April 30, 2009

Major Legislative Victories for GLBT People

The momentum toward equality picked up a bit more steam on Wednesday with two important votes, the passage of legislation allowing same-sex marriage in New Hampshire and the federal hate-crimes bill sailing to victory in the U. S. House of Representatives.

First, the story from New Hampshire from MSNBC:

New Hampshire's Senate passed a bill on Wednesday that would legalize same-sex marriage after an amendment was added that prohibits polygamy and marriage of family members, among other measures.

Governor John Lynch has not indicated whether he will veto the bill, which passed in a 13-11 vote and would make New Hampshire the nation's fifth state where gay marriage is legal. But the Democrat has expressed opposition to the measure.

The bill passed the state's House of Representatives on March 26 but looked set for near certain defeat in the Senate before the amendment, which appeared to mollify some critics in the Democrat-controlled chamber.

The last-minute changes to the legislation would allow clergy to decline to marry homosexual couples and give couples the freedom to either keep the words "bride" and "groom" on marriage licenses, or simply use the word "spouse" instead.

Because the Senate and House passed separate versions they must resolve their differences before the bill can go to the governor, who in 2007 signed a law recognizing same-sex civil unions, making New Hampshire the fourth state to do so.

Democratic state Senator Deborah Reynolds, who opposed the bill at committee level, changed her vote after the amendment.

"This is a compromise that is respectful to both sides of this debate and meets our shared goal of equality under state law for all the people of New Hampshire," Reynolds said.

"It honors the religious beliefs of many of our constituents and gives denominations clear authority to decide whether to bless any marriage in this state according to their principles and beliefs."

Here's the story on the hate crimes bill from 365gay.com:

The House of Representatives passed legislation Wednesday to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of categories covered under federal hate crime law.

The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, also known as the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act for the 21-year-old college student who was murdered in an anti-gay hate crime in Wyoming in October 1998, would provide local police and sheriff’s departments with federal resources to combat hate violence.

“No one should face violence simply because of who they are,” said Judy Shepard, executive director of the Matthew Shepard Foundation. “This bill is a critical step to erasing the hate that has devastated far too many families.”

Wednesday morning, just hours before the vote, President Obama urged Congress to pass the bill.

” I urge members on both sides of the aisle to act on this important civil rights issue by passing this legislation to protect all of our citizens from violent acts of intolerance – legislation that will enhance civil rights protections, while also protecting our freedom of speech and association,” the President said in a statement.

” I also urge the Senate to work with my Administration to finalize this bill and to take swift action.”

As do I and all others who believe in fairness and justice.

Enjoy Rep. Barney Frank's speech before the vote:

April 29, 2009

A Gay Look at Obama'a First 100 Days

From the Philadelphia Gay News:

This Wednesday marks the 100th day since President Obama took the oath of office and, for the national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, never-before-experienced access to and inclusion in the federal government — although the LGBT community is still awaiting the appointment of an openly gay individual to the president’s cabinet.

Since taking office, Obama has appointed at least 35 openly LGBT individuals to federal posts. Seven of these employees were nominated for positions that required Senate confirmation, making Obama the first president ever to choose LGBT individuals for such positions within the first 100 days of the presidency.

The Obama administration’s inclusion of the LGBT community has also extended beyond employment opportunities.

In the past three months, scores of LGBT community leaders have been invited to the White House for a series of mainstream events.

On Feb. 18, Joe Solmonese, executive director of the advocacy group Human Rights Campaign, and Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, were included in the president’s reception for progressive leaders.

Solmonese also participated in the Feb. 23 Fiscal Responsibility Summit, as well as the March 5 White House Forum on Health Reform, along with Carey, Paul Kawata, president of the National Minority AIDS Council, and Frank Oldham, executive director of the National Association of People Living with AIDS.

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, Darlene Nipper, deputy executive director of the NGLTF, and Leslie Calman, executive director of the Mautner Project, a national lesbian health organization, were all included in the March 11 launch event for the White House Council on Women and Girls.

The administration has also made strides to provide outreach to specific segments of the LGBT community.

In late March, Eliza Byard, executive director of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, and a collection of LGBT and ally students met with secretary of education Arne Duncan to discuss the challenges faced by LGBT students, marking the first time that such a meeting took place.

Click here to read more about the encouragement the GLBT community should feel from President Obama's first 100 days in office.

April 28, 2009

Legal Same-Sex Marriages Begin in Iowa

Yesterday was the first day that same-sex couples could take advantage of full equality under state marriage laws in Iowa. It was the first day that they could file for marriage licenses, and state law requires a three-day wait before couples actually get married, but some couples were granted waivers and got hitched right away.


Rumors surfaced over the past week that some recorders would refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples over conflicts with their personal beliefs. Some conservative groups and lawmakers were accused of trying to recruit recorders to refuse the licenses.

