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Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Gay Adoption, Gay Marriage as Moral Obligations: Two Jewish Views (and one Christian)

Here's a refreshing change: instead of the spurious, religious arguments against gay adoption and gay marriage, two more voices (this time, from Jewish perspectives)  speaking out on the positive faith-based reasons in favour of each.

In the first of these, at the Jerusalem Post, the orthodox Rabbi, television host and author of religious books on relationships Shmuley Boteach argues strongly in favour of gay adoption. Last month, he participated with Rosie O'Donnell in a New Jersey public discussion on the subject. In an article published before this event, he reflected on these issues, and especially on an aspect that I see as the most important of all. When a friend he spoke to expressed regret that Rosie's four adopted children would never have a father (the standard, theoretical argument against gay adoption), Rabbi Shmuley replied with the obvious and important, reality-based response:
that without Rosie they wouldn’t have a mother either.

Gay Couple with child

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Marriage Prospects Brighten in Maryland

Nationally, the picture for progress to LGBT equality which emerged on election night was gloomy. At state and local level, there were some bright spots. Maryland was one of them. In the state Senate, the Dems increased their majority, after replacing in the primaries some of their members opposed to gay marriage. In the lower house, they increased the number of openly gay or lesbian delegates. 

Richard  Madaleno, the only openly gay State Senator, is hopeful that the legislature will approve marriage equality legislation in the firs few months of 2011. If it does, Governor Martin O'Malley has promised to sign.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Connecticut, New York Challenge DOMA.

The road to full queer equality is a long and hard one, but is being navigated steadily, one step at a time. The recent mid-term elections may have placed obstacles in the way in some states, but may have eased a path in others. Meanwhile, a string of recent courtroom successes, challenging parts of the Defence of Marriage Act in Massachusetts, and Prop 8 and DADT in California, could be followed by others.

When the state of Massachusetts challenged DOMA in the courts, it was limited in scope. The verdict, when it came in July, was widely welcomed - but had limited direct relevance for other states. Indirectly, it has offered encouragement to other states. Connecticut and New York have now filed comparable challenges in their own state courts.

From AP:

2 lawsuits challenge US Defense of Marriage Act

NEW YORK (AP) — Gay civil rights groups trying to build momentum for a possible Supreme Court showdown filed two lawsuits Tuesday that seek to strike down portions of a 1996 law that denies married gay couples federal benefits.

The lawsuits were filed in federal courts in Connecticut and New York and come just months after a federal judge in Boston struck down a key component of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

The legal actions seek judicial declarations that the law enacted by Congress in 1996, when it appeared Hawaii would soon legalize same-sex marriage, was unconstitutional because it prevents the federal government from affording pension and other benefits to same-sex couples. Since 2004, five states — Connecticut, Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts — and the District of Columbia have legalized gay marriage.

In July, U.S. District Judge Joseph Tauro in Boston ruled in two separate lawsuits that the Defense of Marriage Act forces the state to discriminate against its own citizens to qualify for federal funding. He also said it violates the Constitution's equal protection clause.

The Justice Department said in a statement that it had no response to the lawsuits, except that the government "is defending the statute, as it traditionally does when acts of Congress are challenged."

The department said that, as a policy matter, President Obama has made clear that he believes the law is "discriminatory and should be repealed" and was working with Congress to do so.

The filing of multiple lawsuits will likely result in rulings in different federal court districts. That could increase the likelihood that the Supreme Court will eventually consider the issue.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Blessing Same Sex Unions in Toronto

There is no longer any doubt in my mind that widepread, formal recognition by Christian churches of same-sex unions, by liturgical rites in church, is on the way - one small step at a time.
One of these small steps is in the diocese of Toronto, where the local archbishop has given pastoral guidelines for blessing same sex unions. Technically, the impact will be only local, in his own archdiocese, and limited to a simple blessing, not full marriage. Effectively, though, this one of those small steps that makes subsequent strides that much easier. Civil marriage for same sex couples is already a well-established fact of life in Canada. Church blessings in Toronto will soon spread across the nation, just as civil marriage did after a purely local introduction. From country-wide blessing of civil unions, to blessing civil marriages, to full church weddings, will be easy steps. Sweden already has gay and lesbian church weddings in the Lutheran church, with which Anglicans and Episcopalians are in communion. Other Scandinavian churches will soon follow suit - as will Canadian Anglicans, just a little later.

Archbishop Johnson with Queen Elizabeth, 2010

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Gay Marriage, UK: The Legal Challenge Begins

Rev Sharon Ferguson is a pastor with the Metropolitan Community Church in Camden, North London, a parish, she notes, is "noted for its peace and justice work".  It is part of the Gospel requirement that as Christians we should be combating injustice, and standing up for the oppressed. Rev Ferguson and her partner, Franka Strietzel, have now taken the first steps in a campaign on her own behalf, and that of others in lesbian or gay committed relationships - the campaign for full marriage equality;
"My whole life is about campaigning for equality and justice as a pastor in a parish that is known for its social justice work," she added.
"It's part of my daily life to challenge discrimination, but with this campaign what is really nice is that it's about love."