NEWS -- 2006.06.01.Thursday
- 1) Gay marriage looms as 'battle of our times'
2) The California Episcopal Election -- John Shelby Spong
3) FOF Launches Campaign To Defeat Lawmakers 'Soft' On Gay Issues
4) Bush to Hold Event Endorsing Attack on LGBT Families
5) Billboards Attack Frist Over Anti-Gay Amendment
6) Soulforce activists take on "don't ask, don't tell"
7) Exxon rejects gay anti-discrimination policies
8) Interview with Karen Armstrong, an English commentator on religion
Christian Science Monitor
Thursday 01 June 2006
Gay marriage looms as 'battle of our times'
As Senate prepares to argue marriage amendment, room for compromise between religious freedom and equal rights seems thin.
By Jane Lampman | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
The battle over same-sex marriage is shaping into something more than deep societal tradition vs. civil rights. It is becoming a conflict of equality vs. religious liberty.
As gays make gains, some religious institutions are coming under pressure. For instance:
. A Christian high school in Wildomar, Calif., is being sued for expelling two students on suspicion of being lesbian. The parents' suit claims that the school is a business under state civil rights law, which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation.
. Catholic Charities in Boston, where same-sex marriage is legal, recently shuttered its adoption agency rather than serve gay and lesbian couples in conflict with church teaching. The church's request for a religious waiver from state antidiscrimination rules has made no headway.
. Christian clubs at several universities are fighting to maintain school recognition while restricting their leadership to those who conform to their beliefs on homosexuality.
Meanwhile, the Christian Legal Society and similar groups are mounting a national effort to challenge antidiscrimination policies in court, claiming they end up discriminating against conservative Christians.
"The fight over same-sex marriage - and two very different conceptions of the ordering of society - will be a knock-down, drag-out battle," predicts Marc Stern, a religious liberty attorney at the American Jewish Congress.
Both sides are pursuing their agendas in state legislatures, courts, and public schools. Both sides tend to view the struggle as a zero-sum, society-defining conflict. For supporters of gay marriage, it represents the last stage in America's long road to equality, from racial to gender to sexual equality. For opponents, traditional marriage stands as the God-ordained bedrock of society, essential to the well-being of children and the healthy functioning of the community.
While no one expects the courts to force unwilling clergy to perform weddings for same-sex couples, some see a possibility that religious groups (other than houses of worship) could lose their tax-exempt status for not conforming to public policy, as did fundamentalist Bob Jones University, over racial issues in 1983.
Legal experts of various views met last December, hosted by the Becket Fund, a nonpartisan institute promoting religious free expression, to consider the implications of same-sex marriage for religious liberty. Writing about the conference in The Weekly Standard, Maggie Gallagher quoted participants as seeing the coming litigation as "a train wreck," "a collision course," and "the battle of our times."
To ameliorate such conflict, some insist that, given the nation's commitment to both equal rights and religious liberty, accommodations must be found.
"This set of issues tests us in new ways, and I don't think either side is going to win the day," says Charles Haynes, of the First Amendment Center in Washington, in an interview. "For the foreseeable future, we are going to be living with two important claims, and we have to find ways to protect the rights of people on all sides."
Douglas Laycock, of the University of Texas Law School, suggests a modification to the current joint administration of marriage by the state and religious groups.
"We can never resolve the debate over same-sex marriage until we separate legal marriage from religious marriage," he says in a conference paper. "The state should administer legal marriage, and its rules ... should be made through the political process. Religious organizations should administer religious marriages," making their own rules. The legal relationship "could be called 'civil union' for gays and straights alike."
Ms. Gallagher, head of the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, worries about any delegalizing of marriage. "That would be a good solution if there weren't a great public purpose to marriage that needs legal support to sustain.... If you chop it into pieces, that's a powerful statement by the law that there's no important purpose to marriage as a public institution."
The most immediate skirmish in the battle takes place next week, when the US Senate will debate and possibly vote on a federal constitutional amendment defining marriage as only between a man and a woman. While the amendment may not gain the needed two-thirds majority, the debate positions the issue as a hot-button topic for the coming political campaign.
