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Civil Rights

Landmark day for same-sex marriage after two U.S. Supreme Court rulings

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Courtesy: Iheefz – Chicago

WASHINGTON – A marriage made in Toronto was at the heart Wednesday of a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down the Defense of Marriage Act on a historic day that also cleared the way for same-sex marriage in California, the most populous state in the union.

The ruling on the federal U.S. legislation known as DOMA gives spouses in same-sex unions a full array of tax, health and pension benefits.

The challenge to the legislation was spearheaded by 83-year-old Edith Windsor, a New Yorker, who married her longtime partner Thea Spyer six years ago in Canada, where same-sex marriage has been legal for almost a decade. The couple’s marriage was recognized by New York state, but not by the federal government.

When Spyer died in 2009, the federal government cited DOMA to force Windsor, who’s now ailing, to pay $363,000 in taxes on her late wife’s estate — taxes that wouldn’t have been levied against her if she’d been married to a man.

Windsor wasn’t at the Supreme Court on Wednesday, but watched from her lawyer’s apartment in New York, where she was reportedly jubilant upon word that DOMA had been struck down. The law had been in effect since 1996, when it was signed into law by a now-apologetic Bill Clinton.

“Children born today will grow up in a world without DOMA,” a beaming Windsor told a New York news conference.

“And those children who are gay will be free to grow up and love and be married .… If I had to survive Thea, what a glorious way to do it. And she would be so pleased.”

Also on Wednesday, the high court cleared the way for same-sex marriage in California by ruling that defenders of Proposition 8, a ban on same-sex marriage, had no constitutional standing. That means a lower court ruling in California that legalized same-sex marriage is again the law of the land.

The two historic rulings will likely transform the United States on same-sex marriage, an issue now widely considered a civil rights battle — and one that is dramatically winning the support of Americans.

U.S. President Barack Obama, the first commander-in-chief in American history to back same-sex marriage, praised the Supreme Court in a statement on Tuesday released after he personally called the plaintiffs involved in the two cases to congratulate them.

“This was discrimination enshrined in law,” he said.

“It treated loving, committed gay and lesbian couples as a separate and lesser class of people. The Supreme Court has righted that wrong, and our country is better off for it. We are a people who declared that we are all created equal – and the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.”

As many legal experts predicted, it was Justice Anthony Kennedy, a libertarian conservative on the panel, who broke partisan ranks on the nine-member panel and voted in favour of striking down DOMA. Kennedy had already written two judgments for the court that upheld the rights of gays.

“DOMA instructs all federal officials, and indeed all persons with whom same-sex couples interact, including their own children, that their marriage is less worthy than the marriages of others,” Kennedy wrote in his decision.

“The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity.”

The latest polls suggest the majority of Americans now support same-sex marriage, compared with just 13 per cent 25 years ago.

It’s not just a generation gap that explains the profound shift, pollsters are discovering — even some older Americans are changing their minds about gay marriage, as are citizens in rural areas, from religious backgrounds and in traditionally conservative jurisdictions.

Amid that backdrop, the Supreme Court heard arguments in March against both laws. The arguments, made before the panel of five Republican appointees and four Democrats, were heard even as some high-profile Republicans, long consumed with winning over the social conservatives of their base, expressed support for same-sex marriage.

Ohio Sen. Rob Portman reversed his stance after his college-age son revealed he was gay. Jon Huntsman, a Mormon and a Republican presidential candidate in 2012, has also backed same-sex marriage and urged his fellow Republicans to do the same.

Even Karl Rove, the powerful Republican strategist who famously brought millions of Christian evangelicals into the party fold a decade ago, says he wouldn’t be surprised if the 2016 Republican presidential candidate — whoever that may be — backs same-sex marriage.

Obama has helped embolden fellow politicians on same-sex matrimony after he reversed his own stance on the issue last year. The White House had urged the high court to rule in favour of same-sex rights.

Hillary Clinton, eyeing a run for president in 2016, has also expressed her support.

Speaker John Boehner, meanwhile, said he was “disappointed” in the Supreme Court’s DOMA ruling and suggested states may rule differently in the future. Same-sex marriage is currently legal in 13 U.S. states.

“While I am obviously disappointed in the ruling, it is always critical that we protect our system of checks and balances,” Boehner said in a statement. “A robust national debate over marriage will continue in the public square, and it is my hope that states will define marriage as the union between one man and one woman.”

The religious right vowed a battle.

In a series of Tweets, the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer wrote: “Sodomy-based marriage is an egregious violation of the ‘Laws of Nature and Nature’s God.’ May God have mercy on us.”

He added: “In our battle to defend marriage as God has defined it, we will never give in. We will never, never, never, never give in.”

Mike Huckabee, a onetime Republican presidential candidate, also took to Twitter to express his dismay.

“My thoughts on the SCOTUS ruling that determined that same sex marriage is okay: ‘Jesus wept.'”


The Reformation Project …

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Courtesy: Reformation Project.Org
Donations can be made at: http://www.igg.me/at/reformationproject

What Are We?

The Reformation Project is a Bible-based, Christian non-profit organization that seeks to reform church teaching on sexual orientation and gender identity. Read more below and visit our Statement of Faith to learn more about our beliefs.

We are a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in the United States of America.

Our Plans and Our Vision

This fall, we will host our first leadership conference for 50 straight, gay, bisexual, and transgender Christians who are committed to reform. From September 18th-21st at Asbury United Methodist Church in Kansas City, KS, we will put them through a Bible boot camp. There, we will equip them with the tools and training they need to go back to their communities and make lasting changes to beliefs and interpretations that marginalize LGBT people. Once they go back, we will continue to offer them personal, financial, and infrastructural support for months and years to come. We will ensure that even those with the biggest and most daunting of goals will have the means to accomplish them.

