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


California Supreme Court Voids 4,000 Marriages

On August 12 the California Supreme Court ruled 7-0 that the mayor of San Francisco did not have the authority to decide whether California marriage laws were constitutional, and 5-2 that the 4,000 marriage licenses issued by the city and county of San Francisco to same-gender couples were therefore invalid and the marriages of the couples they were issued to were void. The court specifically did not rule on whether the mayor was correct. Constitutional challenges to gender discrimination in California marriage law are making their way through the court system. A bill to end that discrimination was tabled in the legislature this year, but may be introduced again in 2005.

In a taunting news release, the Liberty Counsel’s Matt Stover said,

“We should thank Mayor Gavin Newsom for jolting the majority of Americans out of their apathy and energizing the pro-traditional marriage movement. Mayor Newsom revealed the radical nature of the same-sex marriage agenda. Newsom's action escalated the time frame of the same-sex marriage agenda, causing it to move too fast, too soon. The majority of Americans support traditional marriage, and that's why there are 13 states going to the polls to amend their constitutions. The pro-marriage movement is determined to pass the Federal Marriage Amendment, and is resolved to preserve marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Instead of helping his cause, Mayor Newsom has set back the same-sex marriage agenda and laid the foundation for the pro-marriage movement to once and for all win this battle to preserve traditional marriage.”

Matt Foreman of NGLTF responded to the ruling and to the Radical Religious Right:

"This is an extremely sad day for the more than 4,000 same sex couples who were married in San Francisco earlier this year. For a few short months, those couples experienced the euphoria and dignity of their love and commitment being recognized as equal to other married couples.

At the same time - and contrary to the claims of those opposed to marriage equality - this decision has nothing whatsoever to do with the constitutionality of California's law that prohibits same sex marriage. Instead, it is all about a municipality's authority to determine, on its own, the constitutionality of state laws. That's all.

As usual, our opponents are deliberately misstating what this decision is about to energize their constituents and to try to demoralize those committed to full equality under the law. Fortunately for us, the truth is that time is our side. We - through the extraordinary work of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Lambda Legal, Gay and Lesbian Rights Project of the ACLU, Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders and many other incredible groups and organizations -- will prevail, not only in California but in other states across the country."

Repent America – Philadelphia’s Religious Voice?

The Delaware County Daily Times has been reporting on efforts by Repent America’s Michael Marcavage to prevent a domestic partnership registry in Lansdowne. The coverage has included an editorial and an opinion piece by Marcavage. In his commentary Marcavage warns that “we must not allow the borough to become a haven for sexually deviant behavior” and he invites readers to his ReclaimingLansdowne.com website, where he states, “I moved to Lansdowne because I wanted to live in a peaceful, small town outside of the city and found Lansdowne to be that place.”

At the WOW Conference in Philadelphia last summer Marcavage screamed personal sexual questions through a bullhorn at close range at people entering and leaving religious services. A Google search for “Michael Marcavage” turns up news articles from all over the country including his attempt to disrupt and prevent weddings at San Francisco’s City Hall.

Repent America was at the Phillies on gay community day. According to their August 10 press release “five Christians with the Philadelphia-based Repent America were ejected from the 2nd annual Philadelphia Phillies' Gay Day after homosexuals and homosexual advocates began to incite a riot by pulling down the Christian's Gospel banner, which read, ‘HOMOSEXUALITY IS SIN, CHRIST CAN SET YOU FREE.’”

United Methodist Church

The United Methodist Church will try the Rev. Beth Stroud of First United Methodist Church of Germantown later this year. The trial date has not yet been announced. The investigating committee hearing was reported on by the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Channel 10 News. Soulforce has announced that there will be a national action at the trial. For more information on the trial from Rev. Stroud’s perspective, visit www.bethstroud.info. For more information on the trial from Soulforce’s perspective and on the upcoming action, visit www.soulforce.org.

AIDS Misinformation from Focus on the Family

The July 27 CitizenLink from Focus on the Family included an article titled “Poll Reveals Muddled Thinking on AIDS.” Each article in CitizenLink begins with a one-sentence summary and the summary for this article was “Adults wrongly think ‘safe-sex’ practices are actually safe -- and inhibit the chances of acquiring AIDS.”

APA Endorses Equal Marriage Rights

The American Psychological Association has endorsed equal marriage rights for same-gender couples. In a July 29 commentary, Liberty Counsel, the legal organization connected to Rev. Jerry Falwell that has taken the lead in many of the anti-marriage lawsuits around the country, claimed, “The resolution relies on false assumptions that same-sex couples maintain long-term, monogamous relationships, suffer economic disadvantages and are victims of hate crimes.”

Marriage Around The Country

On July 1 the Virginia law barring contractual relationships between same-gender couples went into effect. The law specifically prohibits “any arrangement between persons of the same sex purporting to bestow the privileges or obligations of marriage.”

On August 4 voters in Missouri wrote gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people out of the state constitution and trampled on religious liberty, free speech, free association, and the right to redress by adding a gender-based definition of marriage. Meanwhile in Washington State, King County Superior Judge William Downing ruled that that states Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional but stayed his own ruling pending a State Supreme Court appeal.

On August 26 Benton County, Oregon officials complied with a court order and resumed issuing marriage licenses to mixed-gender couples.