Religious leaders on both sides of the Marriage Protection Amendment have formed coalitions, demonstrating that religious perceptions vary considerably.
Some 50 leaders from Roman Catholic, Mormon, Southern Baptist, Orthodox, Evangelical, and Orthodox Jewish traditions formed the Religious Coalition for Marriage, focused on strengthening its traditional role in society. They see the amendment as essential to protect "marriage from ... activist courts determined to reinterpret this fundamental institution ... against the will of the American people," says Richard Land, a leader of the Southern Baptist Convention.
(A recent Gallup poll found 58 percent of Americans opposing same-sex marriage and 39 percent favoring it. The country is split on a constitutional amendment: 50 percent in favor, 47 percent opposed.)
On the other side, Clergy for Fairness - including leaders from mainline Protestant and Reform Jewish denominations - says that people of faith disagree on same-sex marriage and that religious denominations, not the federal government, should decide whether they'll sanctify marriages. The group also says it opposes the amendment because it would mark the first time the Constitution would be used "to restrict the rights of an entire group of Americans."
Chai Feldblum, a Georgetown University law professor active on gay rights issues, argues that the government should view both heterosexuality and homosexuality as morally neutral - "though how you 'deploy' your sexual activity can be very morally laden," she says.
"It's an incredible stain on the government that it is denying governmental structures for loving relationships and families," she adds. Yet she acknowledges the genuine difficulty that same-sex marriage presents for some religious people.
"I'd like gay people to understand that when religious people have to do something against their belief," Professor Feldblum says, "that impinges on their deep sense of self, just as I would like religious people to understand that when gay people are told they ... can't marry their loved one, that impinges on that person's deep sense of self." She's wary of granting religious waivers on these issues, however.
In Gallagher's view, "We are in a situation where courts are declaring our great historic, cross-cultural understanding of marriage to be a form of bigotry. That's a very destructive message," when research shows that children do much better in households with a mother and a father.
Others worry about the harm litigation battles could do. "People on both sides see this as good vs. evil," says the First Amendment Center's Dr. Haynes, "and those positions are going to tear us apart, deeply hurt the nation and our commitment to civil rights and religious freedom."
Haynes has just worked with groups on both sides to develop sexual-orientation guidelines for public schools.
"I've been involved in brokering nine different guidelines on issues like the Bible and religious holidays, and this has been the hardest," Haynes says. After eight months, Christian educators and a gay group involved in school issues did agree on a process for local districts to use that each side thought was fair. Whether local districts pick up on the guidelines remains to be seen.
Clamor over textbooks, for example, has erupted in Massachusetts and in Canada, where kindergartners are being introduced to stories about families with same-sex parents. Although schools must reflect the legal status of such relationships in the curriculum, some parents are demanding notice and protections.
"Some will ask why those parents should be given consideration," Haynes says. "The answer is that this is America, and we try to do the best we can to protect the religious liberty of even the smallest minority.... This takes more work than simply saying 'winner takes all.' "
Yet who is going to broker common ground is the question as advocates on both sides seek complete victory. Legal experts expect a patchwork of legislation and court decisions to emerge.
"Then we will have to worry about how to deal with the fact we have different rules in different states," Mr. Stern says. "If two or three big states move to same-sex marriage, however, it's not going to work to have different definitions across the US."
The California Episcopal Election John Shelby Spong
The headline in the Washington Post said: "Episcopalians Reject Gay Hopefuls." It was the typical hype of the media. The story went on to say that the Diocese of California (the San Francisco area) had elected Mark H. Andrus, the Suffragan bishop of Alabama, to be the Bishop of California. They described him, interestingly enough, as a "straight white male" and said he would be the next in a long line of "straight white males" to serve as the Episcopal Bishop of California. I cannot imagine such a designation in the media just a generation ago. The consciousness of the nation is surely rising.
