The Newsletter of the Interfaith Working Group
The Marriage Revolution
On February 4 the Massachusetts Judicial Supreme Court responded to a request
from the legislature for an advisory opinion as to whether a civil unions bill
would satisfy the court; the response said a separate status for same-gender
couples would be "unconstitutional, inferior and discriminatory;" that it would
"would have the effect of maintaining and fostering a stigma of exclusion that
the Constitution prohibits;" that the 180-day delay given to the legislature
was to fix the law, not to try to get around the ruling; and that the state was
required to start issuing licenses on May 17.
Elected officials and Religious Right groups immediately criticized "activist
judges" and "judicial tyranny." On February 5 the AP reported that the
had visited the statehouse to urge legislators not to amend the Constitution
Roman Catholic Bishop
had visited to urge them to amend it. Reactions
from other states became major news again, including anti-marriage legislation
in twelve states and a bill in California to prohibit denial of marriage licenses
to same-gender couples.
Editorials, letters and columns for and against the Massachusetts decision
began appearing nationwide on February 6, along with predictions that the
legislature would begin the three-year process to amend the state constitution.
A William O. Beeman commentary from Pacific News Service pointed out that efforts
to define marriage as being between a man and a woman are pointless since there
"is no single clear, biological, psychological, or cultural definition of ‘male’
and ‘female.’" A Philadelphia Inquirer commentary by Jane Eisner and an editorial
opposed the Massachusetts decision. On February 9
Focus on the Family
reported that amendment supporters had 109 votes in the legislature; 101 are
On February 11 the Massachusetts Constitutional Convention began. A report
in the Boston Globe described an evenly divided crowd of 1,500 people gathered
outside the statehouse, including a church group with young kids with Remember
Sodom and Gomorrah signs screaming, "Burn in hell," while 4,000 people lined
the halls inside chanting at each other.
On February 12, Freedom to Marry Day, pro-amendment demonstrators failed to
appear; an estimated 200 equal rights activists stood outside the chambers all
day with American and rainbow flags singing the Star Spangled Banner. By midnight
the legislature failed to pass anything and adjourned until March 11. That day
same-gender couples across the country began applying unsuccessfully for marriage
licenses. But in San Francisco, city officials quietly started issuing licenses
and marrying same-gender couples, starting with Phyllis Lyon, 79, and Del Martin, 83.
On February 13 two Religious Right organizations, the
Campaign for California Families and
the Alliance Defense Fund,
failed to convince judges to issue injunctions against San Francisco and were told
to try again Tuesday. The marriages continued; the line for licenses wrapped around
City Hall. By the end of February 13, 665 couples had married. The Oakland Tribune
noted an hour-long protest by members of a local mosque who felt obliged to "oppose
such horrible crimes against Allah."
Over Valentine’s Day Weekend, 200 city employees volunteered to process the licenses
and ceremonies as couples began arriving from all over and even outside the country.
Media reports indicated that by the end of the day on February 16, 2,271 couples had
received licenses, but court injunctions were imminent. On Tuesday both petitioned
judges announced they would hear arguments on Friday.
On February 20 the county clerk of Bernalillo, NM announced that she was issuing
licenses to same-gender couples. The Albuquerque Journal reported that 15 couples
had been issued licenses by late morning and that outside the court two clergypersons
were conducting impromptu marriage ceremonies: Rev. David Gant of
Pearl Gabaldon. The State Attorney General ruled later that day that the licenses were
invalid; the clerk stopped issuing them. In San Francisco, judges again denied the
injunction requests and agreed to consolidate the two lawsuits into one. Still the
marriages went on.
In their February 26 report on the marriage of Rosie O’Donnell and Kelli Carpenter,
the San Francisco Chronicle put the count at 3,200 couples, and the AP reported that
the mayor of New Paltz, NY had announced he was ready to marry same-gender couples.
US Senate Judiciary hearings on a Constitutional Amendment are scheduled for March 3.
Now is the time to be involved.
