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May 2005 Newsletter
Equal Marriage Rights
The Newsletter of the Interfaith Working Group
Civil Marriage Law
On September 17, Canadian citizens
Kevin Bourassa and Joe Varnell,
married January 14, 2001 at
were traveling to Georgia to speak at a
event about their marriage being recognized by the Canadian
government. They were stopped at the border by U.S. Customs because
marriage is recognized by the Canadian government. As instructed, they had
filled out "one written declaration per family" but were told by U.S. Customs
that because their marriage was not recognized by the U.S., they had to fill
out separate forms. Joe Varnell wrote in
his report on the incident at www.samesexmarriage.ca: "I
thought about the event we were about to miss. It was
being opened by
Coretta Scott King
whose husband had rallied the nation in
support of an African-American seamstress who refused to move to the back of
the bus. It wasn't the paperwork, it was what the paperwork represented. We
informed the Immigration Supervisor that we would not be entering the country
and with disappointment, and frustration, we made our way home."
The United States Senate has held a first round of hearings on "the defense
of marriage." In its press release about the hearings the
Traditional Values Coalition's
Lou Sheldon made it clear that he believes the amendment should
outlaw all legal recognition of same-gender couples, claiming, "The final
best hope for marriage and religious Americans who respect it is an amendment
to the Constitution which states the obvious - marriage can occur only when
it is between a man and a woman. It is important that the amendment not allow
loopholes to create 'classes' of marriage or cheap imitations of America's
most important institution. Domestic partnership, civil unions all attempt to
mimic valid marriages. They are no substitute for marriage and the amendment
should be clear on this detail." Despite claims by some supporters of the
amendment that it is to prevent courts from granting couples the right to
marry, Sheldon specifically cites the "radical homosexual-controlled"
California Assembly's passage of AB 205, which grants more rights to
The Boston Globe
reported that the
Massachusetts Family Institute
has sent 1,400 invitations to "pastors from many different religious
traditions" for a Summit of October to Save Marriage featuring
Roman Catholic Archbishop Sean O'Malley.
The Globe also reported local reactions to Senate testimony in favor of
the amendment by Rev. Ray Hammond of
Boston's Bethel AME Church,
who said, "I am not accusing gay and lesbian people of being responsible for
the breakdown of the American family" and, according to the reporter, he
"cannot fathom" why anybody
could read his testimony as anti-gay.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported on
Alliance for Marriage
press conference, with extensive quotes
from Patricia DeVeaux of the
African Methodist Episcopal Church,
who said, "This is not about being anti-gay. I would never, ever, try to
do anything negative against any segment of the population."
Copies of the IWG brochure
Religious Support for Equal Marriage Rights are
available on request.
Presbyterian Church (USA)
Confessing Churches Movement
has asked people on their email
list to respond to a
on their web site outlining a proposal for a four
year moratorium on constitutional changes followed by a formal split of the
denomination into two new distinct denominations. This plan, which they are
calling "Gracious Separation"
is also on the agenda at the anti-GLBT
Coalition's convention in early October.
Rev. Stephen Van Kuiken has been reinstated into the
Presbytery of Cincinnati
by order of the Synod pending the resolution of his appeal. The
Presbytery had voted June 16 to presume his renunciation of jurisdiction for
officiating at the Christian marriage of two women after his official rebuke by
the Presbytery in April.
The Layman Online reported that the
Presbytery of Hudson River
has accepted the recommendation of its investigating committee not to bring
charges against the Revs. Joseph Gilmore and Susan De George, co-pastors of
South Presbyterian Church
in Dobbs Ferry, NY,
based on the October, 2002 complaint
from Paul Rolf Jensen. South Church has
that Gilmore and De
George have conducted marriages for same-gender couples and presided at the
ordination of “self-affirming, unrepentant, practicing homosexuals."
