Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Big Lie of “Yes on 8”

From the NAACP Legal Defense Fund's online journal:

I am celebrating Barack Obama’s election as president. I also rejoice because people of every race and every ethnicity and every socio-economic class and every sexual orientation came together to make his presidency possible. But here in California the promise and vision of President–elect Obama’s campaign has been marred by the passage of Proposition 8.

Sadly, the lies and vitriol of the “Yes on 8” campaign held sway over California voters. The “Yes on 8” campaign made it seem as if this was election was about religious beliefs and about schools. But nothing could be further from the truth.

The big lie told to the voters of California is that churches would have to officiate at marriages for gay men and lesbians and that they would lose their tax-exempt status. NOT TRUE. In fact, the California Supreme Court, on page 117 of its historic ruling last May, affirmed the right of religious organizations to follow and uphold their religious beliefs. In California, as long as we still must get a license to marry, then we all must be treated fairly and equally under the law. There must be a separation of church and state.

Yet a majority has voted away the rights of the minority. This is always problematic. What would have happened if the voters had voted on whether people of color could marry whites in this country?

I have been particularly pained by the instant analysis that claims that African-Americans are responsible for the passage of Proposition 8. Again, another big lie repeated and repeated often by the “Yes on 8” campaign in a continuous effort to divide minority groups. The vote for Proposition 8 came from many different segments of the population and in truth the “No on 8” campaign wasn’t able to combat their lies.

I have been deeply saddened by the racism that has emerged from the GLBT community. For this I am deeply sorry, and I am working diligently to expose those who would spread such calumnies.

The truth about the GLBT community is that it is not just a white world. It is very diverse—black and brown, Asian Pacific Islander, Christian and Jew, Buddhist and Muslim, rich, middle class and those who live deep in poverty, old and young, couples, singles and families with children. We have so many issues of concern in common with the African-Americans and other minority groups.

I hope in the days and months ahead that the example set by President-elect Obama’s campaign—a great coming together—will be one that the GLBT and African-American communities can work towards so that we can know each other, and know each other’s hearts.

It will take work, but I hope we can work together. Then, this Thanksgiving can be the beginning of a new era in which all can reap a bountiful harvest in a new America.

Rabbi Denise L. Eger is the founding rabbi of Congregation Kol Ami in West Hollywood, CA. She has been a leader in the battle against Proposition 8. She is Vice-President of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California that opposed Proposition 8.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

What I did today ...

Yum, Yum!

Deja vu all over again

From "The Wild Wordsmith of Wasila" posted on Dick Cavett's blog on November 14th:

My concern has been the atrocities there in Darfur and the relevance to me with that issue as we spoke about Africa and some of the countries there that were kind of the people succumbing to the dictators and the corruption of some collapsed governments on the continent, the relevance was Alaska’s investment in Darfur with some of our permanent fund dollars.
I was trying to figure out why reading these words of wisdom from Waslia elicited a bit of deja vu ... and then I remembered this one:
I personally believe that U.S. Americans are unable to do so because, uh, some people out there in our nation don't have maps, and, uh, I believe that our education like such as in South Africa and, uh, the Iraq everywhere like, such as and I believe that they should, our education over here in the U.S. should help the U.S., er, should help South Africa and should help the Iraq and the Asian countries, so we will be able to build up our future for our children.
Okay ... enough with the fun with deja vu. Back to baking pecan pies.

'Twas the day before Thanksgiving ...

... and all through the house
There was grace in action --
Thanks be to God!
Grace in Action is the theme of this year's Stewardship Campaign at All Saints Church. Part of telling the stories of that grace in action in and through the ministries at All Saints has been a series of short video witnesses ... everything from our youth group to the prayer shawl ministry to the "Borderlinks" program.
You can read more about the campaign here ... but what I wanted to post on this Day-Before-Thanksgiving was the video witness that went out to the parish yesterday ... highlighting our witness for marriage equality in California in general and my fabulous All Saints clergy colleagues in particular.

So click here to view the video ... and join me in giving thanks for "grace in action" -- and for colleagues who not only "get it" ... but who do something about it!

("Happy Turkey to all, and to all a goodnight!")

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Talking Turkey for Thanksgiving

Am about to head out "over the river and through the hills" to my brother's for Thanksgiving. But before I do, wanted to share with you this great piece that came to me from my friend and colleague, Rabbi Denise Eger -- who is one of the things I'm most thankful for this year!

The Great Thanksgiving Conversation:
Let’s talk all the way through the Holidays.

This Thanksgiving many of us will be leaving our families of choice and spending time with our families of origin. At these dinner tables thousands of conversations will be had. As you are thinking about the conversation around your family dinner table this Thanksgiving and Holiday Season, it is a great opportunity to talk to them about human rights and equality for members of the family who are LGBT. Many of us will encounter “mixed” family tables – with family members who voted on both sides of Prop 8.

Inevitably talk will turn to events of this important election, including the meaning of the passage of Proposition 8 in California.

Become a community organizer and help educate your family on marriage equality and the truth about Prop 8. This is one social justice activity you can engage in that will help all of us in the future, whether the courts overturn Prop 8 or we face another ballot measure.Proposition 8, and its approval, make it lawful to discriminate in California and is just the beginning. It will have serious implications for minorities around our country.

It is important that we continue the conversation, especially with our friends and family in to win the hearts and minds of our friends/family. Many of them will likely use the same arguments that have been used since the election - that they like their gay/lesbian friends but voted for Proposition 8 because their faith/tradition told them to do so.

We are encouraging you to have a conversation with your friends and family this Thanksgiving and throughout the holiday season. In order to get the conversation started we have included some “conversation starters” as well as some facts to counter some of the arguments that are being used in defense of passing Proposition 8 in California.

Here are the key messages that confused and convinced good Californians to vote YES on 8, and the truth about them:

1. YES ON 8 MESSAGE: “Without Proposition 8, Churches would be forced to marry gay people even if it conflicts with their ideas, and they could lose their non-profit status.”

Proposition 8 unfairly blurred the boundaries between the separation of church and state, and the Yes on 8 Campaign outright lied when it said that churches would be forced to officiate at the marriage of gay men or lesbians. In fact, page 117 of the Supreme Court’s original decision last May guaranteed protections for churches to follow their faith’s teaching on the matter and to NOT officiate if that is their teaching. The YES on 8 campaign further blurred the boundary between church and state when it said that it would cause churches to lose their non-profit status. Nothing could be further from the truth. Churches would still be protected as affirmed again by the Supreme Court.The misinformation and outright lies of the Mormon and Catholic and Evangelic Christians communities caused confusion and pain among many. The state constitution should never promote one religion over another.

2. YES ON 8 MESSAGE: “Only the church can say who is married.”

This is absolutely false. As long as couples must get a marriage license from the state for their marriage to be recognized—then you can’t deny citizens from equality. The state issues licenses and you do not have to go to a rabbi, priest or minister or imam to get married. As long as there is civil marriage then it must be open to everyone. It is discrimination to do otherwise.

3. YES ON 8 MESSAGE: “Gay people don’t have civil right; they belong to African Americans.”

In America we have fought for equality for all citizens regardless of race, creed or color and in California that equality is extended to those of different sexual orientation. We have the equal protection clause that says all groups must be treated equally under the law. We are sensitive to the particular history and struggle – and sense of ownership that African Americans have over the phrase “civil rights”. However, they are called “civil rights”, “equal rights,” or “human rights” -- this bundle of rights confers dignity to all people, including gay people. Even those who go to church can understand the phrase, “Love your neighbor as yourself”. The constitution should not be used to deny or retract rights, and that is what Prop 8 did. If you start with gay people—who will be next? Blacks? Latinos? Jews? Blond haired people? Those without a college degree? Catholic?Prop 8 crossed a dangerous line by imposing the tyranny of the barely-a-majority on one group.