Crucially, the aspiring reformers that we train will not be seeking to change their churches by asking them to ignore or look past the Bible. The Bible is not anti-gay. It never addresses the issues of same-sex orientation or loving same-sex relationships, and the few verses that some cite to support homophobia have nothing to do with LGBT people. Careful, persistent arguments about those passages have the power to change every Christian church worldwide, no matter how conservative their theology. The mission of The Reformation Project is to train a new generation of Christians to streamline that process and accelerate the demise of homophobia in the church.

After we build our leadership training model with 50 reformers this year, we will start to expand aggressively. As soon as we raise the money to do so, we will open a headquarters here in Wichita, Kansas. We will host more conferences, both in the U.S. and abroad.

Here in America, we will partner with churches and pastors to develop vocal and visible allies in every church around the country. We will launch regional offices in places where LGBT people have the least support, and we will work to reform the churches there from within. Soon, gay kids in Jackson, Mississippi and Kingston, Jamaica won’t just have to hear on YouTube that it gets better—they will have the personal support of outspoken, influential Christian allies in their communities who can ensure that it does.

How You Can Help

In order to make our vision a reality, we need your support. This spring, we are running our initial fundraising campaign on Indiegogo, we need thousands of donors to pitch in to reach our goal of $100,000. This will fund our first leadership conference in Kansas City this fall, covering all of the basic expenses of those who attend, and it will allow us to start laying the groundwork for the future.

 

A Message From the Founder

A little less than a year ago, I gave a speech at a church in Kansas about the Bible and homosexuality and posted the video of it online. Two years earlier, I had left school at Harvard and set out on an improbable quest to confront homophobia in my conservative Wichita church and find acceptance there as a gay Christian….

Mission Statement

We are dedicated to training LGBT Christians and their allies to reform church teaching on sexual orientation and gender identity through the teaching of the Bible.

Statement of Faith

The Reformation Project is a Bible-based, Christian organization. We are ecumenical in nature and mission, inclusive of Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox Christians alike.

We believe in:

  • The inspiration of the Bible, the Word of God.
  • The Triune God, eternally existent as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
  • The supremacy of God the Father, who created all things seen and unseen through Christ our Lord.
  • The deity of Jesus Christ, only begotten Son of the invisible God, firstborn over all creation, fully God and fully man, head of the church, author and finisher of our faith; His death for our sins; and His resurrection and eventual return.
  • The regenerative power of the Holy Spirit, whose fruit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

The Largest Act of Civil Disobedience in Canadian History

Courtesy: Philmphoto

Daily Kos – Online Article Listing

The TroubadourFollow for Writing by David Harris Gershon

Originally posted to Writing by David Harris Gershon on Tue May 22, 2012 at 06:40 PM PDT.

Also republished by Canadian Kossacks.

Massive crowds engulfed downtown Montreal this afternoon, marking the 100th day of student strikes and protests sparked (in part) by Quebec’s plan to raise tuition by 82 percent on May 22.

While estimates ranged wildly – from 100,000 to 500,000 in the streets – the number is less significant than the civil disobediencethat has thrust Montreal into the global revolution spotlight.

Authorities in Quebec, trying to counter the protests that have raged for over two months, passed “emergency” legislation last Friday that suspended the winter semester and effectively made protesting illegal. (The legislation, or Bill 78, stipulates that groups of 50 or more gathering must submit itineraries to the authorities in advance or be deemed illegal.)

Students and citizens in Montreal responded to the draconian legislation by streaming into the streets and defying Bill 78 in record numbers today. While the protests have been led by the significant student population in Montreal, the protests today contained cross-sections of the population.

Noting one of the more visible and noisy marches of the day, which was gatherings of both the young and old banging on pots and pans, Steve Faguy of The Gazette Tweeted the following:

I’ve covered quite a few protests. Never have I seen one that so resembled an actual popular uprising.

And writer Kris Holt had this to say regarding the emergent popular uprising:

Those on my street banging pots and pans are middle-aged or older. Much more than students now.

It seems that the legislature’s attempts to quell protesting in Montreal has had the opposite effect, as many today streamed into the streets specifically to defy the anti-protesting emergency legislation.

As one of the student leaders, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, stated today:

“We want to make the point that there are tens of thousands of citizens who are against this law who think that protesting without asking for a permit is a fundamental right,” he said, walking side-by-side with other protesters behind a large purple banner.“If the government wants to apply its law, it will have a lot of work to do. That is part of the objective of the protest today, to underline the fact that this law is absurd and inapplicable.”

Absurd indeed – and that absurdity seems to have awakened popular support for the students’ plight, support that has increased dramatically in recent weeks.

The global revolution has officially arrived in Canada. And with student strikes and protests set for the summer, and with more of Montreal’s citizenry falling behind the students, it’s a revolution that may not be ending anytime soon.

Iran, Tunisia, Egypt, Spain, Greece, Israel, New York City, Montreal…

…we are witnessing an historic global uprising, as peoples across the globe continue to rise up in numbers and demand their political rights, demand social justice, demand economic fairness.

It’s a struggle that is not just essential, but fundamentally human.


Presidential Proclamation …

Courtesy: BarackObama Tumblr

The Greatest Commandment Matthew 22:34-40

 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

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You wonder if all those voters read the same bible as I do? And if they do, why did they vote the way they voted? Because in the end Love will win. You reap what you sow people. And one day, you will reap it big …


Priest Walks Out Of Woman’s Funeral Because Of Her Gay Daughter

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This article was posted on Facebook, and I thought I’d share it with you here.
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The battle in this country between the right and the left is raging. Since the right has no answers to the economic questions we face, they’ve decided to concentrate on dividing the country on so-called “moral” issues, one of those being the demonizing of gay and lesbian people.

Little by little, they are losing the battle, as we see states individually legalizing gay marriage and recognizing that our forefathers intended that ALL are created equal and marriage is an equal right. But that doesn’t stop the right from carrying on their battle.

