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May 2005 Newsletter
Equal Marriage Rights
The Newsletter of the Interfaith Working Group
Marriage in Canada
In February 2001
that the Ontario government refused to
register the marriages of two same-gender couples officiated by the Rev.
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
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
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,
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
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,
National Center for Lesbian Rights,
Lesbian and Gay Rights Project,
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
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."
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
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.
stood vigil outside the meeting.
Philadelphia-Area Boy Scouts Kick Out Gay Scout
The Cradle of Liberty Council
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.
Scouting for All
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
Rev. Benjamin Maucere of
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
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
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
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
for Separation of Church and State called the ruling "a strong
reaffirmation of the principles of secular government and personal freedom."
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
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
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
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
away this year, including renting public areas between the hotel and
convention center and hiring extra security, but Soulforce was there anyway
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
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.