4. YES ON 8 MESSAGE: “Why do you need to use the term marriage? Isn’t domestic partnership or civil unions good enough?”

Separate but equal is never good enough. It didn’t work before in the United States with drinking fountains or education or in the Jim Crow era of South Africa. Marriage holds unique and special dignity for the couple and their children. Our society is not built on civil unions but is built on the idea of marriage which takes two unrelated people and makes them next of kin. There are differences in domestic partnership and marriage. The most notable difference is in the reactions of others. Everyone understands when a couple says they are married. Most do not understand when you say your partner, they misinterpret regularly. Also there is a profound difference for those who are married. Their families are accorded the proper dignity and respect in the world and there are some benefits from one’s employer that are available to married spouses that are not available to domestic partners.

5. YES on 8 MESSAGE: “The people had their say and the vote of the people should be honored.”

It is never okay for the majority to impose its will if it eliminates the rights of a minority. Our constitution and the judiciary exist to protect the minority voice from the tyranny of the majority. This is not an “activist” court. This is a conservative court – a majority is Republican -- that interpreted the Constitution and in May of 2008 declared that gay and lesbian people were protected by the equal protection clause. Now the legal case before the Supreme Court will examine whether or not the Prop 8 vote, garnered through an expensive campaign of lies and misinformation, was proper. There have been other instances in California when a ballot initiative was declared improper and/or unconstitutional including Prop. 187 (that would have denied illegal immigrants services).

6. POST-ELECTION MESSAGE: “Gay people should just get over it. It’s just not a big deal.”

One can never get over completely the wounds of oppression and discrimination. The passage of Proposition 8 hurt gay people in California – and lots of their straight friends and family, too. For a few short months gay people knew full and complete marriage equality as never before. 18,000 gay and lesbian couples got legally married. And then in an instant that equality was taken away. This is a deep wound. When justice and equality are denied, people are moved to express their cry for freedom through their first amendment rights to free speech, through protest. Engaging in peaceful rallies and marches to voice our concern is an American tradition, and helps lead to change.

These talking points ought to help you move our cause forward in your family.

Here are some additional actions you might want to take:
• Think about wearing a button that states how many months/years you and your partner have been together.
• Keep your Vote NO on Prop 8 bumper sticker on your car
• (Re)Introduce your partner as your husband/wife
• Talk about a rally or your personal participation in the No on Prop 8 campaign
• Take some wedding cake home for desert
• Take pictures to share of your family
• Ask what they think about what California did with the passing of Proposition 8
• Talk about a wedding (same-sex or opposite-sex) that your attended over the summer

We wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving….Keep the conversation going through the Holidays!
Rabbi Denise L. Eger
Rev. Neil Thomas
Torie Osborn
Rodney Scott

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Bravo, Missouri!

Lisa Fox, from the Diocese of Missouri, offers the following good news (on her blog "My Manner of Life") from the recently completed Diocesan Convention:

Many you know there is s national move afoot to get dioceses on board to repudiate B033 and apologize for its effects, to ask General Convention to affirm same-sex-blessings, and to re-open the door to LBGT candidates to the episcopate. Some brave souls decided to try to get the Diocese of Missouri "on the record" supporting those initiatives, and ... all of them passed – all of them! – all four of them.

Yes, everyone of them. Tonight, my head is reeling that all of them passed – and passed by such a wide majority that we didn't even have to count the votes. They all passed overwhelmingly. Overwhelmingly. In this conservative/moderate diocese. In this red state. My head is spinning.

Thanks for the good news report, Lisa! And for those wondering what OTHER good things are going on around the Episcopal Church, keep an eye on Be It Resolved ... the Integrity site tracking diocesan resolutions as we head toward General Convention.

Remember -- the harvest is plentiful and the laborers may be few but they're doing AMAZING work on behalf of the inclusive Gospel. Let's take a moment today to rejoice and be glad in it!

Christ the King

"Who IS this King of Glory?"
[revisiting CTK Sunday 2004]

Anyone who thinks Southern California doesn’t have seasons isn’t paying attention. Our seasonal shifts may not be as dramatic as—say North Carolina or New York, but since I’m actually FROM here the autumn signs and symbols we see all around us this morning feel like fall to me! The trees with their brilliant orange and yellow leaves along with bright blue skies, cooler temperatures, shorter days and (perhaps the most locally telling of all the year-end-portents) – the banners advertising Rose Parade bleacher seating springing up all over town: signs of the season, Pasadena-style.

Another sign of the season—Episcopal-style—are the lessons appointed for this last Sunday after Pentecost: which is the last Sunday of our church year. Today, as we end one church year and look forward to a new year ahead, our focus is not yet on the birth of Jesus the baby; rather our lessons and hymns call us to consider the Reign of Christ the King.

Now there are any number of reasons the language of kingship can be problematic for us as 21st century Christians: the gender thing and the patriarchy problem for starters—not to mention the allergy we Americans have historically had to monarchies in general (with the notable exception of our seemingly insatiable appetite for the latest goings on in the British Royal Family.) But no matter how we try to work around it, claiming Christ the King— Christ AS King—is not only part of our historic tradition, I believe it is a critical aspect of our prophetic future.

Read the rest here ...

Saturday, November 22, 2008

On this day ...

November 22, 1963

For those of us old enough to remember, it's one of those days that everybody remembers "where they were when they heard ..."

In other news ...

Clinton-Obama Détente:
From Top Rival to Top Aide

from today's NYT feature: The reality at the end of the day was, whether it was Iran or health care or some of these other issues, they were always fighting big battles over small differences [during the primary campaign.]

The courts and Prop. 8 ...

... a November 20th Los Angeles Times Editorial:

[Offering a pretty good, concise "Clif Notes" look at the legal issues and precedents tangled up in the Supreme Court challenge of Proposition 8 in California.]

In a recent meeting with The Times' editorial board, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger expressed confidence that the ban would be overturned because the California Supreme Court this year rejected an earlier ban, Proposition 22, as unconstitutional. The governor is being politically sensible but legally naive about this; the arguments against Proposition 8 hang on different precedents, issues and history.

The definition of marriage in the two initiatives is identical: "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." But Proposition 8 embeds that definition in the state Constitution, and it would defy reason for the court to hold that part of the Constitution is unconstitutional. In challenging the measure, the lawsuits argue that it is not in fact a constitutional amendment, which requires only a simple majority of the popular vote for passage, but rather a constitutional revision, a fundamental change in the Constitution that entails a far more complicated approval process.

The state Supreme Court has never been all that clear on what it considers revision, but it has set the bar high, finding only twice that supposed amendments actually revised the Constitution.

Measures that insert sizable passages on multiple issues seem to fall into the "revision" category; in a 1948 case, the court struck down an amendment that would have added 21,000 words covering various topics to the 55,000-word Constitution.Proposition 8 lies at the opposite end of the spectrum, a mere 14 words that strip one group of people (homosexual couples) of one right (legally recognized marriage).

The California court rejected similar challenges to the death penalty and to Proposition 13, both of which, it ruled, were properly considered amendments, not revisions. And this year, the Oregon Court of Appeals rejected a suit on same-sex marriage much like the current lawsuits -- Oregon's Constitution has similar provisions on revision and equal protection. As a result, the legal challenge to Proposition 8 is generally seen as a long shot.

Yet that doesn't mean the suits are without merit. The California court has indicated that the quality of the change matters, not just its length or breadth. Gay-rights supporters, including the largest cities in the state and dozens of legislators, argue that by stripping a protected group of the right to marry, Proposition 8 nullifies the equal protection provisions of the U.S. and California constitutions.

The Oregon court disagreed, but there is a potentially important difference between the two states: The Oregon Supreme Court has never ruled that marriage is a fundamental right under its state Constitution. The California Supreme Court has.

