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Keeping the Faith The Newsletter of the Interfaith Working Group
October 2004


Civil Marriage Update

Papers around the country ran an AP story about the results of 4,000 people being questioned for a gender and marriage law survey conducted for the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. While the headline read “Poll: Religious Groups Oppose Gay Unions,” the story reveals that only 55% of those polled favored restricting civil marriage to mixed-gender couples, that no religious group had less than 25% support for equal marriage rights, and that 55% of Jews, and 50% of both “modernist” Roman Catholics and people of faiths other than Judaism and Christianity support equal marriage rights. Clearly this is an issue that divides those from even the most officially anti-gay religious traditions.

On September 8 Sacramento Superior Court Judge Loren E. McMaster ruled that California’s domestic partnership law does not violate Proposition 22, a ballot initiative passed in 2000 that prevents the state of California from recognizing the marriages of same-gender couples. The domestic partnership legislation, passed in 2003, will go into effect in 2005; it will grant domestic partners the rights and benefits afforded to married couples. Judge McMaster’s decision said in part: “While ‘marriage’ consists of rights and duties, the institution is not solely defined by those components.” Randy Thomasson, executive director of Campaign for California Families, said, “McMaster has trashed the vote of the people who said they want everything about marriage to stay for a man and a woman. The clear and plain reading of these marriage-attacking bills was to create homosexual marriage by another name. We will appeal and seek justice for California voters and the sacred institution of marriage.”

On September 18 a gender-based state constitutional definition of mar-riage received 78% of the vote in Louisiana.

On September 24 Nova Scotia became the sixth region in Canada with legal marriage for same-gender couples, joining British Columbia, Mani-toba, Ontario, Quebec, and the Yukon.

On September 30 yet another version of the Federal Marriage Amend-ment, this time called the “Marriage Protection Amendment,” failed in the U.S. House; the vote was 227-186, 49 votes short of the 276 required to pass. Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council responded: “We may not have won by 2/3, but momentum is on our side.”

Spain’s government is planning for a bill removing gender discrimination from civil law, allowing same-gender couples to marry and adopt.

TVC on GLBT Scholarships

The world can be very confusing when sexuality is understood in terms of behavior instead of identity, especially if you get your news from the Radical Religious Right. A September 16 email from the Traditional Values Coalition informed their readers that “A growing number of colleges and even the United Church of Christ is now offering scholarships to individuals simply because they engage in homosexual sex acts.”

Miami Herald Gay and Lesbian Christian Article

An October 2 Miami Herald article about the spiritual journeys of some gay and lesbian Christians around the country included Soulforce director Karen Weldin of Oklahoma, raised Southern Baptist and now attending a UCC church; Dr. Joseph Pearson, founder and head of the Christ Evangelical Bible Institute in Phoenix; and Bishop SF Irons-Mahee of Ft. Lauderdale, “raised in an African-American Pentecostal household in the Bronx.” Others included a Roman Catholic artist no longer attending mass, a former Roman Catholic priest still attending mass, a former Baptist attending a Unity church; an African-American Baptist preacher attending an Episcopal church; and an African-American Baptist still attending an African-American Baptist church. There were also negative quotes from a spokesperson for D. James Kennedy’s Center for Reclaiming America.

Kentucky

Louisville’s Southeast Christian Church is spending $150,000 on “One Man One Woman” ads for newspapers, billboards, and buses to prepare for Kentucky’s November 2 ballot vote on a constitutional amendment, according to The Courier-Journal and several Kentucky television stations. The Courier-Journal quoted Southeast Christian’s Rev. Bob Russell: “Our goal is to represent the biblical truth of marriage to our community that affirms marriage at a time when the traditional definition of marriage is under attack.” The Rev. Bartella Peterson, of the group NO on the Amendment, was also quoted, speaking of “the radical equality of all God’s children.”

On October 1 the Bowling Green Daily News ran a long, friendly article about anti-gay Christians campaigning for the amendment, focusing on John Brewer of Louisville, a volunteer minister with Emmanuel Seventh Day Adventist Church and founder of the Alliance for Righteousness, who is driving around the state in a bus with signs saying “Wake up America!” and “1 man 1 woman,” wearing a “Jesus Christ” baseball cap, and handing out bumper stickers and literature in malls and mall parking lots. Brewer compares his work to that of Dr. Martin Luther King. The Daily News also quoted Dr. Frank Simon, “an allergist, internal medicine physician and director of the state chapter of the American Family Association;” a member of First Assembly of God in Bowling Green who helped organize an informational meeting about the amendment; and a woman walking through a mall who said, “I think we need more people to stand up for Christian values.”

