April 03, 2009

More on the Iowa Ruling

As I like to do after major events in GLBT equality, here is a gathering of news releases and opinions about the exciting news that the Iowa Supreme Court unanimously rejected a state law that banned same-sex marriage.

"This is a great day for civil rights in Iowa," said former Iowa Solicitor-General Dennis Johnson, a co-counsel with Lambda Legal. "Go get married. Live happily ever."
The court's decision becomes effective in 21 days, and county recorders then will be required to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples, Lambda senior staff attorney Camilla Taylor said at the news conference.
"You do not have to be an Iowan to seek a license here," she said, and Iowa should recognize same-sex marriages from other states.
Iowa will become the third state in the nation to allow same-sex marriage, after Massachusetts and Connecticut.

Statement from Carolyn Jenison, Executive Director of One Iowa:
I want to begin by saying how great it is to be an Iowan! Today, the Heartland proves again to be fitting of its name. The Iowa Supreme Court, in clearing the way for gay and lesbian couples to marry, recognized that love and commitment are at the heart of what makes our communities strong. As Iowans, we pride ourselves on our strong sense of community and fairness. It’s only fair that two caring, committed people are able to take full responsibility for one another.

Des Moines Register:
Democrats are in charge of both chambers and the governor's office. Only a few weeks remain in the 2009 session, and that means "you have to suspend the joint rules, and it's exceedingly unlikely that we will pursue legislation this session on that subject," said Senate Majority Leader Michael Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs.
A Republican leader said lawmakers should stay focused on the budget and job creation.
"Those are our primary jobs," said House Republican Leader Kraig Paulsen of Hiawatha.
Several Republicans said they'd like to keep their party's attention on money and employment and not wade too deeply into issues such as gay rights or abortion.

Lambda Legal:
Writing for the entire court, Justice Cody wrote: "We are firmly convinced the exclusion of gay and lesbian people from the institution of civil marriage does not substantially further any important governmental objective. The legislature has excluded a historically disfavored class of persons from a supremely important civil institution without a constitutionally sufficient justification."
Immediately following the decision, Lambda Legal, the statewide political group One Iowa and the plaintiffs held a press conference outside the courtroom. "The Court's decision is exhaustive, well-thought out and supported by the Iowa Constitution," says Lambda Legal Supervising Senior Staff Attorney Ken Upton. "The ruling is legally compelling and consistent with the most basic of Iowa values — fairness, strong communities and protection for families."

The Advocate:
In the weeks ahead, attention will turn to the state legislature, where marriage-equality opponents and the minority Republican leadership are already calling for a constitutional amendment that would define marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Such an amendment would require approval in consecutive legislative sessions and in a public vote, which means marriage-equality opponents will have to wait until 2012.
Despite the lag in time, marriage-equality leaders say it is important to act now to strengthen support for the court decision among legislators and the public.
“In Iowa, the immediate work is supporting the elected officials in their effort to stand by this decision,” said Evan Wolfson, executive director of Freedom to Marry. “They’re going to come under tremendous pressure to overturn it.”
Attitudes toward marriage equality in Iowa also matter.
According to the Des Moines Register, a poll in February 2008 showed that 62% of Iowans said they believed marriage should only be between a man and a woman. State residents were split on whether the constitution should be changed to ban same-sex marriage, however.

It is a win because only a handful of states recognize gay relationships at all. But it is even more of a win because it’s Iowa.
The fight for gay marriage and equal rights is, in part, a fight for judicial intervention and legislative action that enforces diversity and inclusion. But it is also a fight for hearts and minds.
Just because a gay couple can get divorced in New York and might, in the near future, be able to be married in D.C., doesn’t mean that I can road trip with my girlfriend from coast to coast without being harassed.
We have to focus on the entire country and most of all, we have to focus on states like Iowa.
The decision this morning will not magically transform Iowa into a tolerant state (they did vote for Bush in 2004 after all). But it will provide the opportunity for LGBT Iowans to be more visible, more recognized.
What we know about visibility is, after a while, people get used to have those that are different from them around. The more the courts can facilitate this diverse cohabitation the better. But it needs to happen in local communities, rural communities, and mid western states.
You cannot win equality by focusing on California, New York and D.C. Equality comes from meeting intolerance where it lives. Which is what Lambda Legal did in Iowa. And it is why this court win is bigger than just another state on the gay marriage band wagon.

Same-Sex Marriage Ban Struck Down In Iowa!

From the Associated Press: (more later)

The Iowa Supreme Court unamimously struck down the state's gay marriage ban Friday, ruling that it violates the constitutional rights of gay and lesbian couples.

In 2005, Lambda Legal, a New York-based gay rights organization, sued on behalf of six gay and lesbian Iowa couples in Polk County who were denied marriage licenses. Some of their children are also listed as plaintiffs.