There are other legal precedents to consider. In 1996, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against a constitutional amendment in Colorado that would have forbidden all laws that protect civil rights for homosexuals. The ban violated the equal protection provisions of the 14th Amendment, the court wrote, by singling out one group to be denied the rights enjoyed by all others.

But there also are differences between the Colorado and California measures. In Colorado, gays and lesbians were denied legal protection against discrimination in housing, employment and other basics of life. The court cited the breadth and basic nature of these rights in its ruling, saying there could be no legitimate state interest in the measure, simply animosity toward one group; in contrast, same-sex marriage is both newer and narrower, though, according to the California high court, an equally basic right.

Although we too will welcome the day that Proposition 8 is consigned to history and the right to same-sex marriage is restored to Californians, we are sorry to see that the court agreed to take the cases directly, rather than letting this issue percolate up through the lower courts. We see no reason for the haste, despite the intensity of emotion roused by the measure's victory. In fact, that very heatedness is a reason for the court to move slowly, allowing it to rule under cooler circumstances.

Similarly, painful though it is to see Proposition 8 take effect, we agree with the court's decision to allow it to stand as law until the court rules. This is a hateful measure, passed after a campaign of misleading scare tactics, but it did pass. Suspending further same-sex marriages while the litigation proceeds will delay the exercise of this fundamental right, but we are a democratic nation and one bound by the rule of law; until voters reconsider or the courts decide otherwise, there is no option but to stop issuing marriage licenses.

Many voters will claim that the courts should have no jurisdiction at all. Just as they did after the California court's May ruling that legalized same-sex marriage, these people will complain about "activist judges" potentially subverting the will of the people. Maybe schools need to strengthen their civics lessons so that future voters will understand that supreme courts specifically are charged with ruling on constitutional questions -- and it is a sacred and historic role of the courts to protect minority rights as enshrined in state and federal constitutions. Indeed, if courts merely existed to ratify the will of majorities, they would add little to our society.

The California Supreme Court could rule either way on whether Proposition 8 amounts to a constitutional revision, but the issue demands its attention.

The court already has found that same-sex marriage is a fundamental right; now it has the opportunity to fulfill its constitutional obligations to guard against the tyranny of the majority and to ensure that elections do not become vehicles of repression.

"No, We DON'T!" -- Reflections on Homophobia & Hope

I’m writing this on the plane home from Washington DC -- where the sense of energy and anticipation of new hopes, new beginnings and new opportunities was positively palpable. The first thing I saw when I got off the plane on Tuesday at Reagan National was the rack of “Yes, We Did!” t-shirts in the airport gift shop -- and the news all week was practically giddy with inauguration, transition team and new administration appointment talk.

Our work with the Human Rights Campaign Religion Council (the meetings I was there to attend) was all about how we – as religious leaders committed to an inclusive legislative agenda – can help move that agenda forward, as we come to the end of eight years of “Don’t Even Think About It” and enter a historic new era of “Yes, We Can!”

And yet.

In California, we face the uphill battle to undo what a multi-million dollar campaign of fear based disinformation did on November 4th when we took a historic step in the other direction of writing discrimination into the state constitution and eliminating the right of same-sex couples to civil marriage by passing, by a narrow margin, Proposition 8.

And what I’m wondering tonight, on this homeward bound flight toward LAX, is if the 2008 California election has not done for systemic homophobia what Hurricane Katrina did for systemic racism -- exposed it to the harsh light of day in a way that it can no longer be either ignored or denied. And I’m wondering if we can’t claim that reality and mobilize around it.

Because here’s the deal: a fear-based campaign doesn’t work unless people think there’s really something to be afraid of. We may think it’s ludicrous to imagine that the institution of marriage which has so far survived Mickey Rooney, Elizabeth Taylor and Britney Spears (not to mention Henry VIII with his six wives and Solomon with his many!) is going to be “threatened” by a few thousand same-sex couples wanting to live happily ever after. But remember, a “phobia” is – by its very definition -- an “irrational” fear: so there’s no point trying to use logic to overcome it.

And it is no more true that only those with “Yes on 8” signs on their lawns are infected with homophobia than it is that only those burning crosses on other people’s lawns are infected with racism. Homophobia is – and continues to be – both an external and internal challenge to liberty and justice for all in this nation. And it is a challenge we must meet head on if we are going to fully live into the promise of “Yes, We Can!”

The first “nudge” I got on this was last week as I watched (yet another) CNN report on the Prop 8 struggle. Toward the end of the interview with Lambda Legal attorney Jennifer Pizer, T.J. Holmes said to her, “should there be more emphasis to maybe change the hearts and minds, instead of changing law?”
Now don’t get me wrong – I’m all about education and outreach to change hearts and minds – that’s what “Voices of Witness” was about, that’s what our work at Lambeth Conference was about and that’s what our ongoing work and witness toward General Convention in the Episcopal Church is about.
But if the court deciding Brown v Board of Education had waited until voters "hearts and minds were changed" to believe that African American children “deserved” equal education, then we’d still be looking at segregated schools and I wouldn’t be flying home from Washington DC with three “President Obama” t-shirts in my carry-on!

Barack Obama's election does not mean we’re “done” with racism – not by a long shot. But it took all of it – the courts and the crowds and the legislation and the lawyers and the protests and the persuasion to get us to this historic “Yes, We Did!” moment – and our struggle against homophobia deserves nothing less than that full court press.

And here’s why: Because homophobia isn’t just “out there” – it’s “in here.”

This week, a member of our Integrity Board received an email from a member in her region, saying he did not believe Integrity should be supporting the Prop 8 protests, suggesting that “instead of making a big to-do about it, we should instead prove that we are worthy of marriage.”

She didn’t ask me for a response, but I gave her one anyway:

"What pack of lies we've been told that WE -- citizens of these United States and baptized members of the Body of Christ have to "prove that we are worthy of marriage." Let me put that in theological terms: BULL SHIT!! I'll get back to you when I'm a little less lit about this."

Well, it’s been a week and I’m not less “lit.” But here’s my response today to the idea that we have to “prove we are worthy:”

No, We Don’t

No, We Don’t

No, We Don’t

We do not have to prove that as citizens of these United States we are entitled to anything less than the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness we claim as foundational values for all Americans.

We do not have to prove that as baptized members of the Body of Christ our relationships are any less whole, holy and blessed than those of our heterosexual brothers and sisters.

What we can and will prove, however, is that this attack against our civil rights in California is not just about same-sex marriage that impacts a small percentage of American citizens but about core American values that impact us all.

Here’s how I responded to an emailed question from a USC journalism student asking, “What did you hope to accomplish by participating in the Prop 8 protest rallies on November 15th?”

What we hoped to accomplish was what I believe we DID accomplish: give voice to the righteous indignation of those who see this battle over Proposition 8 as a civil rights struggle with much broader implications than a few thousand same-sex couples who want to live happily ever after.

What we face in the ongoing struggle to combat Proposition 8 are forces willing to abandon historic, foundational principles of equal protection, separation of powers and the sanctity of an independent judiciary in order to achieve their narrow, bigoted, theological goals. I believe it is nothing less than the slippery slope from democracy to theocracy and we are at a defining moment in that struggle as we work together to challenge Proposition 8.

What we accomplished on Saturday, November 15th at the City Hall in Pasadena and in civic centers all over this great nation of ours was the beginning of what I fervently believe will be a new movement reclaiming liberty and justice for all (not just some) as a common, shared, achievable aspiration of the American Dream.

The election of Barack Obama as our 44th president was two huge steps forward toward that goal – Proposition 8 was a disappointing step back. What we accomplished on Saturday was demonstrating our refusal to settle for that step back and to claim for LGBT Americans the same hope our president-elect has called for us ALL to claim and to proclaim.

And we do NOT have to apologize for that. We do NOT have to settle for less than that. And we most certainly do NOT have to “prove” that we deserve equal protection as citizens of these United States.