Something terrible happened this past weekend in Maryland and the fact that it was Maryland, a state that has just proclaimed that all are equal and has enshrined that concept into state law, goes to highlight the lengths to which the right will go. In this instance, the right was personified by Father Marcel Guarnizo, who officiated at the funeral of a former family member of mine.

She was no longer a family member because I divorced the man who was her blood relative. But with social media these days, a person can remain in touch with those who, although there is no longer a family connection, are still people who are valued.

My friend Barbara, the daughter of the deceased woman, was denied communion at her mother’s funeral. She was the first in line and Fr. Guarnizo covered the bowl containing the host and said to her,  “I cannot give you communion because you live with a woman and that is a sin according to the church.”

To add insult to injury, Fr. Guarnizo left the altar when she delivered her eulogy to her mother. When the funeral was finished he informed the funeral director that he could not go to the gravesite to deliver the final blessing because he was sick.

EDIT: A letter of apology was sent from the Archdiocese of Washington. This story has gained a lot of traffic over the past few days. I join the call for Father Marcel Guarnizo to be removed from the parish and taken out of pastoral ministry, what he did was unconscionable. And he should loose his position as a parish priest. Put him somewhere where he can no further harm parishoners like this ever again.

Here is that apology:


We want a Canadian Divorce please !!! Update 13Jan12

Courtesy: Flickr 21lau_z

What a bru-ha-ha it has been today.

Are you married or are you not? Does Canada acknowledge your marriage as legal and binding if you live elsewhere other than in Canada? Did the government nullify more than 15,000 gay marriages that have been performed in Canada since the law went into effect in 2004? The Government says it isn’t opening the marriage debate again, but what is it going to do with you all who want divorces???

This story is still evolving. From CTV News:

Sonja Puzic, CTVNews.ca

Date: Thu. Jan. 12 2012 11:30 PM ET

The federal government is considering changes to the law that will make it easier for foreign same-sex couples who married in Canada to obtain divorces, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson said Thursday.

Nicholson also stressed the government has no intention of reopening the same-sex marriage debate after a day of confusion over the validity of marriage licences issued in Canada to same-sex couples from abroad.

Ottawa was pressed to clarify its position on gay marriage after an apparent about-face on the issue surfaced in a Toronto divorce case.

A lesbian couple who married in Canada seven years ago and recently filed for divorce was told by a Department of Justice lawyer that their marriage was not legal.

The stated reason was that because the partners live in Florida and England, where same-sex marriage remains illegal, their Canadian union was invalid too.

The case threw into question thousands of marriages non-residents entered into since 2004, when same-sex marriage became legal in Canada under a Liberal government.

In a statement, Nicholson said the issue centres on dissolution of marriages performed in Canada.

Non-resident couples who marry here must live in Canada for one year before they can legally divorce. The lesbian couple at the centre of the controversy has launched a constitutional challenge of that provision in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.

Nicholson said he will be “looking at options to clarify the law so that marriages performed in Canada can be undone in Canada.”

In an interview with CTV’s Power Play, Nicholson’s parliamentary secretary Kerry-Lynne Findlay said the Canadian marriages of non-resident same-sex couples are legal in Canada.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper had little to say Thursday other than relate his government’s reluctance to wade back into a same-sex marriage debate.

“We have no intention further of opening or reopening this issue,” Harper told reporters gathered for a shipbuilding agreement announcement in Halifax.

“This, I gather, is a case before the courts where Canadian lawyers have taken particular positions based on the law. But I will be asking officials to provide me more details with this particular case.”

Opposition parties and critics quickly weighed in on the issue, accusing the prime minister of trying to rewrite Canada’s same-sex marriage laws “in stealth.”

In a statement, Egale Canada, a human rights organization advocating equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities, called the apparent flip-flop “a direct insult to gays and lesbians both in Canada and abroad.”

If the federal lawyer’s arguments in the Toronto divorce case are a misunderstanding, Harper should make that clear, NDP MP Olivia Chow said.

With files from Kieron Lang and The Canadian Press

We shall see where this story goes. It was all over the news tonight. All those people came to Canada to get married and have that joyous moment in their lives. And now I fear that we are beginning to see just how long those marriages lasted, as this is probably not the last divorce case we will see come from abroad.

I mused earlier that you came all this way to get married, and you spent all that money on that day. And now you want a divorce. What to do??? They say in gay circles that lesbians mate for life. I guess that’s not really true any more.

I guess you all got caught up in the woo hoo about being able to get married so you came here and cashed in your relationship chips for a marriage license.

From Wiki:

Six state governments (along with the District of Columbia, the Coquille Indian Tribe, and the Suquamish tribe) have passed laws offering same-sex marriage: New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, and New Hampshire. In all six states, same-sex marriage has been legalized through legislation or court ruling. Same-sex marriage has been legal in Massachusetts since May 17, 2004; in Connecticut since November 12, 2008;[13] in Iowa since April 27, 2009; in Vermont since September 1, 2009; New Hampshire since January 1, 2010; and New York since July 24, 2011.In 2009, New England became the center of an organized push to legalize same-sex marriage, with four of the six states in that region granting same-sex couples the legal right to marry.

And now couples are starting to figure out that they really don’t want to be married any more. And we could speculate on just what the reasons are that a couple would want a dissolution of marriage.

As good gays and lesbians we are supposed to show up the heterosexuals and prove to them that we can marry and stay together longer and truer than our straight counterparts.

Marriage in celebrity circles has become a mockery and a joke. What have they done to the institution of marriage for all of us ???

This whole push to legalize gay marriage nationwide in the United States is going to come up eventually in the campaign race. They just haven’t gotten around to it yet, but rest assured those Christians who want to see us damned are going to make sure their chosen candidate does all he can to stop gay marriage from being passed across the rest of the 44 states.