Anti-gay state constitutional amendments were scheduled to be on the ballot in Louisiana on September 18 and Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Utah, Montana, Oregon and Michigan on November 2. The Michigan board of certification twice voted 2-2 not to certify the amendment despite acknowledgeing that proponents had the required number of signatures, so the Michigan vote is still in doubt.

Our News Feed Retires

Jean Mayberry and Aleta Fenceroy, the Omaha couple known as “Fenceberry,” who ran the national volunteer gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender clipping service for eight years, retired in July. Their contribution to our newsletter process, to our letter writing efforts, and to the work of many other activists around the country are greatly appreciated and will be sorely missed. In a Washington Blade article about the couple’s retirement, Evan Wolfson called their list “a bedrock of my work.”

Presbyterian Church (USA)

The Theological Task Force on Peace, Unity and Purity of the Church began a closed-door discussion of ordi-nation standards at their August 3-6 meeting in Dallas. Despite decisions by the 2003 and 2004 General Assemblies to delay any vote on ordination standards until 2006 when the Task Force has completed its work, the PCUSA News Service reports that Task Force members have made it clear that they will not be able to reach a consensus or make a recommendation for settling the ongoing dispute over ordination of gay, lesbian, and bisexual people as elders, deacons, and ministers.

During the 2004 General Assembly in Richmond, VA from June 26 to July 3 the committee hearing the overtures on orientation and ordination recommended that anti-gay statements made in 1978 and before be declared non-authoritative or definitive, but that the constitutional ordination ban be kept, which would have given local bodies more leeway in interpreting the Book of Order if they chose to do so. However, the Assembly voted 259-255 to substitute the minority report, which urged no action on ordination until 2006, and then approved that report 297-218.

In a joint press release from More Light Presbyterians, That All May Freely Serve (TAMFS) and the Shower of Stoles, the Rev. Jane Spahr of TAMFS said “Some day the church will do justice toward God's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. This is not a matter of whether, but when. The tragedy is how many more people will leave the church in the mean-time. For those who deny us ordination, this is just another issue. For us, it is our lives."

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

The Rev. Jay Wiesner, an openly gay pastor living in a committed relationship, was ordained at Bethany Lutheran Church in Minneapolis on July 25. The ordination received positive and extensive coverage from the Minneapolis Star Tribune with several supportive quotes from members of the congregation and a description of the service. The article also quoted a spokesperson for Solid Rock Lutherans, a new national anti-gay organization.

Baptist World Alliance Claims Slander

The Baptist World Alliance (BWA) said they were slandered by Southern Baptist Convention leaders who claimed that the BWA tolerates homosexuality. In their statement the BWA said that the Bible “affirms without reservation that marriage is a holy state and only between a man and a woman forever,” and separately complained that, “the secular and religious press tends to accept statements made by religious leaders and print them as the final truth.”

Federal Marriage Law

On July 14 the Federal Marriage Amendment and variations thereof failed a U.S. Senate procedural vote 50-48. Sixty votes would have been required for a real vote, and sixty-seven for the amendment to pass. Our first and fourteenth amendment rights remain unamended, probably for the rest of the year. However, a vote will be held in the U.S. House the week of September 20, and passage there could be used to bring pressure on the Senate for another vote.

Prior to the Senate vote the Family Research Council ran two national simulcast rallies titled “The Battle for Marriage” to anti-gay churches and claimed to have delivered two million pro-Amendment petition signatures to Senators. The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism released a letter signed by more than 1,000 clergy from over 30 religious traditions urging Senators to vote no. Rabbi David Saperstein said, “While we hold differing religious views on same-sex marriage, we are united in our belief that this amendment would dignify discrimination and threaten religious liberty.”

A statement from Matt Foreman of NGLTF said in part:

“...the vote was far from a ringing endorsement for equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. In fact, the statements made by so many senators to explain their votes were discouraging, frequently insulting, and denied many Americans the respect we are due. Some said the amendment was 'unnecessary' because the repulsive 'Defense of Marriage Act' already bans the recognition of same-sex marriage. Others said that marriage has always been a 'state rights issue' and should be left to the states to work out. Others said they objected to amending the U.S. Constitution to address any social issues. Still others objected because they saw the amendment as 'divisive,' or politically motivated, or an attempt to distract the nation and the Congress from other, more important matters. Over and over again we heard even our staunchest allies repeating ad nauseam the mantra, 'I believe that marriage is between one man and one woman' or the ever-popular, 'While I do not support gay marriage,' not a single Senator stood up and said he or she was voting against the amendment because marriage is a fundamental right that same-sex couples should enjoy under the Constitution. If the Senate actually reflected and articulated the views of the American public, at least one-third of them would have actually argued for marriage equality and the basic rights of all Americans.”

On July 22 the U.S. House passed the Marriage Protection Act (MPA), which strips the Federal Courts of authority to hear challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The current constitutionality of both DOMA and the MPA are extremely dubious.

On July 27 the AP reported on a Massachusetts man who was unable to get a new passport because the National Passport center would not accept his marriage license as proof of a name change under DOMA. The commonwealth automatically changed his name when he got married, but the passport agency required a separate court name-change action that costs $180 and takes eight weeks to process. The man had to get help from his Congressman to even get the state court to consider the name-change action since as far as the court was concerned he was trying to change his name to what it already was.

Please remember to keep your congress people informed of your views on equal marriage rights, and feel free to contact us for a free speaker or brochures for your congregation or any other group.



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