The Newsletter of the Interfaith Working Group
Civil Marriage Update
Letters, columns, and editorials for and against equal marriage rights have
been appearing in publications throughout the country over the last two months,
accompanied by a number of polls that have produced wildly varying results
depending on the wording and the group being polled.
The Portsmouth (NH) Herald
reported that the clergy of
South Church, a
Portsmouth Unitarian Universalist congregation, will sign licenses for
mixed-gender and same-gender couples and send all licenses to City Hall. The
Philadelphia Inquirer's Jan. 10 religion column mentioned the small but
growing movement of primarily UU clergy who have stopped signing marriage
licenses and quoted local participants Rev. Elizabeth McMaster, interim
Mt. Airy's UU Church of the
Restoration, and IWG supporter
Rev. Melanie M. Sullivan, of the
UU Church in Cherry Hill.
Jewish Community Relations Council of
issued a statement
favoring equal marriage rights
Massachusetts' four Roman
Catholic bishops announced a one-million household direct mailing in favor
of a state constitutional amendment.
On January 9
Focus on the Family
reported that a poll commissioned by the
Coalition for Marriage
showed that 69% of those polled wanted to vote on
"whether the state should issue marriage licenses to gay couples"
and "fifty-two percent of respondents said they believe marriage should be
restricted to one man and one woman." The same day the
reported that only seven of the twenty questions in the poll had been included
in the press release, that the results "actually showed Massachusetts
voters deeply divided on whether to ban same-sex marriage," and that the
Massachusetts Family Institute's
Ron Crews "acknowledged that his group
did not release the full survey results and apologized for down-playing the
omitted questions as irrelevant." Despite the press release's claim that
a majority of the voters would vote for an amendment to the state constitution,
48% of the respondents agreed that "marriage is such an important
institution that it should be defined in the constitution as the union of a man
and a woman" and 49% disagreed; 46% felt the legislature should block the
Judicial Supreme Court ruling and 48% felt they should not; and thirty-six
percent agreed with the ruling, twenty percent disagreed, and forty percent
were not familiar with the Court.
The American Family Association
ran a poll on their website with these choices:
1) I oppose legalization of homosexual marriage and "civil unions"
2) I favor legalization of homosexual marriage and 3) I favor a
"civil union" with the full benefits of marriage except for the name.
The web page read, "Results of this poll will be presented to Congress."
As of January 22, option 2 had 59.45% of the vote, option 3 had 7.79%, and
option 1, which the AFA obviously expected to win, had only 32.77%.
According to a January 22 report in
Wired News, despite the promise on the web page, the
AFA has decided not to send the results to Congress after all. The Wired
reporter opined "...the AFA and organizations like it will have to get
used to the idea that if they want to use the Internet as a tool, they had
better understand how it works."
The Traditional Values Coalition
is trying to raise $4.5 million to pay for
an ad campaign to get the Federal Marriage Amendment passed through Congress
by the end of July. The sample ad on their web site shows a mixed-gender
couple in white from the back with the superimposed text "One 'natural
born' man. One 'natural born' woman. Support passage of a
Constitutional Marriage Amendment." A December press release from the TVC
characterized the equal marriage rights struggle: "On one side are
traditionalists who believe that marriage should be defined as a union
between one man and one woman. On the other side are a minority of aggressive
and vocal homosexuals and their allies in the media and in the courts who
believe that marriage can be the union of two or more individuals
who 'love' each other."
On December 16, the
Focus on the Family has
purchased a "mailing database of every religious institution in
Massachusetts" in order to send invitations to more than 4,000 clergy,
inviting them to meetings focusing on "building a moral and spiritual hedge
of protection around one's marriage and ministry," at which they will be
receiving "strategy packets, free books, refreshments, and other
resources" having to do with civil marriage law. The
Christian Science Monitor
ran an article headlined "Gay Marriage: Clergy
gear for amendment battle," which said in part: "With the prospect of
momentous, far-reaching change, Massachusetts clergy are lining up on both
sides of the battle: While Colorado-based Focus on the Family has joined
with the Massachusetts Family Institute (MFI) to energize conservative
Religious Coalition for the Freedom to Marry
has marshaled 400
progressive clergy behind the court and in opposition to the amendment."