Paul Rolf Jensen was reportedly preparing complaints against 350 clergy to
be delivered by late August, but by mid-September only one complaint, against
the Rev. Jim Rigby of
St. Andrew's in Austin, TX,
had been made public. The
session of St. Andrew's has stated that it "re-affirms its faith in and support
of Rev. Jim Rigby and intends to fully support him throughout this process" and
"stands by the Mission of St. Andrew's, '...proclaiming God's
grace and love, while working
to advance the justice and compassion of Christ in society.'"
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
The Evangelical Lutheran Church
in America (ELCA) mailed about 18,000
copies of "Journey Together Faithfully, Part Two: The Church and
Homosexuality" on September 5 to the pastors and lay leaders of the church. A
task force for ELCA Studies on Sexuality compiled the 49-page study guide and
its background essays to help the ELCA's 5 million members consider how the
church will respond in 2005 to specific questions about blessing same-sex
relationships and accepting lay and ordained ministers in such relationships.
The material is online in PDF format at
Episcopal Church, USA
The upcoming early October meeting of the
American Anglican Council in
Plano, TX has been mentioned positively in the regular reports of several
radical religious right organizations. The American Anglican Council
claims to represent "mainstream Anglicans"
(i.e. anti-gay Episcopalians), took credit for
one of the accusations that temporarily delayed Bishop Robinson's confirmation,
and has the same mailing address as the
Institute on Religion and Democracy.
The second-ranking official in the
Diocese of Central Florida, who voted
against Bishop Robinson's confirmation, resigned his position in the Diocese
because he believes the diocese will leave the denomination over Robinson's
confirmation, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
Since the confirmation of Bishop Robinson last month we've started seeing
stories in the mainstream media about the anti-gay minority in the
The Birmingham News ran a long article about anti-gay priest Rev. Paul
Zahl and his concerns about the future of the denomination. The
covered the resignation of the Rev. Steven R. Randall of Catonsville,
MD following an August sermon in which he compared the denomination to a
hijacked airliner. The Day
of New London, CT reported on a meeting between
Bishop Andrew D. Smith and more than 350 people, described in the article
as "deeply distraught and openly angry." The Atlanta Journal Constitution
ran a similar story about a meeting with Bishop J. Neil Alexander, in which
the crowd was described as "tense and angry." Fourteen Episcopal priests
took out an ad in The Tennessean criticizing Bishop Robinson's
ratification. An article in the
paper about the ad mentions that the signers "do not include some of the
oldest and largest local Episcopal congregations"
and opens with the explanation that
one of the priests signed the ad because it was heart-breaking
"to hear his denomination referred to as a 'gay church.'"
The Washington Post
ran an article about
anti-gay Episcopalians around the country including a story about a priest in
Nebraska who lowered the Episcopal flag to half-mast because he "wanted to do
something that would help people in the congregation face their friends in the
community." The AP distributed a story about a special convention to be held by
the Diocese of South Carolina
next month to consider resolutions to be sent to
the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Bangor Daily News reported on local
Episcopalians debating whether to join
The Anglican Church in America,
which split from the Episcopal Church
over the ordination of women. The Charlotte Observer
ran two articles about the Episcopal Church including a report on
reactions of various priests and congregations in the Carolinas, which ended
with a quote from a priest who said, "However controversial all this is, our
church has done the right thing. And even though this right thing may bring
confusion, anxiety, and fear - it is still the right thing."
James Dobson's Peculiar Alabama Speech
Chief Justice Roy Moore's two-ton Ten Commandments monument has been
removed from public view in the Alabama state courthouse. The other eight
justices all voted to obey the order of federal judge Myron Thompson after
Moore said he would defy it. According to a
Focus on the Family report, FoF
head James Dobson spoke at a rally in Montgomery, urging people to get
involved in "the great moral struggle" against
"the kind of judicial tyranny that
Christians can no longer tolerate." Dobson said that the courts
"are determined to control more and more of our personal lives"
citing the removal of the monument,
Roe v. Wade, Lawrence v. Texas, and possible future rulings in favor of
same-gender marriage. It was not clear from the article how removing an
exhorttation to worship a particular God on a particular day, allowing women
more control over their own bodies, preventing the states from arresting people
in their own homes for consensual sexual activities, and allowing more people
to get married could be construed as examples of the courts exercising more
control over people's personal lives. According to
GLAAD, James Dobson recently
appeared as a solo hour-long guest on the Larry King Live Show for the fourth
time in two years.