Why did you come here and get married then gone home with that little piece of paper, that got all dusty and forsaken. And now you want a divorce. What a waste. It is very sad to see couples separate for any reason. I just hope it was a good reason and not something stupid like, “oh well, we thought we’d get in on the excitement and really when we came to think about it, we really did not want to abide by our wedding vows, till death do us part …”

So now we want a Canadian divorce because we got a made in Canada marriage.

I Don’t think Canada prepared for this contingency in hindsight.

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Ottawa will change law so same sex marriages are valid: Nicholson. 

By The Canadian Press | The Canadian Press
 13 January 2012

TORONTO – The federal justice minister says the government will change the law to ensure gay couples from abroad who marry in Canada will have their unions recognized here.

Rob Nicholson says it’s the government’s view that these marriages “should be valid.”

“We will change the Civil Marriage Act so that any marriages performed in Canada that aren’t recognized in the couple’s home jurisdiction will be recognized in Canada,” Nicholson said Friday during a speech to the Canadian Club of Toronto.

Doubts were raised about the validity of thousands of marriages conducted in Canada for same-sex couples from the United States and elsewhere following a federal twist in a Charter of Rights case launched in Ontario by two foreign women seeking a divorce.

A legal brief filed by federal lawyers denies the women are even legally married.

Critics accused Stephen Harper’s Conservative government of seeking to rewrite the rules on gay marriage to suit its right-wing agenda.

In announcing the government would change the law, Nicholson said Friday that “the confusion and pain resulting from this gap … is completely unfair to those affected.”

Liberal Leader Bob Rae, speaking to reporters at the party’s policy convention in Ottawa, responded to Nicholson by lamenting, “Oh please, give me a break.”

“These guys specialize in trying to turn the tables,” Rae said of the Harper Conservatives.

“The only gap is the gap between the heads of Conservative cabinet ministers who have failed to live up the best and finest traditions of Canada with respect to our positions of tolerance,” Rae added.

The couple seeking a divorce, identified in court records only by initials to protect their privacy, were married in Toronto in December 2005 and separated two years ago. One lives in Clearwater, Fla., the other in London, England.

Their marriage is not recognized either in Florida or the United Kingdom. As a result, they are unable to obtain a divorce in their home cities.

The couple also faced a barrier to divorce in Ontario — a requirement that at least one of them live in the province for a year or more. They have launched a constitutional challenge of that provision in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.


November 20, 2011 (7 years of Marriage)…

At 11 a.m. on November 20th 2004, Peter, myself and 21 of our closest friends gathered at the Loyola Chapel at Concordia University for our wedding ceremony. Peter’s mum and dad, his brother and his wife were also in attendance.

Led by a United Church Minister Ellie Hummel, we were one of the first ten couples in Quebec to be married after legislation passed in our province.

 


Your Coffee’s too Strong !!!

Israel, Hamas announce deal to trade captured Israeli soldier for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners …

“Netanyahu said the captured soldier, Sgt. Gilad Schalit, would return home within days. Mashaal, portraying the agreement as a victory, said the Palestinian prisoners would be freed in two stages over two months.”

I have been following this story for years since Gilad Schalit was captured. Finally this young man is coming home. Well done… It is about time he was returned to his family and country. This is fantastic news.

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Today October 11 – Is National Coming out Day

A big decision in any gay person’s life is the decision to come out. It marks the day that we come to terms with who we are and where we are in our lives to come out and openly declare what we are to the world. It doesn’t happen over night and is a process that takes a lifetime. Times have changed in the past 20 years for the LGBT community.

But teens and young people have been targets of concerted bullying and demeaning behavior by family, peers, conservative media and countless numerous Christian communities and their preachers and bullies.

This behavior must not go unpunished.

There should be definite consequences for bullying.

Today we celebrate all those who have decided to make a stand and share with the world that the LGBT community is expanding. Where ever you are and who ever you are, take your time, and do it on your own timetable. We are here for you every day and any day.

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Courtesy: Flickr Jamescg

We now we return to our regularly scheduled programming …

Good evening Peeps !!!

We are sitting at a cool 14c. One more day of clear skies and rain is to follow for later in the week. The trees are turning. Our neighborhood is covered in a fine layer of yellow leaves. Some of the maples by the church have begun to turn.

It was a beautiful day today. It was an early start out to the church. Have tunes will crank out chairs and tables. I was done by 5:45, and people started arriving soon after. We gained another member tonight rounding out the member count at ten. We had visitors from the U.S. at the meeting tonight. Our women take really good care of visitors. Our visitors go home with more than they came with which is a good thing.

So I make 40 cups of coffee every week in the big industrial coffee pot. There is a cup count of how much coffee I put in the hopper each week. And people rave about how good the coffee is. I had to step up the amount of coffee I make when the numbers spiked over the last month.

Tonight, I was sitting at table and a woman who rarely comes to the meeting, who never participates when it comes around to her, goes to get a cup of coffee and she says to anyone who was listening, “You need to put water in the coffee pot to weaken the mix because I can’t drink this strong coffee!”

What do you mean, put water in the pot? Everybody in the meeting already have their cups and I haven’t heard one person complain in all the years I have been making coffee that there is anything wrong with it. I grabbed the tea kettle and poured half the kettle into the top of the pot, sending coffee grinds all over the place. Like that was going to make a difference in HER cup of coffee.

I said to her … You know nobody ever complains about coffee, they are grateful that we even make coffee. You are the first person I’ve ever heard complain! If your coffee is too strong then put some water in your cup and water it down. Sheesh !!!

When it came time for her to share, she sat there silent and passed. God grant me serenity !!!

Our topic for the night:

“The fact is that most alcoholics, for reasons yet obscure, have lost the power of choice in drink. Our so called will power becomes practically nonexistent. We are unable, at certain times, to bring into our consciousness with sufficient force the memory of the suffering and humiliation of even a week or a month ago. We are without defense against the first drink.”  Big Book, pg. 24

With some sober time under my belt, most of my own personal observations come in hindsight. When I was first sober, I got to a point that I was free falling. I did not have a sponsor and I made a fateful decision that took me out the door.

