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Called-Out eNews-July 2009

 

eNews from UCC Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Ministries


 

  
 

UCC General Synod 27 Wrap Up

The experience of two UCC congregations in California prompted the resolution on diversity education at the denomination's 27th General Synod, which met June 26-30 in Grand Rapids, MI. The resolution, Affirming Diversity / Multi-Cultural Education in the Public Schools, urges churches to assist public school efforts to protect children and help them understand people of other races and sexual orientation.

The resolution, which was approved by an overwhelming majority after extensive debate, encourages public schools to develop programs that help to keep all children safe, and for churches to assist in appropriate ways. The suggested educational programs aim to embrace students of all races, ethnic origins, genders, faiths, abilities, sexual orientations, gender identities, socio-economic classes, countries of origin, and their families.   

The resolution contains recommendations to local churches, Conferences and the national setting, which include:

  • Be aware of and keep alert to national and local efforts to undermine diversity/multi-cultural education in their public school districts;
  • Call for processes and protocols for public discourse on diversity/multi-cultural education that ensure the inclusion of viewpoints representative of the whole community;
  • Speak up in support of diversity/multi-cultural education from the perspective of their faith commitment and informed by the Bible's overwhelming mandate to defend the cause of justice;
  • Continue to address topics of age and family structure race, ethnic origin, gender, faith, ability, sexual orientation, gender identity, socio-economic class, and country of origin within local congregations;
  • Engage in public witness to affirm diversity/multi-cultural and to support those who are engaged faithfully in acts of inclusion;
  • Develop and participate in broad-based ecumenical and interfaith coalitions that will advocate for anti-bullying, safe schools, and diversity/multi-cultural education in our public schools;
  • Celebrate the diversity of individuals and families as a gift of God. 

Learn more at the following links:

 

 

Coalition Leadership Transition

The Board of Directors of the UCC Coalition for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns recently announced that, after an extensive and thorough discernment process, they took action to end their relationship with the Executive Director, the Rev. Ruth Garwood. In particular, they cited a need to improve internal working effectiveness. As they work through the next phases of the Coalition's transition, the Board will resume the duties of the Executive Director. 

During her tenure, Garwood notes that she witnessed:

  • the growth of extravagant welcome;
  • the Open and Affirming Program list new churches at an accelerating rate;
  • the Youth and Young Adult Program develop leaders among people through pastoral care and education; and
  • suicide intervention training save lives. 

In the Board's press release of July 1, 2009, in which this transition announcement was made, they noted that they hold Ruth Garwood in high regard and honor all her hard work in moving the Coalition to this point and ask for prayers for Ruth, her partner, Adrienne, and all the members of the Board at this difficult time. 

Announcement from the Board of Directors of the UCC Coalition for LGBT Concerns: http://www.ucccoalition.org/

A Note from Ruth Garwood: http://www.ucccoalition.org/

Information about the transition will be available on the Coalition's web site as details become available.

 

Legislative Updates
 

The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act / Matthew Shepard Act (LLEHCPA) gives the Department of Justice (DOJ) the power to investigate and prosecute bias-motivated violence by providing the DOJ with jurisdiction over crimes of violence where the perpetrator has selected the victim because of the person's actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.

The Act provides the DOJ with the ability to aid state and local jurisdictions either by lending assistance or, where local authorities are unwilling or unable to act, by taking the lead in investigations and prosecutions of bias-motivated, violent crimes resulting in death or serious bodily injury.  The LLEHCPA also makes grants available to state and local communities to combat violent crimes committed by juveniles, train law enforcement officers or assist in state and local investigations and prosecutions of bias-motivated crimes.

LLEHCPA was introduced in the 111th Congress by Representatives John Conyers (D-MI) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) in the House, and the Matthew Shepard Act was introduced by Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) in the Senate.  On April 29, 2009, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1913 by a vote of 249-175.  After much struggle to move this legislation forward, the Senate was able to attach the Leahy/Collins/Kennedy/Snowe hate crime amendment (The Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act) to the FY 2010 Department of Defense Authorization bill (S. 1391) this week. After months of struggle, we finally have an opportunity to ensure protection for all people and all communities against bias motivated crimes!  Take Action, contact your members of congress today concerning this bill!

