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May 2005 Newsletter
Equal Marriage Rights
The Newsletter of the Interfaith Working Group
MCC Marriage Protests
Rev. Troy Perry, founder of the
Metropolitan Community Church,
applied for a marriage license with his partner in Los Angeles on February 14,
and encouraged other MCC clergy and members to follow suit at local
courthouses and city halls and to inform the media. These protests were an
overwhelming media success, with mostly positive pre- and post-event local and
national coverage. Most reporters' explanations for the protests were
very good, though many stories did not accurately distinguish marriage,
Vermont civil unions, and California domestic partnerships.
The Omaha World Herald
ran an advance story about a planned3 protest by six couples,
saying it would be led by
"the Rev. Barbara Sagat, pastor of
Omaha's Metropolitan Community Church,
and her partner, the
Rev. Sharon Stover, pastor of the
The Sioux Falls (SD) Argus Leader, MSNBC and
KELO-TV (Sioux Falls) also had advance stories about them. KELO-TV was
one of the few media outlets to seek out an anti-gay opinion (a representative
from the Family Policy Council), who said the women "have every right to go
out and find a man to get married to." Detroit News
columnist Deb Price's February 10 column featured Rev. Perry's action,
and encouraged readers to participate. The Easton, PA
ran an excellent story on February 6 about six gay and lesbian couples
married in a ceremony by Elizabeth Goudy of
MCC of the Lehigh Valley;
unfortunately the reporter or editor put quotes around the word "married."
According to the article, thirty-two other couples received a blessing from
"clergy and spiritual leaders representing the
United Church of Christ, Mennonite, Methodist, Unitarian,
Reconstructionist Synagogue and the Lenni Lenape."
of Easton and the
Allentown Morning Call covered two couples at the Easton courthouse.
The Morning Call quoted Rev. Goudy: "Marriage is everything. It's all
about insurance, home ownership, child custody, inheritance, hospital issues,
immigration rights. It all comes with marriage. This was one small step for
justice." They also quoted the
Urban Family Council's
Bill Devlin, who said the group is not homophobic or anti-gay, but that,
"When gay and lesbian couples storm the bastille of the local courthouse, it's
a bad idea because they are ramming their political ideals down the throat of
ordinary people. They will continue to beat at the door, with the help of
Hollywood and the media, but it'll be done - at great consequence."
The Gay People's Chronicle (Cleveland, OH) reported that at least
three couples went to Ohio courthouses, and quoted the Rev. Edwin Yates, a
former IWG supporter and pastor of
A New Life MCC in Toledo.
The AP reported from Hartford, CT on the protest by the Rev. George Chien, of
MCC of Hartford,
and his partner, Julio Flores, tying the story to the three pending
bills before the Connecticut legislature
The New York Times covered the Rev. Chien in Hartford and the
Rev. Perry in Los Angeles. Other reports about local couples ran in the
Detroit Free Press,
(Willimantic, CT), the
Norwich (CT) Bulletin, the New Haven Register,
the Oakland Tribune,
and the Marshfield (WI) News-Herald, and on KETV Omaha.
Most newspapers printed quotes from county clerks. The quote in the
"We think this is a state issue. The marriage license laws are governed by
state statute, and that's what our office follows," was typical. But a
Davis (CA) Enterprise
article about a protest in Yolo County sponsored by
Marriage Equality California
noted that the Clerk-Recorder said to each couple, "Under section 500 of the
California Family Code, I am not authorized to issue a license for marriage to
same-sex couples. I personally do not see any governmental purpose that is
served by that, and it hurts my heart to have to tell you no."
Eucharist Trial Verdict
The three gay Roman Catholics arrested in November 2002 at the Hyatt Regency
on Washington's Capitol Hill during the
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
were found guilty of the criminal misdemeanor of unlawful entry after a
two-day bench trial with Judge Mildred Edwards in the Superior Court of the
District of Columbia. However, Edwards refused to order them to stay away from
the Hyatt in the future, and declared the complete suspension of the
imposition of sentence. They could have received six months in jail and a fine
The lead defense witness was Catholic Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, of the
Archdiocese of Detroit.
