Box Turtle Bulletin

Box Turtle BulletinNews, analysis and fact-checking of anti-gay rhetoric
“Now you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife…”
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Posts for January, 2010

Lisa Miller in hiding with Isabella

Timothy Kincaid

January 2nd, 2010

As we expected, ABC is reporting that Lisa Miller did not appear at her court appointed time to turn custody of Isabella over to Janet Jenkins.

Lisa Miller, 41, of Winchester, Va., was ordered by a Vermont family court judge in November to hand over her daughter Isabella by 1 p.m. to Janet Jenkins , 45, of Fairhaven, Vt.

But according to Jenkins’ lawyer, Miller failed to show up.

“Janet is quite distressed and she notified the police,” said Sarah Star, Jenkins’ Vermont lawyer. “She is concerned about Isabella’s safety and Ms. Miller’s mental stability.”

Debbie Thurman endorses Lisa Miller’s kidnapping of Isabella

Timothy Kincaid

December 30th, 2009

Debbie ThurmanDebbie Thurman is the facilitator of an ex-gay ministry in Lynchburg, VA, called The Formers. She is also a regular participant at Dr. Throckmorton’s site and an infrequent commenter here at Box Turtle Bulletin.

It was, I suppose, inevitable that Thurman would become interested in Lisa Miller, the woman who is seeking to keep Janet Jenkins, her former partner, from having contact with their child. Thurman’s anti-gay political attitudes, along with their mutual attendance at Thomas Road Baptist Church (the church Jerry Falwell founded), surely drew them together.

And, indeed, Thurman is an avid advocate for Lisa Miller. Although she pretends some distance and objectivity in some of her comments, it is not coincidence that the “Protect Isabella” website is registered at her business address and that she was their contact person (the site is rife with homophobic smear and insinuation).

Debbie likes to see herself as a civil person, one who follows the example of Andrew Marin, who has made it his mission to build a bridge between the religious and LGBT communities. But, unlike Marin who believes that love should be an expression of behavior of Christians towards gay people, Thurman seems to think that adopting a sheen of momentary civility while at a gay website is effort enough.

Let me be fair. Debbie’s recent conversion to civility is not without some measurability. She was quick to join in opposition to the Ugandan effort to enact the draconian Kill Gays bill. But she is so immersed in a culture of animus towards gay people that she is also quick to believe the worst about gay people, no matter how bizarre or comical.

And she seems incapable of seeing gay people as equal to herself or, indeed, much other than an enemy to conquer and vanquish. Convinced that a battle is waging between homosexuality and God, she appears incapable of disengaging from her Culture War.

And it is through that prism that Debbie Thurman sees the custody battle between Lisa Miller and Janet Jenkins over their daughter Isabelle. Let’s look at how she discusses Miller’s refusal to conform with the visitation and custody ordered by a judge and upheld by the Supreme Courts of Virgina and Vermont and the United States Supreme Court.

Responding to Miller’s disappearance with Isabella, Thurman wrote an article titled “This is True Motherhood”, in which she endorses Lisa Miller’s apparent kidnapping of Isabella and compares her to the nation’s founding fathers.

I cannot answer the burning question on everyone’s lips: Where are Lisa and Isabella? Somewhere safe, I pray. How and when did they get there? Only God knows.

What happens now? A lot of frustration, recrimination and more lies on one side and a collective sigh of relief on the other. The courts still have a huge task set before them, meanwhile. Lisa and Isabella represent only one of many similar cases waiting to be resolved. We need precedents that honor the prevailing states’ rights, laws and constitutions. The majority of Americans overwhelmingly support traditional marriage. If the tyrannical minority wants to push against that, it can and will be met with civil disobedience. There is no other way.

Lisa Miller is a mother who would give up her life to save her child. Of that there is no doubt. She apparently has chosen to forfeit a large measure of her liberty, personal property and pursuit of happiness in assuring that child her God-ordained future, much as a group of patriots pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor more than two centuries ago to establish this nation.

I say God bless and long live Lisa and Isabella Miller. All who have known them are the better for it. [emphasis added]

If, as Andrew Marin says, love is “a measurable expression of one’s unconditional behaviors towards another”, then we can use this measure to see if there is any love in Debbie Thurman.

Kidnapping a child so as to spite a former partner, using religion as an excuse for one’s own selfish desires, and taking advantage of local bigotries to elicit sympathy are not admirable traits. But, in the passion of parental ownership and the emotions of failed relationships, these are not unheard of or unfathomable.

But endorsing kidnap as a tactic in a Culture War, that’s just plain evil.

(hat tip Truth Wins Out)

Lisa Miller may have kidnapped little Isabella and fled

Timothy Kincaid

December 29th, 2009

After a long and contentious custody battle between previously civilly united couple Lisa Miller and Janet Jenkins, a judge has awarded primary custody to Janet Jenkins. Miller was to turn over 6 7 year old Isabella to Jenkins on Friday, January 1, 2010.

Although the couple brought Isabella into the world together with the intention of raising her as theirs, after the separation Miller readopted a conservative religious faith and believed that this entitled her to thwart the law, break visitation agreements, and deny Jenkins her rights.

Miller was encouraged and supported in her decision but the political arm of conservative Christianity, appearing as a victim in Christian press and as a cause for fundraising appeals. Such stories often ignored the facts of the case, instead simply pitting a Born Again Christian against an Evil Homosexual trying to steal an Innocent Child.

But Miller’s bluster has run out. Although she is still appealing decisions, it now appears that courts are not going to find in her favor.

