Monthly Archives: August 2008

Del Martin Dies at 87

Flags in San Fransisco’s Castro District are flying at half staff today in honor of Gay Rights Pioneer Del Martin’s passing this morning. Ms. Martin and her wife Phyllis Lyon have been trailblazers in the Gay Rights movement since the early days in the 1950s. For more information on Del Martin’s life and her passing, please follow the link to the Box Turtle Bulletin‘s wonderful article on Del’s life and her passing.

Del (right) and her wife exchanged vows in 2004, and again in 2008.
Del (right) and her wife exchanged vows in 2004, and again in 2008.

Phyllis Lyon made the following statement today.

Ever since I met Del 55 years ago, I could never imagine a day would come when she wouldn’t be by my side. I am so lucky to have known her, loved her, and been her partner in all things. I also never imagined there would be a day that we would actually be able to get married. I am devastated, but I take some solace in knowing we were able to enjoy the ultimate rite of love and commitment before she passed.

Del Martin is survived by her partner of over 55 years and wife of two months, as well as daughter Kendra Mon. Family and friends have requested that donations in her memory be made to the No On 8 campaign.

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Florida Community Backs Gay-Bashing Principal

Members of a Holmes County, Florida community just don’t understand the problem.

Last September, a senior at Ponce de Leon High went to a teacher’s aide because several students were gay-bashing her, calling her “gross” and “sick”, along with other epithets. That aide referred the incident to Principal David Davis, who called the young woman into his office and told her to avoid those kids or he’d suspend her. Oh, and stop being a lesbian. Then he called her parents and outed her to them.

But Mr. Davis didn’t stop there. Here’s an incomplete list of what this high school principal did. (View the full report here (pdf) with thanks to the Box Turtle Bulletin.)

  • Had a local minister lead a mandatory “morality assembly”. At the public high school. In response, students began to protest by wearing gay pride shirts, writing slogans on their arms, circulating petitions, shouting “Gay Pride” in the halls.
  • Interrogated about 30 students he thought might be gay. Those who identified as gay were forbidden to talk about their homosexuality. They were also forbidden from wearing or having anything in their  possession that indicated “Gay Pride”.
  • Nine days later, suspended a third of the interrogated students for belonging to a “secret society”.
  • Told the mother of one of the students that he could have her daughter taken away and that “if there was a man in your house, your children were in church, you wouldn’t behaving any of these gay issues.”

Then one bright young woman, high school junior Heather Gillman, decided to take action. Her cousin was one of the suspended, and through an attorney, Ms. Gillman sent a letter to the board of education requesting clarification on Mr. Davis’ policy of suspending people for being gay or not hating gay people. Specifically, asked for permission to display rainbows, pink triangles, and/or one of the following phrases, all of which were expressly forbidden by Mr. Davis:

  • Equal, Not Special Rights
  • Gay? Fine By Me
  • Gay Pride or GP
  • I Support My Gay Friends
  • I Support Gays
  • God Loves Me Just the Way I Am
  • I’m Straight, But I Vote Pro-Gay
  • I Support Equal Marriage Rights
  • Pro-Gay Marriage
  • Sexual Orientation is Not a Choice. Religion, However, Is.

The school board replied that none of the images or slogans were permitted to be displayed on school grounds in any way because of Mr. Davis’ secret society argument, as well as the disruption it causes. I guess in Florida a t-shirt is more disruptive than outing a bunch of kids, which is a whole lot of disruptive.

Ms. Gillman contacted the ACLU, and with their help sued the school district. In late July, Northern Florida District Judge Richard Smoak ruled against the school district to the tune of the request: One dollar to Ms. Gillman, plaintiff’s court costs, and court mandated correction to the policy.

Now. Getting back to my original statement, members of the community don’t understand why everyone’s so het up, if you’ll pardon the phrase. In fact, they’re downright outraged that the board voted to remove Mr. Davis from his role as principal. According to an Associated Press article and a local TV news report, both published yesterday, they’re bewildered that this is such an issue.