No, We Don’t.

No, We Don’t.

No, We Don’t.

Remember that “nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal?” It’s the nation that had to fight a civil war to decide whether “all men” meant ALL men or just white men. And it wasn’t a fight that ended at Appomattox – that struggle continues today as we combat the systemic racism that has been called “America’s Original Sin.”

It’s the nation that had to decide if “created equal” stopped with men and extended to women – and we know that the struggle to overcome sexism didn’t end with either the Suffragettes or with Steinem but continues to challenge us as a nation at every level of social engagement.

And now we’re engaged in this struggle to decide whether religious bigots have the power to add an asterisk after “created equal” reading “*unless you’re gay or lesbian, bisexual or transgender.”

Our answer to that question as a nation must be:

No, They Don’t!

No, They Don’t!

No, They Don’t!

And what’s our answer to whether or not we can muster the discipline and the determination to continue to move this country forward on that arc of history that bends toward inclusion until liberty and justice for all truly means “all?”

Yes, We Can!

Yes, We Can!

Yes, We Can!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

More fun with video

Here's a link to the Post-Prop 8 Press Conference held at All Saints Church on the Sunday after the election.

YouTube: Issues with Jane Velez-Mitchell on Prop 8

Got the "heads up" from serveral emailers that the good folks at GLAAD had posted Monday's segment from Issues with Jane Velez-Mitchell on YouTube ... check it out!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

CA Court to hear challenges to Prop 8

From the Sacramento Bee:

The California Supreme Court agreed Wednesday to consider complaints by opponents of Proposition 8 that it improperly revised the constitution to ban gay marriage.

The court declined to stay its enforcement in the meantime.

Court spokeswoman Lynn Holton said the court asked the parties involved to write briefs arguing three issues:

(1) Is Proposition 8 invalid because it constitutes a revision of, rather than an amendment to, the California Constitution?

(2) Does Proposition 8 violate the separation-of-powers doctrine under the CaliforniaConstitution?

(3) If Proposition 8 is not unconstitutional, what is its effect, if any, on the marriages of same-sex couples performed before the adoption of Proposition 8?

Holton said the court established an expedited briefing schedule.

She said oral argument could be held as early as March 2009.

LA Times
Associated Press

The transcript is finally up from our November 17 CNN HLN gig

Still no luck getting a video clip from CNN but here's the transcript off their site -- so settle back and check it out and see why I said I has a lot more fun that Lou Sheldon did. (Just for the record, my favorite part is where Rev. Sheldon tells our host -- Jane Velez-Mitchell -- that she's "pretty sassy for a reporter." Honest! That's what he said! Check it out ...)
"Issues with Jane Velez-Mitchell: November 17, 2008" -- CNN HLNews
VELEZ-MITCHELL: You are looking at exclusive footage shot over the weekend and sent to this show by somebody at these protests. These stunning images take you inside one of the massive protests against California`s Prop 8 that are sweeping across the nation.California`s Proposition 8, which passed on Election Day, removed the right of same-sex couples to marry. Leaders of these protests believe they can spark a nationwide push for gay rights with many calling it a civil rights issue, the likes of which we have not seen since the 1960s.Meantime, a shocker this weekend when comedian and actress Wanda Sykes from the hit show "The New Adventures of Old Christine" said this at one passionate rally.
WANDA SYKES, ACTRESS: I don`t really talk about my sexual orientation; I didn`t feel like I had to. I was just living my life and not necessarily in the closet. I was just living my life. Everybody that knows me personally, they know I`m gay, they know, you know. I am proud to be a woman. I am proud to be a black woman. And I am proud to be gay.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: This is an issue that will not and should not go away.
Here to give their views on both sides of this issue is the Chairman of the Traditional Values Coalition, the Reverend Louis Sheldon, who is also the author of the book "The Agenda: The Homosexual Plan to Change America." Robert Jeffress, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas.Both men supporters of Prop 8 and on the other side, the Reverend Susan Russell, senior associate for pastoral life at All Saints Episcopal church in Pasadena, which has performed gay marriages.
Reverend Russell, let`s start with you. Do you think Prop 8 has now backfired in that it has galvanized gay and gay-friendly Americans like never before and really unified it as a national civil rights movement?
REV. SUSAN RUSSELL, ALL SAINTS EPISCOPAL CHURCH: I think the hard truth is that many were complacent about their rights, and to see a bare majority here in California take the effort to strip away fundamental rights from Americans is just fundamentally wrong.I think the outrage you are seeing in the streets is precisely what should be happening. And I do believe, I think it`s perhaps the beginning of the end for those who want to write discrimination into our constitution and take civil rights away from gay and lesbian Americans. Its time for them to step up and speak out and that`s what we`re doing.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Reverend Louis Sheldon, these demonstrations haven`t just gone national, they have gone global -- Canada, England, Australia, other European countries also planning demonstrations.If Prop 8 was designed to shatter the gay rights movement, hasn`t it had the opposite effect?
REV. LOUIS SHELDON, TRADITIONAL VALUES COALITION: Well, in America, you only have two states that allow gay marriage, 48 do not. I believe in the rule of law, and I believe very clearly what we have done -- we went to the Attorney General, we gave him the language we wanted, he gave us a title in summary.We went out and got the signatures and we won. Now, if these people want to be anarchists, and they want disturb --
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Wait, wait -- anarchists?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Demonstration is a very fundamental part --
VELEZ-MITCHELL: These are not rioters. These are not riots --
SHELDON: You have not seen the demonstrations that they are doing.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: I`m looking right here.

SHELDON: In San Francisco, oh no that is only one example. You have not seen what happened in San Francisco --
VELEZ-MITCHELL: You`re not participating in the demonstration.
SHELDON: May I speak? You brought me down here and now let me speak and don`t be so rude.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Ok, finish it off, but don`t call it a riot, it isn`t.
SHELDON: But I`ll do what I will. Don`t you allow me any freedom?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: I`m telling you not to lie.
SHELDON: Let me tell you this, that in San Francisco, there is footage, but you won`t show it, where they were beating up people because they are pro-Proposition 8. That -- these are anarchists.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Listen, there are plenty of -- there are plenty of cases where people who happen to be gay have been beaten and even killed -- Matthew Shepherd, for example --
SHELDON: Listen, I have been under attack in that city --
VELEZ-MITCHELL: So I don`t think we need to go to the extreme of citing people who have broken the law, because people have broken the law on both sides.
SHELDON: But you believe in disturbing the law?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Let`s bring in the Robert Jeffress, the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas.Let me ask you this question pastor, because a lot of people who voted yes for Prop 8 say they`re not against gays, they`re just against gay marriage. What is your position on homosexuality?
PASTOR ROBERT JEFFRESS, FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH OF DALLAS: Well, I preached the sermon this Sunday why gay is not ok. We had 100 protestors outside of our church. They were very peaceful. But what I said was, from the biblical viewpoint, Jesus said that marriage is between a man and a woman. God made us. God is the one who designed us. He created sex, and in his owner`s manual, the bible, he said that the way sex best works is between a man and a woman and a marriage relationship.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: It`s kind of interesting, because Jesus Christ himself wasn`t married. Let me ask you this, Reverend Russell, if Jesus were here today, what would he say, in your opinion about this whole controversy?
RUSSELL: I think Jesus is here today, and Jesus is here in the body of Christ of those faithful Christians out in the streets saying this is wrong. If Jesus were here today, what he would say is spending $46 million to write discrimination into our constitution has nothing to do with the gospel Jesus came to teach of peace and love and caring for your neighbor. I will defend defend Louis Sheldon`s right to believe anything he wants. He doesn`t have the right to write it into our constitution, and that`s why we`re in the streets of California, and that`s why we`re going to prevail.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Reverend Sheldon --
VELEZ-MITCHELL: I believe that gay marriage should be a right for all Americans. In other words, this should be ok across the country. You have 30 seconds. Change my mind.
SHELDON: Why did not Jerry Brown, the Attorney General for California, when we submitted the language, tell us this and say this is not constitutional material? He allowed us to go ahead. You cannot go back when the Attorney General, the law enforcement agent of the entire state of California, says green light. Go get your signatures. And when we won, it`s very clear this is nothing but sour grapes.Now, remember, when we lost in May 15th to the Supreme Court overturning Prop 22 --
VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right, that`s it, you had your time. Guess what, you didn`t change my mind, but this is an issue that even --
SHELDON: Who can change your mind?
VELEZ-MITCHELL: -- a former Mormon recognizes is larger than one church`s agenda. Take a listen to this woman from our exclusive footage.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- great many gay friends, and I felt as a former Mormon and a resident native of Texas, there`s a lot of people in my friendship circle that are very much on the right wing it was really important for me to speak out and make sure that that group of people heard from me as a straight person who has really nothing to gain from giving gays the right to marry, that this is an issue that`s important to everybody, not just gay people.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Pastor Jeffress, there you hear from somebody who is not gay but who is just an American saying, hey, this is a civil rights issue. Isn`t the mark of a movement coalescing when it`s joined by people who don`t necessarily benefit themselves?
JEFFRESS: Jane, they don`t understand the societal implications. Countries in Scandinavia that have embraced same-sex marriages have seen the rate of heterosexual marriages plummet to their lowest rates, and the result is, children are being born out of wedlock, it`s destabilizing society. Whenever you counterfeit something you devaluate and homosexual marriage is a --
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I looked around the world, I don`t see the Netherlands as an example of a nation falling apart. I see, you know, there are plenty of areas in this world that are suffering crisis. In Africa, there are kids who don`t even have food to eat.