So she has disappeared. (Times Argus)

Miller’s attorneys filed a motion earlier this month asking Cohen to delay his order until an appeal in the Virginia court system — regarding whether that state needed to enforce the Vermont order — was decided.

But in a two-page decision issued by Cohen, the judge said Miller failed to meet the legal burden required to delay the order in part because she has not appeared in court nor spoken with her attorneys about the case for more than a month.

“Ms. Miller has not demonstrated that she is entitled to a stay. … Instead, it appears that Ms. Miller has ceased contact with her attorneys and disappeared with (Isabella). … Such conduct does not show that a stay is warranted,” Cohen wrote.

The whereabouts of Miller couldn’t be determined Monday. Miller’s principal lawyers in Orlando, Fla., could not be reached Monday afternoon.

We will see whether Miller shows up on Friday. Her counsel should advise her that failing to do so will be disastrous to her case. Should she fail to produce Isabella, she will not only be in contempt of court but she will be considered a suspect for kidnap.

Judges are not inclined to find sympathy with scofflaws and kidnappers. And even religious folk may find it challenging to believe that the best interest of the child is to be on the run.

Federal employee partner benefits bill passes out of Homeland Security Committee

Timothy Kincaid

December 16th, 2009

From the Senate Homeland Security Committee press release:

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Wednesday approved a measure that would provide domestic partner benefits to federal employees by a bipartisan 8-1 vote. Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., and Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Me., are original cosponsors of the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act of 2009 bill.

The measure would provide the same employment benefits to federal employees in same-sex domestic partnerships that are now provided to married federal employees and their spouses – such as healthcare, retirement and disability plans, family leave, worker’s compensation, and group life insurance. The same obligations would also apply – such as conflict of interest provisions, anti-nepotism rules, and disclosure requirements.

The bill may not fare well in the full Senate, but this is nevertheless a good sign.

Jenkins gets full custody

Timothy Kincaid

November 23rd, 2009

In 2000, Lisa Miller and Janet Jenkins entered a civil union in Vermont. In 2002, Isabella Ruth Miller-Jenkins was born and the family shortly thereafter moved to Vermont to raise little Elizabeth Isabella in an environment that would be supportive of her family.

In the fall of 2003 the couple broke up. They agreed to end the civil union and the court approved the settlement. Janet agreed to pay child support and to visit Isabella regularly.

However, Lisa, who had taken Isabella and moved back to Virginia, fell into an anti-gay religious crowd. She decided that she was no longer a lesbian and that homosexuality was sin and developed hostility to both Janet and “the homosexual lifestyle”.

Then Exodus International stepped in. They got her in contact with Liberty Counsel who immediately made little Isabella’s life a centerpiece for their anti-gay activism.

Since 2004, Miller and Jenkins have been fighting in court over whether Jenkins could have any sort of relationship with her daughter. So far, every decision has ended with the confirmation that Janet Jenkins was entitled to visitation and that Virginia is not going to ignore the terms that the Vermont courts had put in place as a part of the termination of their civil union.

But, at the advice of Liberty Counsel, Miller has sought to thwart the will of the various courts. She simply refused to live up to the visitation terms. Further, she sought to deliberately instill the child with religion-based animus towards Jenkins and even went so far as to accuse her of molestation (social services called the claim “unfounded”).

In August, the Virginia courts opted not to jail Lisa Miller for contempt, but did levy fines of $100 per day for missed visitation. This did not seem to make an impression on Miller. (nvdaily)

“I’m going to continue to take a stand for the Lord, no matter what the cost, because that’s what a Christian is supposed to do,” she said.

But now one judge has had enough. Although Janet Jenkins did not originally request full custody, it appears that this is the only solution that will allow both parents to see the child. (Rutland Herald)

After finding Miller in contempt of court earlier this year for denying Jenkins access to Isabella, Cohen said he decided the only way to ensure the child equal access to both parents was to switch custody.

“The court concludes that it is in the best interest of (Isabella) that Ms. Jenkins exercise parental rights and responsibilities,” the judge said. “This court stated that continued interference by Ms. Miller with the relationship between (Isabella) and Ms. Jenkins could lead to a change of circumstances and outweigh the disruption that would occur if a change of custody were ordered.”

Judge William Cohen determined that this would be in the best interest of Isabella.

The switch in custody is to take place New Years Day. Jenkins has vowed to provide visitation to Miller, even allowing her to take Isabella to church events.

But only a fool would assume that this story is over. With advice from the likes of Liberty Counsel, and a sense of religious entitlement, I would be surprised if Miller complied with the order. And even if she does, Liberty Counsel will only have more fodder for their gimme money letters to supporters so the legal appeals are not likely to end before this poor kid is a teenager.

The Timeline

Comparing Gay Couples to Straight Couples

Timothy Kincaid

November 4th, 2009

Comparing gay couples to straight couples can be complex. Often it is difficult to define terms such that comparable things are being compared. What is a “couple”, what is a “relationship”?

Those anti-gays who are dishonest (or, let’s charitably say, confused) will compare the gold standard of heterosexual relationships, marriage, to the least committed of casual dating arrangements for gay people and declare that gay relationships are inferior. But little effort is made to define the terms or what qualifies as entry into the category being compared.

In society, we see a distinction between dating and being married. We don’t hold a new boyfriend to the standard we expect from a husband. And even if a man and a woman have been together for three or four years, until they marry we continue to look at such relationships as potential or temporary.

Until vows are said, commitments are not assumed. Once that step – and a significant step it is – has been taken, then family, faith, the community, society, and the law step in to collectively define this relationship as a couple, as two becoming one.

