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May 2005 Newsletter
Equal Marriage Rights
The Newsletter of the Interfaith Working Group
The Kennett Square (PA) borough council president, also a minister at
Kennett Square Bible Methodist Church,
spoke against a proposed public assembly ordinance with a nondiscrimination
clause (it passed 5-2), saying, "I personally have a problem with sexual
orientation," and, "if you include morals, you can't include sexual
orientation." He added, "Nobody should be hated by anybody." The story was
reported in The Kennett Paper and the West Chester
Daily Local News, which had a pro-church-state-separation,
pro-free-speech editorial as well as our letter thanking them for it,
in which we noted that religious organizations participate in pride
parades and banning them would be religious discrimination.
New Jersey Marriage Coverage
The New Jersey marriage lawsuit is still generating positive coverage. A
Newark Star-Ledger editorial in favor of rights for same-gender
couples noted, "Meetings to support same-sex marriages are drawing hundreds
of people to packed church basements," and also, "to discriminate against
people on behalf of religious vision or cultural habit is not in this
country's best democratic tradition. Our state and federal constitutions
spell out individual rights precisely to prevent the majority from using its
control of government to restrict the rights of a minority."
The Press of Atlantic City
had a very favorable article about the Cape May town meeting.
The Jersey (City) Journal reported that a poll conducted by
New Jersey City University found that 55.6 percent of Hudson County residents
favor legal marriage for same-gender couples, including 60.4 percent of
Roman Catholics and 30 percent of Protestants. The poll supervisors expressed
surprise and said they had thought "residents would be strongly against gay
Thirty-Seven Anti-Marriage States
Texas is now the thirty-seventh state to legally ban marriages of same-gender
Focus on the Family's May 6
CitizenLink, it is noted that if one more state follows suit,
three-quarters of the states will have anti-marriage laws, making it that
much easier to pass a federal constitutional anti-marriage amendment. A
federal marriage amendment was reintroduced on May 22.
Presbyterian Church (USA)
The General Assembly was held in Denver May 24-31, too late to get results
into this issue. A full report
is on the web site. Business before the
assembly included overtures to invite other (and presumably even less
GLBT-friendly) denominations to observe and advise the
Theological Task Force on Peace, Unity, and Purity; to deny payment for
abortions by the Board of Pensions except when they fit into denominational
social policy guidelines; to remove incest and rape from the circumstances
allowed for late-term abortions; to offer moral counsel to "protect mothers
and their babies late in pregnancy;" to remove the anti-GLBT ordination ban
(G6.0106b); to support synods in their oversight of violators of G6.0106b; to
create an authoritative interpretation of G6.0106b; to increase the required
number of signatures for a special meeting (thus preventing
anti-GLBT special meetings); to return to annual meetings; and to
appoint a pastoral group whose primary concern would be GLBT people and their
families in local churches. A new publication titled "Living Faithfully With
Families in Transition" was also considered, and had generated the most
pre-Assembly commentary from anti-GLBT organizations within the
Rev. Stephen Van Kuiken has,
as promised, officiated at a wedding for another same-gender couple.
Anti-GLBT members of the
have threatened to call for a vote on whether Van Kuiken has renounced the
authority of the denomination. Paul Rolf Jensen has charged the Rev. Rob
Martin of North Carolina with heresy, thereby preventing the
First Presbyterian Church of Palo Alto,
a More Light
congregation, from installing him until the charges are resolved.
president Rev. Michael Hopkins, and Rev. Susan Russell (executive director,
Claiming the Blessing),
met with the president and media officer of the
American Anglican Council
and agreed that representations of the groups at the General Convention
would be respectful and avoid characterizations, generalizations, and
assumptions about intent and motivation.
Episcopal Divinity School
gave an honorary Doctor of Divinity to Rev. Troy Perry, founder of the
Metropolitan Community Churches.
A story in The Advocate
quoted school president Bishop Steven Charleston, who called Perry
one of the most important Christian church leaders in recent decades.
Rev. David Moyer of
Forward in Faith
called the degree an "in your face" message to conservatives.
