December 29, 2007

A Wish for More Effective Activism in 2008

This column from the Washington Blade states the view that GLBT activists need to work both smarter and harder in 2008 to move further down the road to equality.
The GLBT community should be proud of what we accomplished in 2007. But
there is definitely a feeling of frustration that we couldn’t do more. We passed
hate crimes in both houses of Congress and a version of ENDA in one, but didn’t
get all that we wanted.

We have commitments from all the Democratic candidates to work for equal
federal benefits for state-approved civil unions, to end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”
and to finally sign inclusive hate crimes and ENDA legislation if we can get
them through Congress.

I choose to see this as the glass half full; others see it as half empty.
We have seen the frustration produce a rift in our community that needs to heal.
We must work together if we are to move forward and accomplish what we all agree
is the goal, full human and civil rights.

To do this, the community must demand that our National Organizations stop
trying to compete with each other and work together. I think we may actually
need a new organization, a real grass-roots one that can lobby effectively on
all issues and support our national organizations with the ability to reach the
GLBT community, without regard to any one issue. We need to target our outreach
and lobbying efforts to communities and legislators who don’t yet support us
rather than fighting with those who do.

There is no one organization that speaks for our entire community and
probably no one organization ever will. It is time to clarify what it is that
each of the organizations does best.

December 28, 2007

Progress in Oregon (Updated-Progress Delayed)

The state of Oregon has passed laws legalizing domestic partnerships and protecting GLBT against discrimination, both of which will go into effect on Tuesday.

This article from the Salem, OR StatesmanJournal goes into more detail and, for your Oregonians, has links to the official state sites explaining more about the domestic partnership law and how to apply for it. To put it in football terms, this is not yet a touchdown but does move the ball well down the field.

Salem pastor Don Frueh and his partner, Robert Barzler, already have sealed
their union as a couple on their own terms. They conducted a ceremonial blessing
of their home when they bought a house together 3 1/2 years ago, and jokingly
refer to themselves as "Robald Fruzler," a joint moniker that blends their names
and hairstyles.

Next month, Frueh and Barzler intend to legally formalize their eight-year
relationship by
entering into a domestic partnership.

The Oregon Legislature enacted a domestic partnership law in 2007, along
with a companion measure barring discrimination against gays, lesbians,
bisexuals and transgendered people. The two laws take effect in January, marking
a historic breakthrough for Oregon's gay-rights movement.

Frueh, associate pastor at First Congregational United Church of Christ in
Salem, has conducted past ceremonies to sanctify unions of same-sex couples in
the congregation. But those didn't bring any legal recognition.

When Frueh, Barzler and other same-sex couples enter into a contractual
domestic partnership, they'll gain most of the benefits accorded to married
couples under state law.

This report from PageOneQ tells us that a federal judge placed this law on hold pending a hearing on the petition that aims to put this issue on the ballot as a referendum.

December 27, 2007

Let's Focus on the Positive Stories

I've been writing this blog for 2 1/2 years, and I've spent a good part of that time mocking or raging aginst the stupidity/hatred/bigotry of those who work so hard to deny basic rights to GLBT people.

As I'm moving toward a larger role in ministry, I don't want to do that anymore. There are enough people to write about the knuckleheads, but I think we tend to run a bit short of people featuring positive stories. I'll keep posting about the critical political happenings that affect the GLBT community, but I'm going to focus more on stories like this one from the Bay Windows newspaper in Boston, where Rev. Martin McKee is reaching out to the local GLBT people, not through politics but by loving them like Jesus would.

McLee prefers to live out his commitment to LGBT equality quietly. And he
sees himself more as a bridge builder than an advocate for any particular
constituency. "My approach is to lead by example with a resolve of seeking
justice and finding ways to be in community," he explains. "One of my biggest
challenges as a person - forget a pastor - in Boston is to build community in a
place where people are so comfortable just being in homogenous groups. And I’m
not used to that and don’t want to ever get used to that. So for me bridging
divides is a healthy and normative experience and certainly to the gay and
lesbian and straight communities, bridging those divides is a helpful journey.
It’s part of [how] I see myself in my ministerial role - in my humanity role -
trying to get folk to just come across the street and meet your neighbor."

December 26, 2007

A Reasonable Perspective on Same-Sex Marriage

This editorial from the Tampa Tribune does not support same-sex marriage, not even close. However, neither does it support the building battle in Florida over a state constitutional amendment banning it either. Expousing the view of most reasonable people, the editorial points out that, support or oppose same-sex marriage, there are more wide-reaching issues for voters to worry about in November, and better things for the amendment's supporters to spend their time and money on. A sense of perspective is something sadly lacking from the right-wing, and this editorial is another example that more people are realizing that is the case.