In hindsight, during my slip, I drank and drugged. First I put down the drugs and I left them by the side of the road, I walked away, and never picked up another drug again. The funny thing was that it was easy to put down the drugs. I changed geography, I moved away from those people and places. So even if I went looking for them again, I wouldn’t necessarily find them.

But it was very different with alcohol. I could have put down the drink. But I didn’t. I couldn’t. I don’t know that I needed the alcohol. But it was wired into my system. I don’t know why I needed that weekly binge. And it wasn’t until I hit the wall and my bottom, that I decided that I didn’t WANT the alcohol any more.

I walked away from alcohol. The club I drank in closed its doors shortly after I got sober. And I did not go looking for another drinking establishment, oh, they were out there, how could you miss the myriad of clubs on South Beach.

I had my meetings. I had new friends who went above and beyond the call of duty to help me. Over the last 10 years I have worked on that buffer zone that now exists in my field of vision, that keep me from ever having to take another “First Drink.” Because we all know that if I take one, more will follow…

We read, we go to meetings, we work with others, and we work on our spiritual condition. Because nothing guarantees me sobriety than working with another alcoholic. I do service every week. I follow the same routine every week, week in and week out. I’ve followed the same path for the last 10 years, and to date I have never had the compulsion to even contemplate a “first drink.”

And for that I am grateful.

Two more months and I hit double digits. One day at a time.

More to come, stay tuned …


It’s about time …


Archbishop Desmond Tutu … in his own words…

Courtesy: All Saints Church Pasadena …

Here is a story from the sermon of Archbishop Tutu.

“God created us in the beginning out of dust, and putting this first lot, like bricks you put in a kiln, and firing them and God was busy doing all kinds of things and for God, God put this lot in the oven, and when God came to the door he was like ohhh and rushed found everything was burned to cinders, and this is how black people came about.

And God then put a second lot in the oven and this time God is too anxious and opens the oven too quickly and this lot was underdone and that’s how white people came about …”

“When the missionaries came to Africa, we had the land they had the Bible, and then they said let us pray, and we closed our eyes and they said Amen, and we opened our eyes, they had the land, and we had the Bible…”

His message, we are holy. We walk on Holy Ground, and we are God’s viceroy’s on earth. You are created in the image of God. You are the temple of the Holy Spirit. You, You, You are the temple of the Holy Spirit, You are a God carrier.

His message was of peace and transformation.

You and I should be made for the infinite. Each of us has a God shaped space within us, and only God can fill that space.

Imagine if we all really believed this. If he is a God carrier, we are a God carrier. If we really believed the things we are taught you and I would say Ahh ahh it is holy, it is holy, because God suffuses everything.

At the burning bush Moses meets God, everything is a burning bush. If only you and I could we would say this is holy ground, not just here but everywhere, I tread on Holy Ground…

Nothing except sin is secular. So we come to this service God feels sorry for us, and the Holy the omnipotent the one before whom the arch angels fall down, I come in the form of bread I come in the form of wine and St Augustin said that you are that bread, you are that wine, you are in the chalice, become what you are. You are fantastic, you are holy you are God carriers. You are omnipotent.

You are a God carrier, you are God’s stand in, You, You, You … We are God’s viceroy…


Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori & Integrity Sign Call to Action, “No More Bullying”

Courtesy: Ihaterenton

Lifted from: Walking with Integrity

For Immediate Release: October 18, 2010

Today, as leaders of Christian communions and national networks, we speak with heavy hearts because of the bullying, suicides and hate crimes that have shocked this country and called all faith communities into accountability for our words or our silence. We speak with hopeful hearts, believing that change and healing are possible, and call on our colleagues in the Church Universal to join us in working to end the violence and hatred against our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender brothers and sisters.

In the past seven weeks, six young and promising teenagers took their own lives. Some were just entering high school; one had just enrolled in college. Five were boys; one, a girl becoming a young woman. These are only the deaths for which there has been a public accounting. New reports of other suicides continue to haunt us daily from around the country.

They were of varying faiths and races and came from different regions of the nation.The one thing these young men and women had in common was that they were perceived to be gay or lesbian.

Each in their own way faced bullying and harassment or struggled with messages of religion and culture that made them fear the consequences of being who they were.

In the past two weeks, cities like New York have seen major escalations in anti-gay violence. Two young men attacked patrons of the Stonewall Inn, legendary birth place of the LGBT rights movement in the United States, locking them in the restroom and beating them while hurling anti-gay epithets.

Men on a Chelsea street, saying goodnight after an evening out, were attacked by a group of teens and young adults, again hurling anti-gay slogans and hurting one person badly enough to require emergency treatment. And nine young men in the Bronx went on a two-day rampage beating, burning, torturing and sodomizing two teenage boys and their gay male adult friend for allegedly having a sexual relationship. “It’s nothing personal,” one of the now arrested said. “You just broke the rules.”

What are the “rules” of human engagement and interaction that we, as people of faith, want to teach our congregants, children and adults alike, to live by?

Many have responded from within and beyond the faith community offering comfort and support to the families and friends of Billy Lucas, Seth Walsh, Asher Brown, Tyler Clementi, Raymond Chase and Aiyisha Hasan. Our hearts, too, are broken by the too soon losses of these young and promising lives, and we join our voices to those who have sought to speak words of comfort and healing.

Many others, however, have responded by adding insult to injury, citing social myths and long-held prejudices that only fuel division, hatred and violence – and sometimes even death.

We, as leaders of faith, write today to say we must hold ourselves accountable, and we must hold our colleagues in the ministry, accountable for the times, whether by our silence or our proclamations, our inaction or our action, we have fueled the kinds of beliefs that make it possible for people to justify violence in the name of faith. Condemning and judging people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity can have deadly consequences, both for the victims of hate crimes and those who commit them.