Negative Reactions to the Marriage Revolution
The Arlington Group, a new coalition of sixteen Radical Religious Right Organizations
in reaction to the Massachusetts ruling: "Today's ruling makes it clear that there is
no other option available to the people of Massachusetts than the passage of the
Marriage Affirmation and Protection Amendment on February 11th. The people must
be given a voice, and this amendment is the only way to make that happen. The
Massachusetts State Legislature must approve the ‘MA & PA Amendment’ next Wednesday.
Today it is also clear that a federal marriage amendment is absolutely necessary.
Congress must immediately pass it so that activist judges can no longer redefine
Black Ministerial Alliance of Greater Boston, Inc,
The Boston Ten Point Coalition and
The Cambridge Black Pastors Conference
issued a joint statement that concluded: "We acknowledge the pain and suffering of
the men and women in the gay and lesbian community who are in long term relationships.
However, given the most recent opinion of the Supreme Judicial Court eliminating the
possibility of Civil Unions, we support the call for a Constitutional Amendment to
define marriage as a covenant between a man and a woman."
Christianity Today Supports Amendment
A Christiantiy Today editorial claimed, "Despite the hysterical rhetoric of the
sexual Left, Christian involvement in this debate is not based on fear or hatred or
lust for power. Instead, we engage in this debate because, with love and honor toward
God, we love our neighbors and want the best for them," thereby ignoring Christians
and other people of faith involved in the struggle for equality. The editors concluded:
"We will rejoice if this nation chooses to protect the historic definition of marriage
through a constitutional amendment. Otherwise, we will look to the church to embrace,
with humility and joy, a new opportunity for countercultural witness. If American
culture takes yet one more step into moral confusion, may subsequent generations record
that the church refused to join this narcissistic parade."
New Religious Marriage Project
The Pacific School of Religion’s
Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in
Religion and Ministry
announced a marriage project, putting on the web "historical, ethical and
theological perspectives on marriage, liturgical materials and sermons, and an
overview of the important social justice issues involved in this contentious debate."
Contact Bernard Schlager at email@example.com.
Positive Reactions to the Marriage Revolution
Rabbi David Ellenson, president of
Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion
in a Feb. 6 commentary in the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles
titled Countering the Family Values Monopoly: "The desire that full rights be
extended to lesbians and gays reflects the Jewish belief that gays and lesbians
are human beings created in the image of God. The time has come for that truth to
guide our culture, and religious Jews should not be hesitant in saying so. Until the
day arrives that our gay and lesbian friends enjoy full rights, we who are religious
should not rest. When that day of liberty and freedom arrives, justice will at long
last roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream."
In a press release on
Lama Surya Das
said, "I've been watching the events unfold in San Francisco and what I have seen
is that the joy and love that these people are sharing with each other is amazing
and it is right. It's really been a transforming experience for myself and many of
those in my religion to see such happiness shine from the West Coast here to the
East Coast. There are over three thousand Buddhist centers in North America, and
none have any problem with homosexuality."
Positive Religious Coverage
In an article in the
San Francisco Chronicle,
Rabbi Stephen Pearce of
Temple Emanu-El in San Francisco
called the mayor’s actions "courageous" and "setting the pace for the rest of the
nation," while the Rev. G. Penny Nixon of
MCC San Francisco
pointed out that her congregation had been performing weddings for same-gender
couples for over 33 years. In a separate article, the Chronicle profiled the
Rev. Karen Oliveto, pastor of
Bethany United Methodist Church,
who had married eight couples over the weekend, mostly in and around City Hall,
but who on Sunday, Feb. 15, married Dan Johnson and Bill Hinson in the church
sanctuary, and who held a press conference in support of equal marriage rights
with a group of Episcopal, Jewish, Lutheran, Baptist, Unitarian Universalist and
United Methodist clergy. The Rev. Alan Jones, dean of
was quoted: "The time is long overdue for gay and lesbian people to have the
support and protection of the law for their faithful relationships and their
families. Gays and lesbians are our friends and colleagues. They are us. It’s
time to honor and celebrate all those who seek to strengthen the human family."
The San Mateo County Times profiled the Rev. Wendy Taylor of
Pescadero Community Congregational
who had been marrying couples
for fifteen years and was finally able to marry her partner of twenty years in a
On Feb. 17 the Jewish Telegraphic Agency profiled Jewish couples married in
San Francisco, including
Rabbi Yoel Kahn of Sonoma, CA,
Rabbi Denise Eger of Congegation Kol Ami in West Hollywood,
Rabbi Camille Angel of
Congregation Shaar Zahav in San Francisco.