According to this news account this field of candidates in this Episcopal election process was the "most diverse in the history of this Christian tradition." It included among its nominees the Canon Pastor of the National Cathedral in Washington, the Rev. Eugene Sutton, an African-American priest of enormous stature and talent; the Rev. Donald Schell, the rector of a nationally known, liturgically experimental church named St. Gregory of Nyssa in San Francisco; the Rev. Jane Gould, a rector of note from Lynn, Massachusetts, and three openly gay or lesbian clergy: The Rev. Michael Barlowe from the staff of the diocese in San Francisco, the Very Rev. Robert V. Taylor, the talented Dean of St. Mark's Cathedral in Seattle and the Rev. Bonnie Perry, one of America's most creative clergy, who serves as rector of a large and influential Chicago, Illinois, congregation. The nominations, in and of themselves, opened the eyes of many people around this nation to both the fact that women clergy have come of age in this church and that the presence of homosexual persons in the priesthood is a common phenomenon. Both groups are rising every day through the structures of this communion.
Great hostility has swirled around this election since the nominees were first announced. It has come primarily from frightened people not aware of this deep inclusivity that is now operative at the heart of this particular part of the Christian Church. It has expressed itself through incredible levels of irrational hostility in words, in deeds and in constant threats of "splitting the church." Sexual politics is a potent force in church circles. These threats have been commonplace from the defeated right wing pockets of the Episcopal Church since the election of a gay bishop (Gene Robinson in New Hampshire) some three tears ago. A second gay bishop, they said, would be like "the hurling of a terrorist bomb" into the next meeting this summer of the national gathering of Episcopalians, called 'The General Convention.' It would "destroy the Anglican Communion," they intoned almost hopefully. The Bishop of Pittsburgh, Robert Duncan, the acting spokesperson for this ecclesiastical brand of homophobia, led the charge. For Bishop Duncan, this conflict has clearly given him the chance to have his "fifteen minutes of fame." He had never been a significant leader in any area of the work of the House of Bishops, prior to becoming the voice of dissent. He used the results of the California election to call on the Church "to repent for its 2003 Robinson decision, to place a moratorium on openly gay bishops and to stop blessing same-sex relationships," as if any movement toward freedom and inclusion in human history has ever been reversed. He does not seem to understand that the increasing openness to homosexuality in both church and society is not a result of a breakdown of morality and a rise in "sinful activity," as he claims, but is rather a response to new consciousness.
The old definition of homosexuality, as either an expression of mental illness or of moral depravity, has been universally abandoned in medical and scientific circles as simply wrong. Homosexuality is now perceived as a normal part of the spectrum of the human sexual experience. It is known to be present among the higher mammals that are not thought to possess the power of choice. It appears to be a consistent and natural, if minority, part of life. It is clearly not capable of being reversed. Homosexuality is now seen as one of life's givens, like gender, skin color, eye color and left-handedness. That new understanding seems so obvious to me.
I am sure that neither Bishop Duncan nor I chose to be heterosexual. All I can recall about my own sexual awakening is that somewhere between age 12 and 13, I decided that girls were not obnoxious any longer. With that new perspective, I began to act out behavior patterns that, previously, had not been part of my identity: like taking baths more frequently, combing my hair, dressing with some sense of taste and even using deodorant. My mother, noting this strange, even bizarre, behavior in her budding adolescent son, said, "The sap has risen!" I did not know what that meant either. I certainly did not make a decision to be heterosexual. Indeed I have no idea how I could have made such a decision for at that age in the South where I was born, I had never before heard the words homosexual or heterosexual and so had no earthly idea what either meant. People awaken to their sexual identity, they do not choose it. That is a quite simple, observable fact. If homosexuality is not a choice then it is a part of one's identity. Any prejudice acted out against the "being" of another is, therefore, always immoral.
Can you imagine an adolescent choosing to be homosexual? What would be the intellectual decision making process? "Ah," I can hear him or her saying, "I will decide to be a homosexual! I like being disowned by my family, beaten up by my friends, fired from my job, run out of town, condemned by my church, shunned by my neighbors" and all the other things that we have done as a society to gay and lesbian people. What would motivate the choice of a life of persecution? The irrationality of homophobia simply amazes me.
