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About this web site

Newly created or updated essays over
the past few months. Planned essays.

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In this web site, "SSM" is an acronym referring to marriage by a same-sex couple

"LGBT" refers to lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender persons and transsexuals

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new symbol New and updated essays:

As of 2014-JUN, our dedicated server at CoreSpace in Dallas, TX contained over 7,250 essays and menus. This includes our home page, thousands of menus and many thousands of individual essays. We have a goal of adding one new essay each day. We also update many dozens of essays each week. We continually add to our interesting quotes section, We attempt to cover emerging stories related to religion, spirituality, morality, and ethics, as well as the historic beliefs and practices of many different religions.

There are lots of other religious web sites on the Internet that cover these same topics. However, they are generally written from a very conservative or very liberal point of view. They often reflect only the beliefs of their webmaster or sponsoring agency. Objectivity and balance are often weak or missing. Our web site is different. We try to explain all sides to each topic while remaining as free of bias as we can. When we do state our personal opinions, we identify them carefully.

We think that people can often understand a topic better by learning what others who hold different opinions believe and why they believe what they do. Unfortunately, religious liberals tend to listen and watch liberal news outlets like MSNBC and the Progress channel on Sirius XM. Conservatives tend to listen and watch Fox News and the Patriot channel of Sirius.

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Essays planned for the near future:

We estimate that we need to write many thousands of essays before our web site will be reasonably complete. Even then, there will undoubtedly be new controversial topics emerge among the main moral/ethical topics with a religious content -- like gun control, polygamous marriages, equal rights for transsexuals, etc. These will necessitate the writing of countless new articles.

We maintain a list of new topics about which we are currently working on or plan to write "someday."  We have a larger list for internal use that, sadly, numbers in the many thousands of topics.

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Why do we have so many essays on sexual minorities?

In recent years, the conflict between religious conservatives and sexual minorities -- defined either by their sexual orientation or gender identity -- have monopolized much of the news. Back in 2011-FEB, the Obama Administration decided to no longer defend the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Some commentators predicted that this would generate a tipping point on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual (LGBT) rights. This seems to have happened, because subsequent months saw an accelerating rate of change towards LGBT equality. The change has been so rapid that it has formed the bulk of our web site's new essays from 2011 until now.

In most countries, marriage laws are created by a central government. The U.S. and Mexico are exceptions. In the United States, marriage equality has been fought on a state-by-state basis in state and federal courts, state legislatures, and via citizen initiatives. Instead of one country-wide battle, as in Canada and a dozen or so other countries, it has become 51 battles: one for each state and the District of Columbia. It has been the main religious/civil rights topic in recent years -- eclipsing even abortion access.

However, on 2015-JAN-16, the U.S. Supreme Court accepted the appeals by same-sex plaintiff couples in 4 marriage cases, from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, & Tennessee. Hearings will be held in April and a final ruling will be released in late 2015-JUN or early JUL. We expect the decision to be by a 5 to 4 vote which is usual for this court on moral and ethical questions. Many commentators expect that the high Court will eventually issue a ruling that legalizes same-sex marriage (SSM) across the entire country as it did during 1967 with interracial marriage in the case: Loving v. Virginia. Others expect that the court will ban SSMs across the entire country. There are other options open to the court that are part way between these two extremes. No matter what the Court decides, the lives of the approximately 32 million Americans who are lesbian, gay, or bisexual -- or who will discover later in life that they have a minority sexual orientation -- will be profoundly changed by nine Justices.

Since late 2014, commentators have realized that marriage equality would be determined nationally by the U.S. Supreme Court. Probably because of this, those groups who promote same-sex marriage have at least partially redirected their efforts towards changing state laws to give the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender/Transsexual community (LGBT) freedom from discrimination in employment, accommodation, etc. Meanwhile, the groups who are resisting same-sec marriage have redirected some of their efforts to protecting the right of people to use their personal religious beliefs to discriminate against sexual minorities with impunity from prosecution under human rights laws. These trends accelerated during the first half of 2015.

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Sponsored link.