 

 

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) was introduced in the 111th Congress by Representatives Barney Frank (D-MA) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) in the House with 117 original co-sponsors.  Senate introduction of the bill is expected shortly. Several earlier versions of the bill have existed. Most recently, in 2007, the House passed a version of ENDA that protected on the basis of sexual orientation, but not gender identity, on a vote of 235 to 184.

ENDA would provide basic protections against workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.  It would make it illegal to fire, refuse to hire or refuse to promote an employee based on the person's sexual orientation or gender identity.  This bill would reflect the values, shared by the vast majority of Americans, that employment decisions should be based on a person's qualifications and work ethic. It exempts small businesses, religious organizations and the military, and does not require that domestic partner benefits be provided to the same-sex partners of employees. 

Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia have passed laws prohibiting employment discrimination based on sexual orientation, and 12 states and D.C. also prohibit discrimination based on gender identity. Hundreds of companies have enacted policies protecting their lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees.  Yet no federal law exists to fully protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals in the workplace. Currently, federal law provides legal protection against employment discrimination only on the basis of race, sex, religion, national origin, age and disability, but not sexual orientation or gender identity.   

 

 

Repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell

On March 3, 2009, Representative Ellen Tauscher (D-CA) introduced HR 1283, or the Military Readiness Enhancement Act.  On March 31st, it was referred to the House Subcommittee on Military Personnel.  It currently has 152 co-sponsors.  Passage requires 218 votes. 

This bill would repeal the federal law banning military service by openly lesbian, gay and bisexual Americans.  The bill would replace this ban with new provisions prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation in the armed forces.  Persons previously discharged on the basis of sexual orientation would be eligible to apply to rejoin the army.  This new bill would not create a right to benefits for same-sex partners or spouses, because under current federal law such benefits would violate the Federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).  Since the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" law was enacted in 1993, 13,000 service members have been discharged from the military. Just since President Obama took earlier this year, 287 service members have been discharged because of their sexual orientation.  It is estimated that 65,000 more gay Americans still serve in the military and that there are over 1,000,000 gay veterans.

There isn't a clear timeline for when this bill will be debated in Congress, and with a packed legislative calendar, officials predict that congregational action isn't likely with the next few months.  President Obama has said that he will sign the repeal if it comes to his desk, but for now he is allowing the Congressional process to flow.

Estimates of implementing "Don't Ask Don't Tell" from 1994-2003 including recruitment, re-training and separation travel costs have ranged from almost $200 million to $363 million.

Current polls show that at least 75 percent of Americans support allowing gays to serve openly in our nation's military.  Contact your legislators today! 

             

Massachusetts files lawsuit to Chip Away at DOMA
 

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts sued the US government on July 8th over the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which was enacted in 1996.  Massachusetts' Attorney General, Martha Coakley, says that DOMA interferes with the right of Massachusetts to define and regulate marriage as it sees fit. 

Massachusetts was the first state to legalize same-sex marriage (in 2004) and it is the first state to challenge the federal law.  The Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD), New England's leading legal rights organization, also filed a similar lawsuit against DOMA in March 2009. 

Because of DOMA, approximately 16,000 same-sex couples, who have gotten married in Massachusetts in the past five years, are still being denied federal benefits - including federal income tax credits, employment, retirement and Medicaid benefits, health insurance coverage, social security payments, and spousal rights to be buried in a Massachusetts veteran's cemetery in all over 1,000 federal rights. In addition, over the past five years Massachusetts officials have discovered that DOMA puts more administrative and cost burdens on the state because now they have to administer two systems, one for the purpose of state law and another for the purposes of federal law. 

This suit, The Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. the United States Health and Human Services, would not completely eliminate DOMA in this state, it would simply "chip away at its reach" explains Coakley, making changes to section 3 of DOMA.  Section 3 of DOMA overrides a state's determination that a same-sex couple is married and says that they are not married for purposes of all federal laws and programs. It requires federal departments and agencies to disrespect valid state-licensed marriages of same-sex couples. 

While President Obama says that he supports the repeal of DOMA, many political experts believe that the Congressional repeal of DOMA will not happen anytime soon and that lawsuits may lead to desired changes in a much timelier manner.       


Called-Out is the occasional e-mail newsletter covering LGBT concerns from the
Office for Health and Wholeness Advocacy of Wider Church Ministries of the United Church of Christ,
700 Prospect Ave E, Cleveland, OH  44115
Tel. 216-736-3217; Fax 216-736-3203; Email: lgbt@ucc.org