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NEWS ITEMS AFFECTING GAYS AND LESBIANS

FOR THE YEAR 2001: JAN to MAR

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News of 2001-JAN:

bullet2001-JAN-10: California: A few parents opt out of gay education: In an attempt to combat homophobia before (or when) it starts, California law now allows for children in kindergarten and higher grades of public schools to be taught about sexual orientation. The Pacific Justice Institute, a conservative Christian legal group, in cooperation with other similar organizations, has designed an opt-out form. It is designed so that parents can specify what topics they want their children to be not taught. The beliefs of conservative Christians about sexual orientation tend to differ significantly from the beliefs shared by almost all gays, lesbians, educators, physicians, psychiatrists, psychologists, religious liberals, human sexuality researchers, etc. So it is quite common for conservative Christian parents to want to prevent their children from learning about homosexuality from a medical/liberal perspective. As of 2001-JAN, only 2,000 parents have requested a form; this is a miniscule percentage of the total parents in California. 1,2
bullet2001-JAN-11: Lesbian couple asked for name change: According to Focus on the Family, a Fundamentalist Christian group, a lesbian couple in New Jersey obtained a civil union in Vermont, returned home, and asked a judge to grant them a common name. He refused, saying that a name change would give the appearance that the couple was married. They are appealing the decision with legal help from the American Civil Liberties Union. "Focus" quotes Matt Daniels, executive director of Alliance for Marriage. He estimates that about 750 out of the 1,000 civil unions that have been performed to date involve out-of-state couples. He fears that this request for a name change could lead to other actions outside of Vermont directed at making civil unions recognized throughout the U.S. 3
bullet2001-JAN-15:  Canada: A a gay and a lesbian couple marry - sort of: Rev. Brent Hawkes, minister of the Metropolitan Community Church in Toronto, ON, married a lesbian couple and a gay couple, mentioned above in the report dated JAN-10. 

In an editorial on 2000-DEC-7, the Toronto Star commented: 

"...it is hard to see how a union of two loving, committed gay people would degrade the institution of legal matrimony. Toronto's Christian gay community has taken a bold and provocative step. It will make a lot of people uncomfortable. But this is often how progress begins."

Some 80 representatives of the media were on hand to record the event. Police handled one bomb threat, observed six protestors, and arrested a woman who was charged with assault. Evangelical pastor Rev. Kenneth Campbell called the weddings "blasphemous."  Howard Hampton, leader of the NDP (Socialist) party in Ontario urged the Provincial and Federal governments to register the marriages. He commented: "The state has no place in the chapels of the nation." Kevin Bourassa sent an e-mail to Canada's Governor-General, Adrienne Clarkson, inviting her to attend his wedding.  One of her staff members replied, saying that Ms. Clarkson was unable to attend, but that she conveyed best wishes. Bishop Gerald Wiesner of Prince George, B.C., the president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, then wrote a strongly worded complaint to the Governor-General and the Prime Minister. He wrote, in part: 

"Canadians should be able to expect the Governor-General to respect and uphold their basic values and laws. However, this controversial action by the office of the Governor-General offends most faiths, almost all of which believe that marriage by definition is the sacred union of a man and a woman, and is also at odds with Canadian civil and legal tradition." Douglas Elliott, lawyer for the Metropolitan Community Church, said it is unfortunate that the Catholic bishops are trying to draw Ms. Clarkson into controversy.

Compiler's note: The Bishop made no reference to the main document which defines Canadian "basic values and laws:" the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  It prohibits discrimination against gays and lesbians. Many faith groups oppose gay and lesbian marriages. But then, many such groups also prohibit women from holding positions of power. Most Canadian adults approve of same-sex marriages. More details on this marriage.

bullet2001-JAN-30: Georgia: Association maintains link to gay-positive churches: On rare occasions, individual Southern Baptist congregations will conduct deep studies of homosexuality. Often, they determine that the homophobic policies of their association are not justified in light of either the Bible or human sexuality research. Virginia-Highland and Oakhurst churches in Georgia were two such congregations. They stress the sexual orientation of homosexuals, rather than their behavior. They openly accept homosexuals as deacons and Sunday school teachers. They perform same-sex unions for committed couples. In response, the Georgia Baptist Convention expelled the two congregations in 1999 for "affirming, approving and endorsing homosexual behavior." This decision was the first dismissal by the Convention of a congregation in its 177 year history. violated centuries of Baptist belief and practice; Baptists have traditionally recognized local church autonomy in matters of belief and practice. On JAN-30, the Atlanta Baptist Association decided maintain the membership and affiliation with the two expelled churches. The results of the secret ballot were 253 to164. James Merritt, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, commented: "They have failed to do their spiritual and moral duty." 4