The case was appealed to the state Supreme Court in 2007, after Polk County District Court Judge Robert Hanson agreed with the plaintiffs and ruled that the ban was unconstitutional.

Hanson's ruling prompted nearly two dozen people to apply for marriage licenses in the county, Iowa's most populous and home to Des Moines. Only one couple, Sean and Tim McQuillan of Ames, managed to get married before Hanson stayed his decision the next day.

During oral arguments before the state Supreme Court in December, Des Moines lawyer Dennis Johnson argued that the ban violated his clients' due process and equal protection rights.

"We are suggesting that everybody be able to participate equally in an institution that has existed since the beginning of this state," Johnson said during arguments.

Roger Kuhle, an assistant Polk County attorney, argued that the lower court's ruling for the plaintiffs violates the separation of powers and that the issue should be left to the Legislature.

"We are not here opposing the individual plaintiffs' sincerity. We are here because, in our view, the issue is one for the Legislature to decide as a matter of social policy," he told the seven-member court.

During oral arguments, Chief Justice Marsha Ternus explained that the high court would determine whether the district court erred by finding that the same-sex marriage ban violated the state constitution, and whether it erred by not allowing the county's expert witness testimony.

The timing of the ruling's release could be awkward for state lawmakers, who are on track to end the legislative session in coming weeks.

Before the ruling, Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal told reporters that it's "exceedingly unlikely" that the Legislature would deal with the gay marriage issue this year, regardless of the court's ruling.

"This is the final step in a lengthy legal proceedings," the Democrat said. "We're going to wait and see that decision and review it before we take any action."

Around the nation, only Massachusetts and Connecticut permit same-sex marriage. California, which briefly allowed gay marriage before a voter initiative in November repealed it, allows domestic partnerships.

New Jersey and New Hampshire also offer civil unions, which provide many of the same rights that come with marriage. New York recognizes same-sex marriages performed elsewhere, and legislators there and in New Jersey are weighing whether to offer marriage. A bill that would legalize same-sex marriage in Vermont is before the state House.

LOGO Network Feature on a GLBT Friendly Church

A while back (sorry, don't know exactly when), the LOGO network show "The U. S. of Ant" travelled to Covenant Community Church in Birmingham, Alabama. Ant was pretty skeptical when he first arrived, much less so when he left. Here's the LOGO description of the piece:

Ant visits Reverend J.R. Finney, a gay pastor of a non-denominational church in Birmingham, Alabama. While attending his church, Ant meets Roxanne, a warm hearted transgendered woman who is happily married.

Here's the link to the video, I'm sure you will enjoy it.

April 01, 2009

Try Just a LITTLE Kindness

An interesting thing happened to me quite by chance that I want to share with you.

I was outside at lunchtime minding my own business (which is when things invariably happen) when I saw someone waking in front of me lose a few papers that he had tucked under his arm. As I reached for them before the wind blew them away, I called out "Sir," and he saw me making a final, and fortunately successful, lungefor the last page before it wound up in the street.

He looked at me and was stunned--absolutely stunned.

I have no idea if the papers were important or not, but it didn't really matter. It's not exactly like I ran into a burning building to retreive them.

You wouldn't have known it from the look and gratitude the gentleman showed to me. He even offered to buy me lunch, which I politely declined.

A lady who had stopped at a street vendor had noticed this and said to me as I walked by "we need more people like you." I can quickly gather a group of people who know me that would rebut that view, but it was still nice to hear.

I don't share this with you to lobby for a Nobel Peace Prize (although if you are so moved, I would humbly accept your nomination) but to make the point that struck me later on today.....people are STARVED for kindness. The least little thing stands out from the normal indifference of people around us in our everyday lives.

What if all of us picked up the papers that someone else dropped in front of us, or held the elevator door even when we're in a hurry, or gave up our seat on the train?

What if kindness was the norm instead of the exception that drew such attention to me today?

Will that gentleman remember me telling him "God put us on earth to do good things'?

I don't know, but I believe that God can use little things to really make an impact on someone's life.

Like picking up papers that someone has dropped.

Pioneers In GLBT Faith: Fred H. Ellis

From the LGBT Religious Archive Network:

Fred Ellis, a member of Integrity (Episcopal) since 1991, was born in 1952 in Lufkin, Texas. He grew up as an active member of the Methodist Church, attended college at the University of Texas at Austin, and following school began a career in the hospitality industry. In 1983, Fred was confirmed in the Episcopal Church at Christ Church in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Fred’s activism began shortly after that when the Rector at Christ Church asked him to speak with a couple whose daughter had just come out to them. For the next nine years that activism was focused at the local parish level in various locations. In 1991, Fred and five other people decided to form an Integrity Chapter in Nashville, Tennessee. It became Integrity of Middle Tennessee. In 1993, Fred was appointed by Bruce Garner, President of Integrity to serve as the Director of Development for the national organization, and, in 1994, was elected National President serving two terms through 1998.