JEFFRESS: Jane, 70 percent of the prison population in America today is people who were born out of wedlock. And if marriage is whatever you say it is, if it`s not just a man and a woman, why not a man and three women or four women and a man? You devalue something when you counterfeit it, and it has great societal implications.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, Reverend --
JEFFRESS: And that`s why we need to stay with the traditional definition.By the way, it`s when the Supreme Court upheld in 1885 when it said no legislation is more profitable for society than that which supports marriage between a man and a woman in Murphy versus Ramsey.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well a couple of things. Ok, I`m hearing you, but a couple things. One, I think it`s actually going to hurt California economically, and that`s what various government officials have said. Because all those gay marriages that were going to happen, --
VELEZ-MITCHELL: -- they`re not going to get those tax dollars in.But I want to ask Reverend Susan Russell, and I`ll get your responses all to the hypocrisy within the movement to stop gay marriage.Look at the Reverend Ted Haggard. He was absolutely adamantine about stopping gay marriage. He was speaking for 30 million Evangelical Christians as the one-time president of the National Evangelical Association. And then he was accused of having a gay relationship himself. And he resigned and he admitted sexual immorality and being a liar and a deceiver. What do you make of that?
RUSSELL: I think internalized homophobia does really dangerous things to people, and I think what we`re seeing right now, and I applaud those who are coming out of the closet as a result of this fight.I think at the end of the day, what we need to do is absolutely support the sacrament and the sanctity of marriage, but that means all marriages. And we need to look at the values that make up a marriage, not the gender that makes up the couple. And we need to stop letting religious bigots write their theology into our constitution. We need freedom of religion and freedom from religion in this country.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Reverend Sheldon, your response to the Haggard scandal?
SHELDON: Well, there`s no question about it. There are many people that are in the closet, and that I don`t think is the issue at all. I think the issue is that you can be redeemed. I put a word in my book --
VELEZ-MITCHELL: You`re saying you can unlearn homosexuality, like you can go to a camp and they can make you heterosexual again?
SHELDON: I don`t know what psychological training you had at all, but let me just mention --
VELEZ-MITCHELL: What psychological training have you had?
SHELDON: I`ve had an awful lot of counseling people.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Were you in therapy?
SHELDON: Yes. Now may I speak?
SHELDON: You get awful sassy as a reporter who`s supposed to be a little bit neutral.
VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, no this is an opinion show, sir, and you`re giving your opinion and I`m giving mine.
SHELDON: Yes, so let me just mention to you very clearly that reparative therapy -- the greatest people that are persecuted are those that are delivered from gender identity conflict. It is not a gene. No one has ever found the gene, and even if they did find the gene it wouldn`t make a lot of difference.But they have never found the gene. And that gene says that, you know --
VELEZ-MITCHELL: All right, guess what? I think you`ve spoken probably more than anybody else on our panel tonight, so don`t say I haven`t given you a chance to have your say.I think that gay marriage should be a right, and I think that these protests are going to get bigger and bigger. And I think this issue isn`t going anywhere.Thank you, Robert, Louis, Susan, all. Come back, we`ll argue some more in a little bit.

On the road again ...

So I'm in Washington DC ... going to be meeting with interfaith allies on the HRC Religion Council for the next couple of days and attending the Transgender Day of Remembrance observance on Thursday night.

Here's the view outside my window ... Farragut Square ... in the center of the city. I'm heading up to the Nat'l Cathedral in a bit for a lunch meeting and then hoping to get a little down time before we start our work together tonight.

It was a happily uneventful "commute" from L.A. to DC yesterday ... sobering to take off over the L.A. skyline, however and see all the gathered smoke from the recent wildfires. Prayers continue to ascend for all those impacted by the devastation and for all those who stood in harm's way to protect lives and property.

A couple of travel anecdotes to share:

Hustling through the St. Louis airport to make my connecting flight to Washington -- as I walked down the "C Concourse" I spied -- coming directly toward me -- a dapper man in a purple shirt. "My goodness, bishop," I said, "fancy meeting you here!" ... and put out my hand, which he took and shook, smiling. "Yes, yes, good to see you," he said. "I know your face, but your name ..." "Of course, of course," I said. "I'm Susan Russell from the Diocese of Los Angeles." "Oh, of course you are," said (wait for it ...) Jack Iker -- former bishop of the Diocese of Fort Worth. "Godspeed on this next part of your journey," I said. "Thank you," he said. (Here endeth the St. Louis Airport anecdote!)

So then I'm in my seat in the plane, waiting them to close the cabin door and tell us to turn off our cell phones, and I get a call from Janette Williams from the Pasadena Star News wanting comment about a story she's writing about two women who are going to walk from L.A. to San Francisco to protest Prop 8 writing discrimination into our constitution.

Of course I have an opinion on that -- which I give her (some of which ends up in her article published yesterday) -- trying to keep my voice down but how quiet can you BE crammed into seat 22B elbow-to-elbow ... next to the Brooks Brothers guy reading the National Review. Oh well.

==== from the Star News feature:

The Rev. Susan Russell of All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena - which conducted same-sex weddings and hosted pre-election phone banks to drum up opposition to Proposition 8 - said Tuesday that the couple's march is more than just a symbol.

"It's exactly what people of faith should be doing - putting their faith into action ... taking the opportunity to stand up for one of the defining civil rights issues of our time," Russell said. "We hold these women in our prayers, and we think it's exactly the kind of action we'd like to see more of as we continue to battle the effort to write discrimination into our Constitution."

Four legal writs have been filed with the state Supreme Court to overturn Proposition 8, Russell said, but working through the legal system is only one part of the opposition.

"I think everything we do is going to be effective" in fighting Proposition 8, she said. "As this couple takes a symbolic journey for justice, our prayers will move this state and this country."


Onward to Washington. Getting of the plane at Reagan National I run -- almost literally -- into conservative political commentator Amy Holmes. She's definitely one of those pundits-you-love-to-hate but it still sort of surprises me when you run into these folks "out in the world" standing in line for airport fast food like every other travel weary commuter.

