Another Red State Nail in the Coffin for Gay Marriage Bans

This doesn’t challenge the Kentucky ban directly, but it clearly prepare the way. In striking down the Kentucky prohibition on recognizing same – sex marriages from other states, the reasons given by Judge Heyburn could be also be used to challenge the ban itself:

  • The ban violates the US Constitution guarantee of equal protection
  • Tradition does not justify marriage statutes that violate individual liberties

Ky. ban on gay marriages from other states struck down

A federal judge Wednesday struck down Kentucky’s ban on recognizing valid same-sex marriages performed in other states, saying it violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law.

U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II joined nine other federal and state courts in invalidating such bans.

Ruling in a suit brought by four gay and lesbian couples, Heyburn said that while “religious beliefs … are vital to the fabric of society … assigning a religious or traditional rationale for a law does not make it constitutional when that law discriminates against a class of people without other reasons.”

Heyburn said “it is clear that Kentucky’s laws treat gay and lesbian persons differently in a way that demeans them.”

Citing the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling throwing out the Defense of Marriage Act, Heyburn struck down the portion of Kentucky’s 2004 constitutional amendment that said “only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Kentucky.”

Heyburn did not rule that Kentucky must allow gay marriages to be performed in the state.

In a 23-page ruling, Heyburn said Kentucky’s sole justification for the the amendment was that was it was “rationally related to the legitimate government interest of preserving the state’s institution of traditional marriage.”

But Heyburn noted that over the past 40 years, the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to allow mere tradition to justify marriage statutes that violate individual liberties, such as the ban on interracial marriages that was once the law in Virginia, Kentucky and other states.

via USA Today

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Rev. Chellew-Hodge’s New Year Advice: Keep Pressing “Play”

Rev. Candace Chellew-Hodge has some sound New Year’s advice for LGBT Christians, taken from two principles stated by the instructor on an exercise workout CD: persevere, and do not be discouraged by setbacks.

The first of these is “keep hitting `play`”:

When we keep pressing play, we approach each new day as a brand new start, a clean slate. We can put yesterday’s failures, yesterday’s disappointments, yesterday’s disasters behind us and look forward. When we keep pressing play, we keep giving ourselves permission to hope, permission to look forward to what the new year — and every new day — holds. When we keep pressing play, we open ourselves to the Holy mystery that constantly occurs in, through and around us. Continue reading

Bans Of Same-Sex Marriage Can Take A Psychological Toll : NPR

As the country awaits two important Supreme Court decisions involving state laws on same-sex marriage, a small but consistent body of research suggests that laws that ban gay marriage — or approve it — can affect the mental health of gay, lesbian and bisexual Americans.

Opponents of same-sex marriage participate in the March for Marriage in Washington, D.C., on March 26

Opponents of same-sex marriage participate in the March for Marriage in Washington, D.C., on March 26

When several states passed laws to prohibit same-sex marriage, for example, the mental health of gay residents seemed to suffer, while stress-related disorders dropped in at least one state after gay marriage was legalized.

Here’s the research trail:

Beginning around 2004, several states banned gay marriage. Just before that series of bans, the National Institutes of Health happened to conduct a massive survey of 43,093 Americans. The questions elicited detailed information about respondents’ mental health. (To validate what people reported about themselves, psychiatrists also interviewed samples of the people in the survey, and their medical diagnoses closely matched the findings of the survey.)

Soon after the wave of state bans on gay marriage, in 2004 and 2005, the NIMH conducted a second round of interviews, managing to reach 34,653 of the original respondents. (That’s a high rate compared to most polls and surveys.)

Mark Hatzenbuehler, a psychologist at Columbia University who studies the health effects of social policies, analyzed the data gathered before and after the bans to determine how the mental health of people who identified themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual had changed in those states.

Hatzenbuehler and his colleagues Katie McLaughlin, Katherine Keyes and Deborah Hasin published their analysis in 2010 in the American Journal of Public Health.

“Lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals who lived in the states that banned same sex marriage experienced a significant increase in psychiatric disorders,” Hatzenbuehler says.

“There was a 37 percent increase in mood disorders,” he says, “a 42 percent increase in alcohol-use disorders, and — I think really strikingly — a 248 percent increase in generalized anxiety disorders.”

 – continue reading at NPR.

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U.S. Presbyterian Church at crossroads over gay marriage | Reuters

Midwestern minister Greg Smith is considering an act of ecclesiastical disobedience.

Deeply sympathetic to gay rights since his son, Matty, came out as gay a decade ago, the lifelong Presbyterian told his son he will officiate at his wedding, defying church policy.

“I believe that we’re doing more harm than good prolonging the inevitable,” said Smith, who at 64 is retired but still ministers in Des Moines, Iowa.

“On this issue, there is no mechanism for pastors to express conscientious objection without either defying church authority or demitting from one’s pastoral call. And that’s extremely stressful and distressing.”