During his term as President, Fred served a three-year term on the National Committee of the Episcopal Church for Continuing the Dialogue on Human Sexuality. He also began the process of bringing various LGBT groups within the Episcopal Church together, and to focus them on working together. This began with meetings with Oasis of Newark and participating in the organizational meeting of Oasis of California. During this same time, the National Board of Integrity worked closely with Lutherans Concerned, and the final National Convention of Integrity during Fred’s term was a joint meeting with Integrity and Lutherans Concerned. At that convention Fred was presented the Louie Crew Award for distinguished Gay and Lesbian ministry in the Episcopal Church. One of the highlights of Fred’s term as President of Integrity was to be one of the speakers at the farewell event for the then Presiding Bishop, The Most Reverend Edmund Browning, at the 1997 General Convention in Philadelphia. Another highlight was to be able to participate in the first, and organizational meeting, of the LGBT Religious Leaders Roundtable in Washington, D.C. in July 1998.

Click here to read more about Fred H. Ellis.

March 31, 2009

Advocacy Group: The Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists

Yeah, yeah, I know. A lot of the folks that visit this site instinctively cringe when they see the word Baptist. The Southern Baptist Convention is one of, if not the most, anti-gay religious denominations around.

There are other Baptists, however, and The Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists has gathered up a group of them that are GLBT friendly. From their website:

Ten years ago, after the lgbt community had been dealt yet another blow by members of their denomination, a group of American Baptist pastors decided that it was time to stand up and declare their affirmation of glbt people. The network of churches they founded, the Association of Welcoming & Affirming Baptists (AWAB), has now grown to more than 60 churches and organizations. AWAB members are Baptist churches, organizations, and individuals who have gone on record as being welcoming and affirming of all persons, without regard to sexual orientation.

We know that much abuse of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons has been fostered and encouraged by the rhetoric of the church, leaving many people feeling that they must choose between their faith and their sexuality. AWAB members have joined together to advocate for inclusion of lgbt persons within Baptist communities of faith. Initiated at a gathering of pastors in 1991 at the American Baptist Biennial Meeting in Charleston, West Virginia, the Association of Welcoming & Affirming Baptists was formally organized at the 1993 Biennial in San José, California. (For more on our formation and developments within the ABC, read our brief history.)

Currently, the Association of Welcoming & Affirming Baptists consists of 48 congregations, several local support chapters, church groups and pastoral counseling centers, an international ministry, and individuals. See our current membership list for a list of Welcoming & Affirming congregations and ministries.

Click here to visit their website.

March 30, 2009

Transgender Day of Visibility

This is coming up on March 31. Here is an essay from a gay writer about why this day is needed:

The truth is I still hardly ever talk or write about transgender issues. That’s partly because I’m no expert on them. There are only so many minutes in an hour (or lines in a column), and you can’t cover everything.

But to be frank, it’s also partly because I’m nervous about offending people whom society has already hurt enough. It’s a touchy subject, and like many touchy subjects, it’s often easier for those of us without a direct stake in it simply to avoid it.

And that’s probably as good a reason for Transgender Day of Visibility as any. Our discomfort around the issue—I know I’m not alone in this—means that we’ve got some learning to do. Bravo to those trans people willing to come out and teach us.

I second that sentiment. One of the more interesting aspects of my connecting with so many people on Facebook is the large number of transgender people that are now my Facebook friends. Many of them have expressed a deep appreciation for my simple efforts of trying to tell people that God loves them just as much as He does me.

I'm coming to believe that understanding transgender is near impossible for someone who doesn't directly experience it.

That's okay. God didn't tell us to understand people--he told us to love them.

I can do that. I hope you can too.

March 29, 2009

Sunday Worship 3/29/09

If you don't have a welcoming church near you, or you just can't make yourself step into one, we're bringing worship to you. Here are links to some worship music and services from open and affirming ministries (all times eastern). I hope you are blessed and take time out of your busy schedule to enter into the Lord's day.

Don't forget to click on the tab on the upper right of this blog and leave your prayer requests in the comment section so we can petition the Lord for your needs.

We appreicate all of the positive feedback we've received for our Sunday Worship series. If you know of a service we should add to our list, please send an e-mail and share it with me.

Worship Music--sing along with Michael W. Smith and make a joyful noise unto the Lord!

Live Worship Services--all times Eastern

Living Water Fellowship, Kenmore, WA 1:30 PM Eastern (also archives of pervious services)

Recent Recorded Worship Services

Rainbow Community Church of Vancouver, BC

Church of the Holy SpiritSong, Fort Lauderdale, FL