientation, to stay away from churches that utilize ex-gay resources to condemn homosexuality," urging "all those struggling with their sexual orientation and their loved ones, friends, and family members, to seek out positive guidance from organizations that encourage acceptance, love and compassion."

In other Southern Baptist news the Tennessee Baptist Convention dissolved its relationship with Glendale Baptist in Green Hills because of a lesbian associate pastor.









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