But for our community, we have in most states been denied the opportunity to take the step of marriage. We could not “tie the knot” that binds two into one. We had no couples to present for comparison because we were denied the ability to create such couples.

But change is coming. There are now a handful of states (four, soon to be five) in which the family, faith, the community, society and the law can agree that two men or two women have become a single entity, married.

And although this may be denied by majorities of voters in most of the nation, there are also those same-sex couples that are finding ways to get some of these to come to agreement. Perhaps they will get family and community to recognize their union. Or perhaps their faith and a portion of society – even in our losses, such as Maine, we see that there is a significant portion of society that will recognize such unions. And in some places where the law will not see a union of souls, it will at least acknowledge an administrative equivalency.

And analysis of census data shows that there is now a growing collection of same-sex couples that have found ways of becoming in their hearts, and in the hearts of those most important to them, married. (A/P)

The data from the annual American Community Survey showed that nearly 150,000 same-sex couples in the U.S., or more than one in four, referred to one another as “husband” or “wife,” although UCLA researchers estimate that no more than 32,000 of the couples were legally married.

So we now have a pool of married gays (and “married” gays) to offer up in comparison to married straights. We no longer have to weigh the value of church endorsed, white gowned, pomp and circumstanced heterosexual married bliss against a two month old “open” relationship between two boys who met at a bar.

And how do we compare?

Analysis of commonalities and differences is only in its infancy. We’ve only had for but a few years a measure for comparison. And until very recently, the census taking apparatus which might provided some answers has been banned from even discussing the matter.

But some researchers, such as Gary Gates at UCLA, have been finding ways to tweak the data to yield limited findings. And with the Obama Administration’s willingness to allow access to the data, some information is now coming to light.

And, perhaps not surprisingly, married gays aren’t so very different from married straights.

The [same-sex] couples had an average age of 52 and household incomes of $91,558, while 31 percent were raising children. That compares with an average age of 50, household income of $95,075 and 43 percent raising children for married heterosexual couples.

“It’s intrinsically interesting that same-sex couples who use the term spouses look like opposite-sex married couples even with a characteristic like children,” said Gary Gates, the UCLA demographer who conducted the analysis. “Most proponents of traditional marriage will say that when you allow these couples to marry, you are going to change the fundamental nature of marriage by decoupling it from procreation. Clearly, in the minds of same-sex couples who are marrying or think of themselves as married, you are not decoupling child-rearing from marriage.”

These are but early and surface findings.

And as time goes on, the distinction between “dating” and “partners” and “married” will become less hazy as employers and family court judges and Aunt Matilda will find greater need to know just who is committed and who is not. Ultimately the social need for distinction will outweigh the religion-based objection to recognition and our families, employers, churches, communities, and society will not only allow but demand to know which same-sex couples are in it for the long haul.

And time may reveal that there are strong distinctions between heterosexual and homosexual couples. Indeed, how could there not be; each subculture in our society adds its unique perspective to the marital dynamic.

And yet, I suspect that when terms are more firmly defined and a better comparison is made, we will continue to find that we are amazingly similar to our brothers and sisters, our friends and neighbors, and even to those who are convinced that we are peculiar and perverse.

CNN “A ‘Congressional Spouse’ Breaks Barriers”

Daniel Gonzales

October 26th, 2009

(crossposted on ELEMENT, a Denver gay blog I’m paid to write for)

A few days ago I read an article on CNN.com about what life is like for Jared Polis (D-Boulder) and his partner in Congress. Polis’ spouse writes:

Rarely has anyone seen me for what I actually am. I don my “Congressional Spouse” lapel pin proudly and hope each time not to be questioned, yet I still receive sideways glances and orders to produce an official ID. It is as if my story is too unbelievable to be true, that I am an interloper, someone in a place I do not belong.

I believe the focus of the article is supposed to be about brave dear Polis is for shrugging off dirty looks and overcoming stereotypes. Yet, time after time the article mentions a spousal privilege that Polis should be denied because the Federal Defense of Marriage Act and how special exceptions have been made.

The stench of elitist privilege overwhelmed me by the end of this obnoxious article thinking about all the hassles “ordinary” gays get from their government every single day and how that same government pulls aside the velvet rope for Polis.

I don’t see how we can expect leaders, who aren’t subject to the same laws as the employees in their district, to be motivated to change them in a timely fashion.

Montana Supremes Find for Lesbian Parent

Timothy Kincaid

October 7th, 2009

Back in 1995 Barbara Maniaci met Michelle Kulstad and they fell in love. In 1996 Kulstad moved from Seattle to Montana to be with Maniaci and they exchanged rings on March 18, 1996.

As time went on, the ladies decided to bring children into their lives so in 2001 the adopted a little boy. Three years later a little girl came into the family. They participated equally in the parenting of these children.

Now as Montana, their home state, does not allow for same-sex couple adoptions, they decided that Maniaci was the better adoption applicant. This proved to be an unfortunate choice.

in 2006, after a decade together, the couple split up and Maniaci tried to exclude Kulstad from her share of their acquisitions and from access to her children.

Yesterday, the Supreme Court of Montana found, by a 6 – 1 decision, that Kulstad could not be denied her parental rights. The decision is not all that surprising. But far more interesting are the statements and positions of some people involved.