There is no excuse for inspiring or condoning violence against any of our human family. We may not all agree on what the Bible says or doesn’t say about sexuality, including homosexuality, but this we do agree on: The Bible says, “God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God and God in them.” Abiding in love – together – is the rule we must all preach, teach, and seek to live by.

People of faith must realize that if teens feel they will be judged by their church, rejected by their families and bullied by their peers, they may have nowhere to turn.

Too many things go unspoken in our communities. It’s time to talk openly and honestly about the diversity of God’s creation and the gift of various sexual orientations and gender identities – and to do that in a way that makes it safe for people to disagree and still abide in love.

It’s time to talk openly and honestly about the use and misuse of power and authority by those we entrust with our spiritual well-being.  It’s time to make it safe for our clergy colleagues who are struggling to live what they preach, to get the help and support we all sometimes need.

The young people who took their lives a few weeks ago died because the voices of people who believe in the love of God for all the people of God were faint and few in the face of those who did the bullying, harassing and condemning. Today we write to say we will never again be silent about the value of each and every life.

To that end, we pledge to urge our churches, our individual parishes or offices, our schools and religious establishments to create safe space for each and every child of God, without regard to sexual orientation or gender identity. And we ask you to join us in that pledge.

Today, we personally pledge to be LGBT and straight people of faith standing together for the shared values of decency and civility, compassion and care in all interactions. We ask you, our colleagues, to join us in this pledge.


It Gets Better …

Found on: Inch at a Time – Susan Russell - I can’t post the video but if you click on the hotlink – you can go watch the message.

It’s called the “It Gets Better” project and it’s a YouTube based campaign in support of youth facing homophobic bullying, harassment and thoughts of suicide. Saturday I got this email:

Faith voices – clergy in particular – are strongly encouraged to get involved in this campaign to illustrate the love that is available to the LGBTQ teens from the affirming religious community.

And so on Sunday I recorded this message — which is still finding its way to YouTube: (stay tuned for “film at eleven” — and do consider adding your voice to this important “cloud of witnesses!”))

I’m the Reverend Susan Russell, a priest and pastor from Pasadena, California and I’m here to tell you that “It gets better.“

There are lots of voices out there right now bringing that same message and if you are a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning teen I hope you are hearing them and I hope you know that no matter how alone you might feel, you are NOT alone and there is a community that wants to support you in the tough times and celebrate with you in the good times.

And as a priest and pastor I want you to know that anybody who tells you that God condemns you is wrong.

And if anybody says to you “But the Bible says …” I want you to remember this: God gave us the Bible as a tool for us to live our lives — not as a weapon to beat up other people – and history is full of people who were wrong about what the Bible says … using it to support slavery, to oppress women and to condemn Galileo for discovering that the earth revolved around the sun instead other way around.

And it turns out that the same people who were wrong about what the Bible said about slavery, about women’s equality and about astronomy are wrong about what the Bible says about homosexuality.

Jesus said love your neighbor – not love you neighbor unless your neighbor is gay.

Homosexuality doesn’t grieve the heart of God – homophobia does. Bullying does. Violence against any beloved child of God does.

And you are a beloved child of God. Created in God’s image exactly as God intended you to be.
God who doesn’t just want your life to get better – God wants your life to get fabulous. And I didn’t always know that.

Growing up trying to figure out who I was supposed to be and what I was supposed to do wasn’t easy and I didn’t always get it right. But it got better. And now I’m married to a wonderful woman who is the love of my life, I am a priest and pastor in an amazing church and my life didn’t just get better — it got fabulous. And so can yours.

If you need help believing that, reach out. To the Trevor Project. To a Believe Out Loud church. To my church — All Saints Church in Pasadena. And remember that God loves you beyond your wildest imaginings and wants you to be exactly who God created you to be.

Believe that promise. Know that God loves you and we are here for you – and grow up to be the best “you” you can be. It DOES get better! God bless!


Why Anti-Gay Bullying is a Theological Issue‏

Photo Credit: Cynicole_b
Article: An Inch at a Time – Susan’s Blog

It’s a Saturday afternoon and the laundry is humming and the dogs are snoozing and I’m catching up on bills and email — and one of the emails included a link to Religion Dispatches and a piece by Cody Sanders entitled “Why Anti-Gay Bullying is a Theological Issue.” It’s a great piece, but here’s the quote that hooked me:

If this were a hostage situation, we would have dispatched the SWAT team by now. And in many ways, it is.

Our children and teenagers are being held hostage by a religious and political rhetoric that strives to maintain the status quo of anti-gay heterosexist normativity. The messages of Focus on the Family and other organizations actively strive to leave the most vulnerable among us exposed to continuous attack.

The good news is that we don’t need a SWAT team. We just need quality education on sexuality and gender identity in our schools and more faithful and courageous preaching and teaching in our churches.

Let the people say “AMEN!” And then let the people read the rest here and THEN let the people get busy!

A theology of anti-gay bullying

Anti-gay bullying is a theological issue because it has a theological base. I find it difficult to believe that even those among us with a vibrant imagination can muster the creative energy to picture a reality in which anti-gay violence and bullying exist without the anti-gay religious messages that support them.

These messages come in many forms, degrees of virulence, and volumes of expression. The most insidious forms, however, are not those from groups like Westboro Baptist Church. Most people quickly dismiss this fanaticism as the red-faced ranting of a fringe religious leader and his small band of followers.

More difficult to address are the myriad ways in which everyday churches that do a lot of good in the world also perpetuate theologies that undergird and legitimate instrumental violence. The simplistic, black and white lines that are drawn between conceptions of good and evil make it all-too-easy to apply these dualisms to groups of people. When theologies leave no room for ambiguity, mystery and uncertainty, it becomes very easy to identify an “us” (good, heterosexual) versus a “them” (evil, gay).