Some even say that Davis is a hero. At last week’s school board meeting, a member of the crowd says, “He didn’t abandon you, but you abandoned him and you abandoned the values of the people of Holmes County.” Another claims that “David Davis is a fine man and good principal, and we are a gentle, peaceful, Christian, family-oriented community. We aren’t out to tar and feather anyone.”

This is a great example of the reason we need laws to protect members of the LGTB community. There are people in the United States who don’t understand that suspending someone from school for being gay or just liking gay people means that you are not “a fine man”. There are people who don’t see the problem with calling up a 17-year-old girl’s parents and telling them that she’s a lesbian. There are people who think it’s normal to tell a mother that he’ll take her child away because the child is gay.

And there are still places that will hire someone like David Davis.

Instead of just cutting Mr. Davis loose, this man who did such damage to the student body, they put him back in the classroom. What does he teach? In the ultimate of ironies, the Ponce de Leon school board assigned him to teach American Government.

John McCain’s VP Search: Anti-Gay or the Highway

In an interview yesterday with Stephen F. Hayes of the Weekly Standard, Arizona Senator John McCain discussed requirements for potential running mates. In response to a question about pro-choice Republicans, McCain had this to say:

I think it’s a fundamental tenet of our party to be pro-life but that does not mean we exclude people from our party that are pro-choice. We just have a–albeit strong–but just it’s a disagreement. And I think Ridge is a great example of that. Far moreso than Bloomberg, because Bloomberg is pro-gay rights, pro, you know, a number of other issues.

Note that McCain isn’t talking about having a problem with someone who favors gay marriage or gay adoption. This is pro-gay anything. In only slightly other words, McCain requires that the Vice President of his administration be anti-gay.

After McCain’s interview last month with The New York Times I shouldn’t be surprised. In it he said had this response to a question about gays adopting:

I think that we’ve proven that both parents are important in the success of a family so, no I don’t believe in gay adoption.

That’s a faulty ‘whereas’ and faulty logic for the ‘therefore’ in order to come to the faulty and, yes, bigoted conclusion that gays shouldn’t be permitted to have families.

The evidence is clear. A McCain administration, God help us, would be virulently anti-gay. If this is what McCain says to the press, I can’t imagine how hostile he must be in private.

I don’t generally advocate single-issue voting, but I’ll make an exception this time around. A vote for John McCain is a vote for the restriction and reduction of basic civil rights. America can’t afford that anymore.

Baptist Professor Trots Out Tired Tactics

It gets so tiresome, hearing the same nonsense arguments over and over. I suppose the other side probably feels the same about us, but really, can’t we stop the false comparisons between homosexuality and pedophilia? At the very least, educated people should know better.

But that’s not the world we live in. Today we’ll look at an article from George Guthrie, a professor of Bible at Union University in Tennessee. Today I ran across his article “No True Compassion Apart From Revelation” from the Associated Baptist Press. In it, he has this to say:

I am also concerned that there exists a short step from affirming homosexuality on the basis of one’s constitution, to affirming other forms of sexual expression, such as pedophilia, on the same basis. Some of our homosexual friends would abhor the idea, but we are talking about constitutionality as a basis for making ethical decisions, and there are those in the global, heterosexual and homosexual communities who already put pedophilia forward on the basis of it being “natural.” My point is not that all homosexuals are pedophiles, but that constitutionality forms a terribly poor basis for promoting an ethical stance on homosexuality.

It’s interesting how Dr. Guthrie equates gays with child molesters long enough to plant a frame of mind, and then attaches the requisite ‘You misunderstood me!’ line at the end. Just in case someone like me is paying attention to the undercurrent of his musings.