Today the strongest expressions of homophobia are found primarily in religious circles. That is what made the California Episcopal election newsworthy. By nominating three gay and lesbian candidates to be their bishop, the Diocese of California took a stand in the center of this rampant ecclesiastical prejudice. Statements from the ultra-conservative Pope Benedict XVI and right-wing evangelists Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson are so hostile, so filled with fear and venom and profoundly ignorant of any modern scientific and medical understanding of homosexuality as to be breathtaking. The Pope calls it "deviant behavior," some kind of "personal disorder" that needs to be suppressed or changed. There is no evidence that these three stated goals are possible. The only organizations that claim to be successful in "curing" homosexuals are identified with right wing conservative religious groups. They have no credibility whatsoever in medical or scientific circles. I think they are fraudulent and do great damage to countless lives, playing as they do on the negativity dispensed to gay people out of our deep cultural prejudice. Falwell and Robertson constantly quote the Bible to justify their condemnation of homosexuality. They act as if everything that can be found in the Bible must be true. Perhaps they don't recognize that the Bible was quoted to condemn the Magna Charta and to support the Divine Right of Kings in the 13th century. In the 17th century, the Bible was quoted to condemn Galileo and to support the idea that the planet earth was the center of the universe around which the sun rotated. The Bible was quoted to justify slavery throughout Christian history. Even popes have been slave owners. When slavery died legally in America with the Emancipation Proclamation, the Bible was then quoted to justify segregation. The Bible was quoted to oppose vaccinations. It was quoted to oppose educating women, to oppose giving women the right to vote and to oppose any church from ordaining a woman to its ministry or its priesthood and even more vehemently was it quoted to prohibit making a woman a bishop. In the Bible, Jesus even appeared to believe that epilepsy and mental illness were caused by demon possession. Why do these people think this Bible quoting tactic will succeed when used in this current context? When prejudice has to be covered over with sweet piety does it not suggest that the prejudice is irrational?
The Church has had gay bishops throughout its life in every tradition. There have been gay cardinals and gay popes. I will never forget an intense moment in church politics when, in 1990, I was not only a part of but actually the subject of a dramatic, angry and revelatory debate on homosexuality in the House of Bishops in my church. That debate led to a vote of 78-74 with two abstentions, on a resolution to "disassociate the House of Bishops from the Bishop of Newark (that was my title) and his diocese for the ordination of an open and partnered gay man to the priesthood on December 16, 1989." Three things about that vote were significant. One is that it was so close. My critics had expected an overwhelming vote that might carry with it a note of censure. Second, I was one of the two abstentions. I did not know how to vote on whether or not I wanted to associate with me. Third, that night after the debate, two bishops came out of the closet to me. Both were married. Both had children. One voted in favor of disassociating themselves from this action, the other voted against. The one voting to disassociate said he covered his fear of being revealed by publicly condemning homosexuality every time it came up. I have known other closeted gay bishops in the Episcopal Church. Some have been elected to high offices even in the House of Bishops and have served with great distinction. There have also been closeted gay bishops who were dishonest and compromised. One of our bishops died of AIDS while claiming that there was some other cause of death. Another resigned quickly after he was outed as a gay man, claiming that he had a serious eye condition. Dishonesty is what has marked the church. That is where the difference lies today. Gene Robinson's "sin" is not that he is gay; it is that he is honest. That was also the "sin" of the three nominees for the office of bishop in San Francisco. It is a new day. The prejudice, though still virulent, is in fact dying. We need to rejoice in that.
John Shelby Spong http://www.JohnShelbySpong.com
FOF Launches Campaign To Defeat Lawmakers 'Soft' On Gay Issues
by Paul Johnson, 365Gay.com Washington Bureau Chief
June 1, 2006
(Washington) Focus on the Family, a longtime opponent of LGBT civil rights, has launched an aggressive advertising campaign attacking senators in 13 states who have stated they will not support the proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
The amendment will be debated in the Senate next Monday and a vote is expected on Tuesday.
The ads are running in daily newspapers and on radio stations in Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and South Dakota.
Both Democrats and Republicans are targeted.
All of the politicians are up for re-election this November. FOF said that it chose states where it thought the ads would have the most impact - such as predominantly Republican states with a Democratic senator.