Additionally, hierarchical conceptions of value and worth are implicit in many of our theological notions. Needless to say, value and worth are not distributed equally in these hierarchies. God is at the top, (white, heterosexual) men come soon after and all those less valued by the culture (women, children, LGBT people, the poor, racial minorities, etc.) fall somewhere down below. And it all makes perfect sense if you support it with a few appropriately (mis)quoted verses from the Bible.

With dualistic conceptions of good and evil and hierarchical notions of value and worth, it becomes easy to know who it is okay to hate or to bully or, seemingly more benignly, to ignore. And no institutions have done more to create and perpetuate the public disapproval of gay and lesbian people than churches.

If anti-gay bullying has, at any level, an embodied undercurrent of tacit theological legitimation, then we simply cannot circumvent our responsibility to provide a clear, decisive, theological response. Aside from its theological base, anti-gay bullying is a theological issue because it calls for acts of solidarity on behalf of the vulnerable and justice on behalf of the oppressed.

But this imperative to respond reminds us that the most dangerous form of theological message comes in the subtlest of forms: silence.

The longer we wait, the more young people die

There is already a strong religious presence in the debate around anti-bullying education in schools. Unfortunately, it is not a friendly voice for LGBT teens. There is also no lack of rhetoric on sexuality stemming from theological sources. But the loudest voices are not the voices of affirmation and embrace. In a recent article, I urged churches that rest comfortably in a tacitly welcoming or pseudo-affirming position to come out and publicly proclaim their places of worship as truly welcoming and affirming sanctuaries for people of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities.

I cannot count the number of times I have heard well-meaning, good-hearted people respond to this appeal, saying, “Things are a lot better for gay people today than they were several years (or decades) ago. In time, our society (or churches) will come around on this issue.” To these friends and others, I must say, “It’s time.” For Lucas, Brown, Clementi, Walsh, and Chase the time is up. For these teens and the myriad other bisexual, transgender, lesbian and gay youth lost to suicide, the waiting game hasn’t worked so well.

As simply as I can state the matter: The longer we wait to respond, the more young people die.

If this were a hostage situation, we would have dispatched the SWAT team by now. And in many ways, it is. Our children and teenagers are being held hostage by a religious and political rhetoric that strives to maintain the status quo of anti-gay heterosexist normativity. The messages of Focus on the Family and other organizations actively strive to leave the most vulnerable among us exposed to continuous attack. The good news is that we don’t need a SWAT team. We just need quality education on sexuality and gender identity in our schools and more faithful and courageous preaching and teaching in our churches.

Catholic theologian M. Shawn Copeland offers profound words to any individuals and churches seeking to wash their hands of this issue. She states,

“If my sister or brother is not at the table, we are not the flesh of Christ. If my sister’s mark of sexuality must be obscured, if my brother’s mark of race must be disguised, if my sister’s mark of culture must be repressed, then we are not the flesh of Christ. For, it is through and in Christ’s own flesh that the ‘other’ is my sister, is my brother; indeed, the ‘other’ is me…”

If anti-gay bullying is a theological issue, perhaps what is called for is a creative theological response. A theological response that challenges the systematic violence that upholds an oppressive religious and cultural ideology will not be a response through which we can hedge our bets. It will be a full-bodied, whole-hearted giving of ourselves to the repair of the flesh of Christ divided by injustice and systematic exclusion.

Ministers who remain in comfortable silence on sexuality must speak out. Churches that have silently embraced gay and lesbian members for years must publically hang the welcome banner. How long will we continue to limit and qualify our messages of acceptance, inclusion and embrace for the most vulnerable in order to maintain the comfort of those in our communities of faith who are well served by the status quo?

In the current climate, equivocating messages of affirmation are overpowered by the religious rhetoric of hatred. Silence only serves to support the toleration of bullying, violence and exclusion. In the face of what has already become the common occurrence of LGBT teen suicide, how long can we wait to respond?


California gay marriage ban overturned

By Jim Christie

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – A federal judge on Wednesday struck down a California ban on same-sex marriages as unconstitutional, handing a key victory to gay rights advocates in a politically charged decision almost certain to reach the U.S. Supreme Court.

U.S. District Court Chief Judge Vaughn Walker also ordered the voter-approved ban, known as Proposition 8, immediately lifted to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry while the case moves to a higher court.

Prop 8 supporters had sought to keep the measure in place pending the outcome of their appeal.

But Vaughn said the lawsuit challenging Prop 8 “demonstrated by overwhelming evidence” that it violates due process and equal-protection rights under the U.S. Constitution.

“Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license,” Walker wrote in the conclusion of the 136-page opinion.

Outside the federal courthouse in San Francisco, a cheer went up among a group of about 70 same-sex marriage supporters carrying small U.S. flags, as a large rainbow-striped flag — the symbol of the gay rights movement — waved overhead.

The highly anticipated ruling marked a major turning point in a social debate that has sharply divided the American public and its political establishment.

Gay rights advocates and civil libertarians have cast the legal battle as a fight for equal rights, while opponents, including many religious conservatives, see same-sex marriage as a threat to the “traditional family.”

Both sides have said an appeal to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was certain regardless of the outcome on Wednesday. The case could then go to the Supreme Court, provided the high court’s justices opted to hear it.

(Editing by Steve Gorman and Sandra Maler)


Are Gay Priests the Problem?

What Is the Truth Behind Any Association of Pedophilia and Homosexuality

OPINION By FATHER EDWARD L. BECK C.P.

The sex abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church took yet another turn this week when statements by the Vatican’s secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, second only to Pope Benedict, linked pedophilia to homosexuality.

Bertone said: “Many psychologists, many psychiatrists have demonstrated that there is no relationship between celibacy and pedophilia, but many others have demonstrated that there is a relationship between homosexuality and pedophilia.”