According to Americans United,
HR 2045, the "Ten Commandments Defense Act,"
which currently has seventy sponsors in the U.S. House, orders federal courts
to leave decisions about the display of the Ten Commandments to the states.
The Rev. Doug Fauth has left the area, and the Rev. John Steitz has
returned. We need the visible support of clergy, congregations, and religious
organizations in Eastern and Central PA, New Jersey and Delaware who favor
equal rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people; reproductive
freedom; and separation of church and state, especially as anti-GLBT religious
organizations and individuals get more and more attention while denying that
they are anti-gay. Please
contact us now if you are interested in being listed.
D. James Kennedy Gets Worse
D. James Kennedy's
rhetoric has always been extreme, but he reached a new
low on his September 21 show, seen locally on Channel 17 on Sunday mornings.
He told his viewers that the gay rights movement was "the greatest threat to
religious liberty in America," and showed clips of people saying things like
they believe God will destroy America if homosexuality is accepted.
Harvey Milk High School
Harvey Milk High
is an eighteen-year-old New York City public school
described on their website as a collaboration between the Department of
to provide a safe environment for GLBT
and questioning students "who are
in crisis or at risk because of physical and/or
emotional harm caused by their peers in a traditional educational environment."
The school suddenly became national news this summer when plans were announced
to expand to 170 students by the end of 2004. The school has a 95% graduation
rate and a 60% college placement rate.
The New York Times reported that on the first day of school this year,
about a dozen protestors, "waving signs and Bibles," were met by about 250
counter-protestors. The Times
interviewed one protestor, a construction worker
from Los Angeles, who said: "This is a historical moment, and this school
is a blemish on our Society. It's my duty as a Christian to share Jesus'
take on all this." According to a story on 365gay.com, the school is the
subject of a lawsuit
by the New York Hispanic Clergy Association and the
Liberty Counsel, who claim
that the money should go to schools that have high numbers of minority students
even though a majority of the students at Harvey Milk are Hispanic or African
Radical Religious Right Turnover
The Family Research Council
has hired Louisiana state representative Tony
Perkins as their new president. According to the FRC, Perkins "crafted
legislation to regulate the state's abortion clinics [and] sponsored bills to
filters on public school computers and increase the participation of
faith-based organizations in state prisons."
He also authored the state's two-tier
marriage system, in which couples can choose a marriage from which it is harder
to get a divorce. Perkins has announced that the Federal Marriage Amendment
will be the FRC's primary focus.
Peter LaBarbera, the main anti-GLBT writer for
Concerned Women for
America's Culture and Family Institute, is now executive director of the
Illinois Family Institute.
As a result, the Culture and Family Report has
suspended publication; CFI Director Robert Knight will be spending his time on
the marriage amendment.
Jerry Falwell to Concentrate on Marriage
has announced that he will concentrate on the marriage
amendment through his new
One Man One Woman Campaign.
He recently invited Rep.
Marilyn Musgrave of Colorado, a member of the
Assemblies of God and the
sponsor of the amendment, to speak at
Thomas Road Baptist Church
In his email about Musgrave's visit, Falwell said,
"I agree that the only way to
put marriage out of reach of fanatical judges and militant lawmakers is to pass
the Federal Marriage Amendment that defines marriage as a union between one man
and one woman, period."
will conduct a silent vigil outside Thomas Road Baptist Church
on Sunday, October 12, carrying pictures of families.
IWG Co-coordinator Chris
Purdom will speak at a Soulforce-sponsored marriage panel on October 11 in
Lynchburg, along with representatives from
People for the American Way.