State agencies sent out information to recorders statewide last week saying they could be removed from their positions if they don't follow the law and issue the licenses.

"There's a lot of people fishing around out there, but we'll see," said Painter. "I am quite optimistic that all 99 recorders will follow the rule of law and issue licenses."

Iowa has a history of being at the forefront on social issues. It was among the first states to legalize interracial marriage and to allow married women to own property. It was also the first state to admit a woman to the bar to practice law and was a leader in school desegregation.

Alicia Zacher, 24, and her 22-year-old fiancee Jessica Roach, both of Des Moines, said they have a 4 p.m. appointment to get married if they can get a waiver. They want to get married immediately after seeing how California voters reinstated a ban on same-sex marriage.

"You just never know when they'll try to take it away," Roach said.

From the Huffington Post:

Within hours of a state Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage taking effect, several same-sex couples had exchanged vows on the steps of the Polk County Administrative Building.

"It's not very romantic is it?" Melisa Keeton joked, referring to the location of the ceremony and the media attention, before marrying Shelley Wolfe.

The couple were allowed to wed after getting a judge to waive the state's three-day waiting period. The waiver was granted after the couple claimed the wait was stressful on Keeton, who is
pregnant and due in August.

The couple, who will go by the last name Keeton, were married by the Rev. Peg Esperanza of the Church of the Holy Spirit. She later married at least two other couples, all at no charge.

"God sent me here today, and I've said OK," said Esperanza, a lesbian who plans to marry her partner in October.

A poll by the University of Iowa taken just before the high court's ruling showed 26 percent of Iowans support gay marriage. That number rises to more than 50 percent when people were asked if they supported either gay marriage or civil unions.

"If they want to marry, I don't see a reason not to let them," said Joe Biase, a 31-year-old college student from Des Moines. "For a state in the heartland, it's come a long way."

Tom Wittman, 55, of Johnston, agreed.

"I think it's fine," he said. "It is an issue of equal rights."

There's some basic wisdom from the heartland.

April 27, 2009

Presbyterians Move Closer to Ordaining Gays

GLBT people have not won the war yet, but they are winnng more battles for equality in the Presbyterian Church. From the Associated Press via MSNBC:

Efforts to allow gays and lesbians to serve as clergy in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) have been defeated again, sealed by votes Saturday.

But the margin of defeat — the final tally has yet to be determined — is already guaranteed to be much closer than in previous years. That is encouraging for gay clergy supporters and concerning to opponents, with both sides expecting the issue to be revisited in the future.

Before Saturday, the total was 68 presbyteries for and 86 opposed, or one shy of the margin needed for defeat, according to Presbyterian News Service, the denomination's official press arm.
Previous efforts to delete the "fidelity and chastity" provision failed at the presbytery level by votes of 57-115 in 1997-1998 and 46-127 in 2001-2002.

Twenty-eight of the 127 presbyteries that voted no in 2001-2002 have voted in favor of this year's amendment. Many of them, supporters of the change pointed out, were in traditionally conservative states such as Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee.

One surprising exception was the San Francisco presbytery, which voted no.

"The tide is turning before our very eyes in understanding that GLBT men and women are loved by God and called to ministry," said the Rev. Janet Edwards, co-moderator of More Light Presbyterians, which supports changing the ordination standards. "The church is catching up with the love Jesus has for all God's children."

Isn't it sad that the Church has to catch up to Jesus' love instead of leading the way. This continues to be symptomatic of most organized religion, but at least the Presbyterian Church is moving in the right direction. It seems a short matter of time before GLBT people will have the same right to serve God within that denomination as everyone else.

Organized religion has a way of putting restraints on people, but Jesus truly wants everyone to be set free and have the opportunity to fully use the gifts He blessed them with to serve Hiim.

April 26, 2009

Sunday Worship 4/26/09

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 and make a joyful noise unto the Lord!

Live Sunday Services (all times Eastern)
AL-Covenant Community Church, Birmingham, 11:45 AM
FL-Potters House International Fellowship, Tampa, 11:00 AM
VA-Believers Covenant Fellowship, Vienna, 11:00 AM
OK-Diversity Christian Fellowship International, Tulsa, 1:00 PM
CA-Glory Tabernacle Christian Center, Long Beach, 1:00 PM
WA-Living Water Fellowship, Kenmore, 1:30 PM

Video Archive
AL-Covenant Community Church, Birmingham
CA-Glory Tabernacle Christian Center, Long Beach
FL-Church of the Holy SpiritSong, Ft. Lauderdale
FL-Potters House International Fellowship, Tampa
GA-Gentle Spirit Christian Church, Atlanta
MI-Christ Community Church, Spring Lake, MI
OK-Expressions Community Fellowship, Oklahoma City
OK-Diversity Christian Fellowship International, Tulsa
WA-Living Water Fellowship, Kenmore