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May 2005 Newsletter
Equal Marriage Rights
The Newsletter of the Interfaith Working Group
Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Media Attention
In the last few months The Supreme Court ruled against sexual control laws
(Lawrence v. Texas); courts in the Canadian provinces of Ontario and British
Columbia ruled against gender discrimination in marriage, resulting in
same-gender U.S. and Canadian couples being able to marry legally there; the
General Conference ratified the election of openly-gay New
Hampshire Bishop the Rev. Canon Gene Robinson; Walmart added sexual
orientation to their non-discrimination policy; Bride's magazine ran an
article on same-gender weddings; Queer Eye for the Straight Guy became a hit;
a heresy complaint was filed against Presbyterian minister Rev. James Rigby
of Austin; reactions to Bishop Robinson's confirmation were especially strong
in Texas and Connecticut; California advanced the rights of
domestic partners and transgender individuals; the Pope and President spoke
out against equal marriage rights; the Constitutional Marriage Amendment
gained support in the Senate; the Phillies hosted Gay Community Night; and
the Boy Scouts of America
continued to kick people out.
Newspapers across the country dramatically increased coverage of religious
and GLBT issues; the stories were often by reporters who had no experience
writing about the confluence of these two subjects. Typical articles
included local religious reactions to Lawrence v. Texas with quotes from a
single anti-gay Baptist minister, or, in one case, two anti-gay Roman
Catholic priests. Across Canada small-town papers reported on the first
same-gender couple from the town to be legally married; and in the U.S.
papers reported on local couples who had traveled to Canada to marry. By
early August U.S.newspapers were reporting and editorializing about the fact
that they were reporting and editorializing more about GLBT issues than ever
before, followed by polls about how people were reacting to the increased
coverage, and then coverage of the poll results.
As the summer has worn on the Radical Religious Right has stepped up their
increasingly shrill anti-GLBT propagandizing, and letter columns have been
filled with pro- and anti-GLBT letters.
The volume of GLBT-related news we receive every day has tripled this summer,
and our letter writing output has tripled in response. A movement that has
been slowly growing for over thirty years has suddenly become visible and
newsworthy. The need for calm, rational, pro-GLBT faith-based voices has
never been greater.
Thank You For Your Financial Support
Since July 1 we've received eight donations totaling $1,775, which certainly
helps. If every organization on the letterhead gave at least $100 a year, and
every clergy person at least $20, we wouldn't really have to worry about
money. (Just a suggestion, not a requirement.) We are extremely grateful to
the people and institutions both on and off the letterhead who keep us afloat
U.S. Constitutional and Legislative Threats
The Constitutional Marriage Amendment introduced in 2001 has been rapidly
picking up support in the Senate and Religious Right organizations. Many
people feel that it is highly unlikely that anti-GLBT organizations could
convince two thirds of the House and Senate and three quarters of the state
bodies to pass it, but there is enough fear, uncertainty and anger evident in
the media and communications of the Religious Right that the possibility
should not be discounted, especially if a state grants equal marriage rights
this year. Even with-out an amendment, the federal government could penalize
states that legalize marriage for same-gender couples. Visit
www.iwgonline.org/alerts for more information.
Report From WOW
About eight hundred people, mostly pro-GLBT folks
from Christian-identified traditions, gathered on the
University of Pennsylvania campus in August for
Witness Our Welcome 2003 (WOW).
The national conference featured five worship services and a variety
of plenary sessions and worshops, denominational meetings, prayer
and discussion sessions, entertainment, and a resource room.
For more info visit wow2k.org.
IWG co-coordinator Chris Purdom held two workshops on local interfaith
Gospel Choir performed Saturday during dinner; the
Gospel Choir (Wilmington, DE) sang at many of the services. Several events
Tabernacle United Church.
Thursday evening's service was at the
Church of the Holy Trinity
on Rittenhouse Square, and Saturday morning's service was at the
at 38th and Chestnut.
Protestors from what appeared to be several different organizations carried
large signs and bullhorns with siren attachments at most services and outside
the conference; they verbally assaulted everyone who passed. At one point a
protestor placed a sign between a conference participant and her guide dog,
causing her to fall over.
