Friday, June 27, 2014

June 26, 2014: What a Difference a Year Makes!

On the morning of June 26, 2013 my partner and I sat in our living room in our PJs -- simultaneously glued to MSNBC, Twitter and SCOTUSblog -- awaiting the rulings on the "marriage equality cases:" Perry v. Schwarzenegger and United States v. Windsor.

Within minutes it became clear that not only was the Perry decision bringing marriage equality back to California but the Windsor decision was going to have sweeping impact across the country.

We had no idea just how sweeping that impact would be. And what a difference a year makes.

In the year since the Prop 8/Windsor decisions, the movement on marriage equality has been truly a seismic shift. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia now have marriage equality, representing nearly half the population of the United States. U.S. district courts in Utah, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Virginia, Texas, Michigan, Ohio, Idaho, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Indiana; along with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit; and state courts in both Arkansas and Texas have found state constitutional amendments or statutes banning same-sex marriage unconstitutional.

In the words of U.S. District Court Judge Richard L. Young's finding against Indiana's ban:

The court has never witnessed a phenomenon throughout the federal court system as is presented with this issue. In less than a year, every federal district court to consider the issue has reached the same conclusion in thoughtful and thorough opinions -- laws prohibiting the celebration and recognition of same-sex marriages are unconstitutional.

 It is clear that the fundamental right to marry shall not be deprived to some individuals based solely on the person they choose to love. In time, Americans will look at the marriage of couples such as Plaintiffs, and refer to it simply as a marriage -- not a same-sex marriage. These couples, when gender and sexual orientation are taken away, are in all respects like the family down the street. The Constitution demands that we treat them as such.

As an American citizen, I take delight that in ruling by ruling -- case by case -- the courts have made and re-made the critical argument that equal protection is not equal protection unless it equally protects ALL Americans.

And as a priest and pastor, I take equal delight in the clear, unequivocal nature of the decisions that state -- again and again -- that the First Amendment that protects us all to freely exercise our own religious beliefs also protects us all from anyone confusing their theology with our democracy.

In words from the June 25th Tenth Circuit ruling in Kitchen v. Herbert:

We respect the views advanced by members of various religious communities and their discussions of the theological history of marriage. And we continue to recognize the right of the various religions to define marriage according to their moral, historical, and ethical precepts. Our opinion does not intrude into that domain or the exercise of religious principles in this arena. The right of an officiant to perform or decline to perform a religious ceremony is unaffected by today's ruling.

The Tenth Circuit has stayed its own ruling, pending appeal to the Supreme Court. And whether that happens sooner or later -- and whether this is the case SCOTUS chooses to hear -- is uncertain. What is certain is that the tide has turned, the tipping point has tipped and the arc of history is bending faster toward justice for same-sex couples than even the most ardent supporter of marriage equality might have asked for or imagined.

A wise mentor of mine taught us that our job was to set audacious goals and to celebrate incremental victories. So recognizing that we have miles to go before we rest -- and knowing that we live in a world where today's two steps forward for justice can become one step back if we fail to vigilant in our struggle for justice -- today is a day to celebrate the incremental victories that have brought as this far. And then to redouble our efforts to finish the work.

As for me and my partner, on June 26, 2014 we won't be glued to MSNBC, twitter and SCOTUSblog waiting to see if we'll have marriage equality back in California -- we'll be making final arrangements for our June 28th wedding. We've got the license in hand, the church booked and the cake on order. The family is arriving, the flowers are being arranged and the champagne corks are ready to pop.

What a difference a year makes!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

"But the Bible Says ..." Liberating Ourselves from the Bible as a Weapon of Exclusion

"We owe the precious gift of the scriptures that are our heritage as Christian people too much to allow them to be hijacked and used as weapons of oppression rather than as means of grace. And it has perhaps never been more important for us to know our story in order to both claim it and to proclaim it."

The leaders of the GALAS ministry here at All Saints Church asked me to come and do a presentation on "the clobber passages" that continue to be used (AKA "misused") to hijack the Good News of the Gospel and turn in into Bad News for LGBT people.

They picked the Sunday afternoon of Memorial Day weekend and so I figured we'd have 8 or 10 diehards ... and we had 80 people -- which told me there's still a deep hunger to reclaim the good news in order to debunk the bad.