But it gets worse, as Dr. Guthrie makes some bold and outright false claims. Claims that reveal his true character:

I am sure to be accused of lacking compassion for those embracing a homosexual lifestyle, and that grieves me. Yet, is it a rightly applied compassion that affirms a lifestyle that too often compromises the physical and emotional well being of fellow human beings? The data seems to indicate that homosexual practice for both couples and individuals leads to a greatly reduced life expectancy (as much as three decades, and not just due to AIDS). Among homosexual men, for instance, there exists a much higher risk of rectal cancer and rectal trauma (which causes a much higher risk of a wide range of diseases). Is it compassionate to affirm such a lifestyle?

It’s reasonable to assume (he doesn’t include any references) that the ‘greatly reduced life expectancy’ he’s talking about is based on ‘research’ done by Paul Cameron and the so-called Family Research Institute, an openly anti-gay organization. ‘Research’ that was panned almost universally outside anti-gay circles. ‘Research’ that was condemned by the authors of the 20-year-old study on which it was based.

Or maybe he’s talking about a study (this one based on science!) published by the Journal of the National Cancer Institute in 2005. The one that looks at the very real increased instance of rectal cancer in men who are A) sexually active with B) more than five partners and who C) use alkyl nitrites during sex (Is Dr. Guthrie suggesting that all gays are pill-popping, bed-hopping sex hounds? Last I knew, it was possible to be gay and monogamous. And even if we/they aren’t, are non-monogamous gays undeserving of basic Godly respect?), OR who carry human papillomavirus (HPV), the virus often associated with cervical cancer in women (I wonder what Dr. Guthrie has to say about those women.).

There’s more, but I think we know enough about Dr. Guthrie to understand his point quite well, even if he isn’t willing to own up to it. It bothers me that someone like him is in a teaching position, but I’m more disturbed by the rest of his CV. Dr. Guthrie has been in a position to affect translation of the Bible, and God only knows what bias and balderdash he’s managed to shoehorn in.

Dr. Guthrie, in response to your article, I am not equivalent to child molesters, and you know better than to use a slippery slope argument, faulty pseudo-scientific studies, and misrepresented research in the first place.

I couldn’t care less if you’re compassionate, Dr. Guthrie. You can take that up with the Lord one day. What I care about is that you stop treating my Baptist brothers and sisters and all the rest of us as if we’re weak, diseased, pitiable creatures. We are made in the image of God, and God requires that you treat us better than this.

Reaction to GC2008: The Deafening Silence

[Note: Last in a series of six. Links to parts 1-5 at bottom of this post.]

We’ve looked at the Conferences that answered the embarrassing injustice of General Conference 2008. Some took strong stances and some put feelers out and promised to work toward better understanding.

Now comes the uncomfortable part, the naming of the Conferences that decided, either by loss or lack of a vote, that they were comfortable with the way things are. They’re comfortable with Judicial Council Ruling 1032. They were comfortable with ¶161G in the Book of Discipline. They were comfortable showing hate instead of love, giving a snake instead of a fish, reveling in their prejudice instead of owning the truth.

Let me be clear. I know that not everyone in these Conferences agrees with GC2008. If you are one of those people (whether you’re in one of these Conferences or not), your job is to make it known to your fellow congregants, to your minister, to your District Superintendent, to your Bishop. For heaven’s sake, find out who your delegates are and tell them. Your voice matters. In some ways, if you’re straight, it matters more than mine, because you don’t have a vested interest in the battle.

But if you’re silent, nothing will change.

Here, then, are the 53 Annual Conferences that remained silent on the issue of homosexuality and inclusiveness of the UMC in 2008.

Alabama-West Florida Conference (Alabama, panhandle of Florida)

Alaska Missionary Conference

Arkansas Conference

Central Pennsylvania Conference

Dakotas Conference (North Dakota, South Dakota)

Desert Southwest Conference (Arizona, southeast Nevada)

Detroit Conference (Northern and Eastern Michigan)

East Ohio Conference

Eastern Pennsylvania Conference

Florida Conference

Greater New Jersey Conference

Holston Conference (Eastern Tennessee, Southeastern Kentucky, Western tip of Virginia)

Illinois Great Rivers (Southern Illinois)

Iowa Conference

Kansas East Conference

Kansas West Conference

Kentucky Conference

Louisiana Conference

Memphis Conference (Western Tennessee)