Like many other denominations, the Presbyterian Church(U.S.A.), the 10th largest U.S. religion according to the National Council of Churches, is in the grips of a crisis over gay marriage.

The 2.7-million-strong church has lost about 500,000 members over the last decade, and church leaders fear that an endorsement of same-sex marriage could spur an exodus of Christians who view it as incompatible with biblical teachings.

But failing to act could mean the church is viewed as irrelevant and homophobic by young and progressive members.

Earlier this month at its General Assembly, a gathering held every two years, church leaders rejected a constitutional change, by a vote of 338-308, that would have defined marriage as between two people, rather than a man and a woman.

Some have said the church was moving too fast. Just two years ago, the church agreed to open the ranks of its clergy to homosexuals, prompting dozens of congregations to split off to join more conservative denominations or to form their own.

“The Assembly was trying to hold together a broken church with both hands, trying to honor people on both ends of the spectrum who feel pain around the issues of marriage,” said Reverend Aimee Moiso, who led the assembly’s committee on marriage.

“But we did manage something miraculous: In a polarized church and nation, we spent several days trying to figure out a way to stay together across our divisions,” she said.

– more at Reuters.

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(American Lesbian) Pauli Murray bound for sainthood

The late Rev. Pauli Murray, a woman of many accomplishments – civil rights activist, feminist, author, lawyer and the first female African American Episcopal priest – will likely be named in the next few days to The Episcopal Church’s book, “Holy Women, Holy Men.”

Her nomination is up for a vote at the Anglican denomination’s general convention, meeting in Indianapolis through Thursday.

If it passes, Murray will have her own date on the Church calendar, July 1. Later this month, St. Titus’ Episcopal Church, where Murray worshipped, will hold its annual service in celebration of her work. She was born in 1910 and died in 1985. Murray’s impact goes beyond just her racial and gender barrier breaking in the church.

“Pauli Murray’s significance to The Episcopal Church is as a pioneer, as an advocate for racial reconciliation, an agent for social justice, racial and gender equality both in the church and society,” said Rev. Brooks Graebner, rector of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Hillsborough and member of the steering committee of the Pauli Murray Project based at Duke.

“I would consider her a woman who in many ways anticipated major movements in the life of church and society,” Graebner said.

After being turned away from UNC Chapel Hill’s graduate school in 1938, Murray participated in civil rights protests in the early 1940s and graduated first in her class and the only woman from Howard Law School in 1944. In 1965, she was the first African American to receive a J.S.D. from Yale. A year later, she was a founding member of the National Organization for Women.

Among her law and other publications is the memoir “Proud Shoes: The Story of an American Family,” regarded as her seminal work. In it, she talks about growing up multi-racial in Durham’s West End. She became a priest in 1977.

The Episcopal Church’s book of saints, “Holy Women, Holy Men,” is a major revision of “Lesser Feasts and Fasts,” a worship book that included biographies of those commemorated on the church calendar. In 2009, the last time The Episcopal Church General Convention was held, more than 100 women and men were named to the new book in trial usage. Murray is among a handful to be considered at this year’s convention.

Read more: The Herald-Sun 

(What is not stated in the Herald-Sun, but is clearly stated on Wikipedia, is that “She was a lesbian”).

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Jemima Wilkinson: Queer preacher reborn in 1776 as “Publick Universal Friend”

Jemima Wilkinson / Publick Universal Friend (Wikimedia Commons)

Jemima Wilkinson (1752-1819) was a queer American preacher who woke from a near-death experience in 1776 believing she was neither male nor female. She changed her name to the “Publick Universal Friend,” fought for gender equality and founded an important religious community. This fascinating person died almost 200 years ago today on July 1, 1819.

Wilkinson is recognized as the first American-born woman to found a religious group, but is also called a “transgender evangelist.” The breakaway Quaker preacher spoke against slavery and gave medical care to both sides in the Revolutionary War.

It’s especially appropriate to consider the Publick Universal Friend now with Independence Day coming up on July 4. In 1776, the same year that America issued the Declaration of Independence, Wilkinson declared her own independence from gender.

– full report at Jesus in Love blog

Wilkinson was 24 when she had a severe fever leading to a near-death experience. Upon waking she confidently announced to her surprised family that Jemima Wilkinson had died and her body was now inhabited by a genderless “Spirit of Life from God” sent to preach to the world. She insisted on being called the Publick Universal Friend or simply “the Friend.” From then on, the Friend refused to respond to her birth name or use gendered pronouns.

The preacher and prophet known as “the Friend” defies categorization. The Friend has been labeled a “spiritual transvestite” and is on lists of “famous asexuals” and “a gender variance Who’s Who.” As a gender nonconformist whose life was devoted to God, the Friend fits the definition of a queer saint. The androgynous Friend was many things to many people.