Rabbi Angel told the JTA that more than 40 couples in her congregation had
gotten licenses and that she had celebrated wedding ceremonies for eight, for the
first time since she was ordained using the phrase, "With the power vested in me."
The article also mentioned the support of
Rabbis for equal marriage rights, and quoted former
Rabbi Joshua Lesser of
Congregation Bet Haverim in Atlanta.
On Feb. 18 the Oakland Tribune reported on an equal marriage rights rally by
"more than 50 people from
First Unitarian Church in Oakland
and other local congregations."
UCC Coalition Marriage Statement
The UCC Coalition for LGBT Concerns
issued a statement which said in part: "The Coalition applauds the decision in
Massachusetts that makes marriage accessible to all heterosexual and same-sex couples.
We urge all states to make similar decisions. We further urge that work be done on the
federal level to repeal the so-called Defense of Marriage Act of 1996 which legalizes
discrimination by denying on a federal level the civil right of marriage to same-sex
couples. As a religious rite, marriage takes place in the broader context of love,
community and justice. In this theological context four things are evident: 1. Any
conversation about marriage needs to affirm that marriage’s purpose and focus is always
love, wholeness, justice and equality. We give thanks to God when marriage is a
covenant which reflects God’s covenant with us. 2. However, any conversation about
marriage needs also to take seriously the history of domestic violence, oppression of
women and children and the misuse of the institution (including its historic racism)
3. Any conversation about marriage needs to decentralize marriage as the only expression
of covenant and commitment between adults. God has given to us many forms of
relationship: community, friendship, family bonds, etc. Scripture gives us examples
of all of these as holy and blessed: the relationships between David and Jonathan and
Ruth and Naomi, the notion of the ‘People of God’ and that of the ‘Body of Christ,’
for example. 4. Any conversation about marriage must take seriously the reality that
many lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (lgbt) and heterosexual people have made
conscious choices to covenant with one another in ways other than civil or religious
marriage. These covenants should also be honored and celebrated."
Philadelphia Commitment Ceremony
On Valentine’s Day, Rev. Jeff Jordan, of
IWG Supporter Rev. Karla Fleshman, of
Imago Dei MCC,
officiated at a ceremony for a diverse group of thirty-nine same-gender couples in
front of the famous LOVE statue, in view of Philadelphia’s City Hall. The ceremony
was co-sponsored by the Interfaith Working Group and several other local religious
Central Baptist Church in Wayne
The coverage in the Philadelphia Inquirer was both
extensive and respectful.
Presbyterian Church (USA)
The Synod of the Covenant’s
Permanent Judicial Commission ordered,
"that the declaration of the
Presbytery of Cincinnati
that the Rev. A. Stephen Van Kuiken has renounced jurisdiction of the
Presbyterian Church (USA)
be vacated and that his name be restored to the rolls of the Presbytery."
The Presbytery had voted to remove Van Kuiken for performing a marriage
while a previous ruling against him was still under appeal. In a separate
action, the Cincinnati Presbytery voted against a proposal to put
Mt. Auburn Presbyterian,
Van Kuiken’s former church, into a newly created provisional status.
Under the headline "Intersex – the church needs to know,"
the Presbyterian arm of
recently forwarded to their email list the text of an ABC News report on
intersex individuals, saying that the story "affirms the message that
our sexual orientation is more complex than gay activists would lead us to
believe," an especially peculiar claim given that it is Exodus that keeps
insisting on the existence of a God-ordained binary sexuality and non-genetic
causes of other gender identities and attractions.
Concerned Women for America
In an interview in Human Events, Sandy Rios of
Concerned Women for America
stated that the author of the original Federal Marriage Amendment wrote the
amendment with the explicit intention of banning civil unions,
despite the claim of Matt Daniels of the
Alliance for Marriage that the Amendment
would only ban court ordered marriages. Rios also compares banning
same-gender marriages without banning civil unions to banning slavery
but allowing people to be kept as chattel.