Minnesota Conference

Mississippi Conference

Missouri Conference

Nebraska Conference

New England Conference (Eastern Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island)

New Mexico Conference (New Mexico, Northeastern Arizona, Western Texas)

New York Conference (Southwestern New York)

North Alabama Conference

North Carolina Conference (Eastern North Carolina)

North Central New York Conference

North Georgia Conference

North Indiana Conference

North Texas Conference

Northwest Texas Conference

Oklahoma Conference

Oregon-Idaho Conference (Oregon, Southern Idaho)

Peninsula-Delaware Conference (Delaware, Eastern Maryland)

Red Bird Missionary Conference (Southeast Kentucky)

Rio Grande Conference

South Carolina Conference

South Georgia Conference

South Indiana Conference

Southwest Texas Conference

Tennessee Conference (mid-Tennessee)

Texas Conference (Central and Southern Texas)

Troy Conference (Vermont, Northeastern New York)

Virginia Conference (non-Holston Virginia)

West Michigan Conference

West Virginia Conference

Western New York Conference

Western North Carolina

Western Pennsylvania Conference

Wisconsin Conference

Wyoming Conference (Northeastern Pennsylvania, Southwestern New York)

Yellowstone Conference (Montana, Northwestern Wyoming)

(If any of these are incorrect, please drop a comment. Most Conferences don’t make their resolutions easily available for some reason, so some Conferences are on this list based on their press releases. I would be overjoyed to make a correction.)

Reaction to GC2008: Western Jurisdiction

[Note: Part five in a series of six. Links to parts 1-4 and part 6 at bottom of this post as they are published.]

Western Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church
Western Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church

In this fifth post identifying official reactions to General Conference 2008, we’ll be looking at the Western Jurisdiction. This is a long one, so grab a refreshing beverage before you start in.

Rainy Days and Mondays
Rainy Days and Mondays

In the Western Jurisdiction, four Annual Conferences approved official reactions to Fort Worth. First is the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference. They approved sending a letter to the Council of Bishops “and the members of the Judicial Council asking their support for petitions that oppose homophobia and heterosexism and repenting from acts of hate and violence and educate its members about those topics.”

While not the strongest resolution, Pacific Northwest made an interesting play by engaging the Judicial Council, a major part of the problem since Decision 1032. It’ll be interesting to see how this new more progressive Judicial Council rules on like matters.

The Square States
The Square States

Next we look at the Rocky Mountain Annual Conference, covering Colorado, Utah, most of Wyoming. They also had an innovative response, affirming the Majority Report that was rejected at General Conference 2008. This Majority Report, among other things, would have removed the “incompatible with Christian teaching” nonsense from ¶161G of the Book of Discipline. The resolution, which follows, can also be found on this document (pdf) along with the full text of the Majority Report.

RESOLUTION ON HUMAN SEXUALITY
IN THE ROCKY MOUNTAIN CONFERENCE

Be it resolved that The Rocky Mountain Annual Conference affirms the statement known as The Majority Report, adopted by the Human Sexuality Sub-Committee and the larger Church & Society II Legislative Committee of the General Conference of the United Methodist Church on April 27, 2008.

Rationale:
The 2008 General Conference of the United Methodist Church convened under the theme “A Future With Hope” and, beginning with the opening worship service, expressed a new and genuine spirit to move beyond some of the language of the past and affirm new language that is more faithful to witnesses from both past and current holy conferencing, as well as our Scriptural call to live the gospel in the Spirit of Christ.

The members of the General Conference Legislative Committee known as Church & Society II were prayerfully selected to represent a broad scope of faithful United Methodists, both clergy and laity and from all parts of the theological spectrum, in their task of considering petitions submitted by United Methodists spanning our global connection.

The General Conference’s Church & Society II Sub-committee entitled Human Sexuality engaged in lengthy, thorough, and genuine holy conferencing around the subject of Human Sexuality found in ¶ 161 G of the Book of Discipline. Their prayerful work became the Majority Report of the Church and Society II Legislative Committee.