My final report from yesterday's travelogue was being held up in traffic in the cab heading toward the hotel by a presidential motorcade coming out of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue (AKA "The White House"). My very savvy cab driver -- who had already enlightened me on his perspective of Scott McClellan's indictment of the Bush Administration over the Valerie Plame scandal -- said dryly, "Must be taking a break from packing." (Yes, Toto, we TOTALLY aren't in Kansas anymore! :)
So there you have it. From LaLa Land to Inside the Beltway "an inch at a time."

More later ...

Meanwhile, in Nepal ...

Nepal's highest court confirms full rights for LGBT people

"We have moved from being a marginalised and persecuted lot who were thrown out of homes, schools and jobs to people who have human rights and are now protected by the police, the same people who once harassed us."

A Nepali MP has said his "eyes were filled with tears" when he read the full written decision of the country's Supreme Court on a writ petition from four organisations representing lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex people.

A summary decision was issued in December 2007, when the court issued directive orders to the Nepal government to ensure the right to life according to their own identities and introduce laws providing equal rights to LGBTs and amend all the discriminatory laws.

The final judgement was issued today.

It reiterates that all LGBTs are defined as a "natural person" and their physical growth as well as sexual orientation, gender identity, expression are all part of natural growing process. Thus equal rights, identity and expression must be ensured regardless of their sex at birth.

Read the rest here ... and go ahead and bookmark this one for the next time someone trys the "homosexuality is a western issue" argument.

Monks Return to Mount Calvary

from today's New York Times:

LOS ANGELES — On Tuesday the monks met with their insurance agent.
Like thousands of other residents of Southern California, the seven Benedictine Anglican monks who lived at Mount Calvary Monastery and Retreat House, on a breathtaking ridge 1,250 feet above the Pacific in Montecito, were coming to terms with what they had lost in the fires that have swept across Southern California since Thursday.

Early last Friday, fire consumed most of the complex where the monks had chanted, studied the stars and welcomed guests from around the world. The next afternoon, they returned to survey the damage.

“We were very quiet,” Brother Joseph Brown recalled in a telephone interview Tuesday. “We just looked around. We were in shock.”

By the time the Tea Fire, in Santa Barbara County, was under control, all that remained of the 60-year-old monastery itself were a skeletal archway, a charred iron cross and a large Angelus bell.

Two small artist’s studios near the main building were intact. An icon of Christ that Brother Brown had been painting with pigments made from egg yolk and mineral powder was still on a desk. A cello sat a few feet away, unharmed. In the chaos of wind and fire, a sheriff’s deputy had moved another monk’s telescope outside, where it remained unscathed.

“In the midst of all this destruction,” Brother Brown, 46, said Tuesday, “miracles happened all over the place.”

“The feelings right now are difficult to describe,” he said. “One of the hazards of monasticism throughout the centuries is we become attached to what we have or where we are. This is simply a reminder that what we are called to is not our stuff. This is a cleansing by fire.”

Since the fire, the monks have stayed at St. Mary’s Retreat House, run by Episcopal nuns near the Santa Barbara Mission, as they searched for solace and prepared themselves to help others in the area who were displaced by the blaze.
Brother Brown said the monks, part of the Order of the Holy Cross, spent much of Tuesday meeting with an insurance agent and a contractor to discuss their options. Though the coastal mountains of Montecito were dear to their hearts, he said, they “need time to pray and discern” whether to rebuild there, and if so, how to go about it.

“And we’re like, ‘Hmm, how do we get a hold of Oprah?’ ” he added, speaking of another famous Montecito property owner, Oprah Winfrey, who was not there during the fire but who said on her show last week that she had made a plan to send her staff and dogs to stay at a nearby resort, and that her home was safe.
Residents of mansions and mobile home parks alike found the trappings of their communities devoured by the Tea Fire, the Sayre Fire in Orange County and the Freeway Complex Fire in Los Angeles County.

On Tuesday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger issued an order waiving fees for those needing to replace driver’s licenses, birth certificates and other documents destroyed in the fires.

The state has spent $75 million responding to the three fires, which burned over 40,000 acres, and destroyed 858 homes, the state Office of Emergency Services said. In Santa Barbara County, the Tea Fire was 100 percent contained, state fire officials said Tuesday.

When orange flames sprouted on a ridge below the wood and adobe buildings Thursday evening, the monks and 25 guests, leaders of local nonprofit groups, had just gathered for dinner. They continued eating for several minutes, Brother Brown said, but as wind-whipped flames grew larger, they decided to evacuate. He and the other monks rose from the table and told their guests it was time to go.

“We very calmly and quietly and efficiently and without great gravity got folks’ stuff out of their rooms,” and packed up their cars. The monks, he said, stayed a bit longer, grabbing what they could.

Brother Nicholas Radelmiller, the monastery’s prior, who has lived there for 18 years, carried a century-old painting of the Virgin of Guadalupe under his arm. Others grabbed two 600-year-old paintings, a cash box, laptops and a change of clothes.

Brother Radelmiller, 68, was the only one to get his habit, a white robe with billowing sleeves. The six-inch-long ebony cross he received at his ordination 38 years ago was tucked into the pocket.

The habit and cross, Brother Brown said, are a monk’s only personal possessions. The fire destroyed antique Spanish furniture, oil paintings, books and cherished photographs, he added, but the loss of their habits and crosses stung most. Even in that, though, he found comfort. “We are stripping away the outward symbols that eternally rest in our hearts,” Brother Brown said.
Brother Radelmiller confessed to being “still somewhat numb about the whole thing, and a little overwhelmed by all the stuff that has to be done.”

“I keep running into little things that I’d missed,” he said, “things I had not realized I’d lost.” He began to cry quietly, then took a breath, saying: “But I really do feel like the most important thing is that we’re all O.K. and together. If they’re memories, I’ll just have to remember them. The most important thing is us.”

IN RESPONSE: For those who've emailed or commented on "how can we help" here's this update from the Diocese of Los Angeles:

The bishop and staff of the Diocese of Los Angeles have pledged their support in assisting the coordination of fire recovery efforts. Checks, payable to the Treasurer of the Diocese and earmarked "Montecito Fire Recovery," may be sent to the Bishop's Office, 840 Echo Park Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90026.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Me having more fun on CNN HLNews than Lou Sheldon was

Still waiting for a transcript of the segment and maybe a video clip ... stay tuned!
The show is "Issues With Jane Velez-Mitchell" -- it runs in the 7pm eastern hour on HLNews. The transcript for the Nov 17 show just went up ... click here for a link ... I'll put the trascript for our segment in a separate blog post.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Both sides urge Supreme Court to hear challenges to Prop 8

(11-17) 16:42 PST SAN FRANCISCO -- The likelihood of a final California Supreme Court showdown over same-sex marriage increased dramatically Monday when Attorney General Jerry Brown and the pro-Proposition 8 campaign urged the justices to decide whether the voter-approved ballot measure is constitutional.

Both Brown, the state government's top lawyer, and the Protect Marriage campaign organization plan to defend Prop. 8, which would write a ban on same-sex marriage into the state Constitution. In separate filings Monday, the liberal attorney general and the conservative sponsors of the initiative gave similar reasons for asking the court to review lawsuits filed by the measure's opponents.

Read the rest here ... and remember that part about it not being over 'til the fat lady sings!

TIVO Alert: The Saga Continues!

7pm eastern/4pm pacific:

I'm going up against Lou Sheldon (of Traditional Values Coalition Fame ... ) and Pastor Robert Jeffres from Dallas ... who just preached a sermon entitled "Why Gay Is Not OK" ... on the CNN Headline News ISSUES WITH JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL show about life post-Prop 8.

Prayers invited. ("Film" at Eleven!)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

And from the City of Angels ...