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2015-August's book recommendation:

book cover Bishop William E. Swing: "A Bishop's Quest," 264 pages. Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store.
$
25.00 plus postage in Paperback.

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Amazon.com book description:

"Bill Swing, our beloved Bishop, continues to inspire and educate with the remarkable story of his journey with the United Religions Initiative. He encourages us to walk with him and learn important lessons about how to give meaning to our own life journey. --The Honorable George P. Shultz, U.S. Secretary of State 1982-1989

This is an intriguing account of a long and successful effort to achieve better understanding and cooperation among the great religions of the world. --Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter

Our home is heaven where God is. On earth we learn how to discover home, and each faith leads its adherents homeward. We must learn here how to live together with those with whom we will spend eternity. May the Initiative described in this book succeed for the sake of all believers. --The Most Reverend Desmond M. Tutu, Archbishop Emeritus."

In addition to the 30 new or updated item listed this month, hundreds of pre-existing essays are updated monthly with minor changes:


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2015-July's book recommendation:

book cover Mark Fulton, MD. "Get over Christianiity by understanding it." 686 pages. Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store.
$24.99 plus postage in Paperback, or $7.82 in Kindle format.

Amazon.com customers have given this book a rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars, which is quite a high rating for such a controversial topic.

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Amazon.com book description:

"Mark Fulton’s book 'Get over Christianity by Understanding it' questions the origins of Christianity through an exploration of who the Biblical players were, and the authors' motives. The book reveals many obscure facts, and exposes a large number of fictions for what they are. The book's conclusions are based on assessments of primary sources such as the Bible itself, as well as the opinions of numerous respected historians, and are the product of many years of exhaustive investigation.

The book concludes that the Old Testament is largely fabricated, is profoundly immoral, and has been the primary cause of much human suffering and ideological baggage.

Fulton thinks that Jesus may have existed; yet that the man described in the Gospels is not a true depiction. He thinks Jesus was actually a fundamentalist Jewish zealot, and not a Christian, and that Jesus had no delusions that he was the Son of God, and no wish to die for humanity’s sins. Instead, Fulton has Jesus as a hopeful Jewish messiah who tried to start a war with the Roman garrison in Jerusalem, yet was outmanoeuvred and crucified before his ambitions had a chance to come to fruition.

In addition to the 33 new or updated item listed this month, hundreds of pre-existing essays are updated monthly with minor changes:

  • With the start of a new month, we added a description of "Accelerating steps towards same-sex marriage. LGBT equality, etc" during July
  • star The same-sex marriage case Obergefell v. Hodges before the U.S. Supreme Court:

    • Part 41: A note to same-sex couples planning to marry. Status of gay marriage. New York Times article on evangelical Christians' response to same-sex marriage.

    • Part 42: Response to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling. From the Deep South, examples of opposition to the ruling in Louisiana and Texas. Personal conflicts faced by courthouse clerks.

    • Part 43: 2015-JUNE-26 to 30: Confusion about -- & opposition to -- the High Court's ruling in the Deep South: in Mississippi, & Texas.

    • Part 44: More confusion & opposition: in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, & Texas.

    • Part 45: A bit of humor. Will God destroy the U.S.? Same-sex couples' problems in Louisiana, & Ohio.

    • Part 46: 2015-JULY: Same-sex couples' marriage license problems in Kentucky.

    • Part 47: Same-sex couples' marriage license problems in North Dakota & Texas. Webmaster's note about same-sex marriage.

    • Part 48: Lousiana capitulates to reality. Gay marriages are now routine throughout the U.S. mainland, Alaska, Hawaii and most
      Territories, except for a few scattered counties.

    • Part 49: Reactions of the Louisiana Supreme Court to the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling. American Samoa resists marriage equality.

    • Part 50: Same-sex couples' are now eligible for federal spousal benefits. Webmaster's note about gay marriage.

    • Part 51: Alabama Supreme Court asks for advice. The "path forward" for gay marriage. Another webmaster's note.

  • Gay marriage in Louisiana:
    • Part 5: 2015-JUN: The U.S. Supreme Court legalizes gay marriage throughout the U.S. The Jindal administration strongly resists legalizing it in Louisiana.