This statement was and is a product of honest and genuine holy conferencing and represents a reflection of both grace and truth of which United Methodists throughout our connection can be proud. The spirit of this statement is clearly the heart of our future and a reflection, we believe, of the grace and truth of Jesus Christ.

It is our prayer that The Rocky Mountain Annual Conference will affirm this statement and allow us to move forward, fully embracing “A Future of Hope”. We, the 2008 Rocky Mountain Conference Delegation, feel it expresses a respectful middle ground in an attitude of seeking understanding and the leadership of the Holy Spirit.

We commit ourselves to let this statement guide our own relationships with one another in this Conference and with our surrounding culture.

Where the Sun Always Shines
Where the Sun Always Shines

Next we have the California-Pacific Annual Conference, which covers Southern California, Hawaii, Guam, and other US territories in the Pacific. I have the full text of their three resolutions, and they’re pretty wordy, so I’ll shut up and let them speak for themselves. (Thanks to Rev. Craig Dorval and his blog The Daily Observation for putting them online.)

Pastoral Response to Legality of Same-Gender Marriage in California

Whereas many people who we know and love in our parishes are celebrating with overflowing joy the recent California Supreme Court decision to recognize their place in society and their right to be married, and

Whereas beloved same-gender couples in our parishes are coming to us with their desire to celebrate their love and commitment, and to have those affirmed not only by the state but by their faith community as well, and

Whereas
the legality of same-sex marriage in California, the needs of our parishes, and the demands of love require a pastoral response from the clergy and congregations of the California-Pacific Annual Conference,

Therefore, be it resolved
that we recognize the pastoral need and prophetic authority of our clergy and congregations to offer the ministry of marriage ceremonies for same-gender couples.

Be it further resolved, while we recognize that we are governed by the Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, we support those pastors who conscientiously respond to the needs of their parishes by celebrating same-gender marriages, and we envision compassion and understanding in any resulting disciplinary actions.


Protecting Marriage Equality in California
[Opposition to “California Marriage Protection Act”]

Whereas the Book of Discipline 2004 states in ¶162(h) that: “Certain basic human rights and civil liberties are due all persons. We are committed to supporting those rights and liberties for homosexual persons,” and “We insist that all persons, regardless of age, gender, martial status, or sexual orientation, are entitled to have their human and civil rights ensured,” and

Whereas the 2008 session of the General Conference of the United Methodist Church, held in Fort Worth, Texas, has adopted the resolution titled Opposition to Homophobia and Heterosexism, calling on: “The United Methodist Church strengthen its advocacy of the eradication of sexism by opposing all forms of violence or discrimination based on gender, gender identity, sexual practice or sexual orientation,” and

Whereas the Supreme Court of the State of California ruled in the case of In re: Marriage Cases (2008), when it struck down a state ban on same-sex marriage, has found the right to marry to be civil right of all citizens, and that “the essence of the right to marry is freedom to join in marriage with the person of one’s choice,” and that “An individual’s sexual orientation – like a person’s race or gender – does not constitute a legitimate basis upon which to deny or withhold legal rights.”

Whereas a so called “California Marriage Protection Amendment” will appear on the November 4, 2008 General Election ballot, seeking to overturn the California Supreme Court decision, and

Whereas this amendment would be a profound misuse of our state constitution for the purpose of restricting the civil rights of one group of citizens, such an amendment would be in direct contradiction of the principles and spirit of the United Methodist Church:

Therefore, be it resolved that the 2008 Session of the California-Pacific Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church Opposes the California Marriage Protection Amendment, and calls upon United Methodists in favor of the defeat of this act to work with all their might for its defeat, and

Be it further resolved that we call upon the laity and clergy of our churches in the California-Pacific Annual Conference to answer the call of General Conference by providing a witness against heterosexism and any discrimination based on sexual orientation, and in so doing, to be actively involved in protecting the civil rights of all Californians as they pertain to the right to civil marriage, working through correspondence with elected officials, through public venues such as newspapers, periodicals, radio and television, and the venues offered by the internet, and through other opportunities as they rise.