JCRC of Greater Boston
Jewish Community Relations Council of
Greater Boston issued the
following "Statement on Same-Sex Civil Marriage" on Jan. 14 regarding
the Supreme Judicial Court's ruling in Goodridge v. Dept. of Health:
A fundamental principle of JCRC's mission is to promote "an American
society which is democratic, pluralistic and just." Accordingly, we
continue to stand firmly in support of both civil rights and the separation of
church and state.
Legal recognition of same-sex civil marriages has been considered and decided
by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court as a matter of civil rights.
Denying same-sex couples the right to enter into a civil marriage creates
second-class citizen status, which is unacceptable in a just and democratic
society. Under federal law and the law of 48 other states, over one thousand
rights, responsibilities and privileges accrue to married couples and their
families exclusively. Therefore, allowing same-sex couples to enter into
civil unions but not civil marriage falls short of the goal of equality
under the law for all. While adoption of same-sex civil marriage in
Massachusetts will not, in and of itself, achieve this goal, it is a
necessary first step.
We acknowledge and respect the diversity of views on this issue within the
Greater Boston Jewish community. Both Jewish tradition and American values
recognize the importance of differing opinions and lively debate and the need
for all perspectives to be heard. JCRC's historic commitment to civil
rights leads us to support the right of same-sex couples and their families to
enjoy liberty and equal justice under law.
We affirm the distinction between civil and religious marriage. Legal
recognition of same-sex civil marriage should not and will not require clergy
of any faith or denomination to perform or recognize the religious status of
same-sex marriages, consistent with the separation of church and state.
Incorporating religious doctrine into legislation or the Massachusetts
Constitution would erode the separation of church and state, a cherished
value that ensures religious liberty of the Jewish community and for people
of all faiths and beliefs.
Therefore, be it RESOLVED that the Jewish Community Relations Council of
Greater Boston urges our elected officials to enact legislation providing for
same-sex marriage, in accordance with the recent ruling of the Supreme Judicial
Court in the Goodridge case.
Be it also RESOLVED that the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater
Boston opposes any effort to amend the Massachusetts Constitution to bar
same-sex couples from marrying, or to deny legal benefits to same-sex couples
and their families.
We are extremely pleased to announce the addition of our newest supporters to
the letterhead, the Rev. Daniel S. Schatz of
BuxMont Unitarian Universalist
William R. Stayton, of the
Widener University Human Sexuality Program.
If you are a clergy person or the representative of a congregation or
religious organization in Eastern or Central Pennsylvania, Delaware, or South
Jersey, we are very interested in adding you or your organization to the list.
Roman Catholic Priests Protest
Twenty-three Roman Catholic priests in the Chicago area wrote a 770-word letter
to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, of the
for the Doctrine of the Faith,
to Bishop Wilton Gregory of the
US Conference of Catholic Bishops,
"regarding the pastoral care of gay and
lesbian persons." Copies of the press release and letter are available on
the web site of the
SHEM Center for Interfaith Spirituality in Oak Park, IL, at
and other sites. The story was covered by Reuters but was not picked up by
The letter begins, "As Catholic pastors, we have become increasingly
disturbed by the tone and, in some cases, content of documents and statements
from the Vatican, bishops' conferences and individual bishops on issues
categorized under the heading of 'homosexual' or 'gay/lesbian.'
We respect the teaching authority of the Church. Because of this, we find
particularly troubling the increase in the use of violent and abusive language
directed at any human person. Such language is inappropriate. This is
especially so when addressing members of the community of the faithful. These
divisive and exclusionary statements from the Church are contrary to sound
pastoral practice. The life journey in faith is unique and sacred, including
the personal integration of sexuality and spirituality."