Another Baptist Expulsion
McGill Baptist Church
(Concord, NC) was expelled from the Southern-Baptist-Convention-affiliated
Cabarrus Baptist Association
for baptizing two gay men. In a statement to the CBA touching on Baptist
traditions (soul competency, priesthood of the believer, and local autonomy)
Rev. Steven Ayers said, "I feel blessed to be a part of a church who will
continue to baptize all who come to us and profess that Jesus Christ is Lord
of their lives. We will welcome them into our Lord's church, for after all it
is His church and we trust in His grace and mercy for the final judgment. Jesus
told the church to bring them in not to judge them. We are on very
precarious grounds when we forget our task and assume God's." The
attempted to educate their readers on religious diversity by interviewing
several clergy from different Christian traditions regarding their attitudes
toward sin and baptism. Sadly, they did not interview anyone who was
South Carolina Allowed to See Patient Records
The U.S. Supreme Court rejected a challenge to a South Carolina law that will
permit state regulators to see, copy, and store abortion patient's records
without stiff requirements that the records be kept confidential. The
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists told the court that its
members cannot comply with both the law and the organization's code of conduct.
Contraception/Abortion Coverage Loses in Florida
An email from the
announced that mandatory coverage of contraceptives and abortions by
employers passed the Florida Senate with only one no vote, but that the
the Christian Coalition, the
Florida Catholic Conference,
Florida Baptist Association
worked with the Florida House Speaker to ensure that the bill
did not pass the House.
Patricia Ireland and the YWCA
Radical Religious Right organizations sent out many alerts last month
asking supporters to warn the
not to hire Patricia Ireland as executive director. The
Traditional Values Coalition
said, "Ireland is likely to finalize the YWCA's evolution into a radical
feminist and pro-homosexual organization that will promote abortion on
demand, cross-dressing, lesbianism and other sexually deviant behaviors."
filed a federal lawsuit challenging Nebraska's Section 29 on the same
grounds the Supreme Court used to overturn Colorado's Amendment 2.
Nebraska's law says, "The uniting of two persons of the same sex in a civil
union, domestic partnership, or other similar same-sex relationship shall not
be valid or recognized in Nebraska." Two plaintiffs said their state
senators told them they could not even talk to them about the legal
difficulties of their relationship because of the law. An
Omaha World Herald
story characterized the plaintiffs as "attorneys, ministers, software
developers, therapists, and professors," naming and describing all five
couples and why they joined the lawsuit. The Rev. Nancy Brink of
North Side Christian Church of Omaha
is a plaintiff.
The Lincoln Journal Star
report did not name names nor mention that a plaintiff is a clergywoman and
had extensive quotes from the governor pledging to defend the state
constitution, and from the director of the
Nebraska Family Council,
that the state may discriminate in marriage on the basis of "behavior."
Love the Sin
We highly recommend
Love the Sin, Sexual Regulation and the Limits of Religious Tolerance
by Janet R. Jakobsen and Ann Pellegrini (New York University Press, 2003), a
short and very readable work discussing mainline Protestant influences on the
American legal system and cultural understandings of religion and sexuality,
concentrating on religious and gay-related Supreme Court rulings (especially
opinions of Justice Scalia) and mainstream media reporting of some events we
have discussed in KTF, including the murders of Matthew Shepard and
Dr. Bernard Slepian, and the anti-gay, pro-ex-gay ad campaign.
Rabbi Rebecca Alpert's work is mentioned several times and the book is
recommended by Rabbi Alpert; Urvashi Vaid, former director of the
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
Policy Institute; Margaret R. Miles, former dean of the
Graduate Theological Union at Berkeley; and Laura Levitt, director of
Jewish Studies at Temple University.
Many of the book's suggestions for discussing identity, behavior, sexuality,
and religious liberty are consistent with IWG practices for the last eight
years. Whether or not you agree with all of their conclusions regarding a
need for the broad application of free exercise and disestablishment to both
religion and sexuality, the arguments and analysis are both interesting and
U.S. House of Representatives Opening Prayer
Key West Police Officer and Chaplain Rev. Steve Torrence led the opening
prayer at the House of Representatives on May 1 ("National Day of Prayer").