Dr. Trayce Hansen

First let’s look at one small item in the court’s order. When describing the facts of the proceedings, one thing lept out at me:

The court-appointed expert, Dr. Miller, presented testimony regarding her educational background and her parenting plan evaluation.Kulstad presented testimony by Dr. Silverman and Suzanne Dixon, M.D. (Dr. Dixon). Trayce Hansen, Ph.D. (Dr. Hansen), testified for Maniaci.

Silverman was a court appointee. Miller was a specialist in clinical psychology specializing in the protection of children. Who, though, is Hansen.

Dr. Hansen admitted on cross-examination that parenting evaluations represented a new area for her and that she never actually had prepared one. Dr. Hansen never had been qualified as an expert witness by any court. Dr. Hansen never had been retained by any party as an expert witness. Dr. Hansen’s psychology practice involved geriatric patients. Dr. Hansen conceded that she currently did not work with children and had fewer than four years of professional experience after earning her Ph.D. She had worked as a research assistant and had published one article in the journal Personality Assessment in a forensic-type situation.

Why, then, was Hansen presented as a witness credible enough to attack Dr. Miller and the state’s entire evaluation process? Well, a clue can be found in the words of Attorney Matt McReynolds with the Pacific Justice Institute (Lifesite)

“It’s fairly shocking how the Court wouldn’t allow this person who had left the lesbian lifestyle to be freed from it – her and her children.

“It’s very disturbing that someone who wants to get out of this lifestyle can still be trapped in it for years to come …

Barbara Maniaci – who has since married a man – is apparently ex-gay. So we are not really talking about a child custody dispute; rather, we are talking about another battle in the Great Anti-Gay Culture War in which children are pawns of anti-gay and ex-gay activists.

Maniaci’s was not represented by the highest profile divorce attorneys in Montana; her counsel was the anti-gay activist legal group Alliance Defense Fund. And they selected Hansen as their expert witness. Because while Trayce Hansen may know little to nothing about child psychology, when it comes to anti-gay activism she is no novice.

In June of last year, Dr. Hansen issued a press release breathlessly declaring, “Children raised by openly homosexual parents are more likely to engage in homosexual behavior themselves.” This was a follow up to her ” 5 Reasons Why Same-Sex Marriage Will Harm Children.”

What Hansen forgets to reveal in her arguments is that as a research assistant working with geriatric patients, she has no more qualification to make such claims than do I. But, like many anti-gay activists, she’s not above using her title deceptively to achieve her dishonest goals.

The court was not impressed.

The court noted that, contrary to Dr. Hansen’s testimony, the APA concludes that no evidence suggests that same-sex couples are unfit to be parents, or that psychosocial development among children of same-sex couples would be compromised in any respect.

Perhaps that can serve as a warning to anti-gay activists: arguments based solely in animus that are contradicted by evidence do not serve you well in court. Just because you choose to believe your own bogus claims and dubious “studies” does not help you when facing judges that are not blinded by a desire to believe the worst about gay people.

Justice James C. Nelson

Judge Nelson concurred with the findings of the court. But he had a few more things to add to his conclusions.

Sadly, however, this case represents yet another instance in which fellow Montanans, who happen to be lesbian or gay, are forced to battle for their fundamental rights to love who they want, to form intimate associations, to form family relationships, and to have and raise children—all elemental, natural rights that are accorded, presumptively and without thought or hesitation, to heterosexuals.

I stand by my concurring opinion. Unfortunately, though, nothing has changed. I am convinced that until our courts, as a matter of law, accept homosexuals as equal participants with heterosexuals in our society, each person with exactly the same civil and natural rights,
lesbian and gay citizens will continue to suffer homophobic discrimination. Regrettably, this sort of discrimination is both socially acceptable and politically popular.

Naming it for the evil it is, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is an expression of bigotry. And, whether rationalized on the basis of majoritarian morality, partisan ideology, or religious tenets, homophobic discrimination is still bigotry. It cannot be justified; it cannot be legalized; it cannot be constitutionalized.

Amen, Judge.

Justice Jim Rice

Justice Rice has decided that this is all a dispute between the “natural parent” and some “third party” seeking to destroy “the constitutional rights of a natural parent to parent his or her child”.

Because there is something more “natural parenty” about the one partner who was allowed to adopt than there is about the other partner who the state would not allow to co-adopt. Being the one allowed to sign is all that matters to Rice, not whether both parents provided a parental role and their intention was consistently from the beginning to raise the children jointly.

From its emphasis on the facts of this case, it is apparent that the Court has found Kulstad’s case to be factually compelling, as did the District Court, and, thus, has ruled in her favor. But the Court has not acknowledged the significance of the most fundamental facts of this case: Maniaci is a parent, and Kulstad is not.

A legacy of this decision is the legion of parents who will be forced to litigate in order to protect the rights that the Constitution once guaranteed to them. A single parent must now consider whether a new romantic relationship will jeopardize the right to parent her or his children by way of a future third party parenting claim. Other like situations abound.

There will be further consequences as well. This case may well be reported as a legal victory for the rights of same-sex couples. Because both sides have stated that the parties’ gender is not a determinative issue in this case, neither the Court nor this dissent has discussed it. Regardless, the implications of the decision go far beyond the gender of the particular parties at issue here. There are parameters in neither the statute nor this decision that limit the kind or number of parties and relationships that will be now subject to parenting claims. Before this decision, protection of parental constitutional rights, which required termination of a parent’s rights before granting a parental interest to a third party, necessarily, by biology and the adoption laws, limited the number of parents a child could have. However, those inherent limits have now been removed by the Court. Consequently,
what if three or four adult partners develop a “parent-child relationship” with a child? Multiple-party clusters raising children, or polyamorous “families,” are the next wave in societal relationship experimentation.