France, where an estimated 60 percent of the population is Catholic, became the first country to officially dismiss the remarks when foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero told reporters, “This is unacceptable linkage and we condemn this. France is firmly engaged in the struggle against discrimination and prejudice linked to sexual orientation and gender identity.”

Other church and lay leaders similarly have called the remarks outrageous and ill-informed. While en route to the United States in 2008, Pope Benedict said he considered homosexuality and pedophilia to be separate matters. So why would Cardinal Bertone make his statements? And what is the real truth behind any association of pedophilia and homosexuality?

Medical professionals agree that the majority of known pedophiles are heterosexual. Although statistics vary slightly, according to Thomas Plante of the department of psychology at Santa Clara University in California, most professionals agree that between 4 percent and 7 percent of people are pedophiles and that statistics in the priesthood roughly correspond to those findings.

It is also statistically verifiable that 80 percent of victims of sexual abuse are abused by a family member. The father of a family is 36 times more likely to abuse a child than a priest is, according to the National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.

Of about 3,000 reported cases of sexual misconduct among priests committed in the past 50 years, only 300, or 10 percent, of those cases involved true pedophiles. Pedophilia is psychologically classified as sexual attraction to prepubescent children, younger than 13. Ninety percent of the reported abuse cases involved Roman Catholic priests classified as ephebophiles, those attracted to teens between 13 and 19. Of those reported cases, 60 percent were homosexual abuse and 30 percent heterosexual abuse, according to the 2004 John Jay Report commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Irresponsible to Link Homosexuality, Pedophilia

The statistics are helpful in distilling the underlying questions and concerns that arise. Certainly, no abuse of any kind is acceptable for a member of the clergy. As is church policy, there is zero tolerance for anyone accused and convicted of the abuse of a minor.

Although it was not always the case in the past, church guidelines require that internal and legal action in reported abuse be swift and just, with utmost concern for the victim involved. But why are sexual abusers present at all in ordained ministry, and what are the most effective means to prevent further abuse? This is where the issue of gay priests and the comments of Cardinal Bertone become germane.

To link homosexuality and pedophilia (or ephebophilia) is obviously erroneous, uninformed and irresponsible. Homosexuality is a sexual orientation. Pedophilia and ephebophilia are sexual disorders that afflict both heterosexuals and homosexuals, and mostly heterosexuals.

The problem of sexual abuse is rooted not in orientation but rather in pathology caused by the environmental, behavioral, biological and societal conditions of the abuser. Trauma from early childhood (ages 2-5), including sexual abuse and arrested sexual development are the most common factors cited by those who diagnose sexual abusers.

Yes, there are gay priests.

Some anecdotal statistics suggest as many as 40 percent of priests may be gay, according to James Wolf’s book “Gay Priests,” although this is not verifiable because many remain silent for fear of ecclesiastical and societal repercussions.

And, yes, a small minority of gay priests who were sexually arrested and maladjusted abused boys. But the majority of gay priests are celibate and living dedicated lives of service and commitment to their communities. And most have no attraction whatsoever to adolescents.

Child abusers are not interested in or capable of mature, adult relationships. They are stuck at the same psychosexual age as their victims. They have no capacity for authentic relationships. This is certainly not the case for the majority of gay — or straight — priests.

Strengthen Entrance Requirements

To conflate pedophilia with homosexuality does nothing to help ameliorate the crisis in the Catholic Church. The real need is for seminaries and formation programs to strengthen their entrance requirements, thus ensuring that no sexual deviant is admitted to the priesthood. This can be done by more extensive psychological testing as well as by ensuring honest dialogue and education within priestly formation programs with regard to human sexuality.

Candidates must be encouraged to talk freely about sexuality and to explore the wide gamut of human relationships and accompanying intimacy. This is certainly an argument against accepting candidates who are too young or obviously immature. High school and college seminary programs should be especially cautious in this regard.

If a candidate is discovered to be a pedophile or ephebophile, it should be immediate grounds for dismissal because these conditions are not curable. One such afflicted cannot find peace in the priesthood with these recurrent urges, especially when he will be in close proximity to adolescents of all ages. By the way, this would be true even if celibacy were not a required discipline in the priesthood.

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Like homosexuality, celibacy is not a pertinent issue because child abusers are not interested in or capable of adult relationships. Married people, single people, straight people and gay people all can be — and are — abusers. Celibacy in and of itself does nothing to promote abuse. It may however be attractive to those who are sexually immature or conflicted, thus the need for more stringent screening of candidates.

Human sexuality is surely a complex enterprise and inconsistencies in behavior are sure to abound. Love, attraction and human intimacy sometimes follow their own set of rules. But certain rules, even within the purview of fluctuating sexuality, are immutable and must be guarded with vigilance. Surely the rules that dictate mature, adult and responsible sexual behavior among adults, which always excludes minors, are among those non-negotiables.

God Help the Abusers

Jesus said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me,” meaning allow them to come to me because they are witnesses to the simplicity and beauty of the kingdom of God. God help those who instead cause the little children to suffer. And God help, too, those who try to shift the blame for that suffering to those who bear no responsibility for the crisis that the church has yet to address in a coherent and forceful enough way.

Father Edward L. Beck, C.P., is a Roman Catholic priest of the Passionist Community. He is the author of three books, “God Underneath,” “Unlikely Ways Home” and “Soul Provider,” all published by Doubleday. In addition to conducting retreats and workshops on spirituality nationally and internationally, Father Beck is a religion contributor for ABC News. He hosts a weekly TV and Internet show for ABC called “Focus on Faith” with Chris Cuomo of “Good Morning America” and is also a commentator on religious and faith issues for various other media outlets including CNN and Fox Television. Father Beck is the executive producer and host of “The Sunday Mass,” which airs nationally each week.


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