Most Capitol Hill observers predicted the ad campaign would have little affect on next week's amendment vote but could influence voters in the fall.
Focus on the Family is based in Colorado. Ads running in the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News target Sen. Ken Salazar (D).
Salazar opposes gay marriage but will vote against the proposed amendment.
The ads show a freckle-faced boy and have the caption, "Why doesn't Senator Salazar believe every child needs a mother and a father?" They ask readers to call the Colorado Democrat and "urge him to support the Marriage Protection Amendment."
"Sen. Salazar from the beginning has portrayed himself as a moderate," FOF spokesperson Amanda Banks told the Denver Post.
This isn't the first time that Salazar and the conservative group have clashed.
Last year he called FOF's political tactics "un- Christian" and accused it of "hijacking" Christianity for the Republican Party.
Jay comment ---
As usual, nobody knows how to lie and bear false witness like a conservative Republican Christian -- i.e. Southern Baptist, Mormon, Roman Catholic, Christian Scientist, etc, etc.
Bush to Hold Event Endorsing Attack on LGBT Families, Says DNC
5/31/2006 5:51:00 PM
To: National Desk
Contact: Damien LaVera of the Democratic National Committee, 202-863-8148
WASHINGTON, May 31 /U.S. Newswire/ -- This morning, ABC News reported that President Bush is preparing a White House event to support Republican Senator Bill Frist's heavy-handed attempt to use marriage as a wedge issue to distract the American people from the failed leadership of Republicans in Washington. While Americans are concerned about the war in Iraq, skyrocketing health care costs, out of control gas prices, the need to protect workers' pensions, and the failure of Republicans to raise the minimum wage, Bill Frist and President Bush are more interested in pandering to their conservative base with a Constitutional amendment that scapegoats LGBT Americans for political gain.
According to the report, Senator Frist and the Republican Senate will bring the divisive Federal Marriage Amendment to the floor of the Senate for a vote on June 6 and the President will hold a White House event to express his support for the amendment sometime next week. The White House decision to weigh in on Senator Frist's divisive and hate-filled resolution comes despite the First Lady's admonishment that marriage should not be used as a political issue, and even Vice President Cheney's reported opposition to doing a White House event. (Good Morning America, 5/31/06)
"Neither Senator Frist or President Bush should be using marriage as a wedge issue to pander to extremists in their conservative base or distract Americans from their failed leadership," said Democratic National Committee spokesman Damien LaVera. "Because polls show that the American people, including their core supporters, have completely rejected their failed agenda, President Bush and Bill Frist are once again pushing a hate-filled Constitutional amendment that attacks LGBT Americans. This is not only immoral and un-American, but it is deeply hurtful to LGBT Americans and their families.
"The America people deserve better than this. Because Democrats value all families, we are fighting to provide every American with equal rights, responsibilities and protections under the law. Democrats will oppose any attempt to write discrimination into law by fighting this hateful, divisive amendment and fighting similarly hateful ballot initiatives in states across the country."
Democratic National Committee, http://www.democrats.org This communication is not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee.
Billboards Attack Frist Over Anti-Gay Amendment
by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff
June 1, 2006
(Nashville, Tennessee) An LGBT civil rights group is placing sixteen billboard posters in and around the hometown of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) condemning his support for the so-called Federal Marriage Amendment which would ban same-sex unions.
Soulforce, an organization founded to end religion-based discrimination of gays and lesbians, said Thursday it wants to show not all people of faith support the amendment.
Frist has scheduled debate on the proposed amendment for Monday. Last weekend he acknowledged the timing of the debate is aimed at energizing the conservative base of the GOP.
The billboards feature part of a speech given by Coretta Scott King at The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey on March 24, 2004, when she said, "Gay and lesbian people have families, and their families should have legal protections, whether by marriage or civil union. A constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages is a form of gay bashing, and it would do nothing at all to protect traditional marriages."
The signs include a photograph of Soulforce Executive Director Jeff Lutes with his partner and son.
"Soulforce reminds Senator Frists hometown that Mrs. King stood for the full equality of lesbian and gay Americans and against homophobia, especially homophobia in the black community," said Lutes.