Here's a video of that presentation ... power point stumbles, stammers and all. (With deep appreciation and much credit to Mel White, whose "What the Bible Says and Doesn't Say About Homosexuality" was both source and inspiration.)

Standing with Kate Kelly

Just listened to Mormon feminist Kate Kelly totally rock a television interview on why she is still standing for women's ordination in her church in spite of being excommunicated. As we prepare to celebrate 40 years of the ministry of women priests in the Episcopal Church (July 29) let us hold in prayer the brave women who "stand in the temple and tell" (Acts 5:20) as they call their own churches to equality.


RT @KateKendell: We just won our Utah marriage case in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeal!!!! First Circuit Court ruling since Windsor!

RT@thinkprogress: Federal judge strikes down Indiana’s ban on same-sex marriage

Thursday, June 19, 2014

BREAKING: Presbyterian Church votes to allow same-sex marriage

Detroit— The U.S. Presbyterian Church’s highest council Thursday voted to sanction same-sex marriage. The issue was among several considered during the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s 221st General Assembly, held at the Cobo Convention Center in downtown Detroit. The convention began June 14 and runs through Saturday.

The assembly approved an amendment to the church constitution that would redefine marriage as between “two people” instead of “a man and a woman.” It also approved allowing its ministers to perform marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples in states where same-sex marriages are legal.

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Two to note on Hump Day ...

Things are moving so fast it's hard to keep up! Here's the piece I posted earlier this week on President Obama announcing an upcoming executive order on employment discrimination:
This is what loving your neighbor as yourself looks like: protecting your neighbor from losing her or his job just because they are gay or lesbian; bisexual or transgender.
And here's a nice report from the gathering called in Kansas City earlier this month to consult on same-sex marriage:
The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, President of the House of Deputies, preached at the meeting’s closing Eucharist. “If every person is of equal value, a beloved child of God, then every baptized member of this Church has equal claim on everything the Church offers,” she said. “Equal value. Equal claim. It’s not rocket science...It’s an amazing privilege to work so that all may claim their rightful inheritance. Talk about a love story.”
We now return to our regularly scheduled countdown to Happily Ever After ... Wedding Day is T-Minus 9 days and counting! Woo Hoo!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

LGBT Pride Celebration at Loma Linda VA Medical Center

Twenty years ago, when I was in seminary in Claremont, I did my summer CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) unit at Loma Linda Medical Center -- a unit which included rounds and on-call responsibilities at the VA Hospital.

It would arguably be very far down on the list of places I might have imagined being invited to give a keynote address at an LGBT Pride Month celebration -- but that's exactly what I did today.

It was a great gathering with music from an ensemble from the Gay Men's Chorus of Palm Springs, an update on the great work being done for LGBT veterans in general and transgender veterans in specific and it was an honor to be part of the program.

There was one moment that gave me pause, however. And that was the conversation with the VA staffer who apologized for having to edit the brief bio I sent them for the program. It seems they had to cut the "serves on the Clergy Advocacy Board for Planned Parenthood" line because -- wait for it -- it might be perceived to be "controversial."

That's right. We've gotten to the point where a lesbian priest giving a keynote address at an LGBT Pride Celebration in a Veteran's Administration Medical Center isn't controversial. But being supportive of Planned Parenthood is.


So let me make that TWO things I couldn't have imagined when I was doing CPE out in Loma Linda 20 years ago. Number One is that I'd ever be invited to give a keynote address at a Pride Celebration at a VA Hospital. Number Two is that in 2014 we'd still be fighting for women's reproductive rights -- and that being affiliated with Planned Parenthood would be too hot to handle for the Veteran's Administration. But being gay would be OK.

As Ed Bacon might say: My, my, my

Monday, June 02, 2014

Aligned With God's Love

Preached on May 25th -- forgot to post this last week.

The question isn’t where we’re going;
the question is, what kind of journey will we take to get there?

Will we stay plugged into the GPS
of God’s values of love, peace, justice and compassion?
Will we listen when it is time to recalculate
in order to stay on course and avoid
the pitfalls and potholes the world and culture can throw our way?
Can we challenge not only ourselves
but our institutions to recalculate when we, or they, get off course?
Can we trust, as Verna Dozier put it:
"that if we live today by the light that is given us, knowing that it is only finite and partial, we will know more and different things than we know today, and we can be open to the new possibility we cannot even imagine today.”