Ah, yes. If we let the gays be parents then it’s a slippery slope to polygamy. Will someone please think of the children.

Somehow I don’t think Justice Rice will be invited to Thanksgiving Dinner at Justice Nelson’s home.

Growing Up Gay Attending Coastline Bible Church, Day II of IV

"The Harm Of Trying To Fit Into Someone Else's Mold"

Daniel Gonzales

October 7th, 2009

Here is today’s installment of my series looking at my childhood church’s harmful teachings which ultimately lead me to seek out ex-gay therapy.

Churches like Coastline Bible Church like to present a single model for what makes up an acceptable family — this is generally at the expense of single parent households, other family members raising kids, blended families, unmarried partners, people who remain single or don’t procreate, and of course LGBT folk like me.

Today’s video looks at how the church sends the message to non-conformers like me that I am inferior unless I bend my life to fit their model. As you’ll see bending one’s life to such extreme degrees can result in things breaking.

There’s a term for this attitude, Heterosexism: the presumption that straight two-parent households are superior to all other family life arrangements. And in case you haven’t already heard about it, Soulforce, Box Turtle Bulletin, Truth Wins Out and a few other groups are having an entire conference about the underlying heterosexism of exgay programs next in Florida called the Anti-Heterosexism Conference.  Of course I’ll be there.

Part I, “What My Church Taught Me About My Sexuality”
Part II, “The Harm Of Trying To Fit Into Someone Else’s Mold”
Part III, “Distrusting Science When It Doesn’t Agree With Your Faith”
Part IV, “Gender Conformity And Giving In To Peer Pressure”

Adoption Legalized in Germany and Uruguay

Timothy Kincaid

August 27th, 2009

Gay marriage – or some version of partner recognition – are at the front burner of gay rights in the US. And while a few states disallow adoptions by gay couples or individuals, most states – even socially conservative states – allow at least one half of a gay couple to adopt children.

Interestingly, in the rest of the world marriage rights are less of an issue than adoption rights. Many nations that offer some measure of couple recognition to not allow adoption by those gay couples.

But now Germany, which has recognized “Life Partnerships” since 2001, will allow adoption (Lifesite - an anti-gay news source)

Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court has declared it legal for homosexual partners to adopt children. The court decided in favour of a woman in the southern city of Schweinfurt who wanted to adopt the now three-year-old child of her female partner, with the consent of the father and social services.

Homosexuals were allowed by a 2001 law to register their liaisons as “life partnerships”. Under the law, persons in such legal arrangements are allowed to adopt the biological children of their partners, but the law still prohibits adoption where there is no legal or biological relationship.

And it appears that Uruguay, which has recognized civil unions since 2007, will join them (Herald Sun)

LAWMAKERS in Uruguay have voted to allow adoptions by gays and lesbians in a first for Latin America, an opposition deputy says.

“They just approved it by 40 votes out of 53,” said Jaime Trobo of the opposition National Party today.

There are still formalities, but it is assumed that this will become law.

Lutherans to Vote on Gay Clergy

Timothy Kincaid

August 17th, 2009

This week the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America will be holding their biennial convention in Minneapolis. And issues about the inclusing of gay clergy are predicted to dominate conversation and debate.

The ELCA has accepted celibate gay men and women as clergy, but has banned office from those who are in relationships. In February, a task force recommended that the leadership allow gay men and women in committed relationships to serve as clergy and further recommended that the church find some way to recognize “lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships.”

This year the church will make two decisions about gay Lutherans, one ideological and one structural. (Washington Times)

Of the two main documents on sexuality issues that will be considered at the ELCA assembly, one is a proposed social statement, “Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust,” which, as a statement of church teaching, must be passed by a two-thirds vote (about 700 people) of the 1,045 voting members present.

Eight years in the making, the 33-page treatise is a theological and teaching document that sets out denominational policy on a variety of topics ranging from marriage to pornography, and defines human sexuality as a “gift and trust.” It will be debated Tuesday afternoon and put to a vote Wednesday.

The other document, called a “Report and Recommendation on Ministry Policies,” recommends a change in ELCA ministry policies so Lutherans who are in “publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gendered relationships” can serve as ELCA associates in ministry, deaconesses, diaconal ministers and ordained ministers.

The latter document, slated for debate on Thursday and a vote on Friday, would allow local synods to decide whether they would allow a gay minister in a committed relationship to serve. The vote is considered by all sides to be too close to call.

Should the 4.8 million-member church choose to follow the lead of the United Church of Christ and the Episcopal Church, it will be the largest denomination to side with gay Christians in the debate over full inclusion in the body of believers. And it will likely experience defections and condemnation based on such a decision.

Ultimately, as gay men and women are viewed by parishoners as a variation on life rather than a perversion of God’s Plan, this is a decision that will be faced by all of Protestant Christianity.

Focus President Jim Daly Misrepresents Anthropology

Daniel Gonzales

July 29th, 2009

This isn’t the first time Focus has misrepresented the entire field of anthropology. Last year Focus staffer Glenn Stanton and Citizenlink claimed:

Glenn Stanton, director of global family formation studies at Focus on the Family, said there’s a clear consensus among anthropologists.

“A family is a unit that draws from the two types of humanity, male and female,” he said. “Those two parts of humanity join together, create new life and they both cooperate in the legitimization of the child, if you will, and the development of the child.”