    • Part 6: 2015-JUN & JUL: The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals instructs federal judges in Louisiana, Mississippi & Texas to issue their final SSM rulings by JUL-17.

  • Errata page: One of the unusual features of this web site is our errata page. Whenever we run across an error that we have made, -- or an error that some other information source has made and that we quoted -- we not only correct the error, but record the error in our errata section. I have never seen another religious web site that publicizes its errors. In this case, we quoted a public opinion poll incorrectly by saying that a polling result had increased by 19 percentage points since February; the correct number is 9. It is fixed now.

  • An article by correspondent Hajer Naili titled:"Post-war trauma afflicts Gaza girls, and women"

  • The racially-motivated massacre at the church in Charleston, SC.
    • Part 6  Remarks about the removal of the Confederate flag (aka rebel flag). Advocate removes the rebel flag & is arrested. Reactions.

    • Part 7 2015-JUL-06: SC Senate passes bill to have rebel flag removed. JUL-08: Bill is also passed by the House and signed into law. Reactions. Debate
      in Congress.


    • Part 8 2015-JUL-10: Flag removed from the statehouse grounds. JUL-18: Two competing rallys at the Statehouse.

  • An essay donated by Alton C. Thompson: "Two Models of Society" concerning models by Adam Smith and St. Paul.

  • Christian teachings & beliefs on homosexuality by fundamentalist, other evangelical, Roman Catholics, mainline, & liberal/progressive groups was updated.

  • Michigan: Governor promises to not sign a RFRA bill into law, but later signs three. Part 1 Part 2

  • 2015-JUL: Impact of the Supreme Court's ruling on public opinion concerning same-sex marriage. Part 1 (updated) Part 2 (new)

  • Gay marriage in the Territory of American Samoa

  • Resources on earthquake protection This topic is only vaguely related to religious tolerance, which is the main message of this web site. However, many religious conservatives at this time are living in fear that God will cause a massive natural disaster across the United States in retaliation for the Supreme Court having legalized same-sex marriage. This fear spread across Illinois during late 2013 and has since ramped up nation-wide.

  • Obtaining data and information, useful tools, etc. for your web site: Part 1 (upgraded)   Part 2 (new)

  • Marriage equality arrives in Kansas
    • Part 7: 2014-NOV: Marriage equality finally came to some, but not all, counties in Kansas. 2015-JUN: U.S. Supreme Court legalizes gay marriages across the U.S. Implications in Kansas. 2015-JUL: Governor signs executive order protecting religious groups that want to discriminate.

    • Part 8: 2015-JUL: Governor signs executive order protecting religious groups that want to discriminate (Cont'd). Reactions.

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2015-June's book recommendation:

book cover image John Shore: "UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question" 208 pages. Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store.
$
11.69 plus postage in Paperback. and $7.40 in Kindle format.

Amazon.com customers have given this book a rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars, which is also a high rating for such a controversial topic.

Amazon.com book description:

"Shore is one of America's leading Christian writers on the subject of gay people and Christianity. His essays are widely credited with being central to the sea change in Christian thinking that has occurred on this issue in recent years. 'UNFAIR' offers the best of Shore's writings on homosexuality and Christians / Christianity, along with heart-wrenching but ultimately inspiring letters from gay people telling what it's like to grow up, and live today, both gay and Christian. The book's opening essay, "Taking God at His Word: The Bible and Homosexuality," is a must-read for anyone seeking clarity on the relationship between the Bible, Christianity, and LGBT people. If you read only one book on this subject, make it this one."

Webmaster's note:

We had another book selected for this month. However, a cultural tsunami may occur this month when the U.S. Supreme Court releases their decision in the case Obergefell v. Hodges. Likely dates are June 15, 18, 22 or 29. The court's session could conceivably be extended into July. However that has not happened in 20 years.Many commentators expect that the high court will legalize same-sex marriage across the entire U.S. That will bring the "LGBT Question" front and center for many Christians. This book may help them think through their position on lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals and couples. It might be helpful also to members of the LGBT community to help them think through what the Bible expects of them.