According to a Key West Citizen story, it was the first time that
"an openly gay MCC clergyman has delivered the opening prayer before the
U. S. House of Representatives."
Canadian Rabbis and Marriage
Canadian Jewish News reported on a
factorum presented to the
Ontario Court of Appeal by the
Canadian Coalition of Liberal Rabbis for Same-Sex Marriage,
a group of twenty-five
rabbis from across the country . The rabbis noted that, "In liberal Judaism,
religious traditions and understandings of social institutions such as
marriage are open to interpretation in accordance with community values and
individual morality," and that there is "certainly no single spokesperson for
Jewish law and its interpretation." The rabbis disagreed with the
Interfaith Coalition on Marriage and Family
that marriage legalization would destabilize their religious freedoms, any
more than laws allowing interfaith marriages or the sale of non-Kosher food,
but that "the current state-enforced prohibition of same-sex marriages
prevents liberal Jews from acting in accordance with their conscience." In a
subsequent article the publication reported on the testimony of an
Orthodox rabbi opposed to marriage legalization, and
testimony of gay Orthodox rabbi Steven Greenberg.
Transgender lawyer Phyllis Frye sent a response to her email list to a
question about whether it makes sense to include gender identity in
non-discrimination law, saying that fourteen jurisdictions passed
legislation that included gender identity last year, while this year seven
jurisdictions, including New Mexico, "have passed non-discrimination bills
with gender identity in it." Frye noted that similar legislation has passed
in a variety of locales, such as Atlanta, Pittsburgh and Detroit, and even
"smaller places such as York, PA, Peoria, IL, and Monroe County, FL."
Victories have been noticeably lopsided. "Adding up all the votes on the
fourteen local ordinances that passed in 2002," Frye says, "the aggregate was
204 to 27. Boston's vote of 9 to 1 was typical."
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson told a South Dakota pastors' conference that
members face a challenge to "talk openly with one another, to disagree with
one another about human sexuality and, more particularly, the place of gay
and lesbian people in our congregations and ministry," according to the
Los Angeles Times.
The ELCA's Fortress Press has released
Faithful Conversation: Christian Perspectives on Homosexuality
with contributions from four seminary professors.
The ELCA News Service reports that the Sexuality Task Force met with a panel
of scientists, including
Dr. William Stayton
Human Sexuality Program at Widener University,
who pointed out that no more than ten percent of the population is at
either end of the Kinsey scale continuum in the United States,
meaning that ten percent are exclusively homosexual in attraction
and ten percent are exclusively heterosexual in attraction.
Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that the
Lutheran Church of Christ the
installed Rev. Mary Albing, a lesbian with a partner, despite the
Bishop's refusal to sign the call, and
Pilgrim Lutheran (St. Paul)
is now a Reconciling congregation.
Delaware Interfaith Statement
Eighty-two Delaware religious leaders from eleven religious traditions
(Jewish, Catholic, Episcopal, Lutheran, Presbyterian, UCC, Baptist, MCC,
United Methodist, Unitarian Universalist, and Earth Centered) have signed the
following statement, managed under the auspices of the
ACLU of Delaware's
Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights Project. If you are a Delaware resident and a
clergy person or spiritual leader of a group in a tradition without
clergy and you would like to add your name, call
Douglas and Corey Marshall-Steele at 302-684-1032.
Love for and respect of one's fellow human being is perhaps the most
prominent and universal core value of the many spiritual and religious
traditions that have ever existed. While sometimes differing markedly in
many other ways, spiritual and religious persons and groups can at least
agree with this tenet: "We have a deep and abiding obligation to love and
respect others." Indeed, not treating others respectfully or as we would want
to be treated is seen by the various faith traditions as moral failure.
As leaders representing a wide variety of spiritual expression in the State
of Delaware, we strongly support the full civil rights of lesbian, gay and
bisexual persons and see such support as being very consistent with our