Stanton’s claim prompted rebukes from actual anthropologists including Bill Maurer, the anthropology department chair at UC Irvine and Damon Dozier, the American Anthropological Association (AAA) Director of Public Affairs. Dozier reminded us in 2004 the AAA Executive Board issued the following statement in response to President Bush’s proposal for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage:

The results of more than a century of anthropological research on households, kinship relationships, and families, across cultures and through time, provide no support whatsoever for the view that either civilization or viable social orders depend upon marriage as an exclusively heterosexual institution. Rather, anthropological research supports the conclusion that a vast array of family types, including families built upon same-sex partnerships, can contribute to stable and humane societies.

But Focus apparently didn’t learn anything about anthropology in the last year since Stanton’s bone-headed remarks. Yesterday, Focus president Jim Daly wrote in the Washington Post’s “On Faith” blog:

And that is why marriage is universally and fundamentally about male and female. Examine how leading anthropologists over the last 80 years – from the Royal Anthropological Institution’s Notes and Queries, to Edward Westermarck, George Murdock, A.R. Radcliffe-Brown, Bronislaw Malinowski, Kathleen Gough, Ward Goodenough and Pierre van den Berghe – define marriage across all cultures – religious and secular – and see how constantly you encounter references to male and female, procreation and off-spring legitimization as the universal and primary qualities of this sacred institution.

It should be noted according to Daly’s bio on Focus’ website, his only degree is a BS in business administration.

But most of all I find it disappointing Daly and Focus are again misrepresenting an entire field of science in their war against gay families.

Focus President Jim Daly may be contacted at: jim.daly@fotf.org
And the Washington Post’s “On Faith” editor can be reached at: onfaith@washingtonpost.com

Percentage of American Couples Protected

Timothy Kincaid

April 7th, 2009

This has been a good week for Americans who value equality and social stability. More gay couples have been incorporated into the fabric of society and endowed with both the blessings and the expectations of their neighbors.

Here is how same-sex couples fare (after the relevant commencement dates of Iowa, Vermont, and D.C.):

  • 4.5% of Americans live in a state that recognizes marriages (Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, and Vermont)
  • 16.6% of Americans live in a state that offers all of the benefits and obligations of marriage by a different name (California, New Jersey, Oregon, and New Hampshire)
  • 5.1% 4.9% of Americans live in a state (or District) that offers recognition to same-sex couples, but not with all of the same benefits and obligations as marriage (Hawaii, Maine, Washington, District of Columbia, and Maryland)
  • 7.4% 7.6% of Americans live in a state (or District) that either recognizes out-of-state legal marriages or in which that status has not been fully determined (Rhode Island, New York, and New Mexico, and the District of Columbia)
  • 66.4% of Americans live in a state that does not recognize their relationship at all

UPDATE:

The above breakout has been amended to show that Washington D.C. does currently recognize Domestic Partnerships and offer limited benefits.

Mel White, Reality TV Star?

Daniel Gonzales

January 28th, 2009

Click to view Mel and Mike’s “cast interview”

Soulforce founder Mel White and his son Mike have been cast in the soon-to-start next season of CBS’s Amazing Race. The show premiers on Sunday, February 15th, 8:00pm ET/PT and the usual suspects from the religious right haven’t thrown a tantrum yet so there isn’t much else to put in my post just yet.

You can also view their bio on the CBS website here.

Hat tip to my mom.

Mormon Utah Legislators Oppose Even the Slightest of Gay Rights

Timothy Kincaid

January 27th, 2009

You may recall that the Mormon Church claimed that they don’t object to “rights for same-sex couples regarding hospitalization and medical care, fair housing and employment rights, or probate rights, so long as these do not infringe on the integrity of the traditional family or the constitutional rights of churches”. And you may recall that Equality Utah called their bluff and asked for Mormon support for five bills that would allow for just those rights.

And you may even recall that polls showed that Mormons in Utah generally will oppose anything whatsoever if it appears that gay people might want it.

Well we now have the answer to the first of the five bills. Senate Bill 32 would allow individuals who rely on a breadwinner to sue for wrongful death. Currently Utah law limits those who can sue to only spouses, parents and children.

Let me be clear. There is no legitimate reason to exclude those who rely on someone for their livelihood from suing should that livelihood be taken away due to the wrongful actions of another. If a woman is killed directly due to the reckless or wrongful actions of another, why should her partner who stays home and raises the kids not be able to sue?

But because this bill was understood to benefit (among others) those gay persons who rely on each other, Sen. Buttars’ committee killed the bill 4 – 2.

And did the Mormon Church live up to its claim? Did it encourage its members to allow for probate rights for gay couples? Let’s see.

Voting “no” were:

Chris Buttars, Mormon
Lyle Hillyard, Mormon
Mark Madsen, Mormon
Michael Waddoups, Mormon

The three non-Mormons either voted Yes or were absent.

There is no way to explain the action today other than in terms of bias, bigotry, or downright hatred.

The more I experience the actions of those in leadership positions or those who have power withing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the more I become convinced that this organization is an instrument of organized homophobia and that there are no rights, no equalities, no measures of freedom for gay men and women that are too small for them to let pass unopposed.

Miller-Jenkins and the SCOTUS

Timothy Kincaid

December 9th, 2008

You have probably heard of the custody dispute between Lisa Miller and Janet Jenkins. If you need a refresher, see the timeline at the bottom of this commentary.

This week the Supreme Court of the United States refused to hear the case – for the fifth time.

I’m not an attorney, but considering that Vermont is the court of record and that Virginia now agrees, there may be few legal arguments that could be made. However, the Miller-Jenkins case is a cause célèbre for anti-gay and other conservative activists. And there are many judges, including some who have been considered for the highest court, who would see it their calling and duty to “protect the definition of parent” and deliver this good Christian woman’s poor child from the homosexual clutches of this evil lesbian.