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In addition to the 40 new or updated items listed this month, hundreds of pre-existing essays are updated monthly with minor changes:

  • With the start of a new month, we added a description of "Accelerating steps towards same-sex marriage. LGBT equality, etc" during June: Part 1   Part 2

  • Same-sex marriage in Alabama:
    • Part 36: 2015-MAY: 2015-MAY: U.S. District Court issues new ruling (Cont'd). Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore recommends impeachment of some U.S. Supreme Court justices.

    • Part 37: 2015-JUN: Current status of SSM. SSM polls in Alabama. Bills introduced in the Alabama Legislature, to preserve marriage inequality, fail.

  • Same-sex marriage comes to Greenland

  • A brief introduction to transgender persons and transsexuals

  • star The same-sex marriage case Obergefell v. Hodges before the U.S. Supreme Court:

    • Milestones in the path towards same-sex marriage

    • Part 29: 2015-MAY: Webmaster's opinion the upcoming reaction to Obergefell decision (Cont'd). Franklin Graham predicts future persecution of Christians. (Updated)

    • Part 30: 2015-MAY-JUN: Franklin Graham's fund to promote discrimination. Alternate, peaceful responses to marriage equality. Huckabee's odd concept of the U.S. government.

    • Part 31: 2015-JUN: Franklin Graham advocates boycott. A First Amendment Defense Act which doesn't defend the First Amendment is proposed.

    • Part 32: 2015-JUN-26: The Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage (a.k.a. gay marriage) is to be made available across the entire country.
    • Part 33: How and why the Justices voted as they did. Immediate reactions to the High Court ruling.

    • Part 34: More reactions to the High Court ruling.

    • Part 35: Still more reactions. 2003: A historical note from the Vatican. Video of an anti-SSM protestor

    • Part 36: The White House and other landmarks were illuminated in rainbow colors.

    • Part 37: 3 key questions:
      • 1. When can same-sex couples marry?
      • 2. When will churches be forced to marry them? (A trick question)
      • 3. How and why the High Court Justices disagreed.

    • Part 38: Disagreements among the High Court Justices: Conflicts between Justice Kennedy's majority opinion, & Chief Justice Roberts' minority opinion.

    • Part 39: Excerpts from Chief Justice Roberts' minority opinion (Cont'd). Actor George Takei's take on marriage equality:

    • Part 40: Excerpts from Justice Scalia's minority opinion. Looking back at historical redefinitions of marriage.

  • Same-sex marriage in the U.S. Territory of Guam:
    • Part 1: From 1950 to 2015: Events related to SSMs. Lesbian couple refused marriage license, and filed a lawsuit in Guam District Court. (updated)

    • Part 2: 2015-APR-15 to 19: Responses to the SSM lawsuit by Territory officials, a human rights group, and the Roman Catholic Church. (updated)

    • Part 3: Additional events during 2015-APR. (updated)

    • Part 4: From late 2015-APR until JUN-04: SSM discussion in the Northern Mariana Islands. Case scheduled in U.S. District Court - Guam.

    • Part 5: 2015-JUN: District Court ruling legalizes SSM. Reactions by government and church leaders. Same-sex couples marry in Guam.

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2015-May's book recommendation:

book cover image Gerard Russell: "Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms: Journeys Into the Disappearing Religions of the Middle East" 352 pages. Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store. Available at $21.50 plus postage in Paperback, $21.59 plus postage in Hardcover, $8.04 in Kindle format, and $23.95 in Audiobook download.

Amazon.com book description:

"Despite its reputation for religious intolerance, the Middle East has long sheltered many distinctive and strange faiths: one regards the Greek prophets as incarnations of God, another [has been described as revering] ... Lucifer in the form of a peacock, and yet another believes that their followers are reincarnated beings who have existed in various forms for thousands of years. These religions represent the last vestiges of the magnificent civilizations in ancient history: Persia, Babylon, Egypt in the time of the Pharaohs. Their followers have learned how to survive foreign attacks and the perils of assimilation. But today, with the Middle East in turmoil, they face greater challenges than ever before.

In Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms, former diplomat Gerard Russell ventures to the distant, nearly impassable regions where these mysterious religions still cling to survival. He lives alongside the Mandaeans and Ezidis of Iraq, the Zoroastrians of Iran, the Copts of Egypt, and others. He learns their histories, participates in their rituals, and comes to understand the threats to their communities. Historically a tolerant faith, Islam has, since the early 20th century, witnessed the rise of militant, extremist sects. This development, along with the rippling effects of Western invasion, now pose existential threats to these minority faiths. And as more and more of their youth flee to the West in search of greater freedoms and job prospects, these religions face the dire possibility of extinction.

Drawing on his extensive travels and archival research, Russell provides an essential record of the past, present, and perilous future of these remarkable religions."

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41 new (with a few updated) essays were posted so far during 2015-MAY:

In addition to the new items listed so far in this month, hundreds of pre-existing essays are updated monthly:

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2015-April's book recommendation

book cover image James A. Haught "Religion is Dying: Soaring Secularism in America and the West" 186 pages. Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store.
$
7.70 plus postage in Paperback. Available in Kindle format for $3.90.

Amazon.com book description:

"Perhaps 50 million adult Americans now say their religion is 'none' or 'don’t know.' This number has climbed dramatically since the 1990s. About 20 million U.S. Catholics have left that church - so one-tenth of American adults now are ex-Catholics. Two-thirds of American Christians in their 20s drop out of church before age 30, one report estimates. Once-prestigious mainline Protestant faiths with seminary-educated clergy have disintegrated so severely since 1960 that one analyst refers to “'Flatline Protestantism.' An estimated 4,000 American churches close each year. From every direction, evidence is snowballing that America, known for devout religion, is following the secular path of Western Europe, Canada, Australia, Japan and other modern democracies, where churchgoing has retreated to a fringe. The trend can be seen in cultural changes such as the rapid social acceptance of gays. The Bible commands that homosexuals 'shall surely be put to death,' and fundamentalist churches have ranted against them for centuries -- yet most Americans now feel that they deserve human rights and equality. Religion has lost its power to dictate America’s morality. This book chronicles the slow, relentless demise of supernatural religion in America and the [rest of the] West."

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43 new (and a few updated) essays were posted during 2015-APR:

In addition to the new items listed so far in this month, hundreds of pre-existing essays are updated monthly:

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2015-March's book recommendation

book cover image Robert M. Price: "The Amazing Colossal Apostle: The Search for the Historical Paul" Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store.
$
20.90 plus postage in Paperback. Available in Kindle format for $9.24.

Amazon.com book description:

"The story of Paul is one of irony, the New Testament depicting him at the martyrdom of Stephen holding the assassins' cloaks. Then this same Paul is transformed into the biblical archetype for someone suffering for their faith. He becomes so entrenched, it would appear that he had walked with the Christians all his life, that he was the one who defined the faith, eventually being called the “second founder of Christianity.” But much of what we think we "know" about Paul comes from Sunday school stories we heard as children. The stories were didactic tales meant to keep us reverent and obedient.

As adults reading the New Testament, we catch glimpses of a very different kind of disciple—a wild ascetic whom Tertullian dubbed “the second apostle of Marcion and the apostle of the heretics.” What does scholarship tell us about the enigmatic thirteenth apostle who looms larger than life in the New Testament? The epistles give evidence of having been written at the end of the first century or early in the second -- too late to have been Paul’s actual writings. So who wrote (and rewrote) them? F. C. Baur, a nineteenth-century theologian, pointed persuasively to Simon Magus as the secret identity of “Paul.” Robert M. Price, in this exciting journey of discovery, gives readers the background for a story we thought we knew."

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56 new (and a few revised) essays were posted during 2015-MAR:

In addition to the new items listed so far in this month, hundreds of pre-existing essays are updated monthly:

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Sponsored link:

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During 2015-FEB, we recommend the book:

book cover  Susan Katz Miller, "Being Both: Embracing Two Religions in One Interfaith Family" Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store. Available from Amazom.com for $18.90 plus postage in Hardcover or $13.68 plus postage in Paperback. Also available in Kindle format for $14.36.