Just a couple of pictures that came in last night from the Stop H8 Rally in downtown Los Angeles (thanks, Jim!) ... starting with City Hall sporting a rainbow flag draped there from the observation deck:

"Our boys" decked out in their "Equal Rites: The Episcopal Church Welcomes You" tshirts:

And a peek at the crowd -- estimated at 10,000:

The horrible wildfires devasting so much of the Southern California area are a huge cause of concern and invitation for prayer this morning. They've cancelled the marathon scheduled today for Pasadena because of bad air quality and many homes and lives still in harm's way as the Santa Ana winds continue -- they tell us -- for yet another day. But still, there's hope ...

From the New York Times report on the rally:

In Los Angeles, where wildfires had temporarily grabbed headlines from continuing protests over Proposition 8, Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa addressed a crowd of over 9,000 people in Spanish and English, and seemed to express confidence that the measure, which is being challenged in California courts, would be overturned.

“I’ve come here from the fires because I feel the wind at my back as well,” said the mayor, who arrived at a downtown rally from the fire zone on a helicopter. “It’s the wind of change that has swept the nation. It is the wind of optimism and hope.”

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Slide Show from Saturday @ Pasadena City Hall

Photo credit: Susan Russell & Larry Stammer

IMPACT "No on H8" rally in Pasadena CA

November 15th was "Promote love and equality in your city" day -- organized by the online Impact Community -- all over the country, and here in Pasadena we gathered to do exactly that at the Pasadena City Hall.

Thanks to Scott Boardman for getting the ball rolling, for all those who stepped up to line up speakers, posters, sound tech and publicity -- and especially to Juan, Nathan and Margi from ASC, Hannah from Neighborhood Church and my buddy Douglas Hunter -- Mormon Maverick for Marriage Equality.

Here's the advance party ... getting things together about 10am this morning, ahead of the 10:30 start time:

By 10:30 it was easy to see that we had built it and they had come -- with signs, flags, baby strollers and ready to make some noise for justice!

I only got to snap a few pictures -- several other photographers promised to send me pix and I'll post them as they come in -- but for now here's my favorite sign:

Here's another look at the front of the crowd gathered right in front of the City Hall steps ... (and spread nearly to the corner along the sidewalk ... we had to stay out of the street.)

Finally, here's my colleague Zelda -- pausing to take in the applause as she addressed the crowd with the bullhorn we ended up using. (It was actually very cool ... I should carry one with me all the time just in case a crowd gathers and I think of something to say! :)

Zelda said (among other great things!) "My mama and daddy taught me when I was a little girl that if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck and looks like a duck then it IS a duck. And this duck is called "discrimination" -- and as an African American female believe me, I know it when I see it!"


Go, Zelda!


More later. And if you took photos at the rallies in your area, do share. Let's build the witness. Let's keep up the pressure. Let's refuse to be silent. Let's seize this moment and make history out of it. (Click here for slideshow ...)


With liberty and justice for all?

A very helpful overview in this morning's L.A. Times on where we "are" here in California with the legal challenge to Proposition 8 ...

California Supreme Court ponders challenges to gay-marriage ban

Four lawsuits testing Proposition 8 have now been filed. At a Berkeley conference on the high court's role, however, the justices refrain from taking sides.By Maura DolanNovember 15, 2008Reporting from Berkeley — When six of seven members of the California Supreme Court gathered in Berkeley on Friday for a conference on the role of the court, their every facial tic and remark was scrutinized for signs of whether they would vote to overturn Proposition 8.

Topics of discussion included the death penalty and private judging, but the lawyers in the conference room on the UC Berkeley campus grew especially rapt when Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar announced discussion of the court's historic May 15 decision that guaranteed "the pre-Proposition 8 right of gays and lesbians to marry."

The court is pondering legal challenges to Proposition 8, which restored the ban on same-sex marriage. While the justices listened to what others had to say about their role in same-sex marriage, another lawsuit was filed before them to overturn the initiative. That legal challenge -- brought by groups including the Asian Pacific American Legal Center, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund -- brings to four the number of lawsuits asking the court to overturn Proposition 8. The court may act on the challenges as early as next week.

Although the conference on the role of the state high court was planned months ago, its topics squarely addressed the heated legal and political questions now swirling around the justices and the fate of same-sex marriage.
Former Gov. Pete Wilson, one of the speakers, said the court should defer to the other branches of government and refrain from making policy on its own.An appellate lawyer on a panel observed the court's obligation "to protect the minority from the tyranny of the majority."And justices from other states warned that voters are increasingly throwing state Supreme Court justices off the bench after heated campaigns by special interest groups.

Pepperdine University Law School Dean Kenneth W. Starr, speaking on a panel that discussed the court's rulings, called same-sex marriage "the defining social issue of our time." The marriage ruling not only was "the biggest blockbuster of this court's term but perhaps the most important decision handed down in the United States by any court," he said.

Starr had opposed same-sex marriage before the court, but he read aloud from the majority opinion in a stirring voice as the justices listened.The 4-3 ruling spoke of the "overarching values of equality and human freedom," the need to protect minorities, the "fundamental right" of marriage, and the importance of giving same-sex unions "equal dignity and respect," he said.

He also read from the dissents, which called marriage an ancient institution and said the court should defer to the will of the people.With the justices only a few feet away, Santa Clara University Law School Professor Gerald Uelmen opined that the court could not overturn Proposition 8 without also admitting that its May 15 decision improperly revised the state Constitution. The lawsuits against Proposition 8 contend that the initiative changed the tenets of the state Constitution and therefore amounted to a revision, which can only be placed on the ballot by a 2/3 vote of the Legislature. Proposition 8 stemmed from a signature campaign.Werdegar, the panel's moderator, frowned and ignored the comment.

Earlier she had said that the state high court must provide independent review when state constitutional issues were at stake, even if it meant overturning a vote of the people. Her remarks dealt with a tax case and had nothing to do with Proposition 8, but reporters scribbled furiously.

Television and radio media cornered Chief Justice Ronald M. George, who wrote the marriage ruling, and repeatedly tried to get him to discuss Proposition 8. He explained over and over again that judges were not permitted to comment on pending cases.While the justices lunched with panelists and the audience, Ohio Chief Justice Thomas J. Moyer warned that special interest groups were increasingly threatening the independence of the judiciary. Six state Supreme Court justices were ousted by voters this year after nasty campaigns by special interests, he said.

Opponents of same-sex marriages have talked of recalling members of the state high court if they overturn Proposition 8. Although George did not refer to those threats, he complained of the "increasingly partisan nature of judicial elections."

"We are keenly aware that we share with other state courts a vulnerability to forces that focus not on impartiality but on whether judges, like officeholders in our sister branches of government, should be responsive to majoritarian, political or special-interest preferences," he said.

Friday, November 14, 2008

“Let no one put asunder”

Reflections on the sanctity of marriage
Zelda Kennedy, Wilma Jakobsen, Abel Lopez, Susan Russell, Ed Bacon

For 140 days -- from June 17th - November 4th -- at All Saints Church in Pasadena the clergy had the extraordinary privilege of presiding at a total of 43 weddings of same-sex couples.

The cover of this week's Saints Alive ... our weekly parish newsletter ... featured our collective reflections about our experiences during that joyful window of opportunity to celebrate marriage equality. Enjoy!


[Zelda] The call came into my office the day before same-sex marriages were legal in California. The caller was Mel White, who was on a plane returning to Los Angeles from Europe. He would only be in Los Angeles for as long as it would take for him to marry his partner of 27 years, Gary Nixon. He asked if we would do the ceremony since All Saints was their former church home, continues to be their spiritual home base, and because marriage was not legal in his home state. Of course I said, “Yes!” – grateful that because we suspected we might become inundated with requests to perform same-sex marriages, we had already established guidelines to assist us in ministering to couples outside the Diocese of Los Angeles and the state of California.

Little did we know between this first marriage, held on June 18th and the last on November 3rd we would conduct 43 ceremonies - each uniquely different, each divinely blessed and each wonderfully incredible. Although the couples had distinctive relationships, they all had one thing in common, love - loving each other in relationships that ranged from 7 years to as many as 42 years.