Jemima Wilkinson was born to a Quaker family in Rhode Island on Nov. 29, 1752. She showed a strong interest in religion while growing up. On Oct. 13, 1776, the Sunday after her rebirth, the Friend’s gave a public sermon for the first time. Quaker officials rejected the Friend as a heretic, but s/he went on to preach throughout Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania.

The Friend blended traditional Christian warnings about sin and redemption with Quaker pacifism, abolitionism, plain dress and peaceful relations with Native American Indians. Women had no legal rights in the United States, but the Friend advocated equality of the sexes. The Friend was a firm believer in sexual abstinence.

People were drawn not only to this progressive message, but also to the Friend’s forceful personality and genderbending appearance. S/he rejected standard women’s attire and hairdos for a unique blend of male and female. The Friend commonly wore a flowing black male clergy gown with female petticoats peeking out at the hem. The Friend’s long hair hung loose to the shoulder. The rest of the Friend’s outfit often included a man’s broad-brimmed hat and women’s colorful scarves.

The first recruits were family members, but the Friend soon attracted a diverse group of followers, including intellectual and economic elites as well as the poor and oppressed. Known as the Universal Friends, they upset some people by proclaiming that the Friend was “the Messiah Returned” or “Christ in Female Form.” The Friend did not make such claims directly.

The Friend founded the Society of Universal Friends in 1783. Members pooled their money and started a utopian communal settlement in the wilderness near Seneca Lake in upstate New York in 1788. As the first settlers in the region, they cleared the land and became the first white people to meet and trade with the Native Americans there. By 1790 the community had grown to a population of 260.

Hostile observers put the Friend on trial for blasphemy in 1800, but the court ruled that American courts could not try blasphemy cases due to the separation of church and state in the U.S. constitution. The Friend was a pioneer in establishing freedom of speech and freedom of religion in American law.

Like other isolated utopian communities based on celibacy, the Society of Universal Friends dwindled. The Friend “left time,” as the Universal Friends put it, on July 1, 1819 at age 61. The organization disintegrated within a few years of the founder’s death.

The Publick Universal Friend continues to fascinate people today. One of the most authoritative biographies of this mysterious person is Pioneer Prophetess: Jemima Wilkinson, the Publick Universal Friend by Herbert A. Wisbey Jr. In recent years the life and work of the Friend has been examined by feminists and LGBTQ scholars, including gay historian Michael Bronski in his new Lambda Literary Award-winning book, A Queer History of the United States.
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Related links:
Chapter on Jemima Wilkinson from “Saints, Sinners and Reformers” by John H. Martin(Crooked Lake Review)

The Assumption of Jemima Wilkinson by Sharon V. Betcher (Journal of Millenial Studies)
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This post is part of the GLBT Saints series by Kittredge Cherry at the Jesus in Love Blog. Saints, martyrs, mystics, prophets, witnesses, heroes, holy people, deities and religious figures of special interest to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) and queer people and our allies are covered on appropriate dates throughout the year.

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The Truth in Transgender: Will the Episcopal Church Amend Its Rules?

Out of the Box documentary challenges the church on transgender inclusion

Why Add the “T” to “LGB”?

As the Episcopal Church prepares for its 77th triennial General Convention in Indianapolis next month, transgender Episcopalians and their allies are preparing to challenge the denomination’s commitment to the full inclusion of all God’s people—without consideration of “race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, disabilities or age”—in discernment for lay or ordained ministry in the Church. The italicized language is a proposed addition to the current canons of the Episcopal Church, which were previously amended to include sexual orientation as a characteristic that could not be considered as an impediment to ministry. The new language was proposed at the 2009 General Convention, and was passed by majorities of lay and ordained deputies. However, Episcopal bishops amended the proposed new canonical language to remove reference to gender identity specifically, preferring broader language that would ensure access to all the ministries of the Church by “all baptized persons.” Members of the trans community and their advocates persuaded deputies that the bishops’ revised language obscured the challenges faced by transgender Episcopalians, and the amendment was defeated.

“I think there was a tremendous amount of confusion the first time around,” says Louise Emerson Brooks, a media consultant and communications director for the Episcopal LGBT advocacy group Integrity USA, of the failure of the 2009 resolution. “There was a clear need for education among the bishops and the delegates in general on what it means to be transgender and why it matters that they are not prevented from serving the Church in any ministry, lay or ordained.”

“I have to confess,” continues Brooks,

“that I was one of those people who used to say, ‘Why do we have to put the Twith the LGB?’ I thought it was a different issue. I thought it was confusing. I thought it was polarizing. I thought we should just separate the issues, take on one battle at a time.”

A seminar by the advocacy group Trans Episcopal changed Brooks’ understanding of the issues, and Brooks channeled her own learning experience into Voices of Witness: Out of the Box, a documentary that tells the story of trans women and men now serving in ordained ministry in the Episcopal Church.

-full report at Religion Dispatches

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