We're sympathetic to those who would protect traditional marriage as a
sacred trust. These are people who fear for our culture and lament the loss of
respect for the institution. But changing the constitution, when it hasn't
proven necessary, is not the way to do it.

Americans have grown more tolerant of their gay and lesbian neighbors and
are appalled by the violence and discrimination some have faced.

A number of state and local governments have responded by outlawing
discrimination based on a person's sexual preference. And an increasing number
of businesses are granting spousal benefits to homosexual partners as a way of
retaining valuable employees.

Homosexuals should not be denied employment, public accommodation or any of
the civil liberties enjoyed by Americans.

But marriage is not simply a civil rights issue. It is an amalgam of faith,
values and tradition. Changing its definition is no trifling manner.

But make no mistake. Gay marriage is not the biggest threat to the
institution of marriage. Bigger assaults are exposed by divorce rates and the
growing number of out-of-wedlock births. Almost half of marriages today end in
divorce. In Florida, one in four babies is born to an unwed mother.

To best defend the institution of marriage, we should quit looking for
bogeymen where there are none.

December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas Everyone

Well, Pastor Brenda and I have our Christmas plans all lined up. We're sharing the day with her mother, one or two of her sisters, and as yet unannounced nephews. All in all, we are blessed with the opportunity to have a typical family holiday.

That doesn't mean I've lost track of the fact that some of my readers will not have the chance to enjoy that blessing this year for a variety of reasons. That's why I'm posting this link to a wonderful resource that gathered scriptures, audio bible readings, some of the classic hymns, commentaries, sermons and even artwork so you can have your own private Christmas celebration.

Christmas: Celebrating the First Advent of Christ

It may not be the most festive you've ever had, but it sure will help you get/stay focused on what the day is all about, the birth of the Savior of all mankind.

Regardless of how you spend the day, I hope you will enjoy it.

God bless and have a merry Christmas,


December 23, 2007

An Interesting Twist On Pride Day

What would happen if a church took over responsibility for a major city's Pride Day? We may soon find out in Washington, DC.

A non-profit corporation linked to D.C.’s Westminster Presbyterian Church
has emerged as one of three organizations competing to replace the
Whitman-Walker Clinic as the controlling entity behind Capital Pride, the
organization that produces Washington’s Gay Pride parade and festival at an
annual cost of about $120,000.

The Southwest Renaissance Development Corporation, which Westminster
Presbyterian Church created to spur economic development in low-income
neighborhoods, joined the D.C. GLBT Community Center and a newly formed entity
called Capital Pride Alliance in submitting competing proposals on Dec. 11 to
Whitman-Walker to obtain the rights to produce the annual Pride events.

Whitman-Walker announced on Oct. 11 that it was “exploring options” to
withdraw from its role as the producing agent and primary financial underwriter
of Capital Pride. Chief executive officer Don Blanchon said the change would
allow the Clinic to focus more on its “core mission” of providing health care
services to the GLBT community and people with HIV and AIDS.

Read the rest of the story from the Washington Blade.

Vermont continues to make strides toward full inclusion in marriage!


Vermont Commission Mulling Gay Marriage Nears End

(Montpelier, Vermont) A state appointed commission looking into Vermont's civil unions law and tasked with determining if it should be amended to provide for same-sex marriage is nearing its completion.

The commission has just three more public hearings - scheduled to end in mid February - before it begins to prepare its report to the legislature.

The Commission on Family Recognition and Protection this week held hearings in Montpelier and was told that while the state's civil union law - the first of its kind in the nation - was a step forward same-sex couples still are not equal.

It was the first time the traveling commission heard deputations in the state's capital city and the session was a far cry from hearings that were conducted seven years ago when the state was considering the civil unions bill.

Then, dozens of people from conservative groups opposed to the bill denounced the measure and protestors carried signs outside.

This time there were no voices of dissent.

"Separate but equal did not work as a compromise in the civil rights movement and it doesn't work here," Elaine Parker told the commission.

Justice of the Peace Beth Diamond said recalled that she had been excited to perform her first civil union and then realized it was no different than performing a civil marriage.

"I had two people before me who loved each other very much," she said. "And I was lucky enough to have the honor to be officiating at their ceremony."

Robert Appel, the executive director of the Vermont Human Rights Commission, disputed claims from some opponents of same-sex marriage that they would harm traditional marriages.
"Civil unions have not weakened our communities," he said. "If anything, they have enhanced them."

The citizens commission was appointed in July by the leaders of Vermont's House and Senate - both Democrats (story).

It is chaired by former state Rep. Tom Little (D). Little. When he was a member of the legislature Little was chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, when it passed the law legalizing civil unions in 2000.

The committee will present its report to the legislature in the spring, but nothing is expected to be done about it until after next year's election. That would mean there is no likelihood of a bill before 2009.

Exciting news for folks like me who still hope that we will see gay marriage codified in the United States in our lifetime!