But this court has not taken up her cause. And that does, I believe, offer us some reason for comfort.

A writ of certiorari requires the support of four judges.

Justices Clarence Thomas and Anton Scalia are two judges who have voted consistently in opposition to equality for gay citizens. When Justices John Roberts and Samuel Alito were appointed to the court, there was a level of fear within the gay community that they would join Thomas and Scalia in decisions involving gays and lesbians.

However, the denial of the writ suggests that at least one of the four is hesitant to engage in overt judicial activism on behalf of anti-gay activists.

  • December 1997 – Lisa Miller and Janet Jenkins meet at an AA meeting in Virginia. They move in together a few months later. They make commitments to each other.
  • July 1, 2000 – Vermont legalizes civil unions.
  • December 19, 2000 – Lisa and Janet travel to Vermont and enter a civil union.
  • July 2001 – Lisa Miller was inseminated with sperm from an anonymous donor. The donor was selected to have traits that matched those of Janet Jenkins.
  • April 16, 2002 – Isabella Ruth Miller Jenkins was born. Jenkins cut the umbilical cord.
  • August 2002 – Lisa, Janet, and Isabella move to Vermont.
  • 2003 – the couple tried further fertility treatments. Lisa did not become pregnant.
  • Fall 2003 – Lisa takes Isabella and leaves Janet, moving back to Virginia. Janet agrees to pay child support and to visit Isabella regularly.
  • November 23, 2003 – Lisa files in Vermont to dissolve the civil union
  • January 2004 – Janet counterclaims in Vermont for custody
  • March 2004 – Lisa hires a lesbian lawyer and waived her objection to Janet as a parent
  • 2004 – Lisa begins finding religion – specifically Baptist religion – and comes to believe that homosexuality is sin and that she is the sole parent of Isabella and that Janet is unrelated.
  • April 23, 2004 – Lisa faxes a letter to her lawyer saying that she did not agree that Janet was a parent to Isabella. The attorney withdrew from the case.
  • May 2004 – Lisa’s new lawyer tried to rebut the presumption that Janet was a parent. The judge refused to agree and insisted on a visitation schedule.
  • Spring 2004 – Exodus International advises Lisa to hire Liberty Counsel. Lisa makes it increasingly difficult for Janet to see Isabella. Lisa recollection of facts becomes significantly different from that of all other parties.
  • July 1, 2004 – Virginia’s anti-gay marriage prohibits the state from recognizing any same sex relationship (including contracts). Lisa’s lawyers sue in Virginia court to declare her the sole parent and to declare the legal actions in Vermont as void, illegal and unenforceable. Judge Prosser stayed unsupervised out-of-state visitation. Lisa refuses to allow Janet to see Isabella.
  • October 15, 2004 – Virginia Judge Prosser declares Lisa the sole parent and invalidates Janet’s claims entirely. Vermont Judge Cohen ruled that Prosser’s order had no legal standing.
  • Winter 2006 – Virginia Court of Appeals (three-judge panel) unanimously sides with Janet Jenkins.
  • August 2006 – Vermont Supreme Court unanimously sides with Janet Jenkins.
  • December 2008 – US Supreme Court refuses to hear the case.

Rosie Wins, Anita Loses

Timothy Kincaid

September 9th, 2008

The Miami Herald is reporting that a Florida judge has found the state’s ban on adoption by gay persons to be unconstitutional:

A Monroe Circuit Court judge has ruled Florida’s 31-year-old gay adoption ban ”unconstitutional” in an order that allows an openly gay Key West foster parent to adopt a teenage boy he has raised since 2001.

Declaring the adoption to be in the boy’s ”best interest,” Circuit Judge David J. Audlin Jr. said the Florida law forbidding gay people from adopting children is contrary to the state Constitution because it singles out a group for punishment.

Based on previous decisions, the decision may not withstand appeal.

An Anthropologist Responds to Stanton’s Moving Target

Jim Burroway

March 14th, 2008

Focus On the Family may be trying to bob and weave through the sleight of hand of undisclosed re-writing, but their second effort isn’t much better. When they first changed the article, they left the original title intact (“Anthropologists Agree on Traditional Definition of Marriage.”) Since then, they changed the title to read, “Classic Anthropology at Odds with New Same-Sex Definitions of Marriage and Family.” When they keep changing their article to respond to ongoing criticisms, it’s hard to keep track of exactly what they’re trying to say.

Nevertheless, we contacted Dr. Patrick M. Chapman, a real live anthropologist and author of the upcoming book “Thou Shalt Not Love”: What Evangelicals Really Say to Gays (Haiduk Press, 2008), and asked him if he wanted to give Stanton’s latest rewrite a second look. When Dr. Chapman wrote his latest response, Stanton’s article still appeared under its original title. Here is Dr. Chapman’s response:

Focus on the Family Responds to Anthropologists
By Patrick M. Chapman, PhD

In a March 3, 2008 CitizenLink article, Focus on the Family suggested that “Anthropologists Agree on Traditional Definition of Marriage.” The organization was quickly rebuked by individual anthropologists and by the American Anthropological Association, the nation’s largest association of anthropologists. In his letter to Focus on the Family Damon Dozier, the AAA’s Director of Public Affairs, addressed “the gross misrepresentation of the position of the anthropological community on gay marriage.” Dozier added:

“I am alarmed and dismayed at this example of irresponsible journalism and deliberate misrepresentation of the anthropological community. In the future it is my hope that your organization will accurately and honestly convey and communicate the views and interests of the AAA, its 11,000 members, and the social science community at large.”