Ken Einhaus, Kara Speltz and Mike Perez, the defendants, had been denied the
Eucharist during the Bishops' Mass on November 11, 2002 at the National
Shrine, for no apparent reason. They entered the lobby of the hotel the next
day to ask any bishop present to serve them, but no one came forward. Bishop
Gumbleton testified that he was at the Hyatt and was leaving the meeting
during lunch recess when he saw the
police arresting the defendants in the lobby; he was unable to approach them because of the police. "This experience reinforces my opinion about how important it is that the Catholic Church reach out to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people," Gumbleton said after his testimony.
According to Soulforce,
Judge Edwards ordered the defendants to pay $50 each to the Victims
of Violent Crimes Compensation Fund. "Terrible violence was done to you
when the body of Christ was denied to you," said Judge Edwards. "You are
in solidarity with all victims of violence. I am terribly sorry for what
happened to you. As a member of the Church, I ask you to forgive our Church.
There is no way I am going to order you away from the Hyatt. You can
engage in peaceful demonstration as long as it is law abiding. Go in Peace."
"This verdict gives me hope that the desire of people of the church for
justice and healing will prevail over the church leaders who misuse
authority to control and silence us," said Ken Einhaus. "This is a great
victory for the three of us as faithful gay Catholics, and for all those who
love God and seek healing for the wounds the Church has inflicted upon gay,
lesbian, bisexual and transgender people." The
issued a statement that was distributed by the
Traditional Values Coalition,
saying that Edwards is anti-Catholic; it did not mention Gumbleton's
testimony. The trial was covered by the
Washington Post and National Catholic Reporter.
Connecticut Marriage Legislation
Connecticut's legislature is considering three pieces of marriage-related
legislation: a bill removing gender discrimination from existing marriage
laws, a civil union law like Vermont's and a "Defense of Marriage Act."
The New Britain Herald
reported on competing demonstrations between "gay rights activists and their
conservative religious opponents," singling out the Rev. Susan Heiskell of
MCC of New Haven
and the Rev. Pat Gallagher, a "happily married Episcopal priest" on the
pro-gay side, and Rabbi Daniel Greer of
Yeshiva of New Haven
and Bishop Richard Gatling of Hartford's
Jackson Memorial Church
of God in Christ on the anti-gay side. The
Hartford Courant quoted Rabbi Greer and the Rev. George Chien of
The Waterbury Republican-American quoted a member of the
Knights of Columbus,
who called marriage for same-gender couples an "attack on freedom, justice,
peace, and the future of the family." While the article mentioned that
supporters had a binder with pro-marriage narratives from "Jews and
Christians, Catholics, and Protestants," no religious pro-marriage advocates
were quoted. One woman quoted in both the Republican-American
and the AP said, "The old religious values don't apply as far as I'm
concerned anymore. This is not a religious issue. It's a civil rights
issue." The AP identified the woman as a Catholic; the
did not. The AP also quoted Rabbi Greer and the Knights of Columbus member.
Presbyterian Church (USA)
A Cincinnati Presbytery
investigating committee has voted to file charges against
Rev. Stephen Van Kuiken of
Mt. Auburn Presbyterian
for not discriminating on the basis of orientation in ordination and gender
in marriage. These are the first complaints by Paul Rolf Jensen to result
in a recommendation of charges. Jensen has filed complaints against more than
twenty ordained Presbyterians nationwide. A trial date has not been announced.
The Washington, PA Observer-Reporter
interviewed two local Presbyterian ministers, Rev. Craig Kephart,
who signed the petition for a special meeting of the General Assembly, and
Rev. Dr. Robert Campbell, who called the proposal "an absolute abomination,
a total waste of the church's money," and also said, "I believe that we are
not clear on what Scripture says about these issues, given present
information. I believe this is a 'hot-button issue' that is not an essential
in matters of faith."
More Light Presbyterians
Nauraushaun Presbyterian Church
(Pearl River, NY) became the
112th More Light congregation on January 26.
Unitarian Universalist Marriage Protests
The Rev. Fred Small,
First Church Unitarian
in Littleton, MA announced Feb. 2 that he will continue to perform
religious marriage ceremonies, but will no longer sign licenses for the state.
He received a standing ovation from the congregation after the announcement.
His decision was reported in the Littleton Independent,
the Boston Globe, and by WCBV Boston in a story about the
Religious Coalition for the
Freedom to Marry.