Amazon.com book description:

"Susan Katz Miller grew up with a Jewish father and Christian mother, and was raised Jewish. Now in an interfaith marriage herself, she is one of the growing number of Americans who are boldly electing to raise children with both faiths, rather than in one religion or the other (or without religion). In Being Both, Miller draws on original surveys and interviews with parents, students, teachers, and clergy, as well as on her own journey, to chronicle this controversial grassroots movement.
 
Almost a third of all married Americans have a spouse from another religion, and there are now more children in Christian-Jewish interfaith families than in families with two Jewish parents. Across the country, many of these families are challenging the traditional idea that they must choose one religion. In some cities, more interfaith couples are raising children with “both” than Jewish-only. What does this mean for these families, for these children, and for religious institutions?
 
Miller argues that there are distinct benefits for families who reject the false choice of “either/or” and instead embrace the synergy of being both. Reporting on hundreds of parents and children who celebrate two religions, she documents why couples make this choice, and how children appreciate dual-faith education. But often families who choose both have trouble finding supportive clergy and community. To that end, Miller includes advice and resources for interfaith families planning baby-welcoming and coming-of-age ceremonies, and seeking to find or form interfaith education programs. She also addresses the difficulties that interfaith families can encounter, wrestling with spiritual questions (“Will our children believe in God?”) and challenges (“How do we talk about Jesus?”). And finally, looking beyond Judaism and Christianity, Being Both provides the first glimpse of the next interfaith wave: intermarried Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist couples raising children in two religions.
 
Being Both is at once a rousing declaration of the benefits of celebrating two religions, and a blueprint for interfaith families who are seeking guidance and community support."

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26 new (and a few extensively revised) essays were posted during 2015-FEB:

In addition to the new items listed so far in this month, hundreds of pre-existing essays are updated monthly:

  • With the start of a new month, we added a list of "Accelerating steps towards same-sex marriage. LGBT equality, etc."

  • Same-sex marriage in Alabama:

    • Alabama's journey towards marriage equality: Introduction and timeline

    • Part 7: 2015-JAN: Plaintiffs ask Circuit Court to let the stay expire. Trial lawyers group criticize Chief Justice Moore. Governor asks 11th Circuit Court to extend stay."NOM" supports Chief Justice Moore's stand. Freedom to Marry starts TV ad campaign.

    • Part 8: 2015-JAN/FEB: Freedom to Marry's TV ad campaign (Cont'd). Results of public opinion polls. 11th Circuit Court refuses to extend the stay.

    • Part 9: 2015-/FEB: District Court judge refuses to terminate stay. Madison County lacks resources to marry couples.

    • Part 10: 2015-FEB: Governor Bentley issues statement. Chief Justice Moore issues another letter. State officers file briefs with Supreme Court. New marriage license forms created.

    • Part 11: 2015-FEB: New marriage license forms created. Expected financial impact of marriage equality. Reactions to SSM by religious conservatives. Marriage equality may arrive in AL on FEB-09.

    • Part 12: 2015-FEB: Full marriage equality may arrive in AL on FEB-09, but only in some counties. Chief Justice Moore orders probate judges to not issue marriage licenses

    • Part 13: 2015-FEB: Chief Justice Moore issues a surprise order (Cont'd). Reactions

    • Part 14: 2015-FEB-09: Alabama became the 37th state with marriage equality. Reactions

    • Part 15: 2015-FEB-09: Alabama: 2015-FEB-09 & 10: Analysis of evangelical statement about SSM. Couples get licenses, sometimes in other counties.
      Good & bad reactions to marriage equality.

    • Part 16: 2015-FEB-09: Marriage equality has arrived but marriage licenses are often inconvenient to obtain.

    • Part 17: 2015-FEB-10: A Washington Post video. Lawsuit against a Mobile County probate judge. National Organization for Marriage makes appeal

    • Part 18: 2015-FEB-10/12: Marriage license availability in various counties. Comments from the Governor and public. Chief Justice Moore receives KKK support

    • Part 19: 2015-FEB-13: Editorial in The Plain Dealer. Reader comments. 1st Alabama same-sex marriage by SBC pastor!

  • Essays donated by Susan Humphreys:

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