Presumably as a result of the criticism, Focus on the Family rewrote the article, retaining only the first two sentences but leaving the title and date unchanged. Despite having been informed of the official position of the anthropological community, Focus on the Family continues to deliberately misrepresent anthropologists. As Dozier told Focus on the Family, in 2004 the AAA released an official position statement indicating that anthropologists and the anthropological evidence do not support the supposedly “traditional” definition of marriage being used by conservative religious groups.

Instead, the rewritten article quotes Focus on the Family’s Glenn Stanton: “if you look at the work of leading anthropologists through the past century, one is struck by the consistent understanding of marriage and family as a social unit that brings together male and female.” Stanton references anthropologist Suzanne Frayser, who suggests:

“Marriage is a relationship within which a group socially approves and encourages sexual intercourse and the birth of children … Marriage is not usually a transaction confined to the bride and groom. It extends beyond them, to include members of their own families or kin group.”

While marriage is a means of regulating the birth of children, a couple does not have to give birth to a child in order to be considered married. Furthermore, Frayser does not mention the biological sex of the spouses. To explain why this is important, allow me to quote from the 8th edition of Conrad Phillip Kottak’s introductory textbook Cultural Anthropology. Kottak defines marriage as a “Socially approved relationship between a socially recognized male (the husband) and a socially recognized female (the wife) such that the children born to the wife are accepted as the offspring of both husband and wife” (emphasis mine). The husband is a “socially recognized male.” In other words, the husband is not necessarily a biological male, he portrays the gender of a male by acting like a man: the wife portrays the role of a female, whether or not the wife is a biological female. Kottak’s definition highlights that traditional marriages are often heterogendered, even when they are not heterosexual.

In Marriage, a History, Historian Stephanie Coontz discusses how in the last 100 years Western opposite-sex marriages have shed the traditional gender dichotomy. The roles of the husband as provider and wife as maintainer of the household are no longer rigidly separated. As such, opposite-sex marriages in Western society are now often homogendered: either partner can do the work traditionally assigned to either the male or the female. Not surprisingly, same-sex relationships once again mimic the opposite-sex ones: they are now homogendered as well. As such, if opposite-sex couples can enter into homogendered marriages, then why should same-sex couples be banned from marrying because they also have homogendered relationships, particularly when same-sex couples were often allowed to marry when they had heterogendered relationships?

Despite the reprimand from the AAA, Focus on the Family continues to misrepresent the anthropological community on the issue of marriage and also demonstrates a complete ignorance of anthropological concepts and evidence. They need to repent of their “deliberate misrepresentation” of the anthropological community and honestly state the anthropological consensus does not support Focus on the Family’s assumed “traditional” definition of marriage.

Dr Patrick M Chapman is an anthropologist and author of the upcoming book “Thou Shalt Not Love”: What Evangelicals Really Say to Gays (Haiduk Press, 2008).

Hungary to Recognize Same-Sex Couples

Timothy Kincaid

November 16th, 2007

hungary.jpg

At present, Hungary has only limited recognition of inheritance rights based on Unregistered Cohabitation, a sort of common law coupling. However, the AP is reporting that the government will be presenting a bill next week to allow for official recognition of gay couples, and other unmarried couples, and to grant many of the rights of married couples.

The bill would give them many of the same benefits currently granted only to married couples, including rights of inheritance or to take the other’s name, government spokesman David Daroczi said Friday. It would not, however, give unmarried couples the right to adopt children together. Daroczi said the new law could take effect from Jan. 1, 2009.

Some aspects of the bill will require support from the opposition party. They are reserving comment until they see what is presented.

Just Leave Out the Icky Part

Timothy Kincaid

October 31st, 2007

martian.jpgWhat would you do if there was a charming little story about an orphan kid who thought he was a Martian? You’d make it into a movie, of course.

But what if this was a family movie and one of the characters was gay? Oh, you’d just remove that icky part, of course. Does it matter if the story is semi-autobiographical and based on a the difficulties of being a gay father to an adopted son with serious abandonment issues? Nah, just make him straight. It’s much cuddlier.

From Vue Weekly:

Really, how can you not love a little boy orphan who truly believes he’s from Mars and travels inside of an Amazon.com cardboard box with the warning “FRAGILE: Handle with care” on it? David Gordon (John Cusack) certainly can’t. In fact, this celestial orphan named Dennis (Bobby Coleman) might be the perfect match for science fiction writer David.

That is the sole premise of Martian Child, based on the award-winning novelette by, and about, sci-fi author David Gerrold and his experiences as a single adoptive dad. The only major difference is this family film leaves out the part where David is gay, and instead makes him a widower with an attractive “friend,” Harlee, played by Amanda Peet.

Awww. How sweet.

Maybe he and his father can go to a Save Marriage rally in the movie as well. Wouldn’t that be sweet?

Reviewer Omar Mouallem, who has no problem with this minor revision, tells us

But like the orphan in the box, it’s not humanly possible to dislike Martian Child. Not even a little.

Oh, I don’t know about that, Omar. I haven’t even seen it and already I dislike it more than a little.

You see, Omar, I’m not all that fond of when heterosexuals take the contributions and sacrifices that gay men and women make – often times because of the humanity and compassion that comes from being made to feel like an outsider – and pretend that the very attributes that taught this person compassion are icky and nasty and to be hidden.

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