After Thursday night's service, the Hanover Choir, led by Patrick Evans,
spilled out onto the sidewalk, dancing, waving steamers, and singing
"Freedom's Coming" for over half an hour as folks waited for buses to take
them back to Penn. Most of the protestors were overwhelmed and took down
their signs, but while leaving, continued to aim a video camera at the
At Saturday morning's service a small group of
Soulforce volunteers gathered in
a circle outside the Cathedral as a protestor with a bullhorn walked around
the perimeter, shouting obscenities and calling people in the circle by name.
The Soulforce volunteers then formed two lines along the sidewalk to provide
a safe passage in and out of the building. Before police arrived to observe,
the protestor with the bullhorn walked along the lines, getting in people's
faces, shouting questions about their sex lives, and setting off the siren
behind their heads. As worshipers came and went, more people joined the
Soulforce lines, singing hymns loudly to drown out the protestors and allow
worshipers to pass safely in and out.
In the last few months we lost Rabbi Caryn Broitman, Rabbi Susan Marks, Rabbi
Brian Walt and Rabbi Lina Zerbarini who have all left the area, and we gained
the Rev. Frank Schaffer of
St. James UCC, Havertown,
and the Rev. Christine Paules of
St. Luke's UCC, Philadelphia.
Please call us to discuss joining the letterhead.
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Despite attempts by anti-GLBT organizations and people within the
denomination to derail or delay the process, the
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Churchwide Assembly voted to stick to their schedule leading to a final
report on homosexuality in 2005, and to continue a relationship with the
Episcopal Church, USA.
Soulforce volunteers stood vigil
throughout at the invitation of the Lutheran Alliance for Full Participation;
both groups were prepared to conduct acts of non-violent civil disobedience
if the study had been delayed.
Episcopal Church, USA
Soulforce of the Twin Cities
stood vigil outside the
General Convention in Minneapolis during Bishop Robinson's ratification vote
in August. In addition to ratifying Bishop Robinson's election in what was
likely the first such vote covered by CNN, the General Convention passed
resolution C051, "Blessing of Committed Same-Gender Relationships," which
caused quite a lot of confusion in the media.
The resolution did not call for the creation of a specific rite, but
recognized "that local faith communities are operating within the bounds of
our common life as they explore and experience liturgies celebrating and
blessing same-sex unions." The Presiding Bishop was also directed to
oversee creation of resources to help the church in a process of continued
prayer, study and discernment.
Immediately after the vote it was reported both that the Bishops had voted
against blessing same-gender relationships, and that they voted
for blessing them. There were also articles saying that the vote was
confusing and that no one was sure what had been decided.
said in part: "We believe it is past time for the church to be engaged in the
work of crafting common prayer for what is increasingly becoming common
practice throughout the Episcopal Church: the celebration and blessing of
faithful, monogamous relationships between persons of the same gender living
their lives committed to each other and to Christ. However, we understand the
language in the fifth resolve clearly to give national license for both the
development and practice of liturgical rites for the blessing of same-sex
unions. We look forward to working with bishops and commissions on liturgy
throughout the church to encourage and enable such rites to be offered to
those seeking celebration and blessing of their life long, committed
relationships and to assisting the Presiding Bishop in the development of
resources to facilitate conversation and discernment."
Reactions to the Episcopal Convention
There have been articles, editorials, columns, letters and polls in papers
across the country, with the most extreme reactions reported in Connecticut
A group of about fifty ministers from a variety of Christian-identified faith
traditions marched on the
Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut
in Hartford to protest Rev. Robinson's election and confirmation as
They were met "by an even greater number of Robinson's supporters"
according to the AP. The Rev. Wayne Carter, chair of the Hartford School
Board, publicly supported the march but did not show up.
Bishop Jack Leo Iker, of the
Diocese of Ft. Worth,
wrote a long letter which he required all clergy to read to their
congregations, in which he said in part, "This General Convention has
abandoned the historic teaching of the Church on matters of human sexuality,
but we have not and we will not. I repudiate and disassociate us from the
decision to consecrate an openly gay man as a Bishop, and I forbid our
priests to bless same-sex unions under any circumstances." The
Fort Worth Weekly reported that during the 9 am Holy Eucharist on
August 10, the rector of a local Episcopal Church "hurled the Episcopal
church flag on to the floor in front of the altar" and then proceeded to walk
back and forth across it while addressing the congregation; another Episcopal
congregation took out a full page ad in the
Fort Worth Star-Telegram calling Robinson's election "unconscionable."