Another Presbyterian Church (USA) Complaint

A complaint was filed against the Rev. James Rigby of St. Andrew's Presbyterian in Austin for his participation in a marriage ceremony for 50 same-gender couples on the University of Texas (UT) campus. The complaint was filed by Robert Brown, a UT freshman, the Rev. Dr. Bill Parr of Nor’kirk Presbyterian, and Paul Rolf Jensen. Rigby assisted Brown with the complaint and suggested that he contact Jensen, who has filed many of the ordination and marriage complaints in the PCUSA, to represent him. The Layman, Austin Chronicle, and Austin American-Statesman all ran stories about the complaint.

The American-Statesman quoted Jensen: “The constitution of our church could not be clearer. A small number of those on the other side of the issue are determined to disobey and defy the constitution, seeking to destroy the church instead of working within the constitutional process to try to change the Book of Order.” Rigby was also quoted: “There are people who are being oppressed by the church, judged and rejected by the church. In order for me to be in good conscience and stay in the church, I have to lay my ordination on the line.”

According to the Chronicle, Rigby, who will officiate at another ceremony in October and who has conducted ceremonies for about 75 same-gender couples over 25 years, said, “the UT event really helped my stats.”

Widespread GLBT Media Coverage

Even towns and newspapers not normally known for gay-positive attitudes are publishing syndicated articles about the real lives of GLBT people. A very positive Dallas Morning News story entitled “More gay parents a point of discussion for students, schools” was printed in the Lexington Herald-Leader, the Monterey County (CA) Herald, Charlotte (NC) Observer, The Twin Cities Pioneer Press, the Columbus (GA) Enquirer-Ledger, the Macon (GA) Telegraph, Grand Forks (ND) Herald, Bradenton (FL) Herald, Tallahassee (FL) Democrat, Biloxi (MS) Sun Herald, Kansas City Star, Duluth (MN) News Tribune, Myrtle Beach (SC) Sun News, Centre Daily Times (PA), and San Luis Obispo (CA) Tribune.

Church of God in Christ

The Presiding Bishop, General Board, and Board of Bishops of the Church of God in Christ issued an anti-gay statement, which says in part:

“We believe that the homosexual practices of same-sex couples are in violation of religious and social norms and are aberrant and deviant behavior. We believe that these unions are sinful and in direct violation of the law of God in that they are a deviation from the natural use and purpose of the body. ‘For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which is due.’ (Romans 1:26-27 NKJV). We believe that to legalize such unions will signal ecclesiastical and social approval of homosexuality and sexual deviancy as legitimate lifestyles.

“Therefore, in spite of the progressive normalization of alternative lifestyles and the growing legal acceptance of same-sex unions; we declare our opposition to any deviation from traditional marriages of male and female. Notwithstanding the rulings of the court systems of the land in support of same-sex unions; we resolve that the Church of God in Christ stand resolutely firm and never allow the sanctioning of same-sex marriages by its clergy nor recognize the legitimacy of such unions.”

Pledge of Allegiance

Earlier this year the Supreme Court overruled the 9th Circuit Court's ruling against mandatory recitation of the 1954 "under God" version of the Pledge of Allegiance on a technicality, without commenting on the constitutionality of the practice. On September 23 the U.S. House responded by passing the “Pledge Protection Act” (PPA), stripping authority over Pledge of Allegiance cases from the federal courts. This is the second bill this year passed by the House to exempt specific laws from judicial review, the first having been the July 22 “Marriage Protection Act” (not to be confused with the “Marriage Protection Amendment”) which exempted the Defense of Marriage Act. Rev. Barry Lynn of Americans United called the PPA “a dramatic assault on the courts and individual rights, wrapped in phony patriotism.”

thisiswhatibelieve.com

The Traditional Values Coalition is urging members to sign a letter to be sent individually to all state and federal elected officials at thisiswhatibelieve.com.