The Daily Hampshire Gazette
reported on February 19 that the Rev. F. Jay Deacon of the 500-member
Unitarian Universalist Society of
Northampton and Florence (MA)
announced that he will not sign marriage licenses either, saying, "I will not
be an agent of the state that withholds from same-sex couples the array of
rights and privileges it extends to heterosexual couples." He is also quoted
referring to the current system as "a strange and most inappropriate wedding
of church and state." The paper reported that his congregation also applauded.
United Methodist Church
The Western Judicial Committee on Appeals upheld a decision to dismiss a
complaint against the Rev. Karen Dammen for violating church law against
"self-avowed, practicing homosexuals" serving as ministers, according to the
Seattle Times, which had a quote from Dammen saying,
"Meredith and I are thrilled and happy."
The Nashville Tennessean ran an extensive article about the
Rev. April Baker, a lesbian Southern Baptist minister hired by the
Glendale Baptist Church in
Green Hills, TN
as an associate pastor for
children and families. The article noted that the congregation would likely
be disfellowshipped by the
Southern Baptist Convention
and that ordination of gays and lesbians "has been the cause of vigorous
debate in denominations more liberal than the Southern Baptists."
The Kansas City Star
reported on a debate at Baptist-affiliated William Jewell College over whether
to add sexual orientation to the anti-discrimination clause of the student
bill of rights. The paper said the
Missouri Baptist Convention
has "criticized the debate and inaction by the college administration to
On February 2, the Philadelphia Inquirer ran a story about Fusion
Baptist Church, a new
congregation in Center City sponsored by
Drexel Hill Baptist
and created specifically for the GLBT community and those who love them.
Fusion Baptist worships at the
Lutheran Church of the
Marriage Opinion from Rabbi Howard Berman
The Cape Cod Times
printed a long marriage opinion piece from Rabbi Howard Berman, rabbi
Chicago Sinai Congregation,
which said in part:
"We, too, can quote chapter and verse of Leviticus, which calls us to
'proclaim liberty throughout the land, unto all the inhabitants thereof!'
However, while we affirm that the Biblical spirit has indeed inspired
America from its earliest beginnings, in the end, it must be the Constitution
- and not a particular reading of the Bible - that dictates the laws of this
nation. When it comes to the civil rights of all the citizens of the United
States, the ultimate documents of authority mandate that all people 'are
created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights
- that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.'"
Love Welcomes All in Austin
The Austin American-Statesman
ran three stories about the upcoming Love Won Out and Love Welcomes All
conferences in Austin, the second city in which
Focus on the Family's
anti-gay, pro-ex-gay Love Won Out conferences have been countered with a
pro-GLBT conference put on by welcoming congregations. The strategy has
resulted in much more GLBT-positive
reporting in cities where the conferences have been held.
The Rev. Bonnie Casey, a long-time
has left the area and is no longer on the letterhead. We can always fit more
clergy, congregations, and religious organizations. If you are in Eastern or
Central PA, South Jersey, or Delaware, call or send email if you would like to
be listed. Please provide a way to confirm your identity when you contact us.
Soulforce Philadelphia is the twentieth local affiliated group licensed by
Soulforce, Inc. For more information visit
call Kathy Stayton at 610-647-9616, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
News Service Story titled "ELCA Task Force Wants Church to Talk About
Sexuality" quoted Presiding Bishop the Rev. Mark S. Hansen, who said "the
vast majority of the church has chosen not to be involved in this work," and
that the church needed to "take the moment, as uncomfortable as it is."
InnerChange Freedom Initiative
has filed federal lawsuits against a government-backed program seeking to
rehabilitate Iowa prison inmates by converting them to fundamentalist
Christianity. The suits charge that
InnerChange Freedom Initiative,
a program run by Charles Colson's
constitutes a merger of government with religion. The program is currently in
Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota and Texas; a similar program is being considered for
federal prisons. Program materials describe it as "a revolutionary,
Christ-centered, values-based pre-release program supporting prison inmates
through their spiritual and moral transformation." The director of operations
has said the mission is to "save souls for Christ." All employees must be
Christians willing to sign a statement of faith. Inmates in the program have
keys to their cells, access to private bathrooms, big-screen televisions,
computers and art supplies. They may make free telephone calls to family
members. These benefits are not extended to general-population inmates and are
partially funded by overcharging the general population inmates for phone
calls. Housing for the program is completely subsidized with public funds.