Lutherans to Vote on Gay Clergy
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
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: email@example.com
And the Washington Post’s “On Faith” editor can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Percentage of American Couples Protected
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.
- 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)
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)
7.6%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
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?
January 28th, 2009
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
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.
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
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
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
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
November 16th, 2007
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
October 31st, 2007
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.
Straights Invade Gay Retirement
October 8th, 2007
The Los Angeles Times had an article on Friday about the concerns some residents of a Sante Fe gay retirement center had regarding more people moving in that are not gay. New Mexico has a housing non-discrimination policy which forbids the center from denying residency based on sexual orientation.
The controversy may be a bit exagerated as the only ones quoted as concerned later admitted that they did not object to the straight residents that had moved in. Few homophobes seek residency in a center designed for gay folks.
Because my roommate’s grandmother was one of the first heterosexual residents, I can bring you her perspective: the buildings are just the type of home she always dreamed of living in but the food is too fancy and the lecture about lesbian activism wasn’t very useful.
Friday Silliness – Gay Fathers
October 5th, 2007
Often those who seek to condemn gay men and women without reverting to quoting Scripture will argue that homosexuality is not a benefit to society because it does not result in procreation. Well, I’ve seen some of their children – running through the restaurant screaming. And I’m not all that convinced that they are such a benefit to society.
However, I do know of some fathers who were homosexual – or at least not heterosexual – whose progeny did benefit society. I’ve listed just a few. Feel free to add more fathers to the list. And mothers are welcome too:
• Socrates – Father of Philosophy
Aristotle – Father of Biology (perhaps)
• Leonardo Da Vinci – Father of Flight
• Luco Pacioli – Father of Accounting
• Isaac Newton – Father of Modern Physics
• Nikola Tesla – Father of Radio
• Alan Turing – Father of the Computer
and a whole host of others whose children, though not flesh and blood, continue to live and benefit society long after they are gone: Michelangelo Buonarroti, EM Forster, Noel Coward, Alexander the Great, and the list goes on and on…
Kevin Douglas-Olive Settles with Homophobic In-Laws
August 15th, 2007
We reported earlier about the legal battle waged against Kevin Douglas-Olive by the parents of his deceased partner, Russell Groff. The Groffs were insisting that Russell be disinterred and reburied at a site of their choosing and were using the legal system to try and overturn the terms of Russell’s will.
The Washington Blade is now reporting that Douglas-Olive and the Groffs have reached a settlement by which the joint tombstone for the two men would be replaced by two individual stones and the parents would receive some personal items of sentimental value.
This story, along with that of Patrick Atkins, serve as a reminder that if your state does not have marriage, civil unions, or domestic partnerships in place, you should not delay in preparing the legal documents that will give you some limited measure of protection.
“Make sure that your affairs are in order early,” [Mark Scurti, Olive’s attorney] said. “Don’t wait until your partner is ill or something catastrophic happens.”
Olive agreed. He said that he and Russell erred by waiting until Russell was in the hospital to formalize their legal protections.
“There are so many gay couples running around with no legal documents written up whatsoever,” Olive said. “It’s stupid. Just stupid. It was stupid on our part.”
Concerned Women With Bad Manners
December 7th, 2006
Mary Cheney, the daughter of vice president Dick Cheney, is expecting a baby with her partner, Heather Poe, in late spring. Now normally, you’d think that news like this would be greeted with cheers all around. But you’d be wrong:
Janice Crouse of Concerned Women for America described the pregnancy as “unconscionable.”
“It’s very disappointing that a celebrity couple like this would deliberately bring into the world a child that will never have a father,” said Crouse, a senior fellow at the group’s think tank. “They are encouraging people who don’t have the advantages they have.” …
Carrie Gordon Earll, a policy analyst for the conservative Christian ministry Focus on the Family, expressed empathy for the Cheney family but depicted the pregnancy as unwise.
“Just because you can conceive a child outside a one-woman, one-man marriage doesn’t mean it’s a good idea,” Earll said. “Love can’t replace a mother and a father.”
Now you see, that’s the difference between Carrie & Janice and me. I was brought up to believe that when someone announces that they are expecting their first child, the proper response is “congratulations.”
And as for their “concern” over Mary and Heather’s child, they needn’t worry. The American Academy of Pediatrics has looked into this and has found nothing to worry about. Focus on the Family will claim that studies “prove” that children need both genders as parents, but the studies themselves say no such thing.
But Janice Crouse isn’t much swayed by science. Her real problem lies in politics:
Not only is she doing a disservice to her child, she’s voiding all the effort her father put into the Bush administration.
Say what you will about Dick Cheney. Many have, and I don’t need to add my opinions except this: I have a feeling that the cold icy exterior that we all see melts in the presence of a grandchild. Dick Cheney has stood by his daughter, I presume because, as is the case with most people, family comes first. Surely the “pro-family” Janice Crouse can recognize that, can’t she?
So everybody needs to relax and offer their congratulations and best wishes for a safe delivery to Mary and Heather.
Love In The Heartland
October 12th, 2006
A new study was released from William Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy at the UCLA School of Law. This study (PDF: 2,130KB/25 pages) examined the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey to assess the number of same-sex couples in the U.S. Among some of the highlights:
- The number of same-sex couples grew more than 30 percent between 2000 and 2005. Of these same-sex couples, 53% are male and 47% are female.
- Six of the eight states with a 2006 ballot initiative to ban same-sex marriage experienced increases greater than the national average. They are Arizona, Colorado, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
- The greatest growth occurred in the Midwest, where the number of same-sex couples were generally the fewest in 2000.
- Same-sex couples can now be found in every Congressional district in the U.S.
The authors give two possible reasons for the increase. They concede that more gays and lesbians may be choosing to settle down and couple-up, but it’s more likely that the increase is due to more couples being willing to identify themselves as a same-sex household to the U.S. Census Bureau.
I think one conclusion that can be drawn from this report is that if same-sex couples are increasingly comfortable with identifying themselves as such, then perhaps this is evidence of a shifting of attitudes in the U.S., especially in the heartland of the Midwest. It also appears that while anti-gay activists make a lot of noise in trying to marginalize gays and lesbians, they aren’t making much headway. Another recent poll found that seven out of ten heterosexuals know someone who is gay. If gays and lesbians are more comfortable with themselves and their place in the community, then the increased visibility can only be a good thing.
Now if only our closeted representatives in Washington would see the light and come on out as well.