It concludes, "We recognize the blessings of countless homosexuals in a
variety of relationships. We believe their experiences must be listened to
respectfully. While we do not know the reasons for the increasingly violent
and abusive language, we deplore it as ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ
and ask that it stop immediately. Furthermore, we request that all those in
official positions of teaching authority in the Church refrain from any
more statements directed AT the gay and lesbian members of the Body of Christ,
and instead begin an earnest dialogue WITH those same members of the Body of
Christ. For our part, we pledge to treat all who seek to continue their faith
journey with us with respect and dignity, regardless of their sexual
orientation. We join the countless men and women, heterosexual and homosexual,
who seek justice, mercy and compassion in and through the Catholic Church. We
extend an invitation all who share our concern to duplicate this letter, sign
it, and send it to their pastor, local bishop, National Bishop's Conference or
On January 28 the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reported that thirty
Rochester area priests had written and signed an almost identical letter.
It has been widely reported that H. James Towey, director of the Office of
Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, when asked if Pagan groups would be
eligible for government funding, said "I haven't run into a pagan
faith-based group yet, much less a pagan group that cares for the poor! Once
you make it clear to any applicant that public money must go to public
purposes and can't be used to promote ideology, the fringe groups lose
interest. Helping the poor is tough work, and only those with loving hearts
seem drawn to it." According to a press release from
Americans United, Rev.
Barry Lynn wrote to Towey, asking him to apologize to members of the Pagan
community and reaffirm his support for the principle that government will
treat all religions equally.
Americans United reports that ten witnesses from
Focus on the Family were
scheduled to testify at a House of Representatives subcommittee Colorado
Springs field hearing on faith-based initiatives. One of the scheduled
witnesses was Mike Haley, who runs FoF's anti-gay, pro-ex-gay
"Love Won Out" conferences.
Church and Park
Public Employees for
Environmental Responsibility (PEER)
issued a press release detailing church/state issues at the
National Park Service. According to PEER, the Grand Canyon National Park was
ordered to return three bronze plaques with Bible verses to public viewing
areas on the South rim, to sell the creationist text "Grand Canyon: A
different view" in park bookstores and museums, and to stop publishing
guidance for park rangers that labeled creationism as lacking any scientific
basis. The Park Service is fighting to keep an eight-foot cross on top of a
thirty-foot rock in the Mojave National Preserve. And finally, the Park
Service has received complaints about the inclusion of gay rights and
pro-choice rallies in an eight minute video shown to visitors at the
Lincoln Memorial, and may be considering replacing that footage with one of a
rally that did not actually occur at the memorial, though
different news services have gotten different answers about the report that
the footage would be cut.
New Jersey Domestic Partnership
New Jersey now has a statewide Domestic Partnership law. In an a pre-vote
article entitled "Clergy argue Bible supports N.J. domestic-partnership
The Press of Atlantic City reported that "A group of 11 clergy
members from various religious denominations dominated the testimony in
support of New Jersey's Domestic Partnership Act before an Assembly committee
last week, relying on the word of God and the message of Jesus Christ to
highlight their argument." The article included several quotes from the
Rev. Linda Holzbaur, pastor of
United Church of Christ
A post-signing article in the same paper had several positive quotes from the
openly gay Rev. Kevin Tyler of
Unity Fellowship Church New
Articles in both the
and New York Times limited their
religious quotes to the
New Jersey Catholic Conference,
which warned Senators
that the bill was a "radical departure from the historical definition of
marriage." Both papers editorialized in favor of the bill.
United Methodist Church
Rev. Karen Dammann will be standing trial for having publicly announced that
she was in a committed relationship with another woman. The investigating
committee from her annual conference had refused to charge her, but the
denomination's highest court ruled that she must be charged. No trial date
has been set. The
General Conference will be meeting in Pittsburgh,
April 27 to May 7.
Soulforce will be present at the General Conference from May 5 to 8.