Affirmation of Marriage Equality in California

Background
On May 15, 2008, The California Supreme Court issued its decision holding that marriage is a basic civil right of personal autonomy and liberty to which all persons are entitled without regard to their sexual orientation. The week the California Pacific Annual Conference 2008 will be in session, history will be made in California as legal marriage becomes available to gay and lesbian couples. Gay and lesbian couples in many of our churches will be married in the weeks and months to come.Whereas California has led the marriage equality movement, beginning 60 years ago, by striking down laws prohibiting marriage between interracial couples (Perez v. Sharp, 1948);

Whereas on May 15, 2008, the California Supreme Court issued its decision holding that marriage is a basic civil right of personal autonomy and liberty to which all persons are entitled without regard to their sexual orientation; and

Whereas as a result of the Supreme Court’s decision, the State of California will begin to license and recognize same-gender marriages on June 16, 2008;

Whereas the Social Principles of the United Methodist Church states that “certain basic human rights and civil liberties are due all persons. We are committed to supporting those rights and liberties for homosexual persons.” (¶162.H)

Whereas The United Methodist Church understands family “to be the basic human community through which persons are nurtured and sustained in mutual love, responsibility, respect, and fidelity.” (¶161.A)

Whereas the California Pacific Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church has had a long history of ministry with, by and for lesbians and gay men through which the Holy Spirit has taught us the sacred worth of all persons and our ministries have been shaped accordingly;

Therefore be it resolved that the California-Pacific Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church celebrates the Supreme Court decision regarding marriage equality;

Be it further resolved that the California-Pacific Annual Conference of the United Methodist church support same-gender couples who enter into the marriage covenant and encourage both congregations and pastors to welcome, embrace and provide spiritual nurture and pastoral care for these families.

I'm all out of captions
I'm all out of captions

Finally, the California-Nevada Conference adopted a resolution in support of marriage equality in California as well as a separate supporting retired United Methodist elders who have offered to conduct same-gender marriage ceremonies and Holy Unions in response to the May 15 California Supreme Court ruling extending “right to marry” protection to same-gender couples.

A month later, retiring California-Nevada Bishop Beverly J. Shamana issued a ruling declaring the statement “void and of no effect,” saying:

“While the resolution is a commendable gesture to the congregations of the conference in offering the pastoral counsel of a number of retired clergy to persons contemplating same-gender marriage under the laws of California, it steps over a disciplinary line when it commends these clergy to the congregations for the purpose of ‘performing same gender marriages or holy unions.”

Following Bishop Shamana’s ruling, leaders for the retired clergy vowed to continue performing marriage ceremonies as long as they were needed.

Meantime, delegates from their home Western Jurisdiction passed several resolutions challenging the Church’s official limits on the participation of LGTB folks, and delegates from the Northeast Jurisdiction passed a resolution supporting the clergy in the California-Pacific and California-Nevada Conferences.

Somebody correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t the General Conference just tell us that we all agree on this issue?

Reaction to GC2008: Southeastern Jurisdiction

[Note: Part four in a series of six. Links to parts 1-3 and 5-6 at bottom of this post as they are published.]

Southeastern Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church
Southeastern Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church

In this fourth post identifying official reactions to General Conference 2008, we’ll be looking at the Southeastern Jurisdiction. It’s a pretty easy task.

There was no official reaction in the Southeastern Jurisdiction to the injustice of the General Conference 2008’s actions against LGTB persons. Holston Annual Conference (Eastern Tennessee, Southeastern Kentucky, and the western tip of Virginia) tried to pass a resolution similar to Western Ohio Annual Conference’s (see North Central Jurisdiction), but it failed by 25 votes (about 4%). Good attempt, though, Holston.

Let the record show: Officially speaking, gays in the entire Southeastern Jurisdiction are not welcome in the United Methodist Church.