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News of 2001-FEB:

bullet 2001-FEB-4: Mass. Anti-gay vandalism at church: According to the Boston Globe for FEB-5, nearly 1,000 people gathered at the First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church for a candlelight vigil to protest recent antigay vandalism of church signs. On JAN-27 "someone twice drew swastikas over two rainbow triangles that symbolize the church's openness to gays and lesbians. After members of the Unitarian Universalist church cleaned off the graffiti, vandals drew new swastikas over the triangles and stole a rainbow flag later that evening. The Rev. Katie Lee Crane of First Parish said people came from all over the state to show their solidarity with the church." 5
bullet 2001-FEB-15: Texas: No equal benefits for same-sex partners: According to the Houston Chronicle: Earlier in February, Lee Brown, the mayor of Houston TX withdrew a proposal to give equal benefits for same-sex partners. Houstonians for Family Values has started a petition campaign to prevent the city from ever adopting a similar policy. Dave Wilson leads the campaign. He said "Homosexual behavior is a sin." As he was interviewed, he was flanked by two activists who had protested with anti-gay signs, saying that homosexuals recruit children and implying that they will burn in Hell. Gay activist Clarence Bagby commented: "We're bracing ourselves for the kind of hatefulness, ironically in the name of religion, that these kinds of campaigns generate."
bullet 2001-FEB-21: Massachusetts/Canada: Ambassador appointment opposed: President Bush has nominated Governor Paul Cellucci, the Governor of Massachusetts, to be the U.S. ambassador to Canada. Some Fundamentalist Christian groups are opposing this appointment, because of the anti-bigotry and sex-ed programs in that state. Massachusetts has a state-wide program to teach respect for minorities, including sexual minorities. Of particular concern to the Fundamentalists was a youth seminar for gays and lesbians which was held at Tuft's University. Two Department of Education employees conducted a safe-sex seminar for youths ages 14 to 22 in which various homosexual acts were discussed, along with techniques of disease protection. Bob Knight, spokesperson with the Family Research Council said: "Governor Cellucci is no less a homosexual activist. He may not be homosexual himself, but he has promoted the homosexual agenda and he's done it in a way that should make most Americans angry. He's done it peddling this stuff to children." They feel that the Governor should have cancelled or reduced the respect and sex-ed programs during his tenure.
bullet 2001-FEB-14: Vermont: Gag rule proposed for public schools: Outright Vermont is a gay-positive non-profit group in the state. They had obtained a government grant to fund diversity workshops in public schools. The workshops are "conducted by invitation of school officials" and "stressed tolerance and diversity." Some Republican state legislators criticized the workshops, claiming that the group was spreading the "homosexual agenda." Commenting on the workshops, Education Commissioner David Wolk denied that there was any agenda to teach homosexuality in schools and said school officials were responsible by law to create a safe, civil and respectful environment for all Vermont students. Wolk said: ' ...there is no homosexual agenda in the schools. What we have is a respect agenda. That's what it was before [civil unions] law passed and that's what it is today.' " Representative Nancy Sheltra, (R-Derby) said: "The schools in the first place should not be getting up [sic] to talk about homosexual issues. It's an academic setting, there's no reason it should be discussed." 35 Representatives have introduced a bill stating (in an apparent violation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution): No employee or agent of a school district shall instruct, counsel or advise a student that a homosexual or bisexual orientation is innate or unchangeable." 6

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News of 2001-MAR:

bullet2001-MAR-1: Anti-gay comic book ready for mass distribution: Chick Publications, is long known for distributing hate literature which attacks religious liberals and Neopagans. They have now produced an anti-gay mini-comic book. It portrays a decent, gentle, black, Bible carrying, well dressed, law-abiding, conservative Christian who held up a sign at a gay parade stating "Homosexuality is an abomination: See  Lev[iticus] 20:13." (There is no reference to some of the other Biblical passages in Leviticus that also condemn as "an abomination" such behaviors as wearing cotton-polyester clothing, sowing a lawn with mixed grass seed, eating shell fish, etc.) Some gays, portrayed as nasty bullies, and the police viciously beat the Christian. He is charged with committing a hate crime, and lands up in the hospital. [Some conservative Christian organizations promote the invalid belief that simple religious speech can be considered a hate crime.] A gay-positive pastor is introduced; he is described as a minister of Satan. The pastor claims that "right wing extremists deliberately changed the Bible story of Sodom." Surprisingly, the pastor quotes Ezekiel 16:49 which is one of a number of Bible verses which reveals that Sodom was destroyed because of arrogance towards the needy and inhospitality towards visitors. A "real" Christian arrives, exorcises the hospital room, recites Jude 7, and explains that homosexuality is a special sin that is far worse than alls. A demon flees the room. The pastor sees the light, and feels guilty for all of the young people that he had enticed into "the gay lifestyle," and "ruined." A parting shot is made at non-Christian religions who are leading all of their followers to Hell. Finally, the pastor repents of his "sin" and accepts Jesus as Lord and Savior. The comic book can be viewed online. 7
bullet 2001-MAR-2: Religiously affiliated university grants same-sex benefits: Southern Methodist University, a Dallas TX university affiliated with the United Methodist Church announced that it would offer medical benefits and reduced tuition to same-sex partners of employees -- the same benefits as heterosexual married couples have enjoyed. About 150 of the nation's 3,300 colleges and universities have similar policies. But they are rare among educational institutions affiliated with religious denominations. 8
bullet 2001-MAR-6: Civil union bill introduced in California legislature: Paul Koretz, (D), has introduced a bill that would create civil unions in California. It would be similar to the one implemented in Vermont. State Senator William Knight, (R), criticized the bill, saying:  "It appears Assemblyman Koretz is trying to circumvent Proposition 22...It may be illegal. If that doesn't undermine marriage, I don't know what does." [Editor's note: Actually, there does not appear to be a conflict. Proposition 22 relates to heterosexual marriage; the proposed bill relates only to homosexual civil unions.] 8
bullet2001-MAR-18: Texas sodomy law upheld: A law in Texas allows heterosexual couples to engage in oral or anal intercourse, but forbids gays and lesbians from engaging in the same activities. The appellate court upheld the law, ruling that the legislature had a legitimate interest to legislate morality in the community.
bullet2001-MAR-23: Arkansas sodomy law declared unconstitutional: A state law criminalized oral and anal sex, but only  when performed by homosexuals. Pulaski County Circuit Judge David Bogar declared the law unconstitutional because it violated the principle of equal protection, by singling out gays and lesbians. Judge Bogar wrote: "The people of Arkansas have the right to legislate on issues involving morals, but homosexuality is not only a question of morals....Perhaps it is repugnant to heterosexuals to contemplate persons of the same sex engaging privately in oral or anal sex; however, to enact a law in Arkansas which criminalizes such conduct between consenting adults violates the Arkansas constitution." The penalties under the law were a $1,000 fine and up to a year in jail. 
bullet2001-MAR-27: NEA to support gay and lesbian needs: The National Education Association is expected to consider a resolution in support of the development of school curriculum and programs for gay and lesbian students at its national convention in July. It will be similar to initiatives previously taken by the NEA in support of women, other minority groups and people with disabilities. Spokesperson Wendy Wright of the Fundamentalist Christian agency Concerned Women For America opposes the NEA program to reduce homophobia in the classroom. She commented that the NEA seems "...to be obsessed with reorienting kids away from their parents' values."

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Continue with media reports for 2001-APR

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References: 

  1. Karen Johnson, "Parents fight back with opt-out form," Focus on the Family, at: http://www.family.org/cforum/fnif/news/a0014386.html 
  2. The Pacific Justice Institute has a web page at: http://www.pacificjustice.org/
  3. Mark Cowan, "Name-change effort targets traditional marriage," Focus on the Family, at: http://www.family.org/cforum/fnif/news/A0014416.html 
  4. Todd Starnes, "Atlanta Baptist Association affirms homosexual-friendly churches," Baptist News, at: http://news.crosswalk.com/religion/item/0,1875,320421,00.htm
  5. "Vigil protests antigay vandalism," the Boston Globe, 2001-FEB-5, Page B02, at: http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/036/metro/
  6. Tracy Schmaler, "Lawmakers target 'homosexual agenda,' " Vermont Press Bureau, 2001-FEB-14, at: http://www.rutlandherald.com/vtruling/lmtarget.html 
  7. "Sin City," Chick Publications, at: http://www.chick.com/reading/tracts/5003/5003_01.asp
  8. "Christian college offers same-sex benefits," Charismanews.com, at: http://www.mcjonline.com/news/01a/20010306b.shtml 

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Notice:

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. sec 107: The news items contained in the above hyperlinks are provided without profit by the Ontario Consultants for Religious Tolerance, Box 27026, Kingston ON Canada K7M 8W5 and are intended to be available to anyone interested in the topics included, for educational purposes only. Any editor, author, Webmaster, writer, publisher, news service, etc. that objects to being part of this listing may request that future works be excluded. We will also attempt to delete previous entries from the same source.

Copyright © 2001 by the Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2001-NOV-9
Compiler: B.A. Robinson

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