They hope to get a million names. The letter urges officials to uphold “the values of the majority of Americans,” saying, “Our Traditional Values are a moral code and behavior based upon the Old and New Testaments. We believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that the Lord has given us a rule book to live by: The Bible. We are committed to living, as far as it is possible, by the moral precepts taught by Jesus Christ and by the whole counsel of God as revealed in the Bible.”

Nine values are listed, including “Right to Life” (from which the death penalty and “war against our enemies” are explicitly excluded); “Religious Freedom” (saying in part, “Our Founding Fathers supported religion, purchased Bibles, established congressional chaplains, and sent missionaries to witness to the Indians”); and “Homosexuality, Bi-Sexuality, Transgenderism, and Other Deviant Sexual Behaviors.” A description of this says: “The Bible clearly condemns all sexual behaviors outside of marriage between one man and one woman. Homosexual behavior is explicitly condemned in both the Old and New Testaments as an abomination and a violation of God's standards for sexuality. We oppose the normalization of sodomy as well as cross-dressing and other deviant sexual behaviors in our culture.” By September 26 the letter had 1,723 signatures.

Three New Laws in California

The Governor of California signed three GLBT-related bills into law during September. The Omnibus Hate Crimes Act includes crimes against individuals on the basis of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. The California Insurance Equality Act amends the Insurance and Health and Safety Codes to prohibit insurance providers from issuing policies or plans that discriminate against domestic partners. AB 1925, championed by the Traditional Values Coalition to make it harder for students to hear speakers from GLBT organizations, requires public schools to pre-inform parents of the names and backgrounds of outside speakers in sex education classes and allow the children to be excused if their parents do not want them to attend.

Rev. Lou Sheldon, of the Traditional Values Coalition, said the governor, by signing the Hate Crimes Act, “has sided with the homosexual and drag queen lobby in muddying the biological realities of male and female.”

Southern Baptist Convention (SBC)

On September 1 Focus on the Family, which has close and friendly ties to the SBC, reported on a national evangelizing tour by the SBC’s new president, Dr. Bobby Welch. The article mentioned Welch’s goal of baptizing one million people over the next year, referring to it as “a lofty aim for a denomination that's seen baptisms decline for each of the past four years.” In the article Welch refers to the “vast number of our churches that never baptized a single person last year.” Despite this decline in baptisms and the country’s steady population growth, anti-GLBT organizations in mainline protestant denominations continue to cite the SBC as “proof” that strong anti-gay policies aid church growth.

Clarkesville, Tennessee

The Leaf-Chronicle of Clarkesville, TN profiled the new Christian Community Church of Clarksville, a primarily GLBT congregation that is part of the International Christian Community Churches (ICCC), a nine-congregation denomination founded in 2002 over doctrinal differences with the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC). The article was very positive and included web addresses for the congregation, the ICCC and the MCC.

Procter and Gamble Boycott

Focus on the Family (FoF) and the American Family Association are calling for a boycott of the Tide and Crest brands because Procter and Gamble contributed $10,000 to a campaign to repeal Cincinnati’s 1993 anti-domestic-partnership city charter amendment. FoF says that P&G is “advocating for same-sex marriage” and that P&G representatives say they are “only trying to prevent ‘discrimination’ against homosexuals allowed under Ar-ticle 12.” FoF further explains that “the same gay activists they have aligned with have as their number 1 goal the legalization of homosexual marriage; repealing Cincinnati’s Article 12 is only the first step in the process.”

An article in AgapePress quotes Phil Burris of Cincinnati’s Equal Rights Not Special Rights: “Many people have left Procter and Gamble because of the hateful, bigoted attitude that it has toward people of faith. And if you do not endorse and accept homosexuality, they will drum you out of the company.”

An Assessment

The bulk of the mainstream U.S. media seems to have become used to the idea of GLBT people of faith and the rights and roles of GLBT people as an issue of contention among people of faith. With the exception of lazy headline writers and the insistence of some newspapers that anti-GLBT religious quotes be included in any GLBT-related article, reporting on sexual orientation, gender identity and religion has improved immensely. At the same time the religiously motivated anti-GLBT editorials, columns, letters and quotes from those interviewed have grown steadily angrier.



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