[Wilma] The simple privilege of entering into people's lives at a moment when they made their long-term commitment public was profound. When the season started back in June, I was away in South Africa, and part of my trip involved inquiring how my participation in same sex marriages here might or might not affect my status in the Anglican Church of Southern Africa. Though no clear answer emerged, I came back peacefully resolved to marry any couples who asked me to do so, and that I would deal with any consequences, if and when the issue emerged in the future.

Though I missed the excitement of the very first weddings, I was thrilled to be asked to participate in three couple's weddings - with all of whom I had deep and long standing pastoral relationships. Their children participated in the weddings in integral ways, so that we were not only blessing couples but also families. Each time I was so moved by the couples, their families and friends, their support, their joy, their blessing, the goodness and rightness of what it was we were doing.

I believe God has smiled on all these marriages and on us. I believe God cries with us as the passing of Proposition 8 shows us that the politics of fear and exclusion have temporarily triumphed over the politics of love. But this I know - that faith, hope and love always endure, and the greatest of these is love.

[Abel] They were standing just in front of me, ready to say their wedding vows when the sudden mystery of love began to unfold before my eyes. Their promises, their dreams, their hopes, all of their words thoughtfully chosen for the occasion; mastered to summarize the essence of their love and commitment. Then I remembered this quote from Amy Tan: I am like a falling star who has finally found her place next to another in a lovely constellation, where we will sparkle in the heavens forever.

And I asked myself, what can I do, but open myself to that mystery, to that encounter with eternity and feel in the deepest place of my soul that I, simply a priest, am about to minister the sacrament of marriage to two beautiful creatures of God in this vast universe.

[Susan] It is always a deep joy and amazing privilege to be invited into the profound intimacy of two beloveds making their love tangible in vows professed and rings exchanged in the sight of God and of the community gathered. Over the last 140 days, as couples invited us into that holy space with them, their joy was often accompanied by a sense of urgency. And that urgency included a pinch of anxiety labeled “Proposition 8” -- giving the traditional words from the marriage vows, “Those whom God has joined together let no one put asunder” new power.

As we write, the provisional and absentee ballots are still being counted but it looks as though the effort to write discrimination into our constitution will pass. That does not mean it will succeed. Those whom God has joined together remain joined together – in the sight of God and of All Saints Church – as we redouble our efforts to fight for the dignity of every human being and to speak for liberty and justice for all.

And while I am confident we will succeed in the end, I am haunted today by a voice mail I received the day after the election from someone named Jason. “We were getting married next month,” he said voice full of pain, “And now I feel like I want to die. My life has been stolen from me and I just don’t understand it.” My only answer was to stand with Jason in his pain the way we stood with Mel and Gary – and Bear and Susan, and Joe and Joey, Richard and Chris, and all the others in their joy. All Saints’ witness to God’s love made tangible in these marriages and in this struggle is another example of grace in action, as we continue to work with God to turn this human race into the human family it was meant to be.

[Ed] It has never seemed fair that I could legally marry my best friend who is the love of my life, who is a person of the opposite sex, while those who love someone of the same sex cannot marry the love of their lives. That justice issue drove me to say yes to the Rector’s Search Committee in 1995 when they posed the question to me, “If we were chose you as the next rector of All Saints, would you continue our practice of blessing same-sex unions?” Rich Llewellyn and Chris Caldwell were the first same-gender couple I blessed back then. Rich and Chris were among the almost 20 couples I married in this recent historic period between June 17 and November 3, 2008.

Although each of these couples was unique in personality, I nevertheless was deeply moved by the commonalities they shared.

1. “God has made us fall in love, it’s true.” Stevie Wonder. These couples chose to have their marriages take place in the church because they made the “faith connection” between the Love that had overpowered and brought them to this commitment and God, the Author of that Love. They were giving thanks to God for their love and they were giving thanks IN their church where making love tangible is our mission. In fact one couple asked if the Stevie Wonder song could be sung in their service as a way to express this “faith connection.” They had walked the journey of knowing that love is the greatest power in the world, that it overcomes fear, and produces forgiveness and healing, and that it was the dynamic that had brought them to their wedding.

2. “Love is not envious, proud, boastful, rude, or self-serving.” (1 Cor. 13) Each of these couples brought profound emotional maturity to their wedding. They were grown-ups, not doing something impulsively. They had known many “Good Fridays” in their relationship but they had known even more “Easter Sundays.” Their relationships had already been refined of the kind of pettiness and egocentrism that often destroys marriages. Each of us who officiated at these weddings stepped into a universe of grown-up love.

3. “When Ruth and Naomi came to Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of their love.” (Ruth 1: 19) Those wedding guests who gathered as witnesses to these marriages testified in every instance of how the love between those two had spilled over to make those around them have better lives. Many of them have children (in some instances adult children who are making significant contributions to society). All of their relationships had borne spiritual fruitfulness in their wider families, neighborhoods, workplaces, and faith communities.

All of these reasons, and many more, made the past four historic months a season of pastoral liturgies we will never forget. We wanted in this essay to express that these weddings have profoundly ministered to the spiritual journeys of the staff priests of All Saints Church. They have taught us more deeply than ever before that as long as we choose the power of love over fear, God will empower, uphold, and console us to spread the dynamics of God’s house of love throughout the entire human family.


Sad News

Historic Mount Calvary Retreat House victim of Montecito wild fire

(Episcopal News, Los Angeles) -- The raging Montecito wildfire has destroyed historic Mount Calvary Retreat House, staff and Santa Barbara County officials have confirmed.The resident brothers, members of the Order of the Holy Cross, and staff are safe following evacuation, said Nancy Bullock, program director for Mount Calvary, speaking by phone from All Saints by-the-Sea Church in Montecito.
Bullock said that All Saints is currently working to determine if any parishioners have lost homes in the blaze, which has claimed more than 100 residences across 2,500 acres. Bullock's husband, Jeff, is rector of the parish.
Historic Mount Calvary Retreat House, shown here in a file photo, was destroyed by a wildfire that started on November 13.

Bishop J. Jon Bruno, who is in close telephone contact with clergy leaders in the Santa Barbara area, asks the prayers of the diocesan community for all those affected by the fire. The bishop and staff of the Diocese of Los Angeles have pledged their support in assisting the coordination of fire recovery efforts.
Checks, payable to the Treasurer of the Diocese and earmarked "Montecito Fire Recovery" may be sent to the Bishop's Office, 840 Echo Park Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90026.Mount Calvary's prior, the Rev. Nicholas Radelmiller OHC, is leading the brothers and staff in assessing next steps of response to the fire damage.

Bullock said the brothers and staff at Mt. Calvary, were able to leave with some of the hilltop retreat house's valuable art treasures, as well as computer records, "but so much is lost."Mount Calvary staff will assist groups and individuals in seeking alternate locations for upcoming retreats, all of which are now cancelled owing to the fire, Bullock said. The Cathedral Center retreat center in Los Angeles is available to assist this process.

At Santa Barbara's Trinity Church, rector and deanery co-dean Mark Asman is meeting with staff and volunteers to assess the situation and crisis response. Further information will be reported through the Episcopal News email list as soon as it becomes available, Asman said.

Asman said Trinity Church's rectory and parish house were able to accommodate the brothers overnight November 13. St. Mary's Retreat House, an Episcopal Church site near the Santa Barbara Mission, has also extended hospitality, although it was subject to a temporary evacuation November 13.

Calif. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has declared the fire zone a disaster area as fire fighters continue to work to contain the blaze.Mount Calvary Retreat House, with its panoramic ocean views, was founded in 1947 by the Order of the Holy Cross, based in West Park, N.Y.

--Report filed by Bob Williams, canon for community relations, Diocese of Los Angeles.