"Mrs. King publicly saluted the gays and lesbians that fought for her freedom in Montgomery and Selma and other places during the civil rights movement, and she compared homophobia to racism, anti-Semitism, and other forms of bigotry that set the stage for repression and violence".
The proposed amendment would bar same-sex couples from marrying, block courts and state legislatures allowing gay marriage, nullify marriages already performed in Massachusetts - the only state in the country where they are currently legal - and according to critics possibly block civil unions and override domestic partner laws.
It is almost identical to one which failed to get enough votes in 2004.
Earlier this year Soulforce sponsored the Equality Ride, a 51 day cross-country trip to draw attention to schools that bar gay enrolment. It wrapped up March 26 with a demonstration at West Point where 21 riders were arrested. (story)
Ten riders were arrested on the grounds of the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. (story)
Riders also have been arrested at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma (story); Regent University in Virginia Beach, Virginia (story) which is affiliated with Christian Broadcaster Pat Robertson; and at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. (story)
The billboards are the organization's first foray into the same-sex marriage fight.
President Bush will hold a Rose Garden press conference on June 5 to press Congress to enact the amendment.
Thursday gay Republicans condemned the move.
Strong leadership in the midst of the difficult and challenging war on terror demands a President who unites Americans instead of dividing them," said Log Cabin President Patrick Guerriero.
"President Bush's decision to use the bully pulpit of the Presidency and the formality of a White House event to espouse an anti-family constitutional amendment is an insult to millions of gay and lesbian Americans and our families," said Guerriero.
Soulforce activists take on "don't ask, don't tell"
Three young gay activists who just months ago traversed the country's religious colleges preaching acceptance toward gays are now taking on the Pentagon's "don't ask, don't tell" military policy by enlisting in the Minnesota National Guard as openly gay recruits. On Tuesday, Jacob Reitan, Haven Herrin, and Ezekiel Montgomery-all members of the gay activist group Soulforce-began the process of joining the Minnesota National Guard, making it clear to recruiters that they are gay and will not lie about their sexual orientation in order to serve.
Read more at
Exxon rejects gay anti-discrimination policies
ExxonMobil shareholders have rejected a resolution seeking the inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees in the company's anti-discrimination policies.
It marks the seventh year that the proposal has been quashed, although a record number of people did voice support for the proposal with 34.6% voting in favour, compared to 29.4% in 2005.
The vote represents around 1.75 billion total shares in favour.
Human Rights Campaign president, Joe Solmonese, said: "The long-term energy needs of ExxonMobil customers are in no way served by policies that ignore hardworking gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees.
"The company claims it already has this policy, yet it stands alone as the only Fortune 50 company that refuses to write it down. It's our hope that the company's new CEO takes this vote as a strong signal to join its competitors, many of whom protect employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation as well as gender identity and allow employees to provide health insurance for their domestic partners."
In May 2004, 28.9% of shares were voted in favour of the policy. A total of 427 companies in the Fortune 500 include sexual orientation in their non-discrimination policies and 81 include gender identity, such as BP and Shell oil companies.
The Human Rights Campaign was at the annual shareholder meeting yesterday along with representatives from NorthStar Asset Management and lead filer, the New York City Employee's Retirement System.
Mobil offered such written protection, and domestic partner benefits, to its employees; however, upon its 1999 merger with Exxon, the basic non-discrimination protection was removed and the domestic partner benefits programme closed to new employees.
Twenty-four members of Congress, and thousands of stockholders and consumers, wrote to ExxonMobil Chairman Lee Raymond in December 1999 to protest the policy reversals. In January 2000, stockholders and activists protested at a company facility in Houston, causing the facility to close for the day.
Recently Ford, American Express and the Wendy's restaurant chain have implemented gay people into anti discrimination polices.
May 30, 2006
Interview with Karen Armstrong, an English commentator on religion
Going beyond God
Historian and former nun Karen Armstrong says the afterlife is a "red herring," hating religion is a pathology and that many Westerners cling to infantile ideas of God.
By Steve Paulson
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