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Called Out eNews May 2008

California Supreme Court overturns ban on same-sex marriage;
gay-marriage opponents bid to get proposed amendment on ballot


Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin have been together for over 50 years.
They are first in line for a marriage certificate in San Francisco
as soon as the CA Supreme Court ruling goes into effect, in about a month.

Ruling that domestic partnerships that provide many of the rights and benefits of matrimony are not enough, the California Supreme Court overturned on May 15 the state's ban on same-sex marriage. Writing for the majority, Chief Justice Ronald George said, "In contrast to earlier times, our state now recognizes that an individual's capacity to establish a loving and long-term committed relationship with another person and responsibly to care for and raise children does not depend upon the individual's sexual orientation."

The Northen California Nevada Conference affirmed the court decision at their Annual Meeting the weekend following the decision (Click here to read the statement).  Their response points to the invaluable involvement of UCC congregations, pastors and lay leaders in California.   In June 2004 the Southern California Nevada Conference adopted a resolution supporting marriage equality. That resolution was endorsed by the Northern California Nevada Conference and subsequently became a substantial part of the resolution adopted in 2005 by General Synod 25 in Atlanta (www.ucc.org/lgbt/marriage/).  In addition, California Faith for Equality (www.cafaithforequality.org), a key participant in the Equality For All Coaition, has proven to be a key partner of the UCC in working on issues such as same-sex marriage. 

A group known as Protect Marriage is sponsoring a proposed amendment called "Limit On Marriage." They appear to have enough signatures to put the measure on the November 08 ballot.  Protect Marriage has submitted more than 1.1 million signatures, said Brian Brown, executive director of the California office of the National Organization for Marriage. California's secretary of state is expected to announce by June 18 whether Protect Marriage gathered enough valid signatures to put the proposed amendment on the ballot.

In the meantime, same gender marriages could begin in California in as little as 30 days, the time it typically takes for a rulling to go into effect. Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has twice vetoed legislation that would have granted marriage to same-sex couples, said in a statement he respected the court's decision and "will not support an amendment to the constitution that would overturn this state Supreme Court ruling."

Protect Marriage raised more than $1.5 million in contributions to support its petition drive, money that allowed the group to hire paid signature collectors to supplement the volunteers it recruited from churches, Brown said. Equality for All, a coalition of gay rights groups, launched an aggressive counter-campaign to persuade people not to sign the petitions. Its "Decline to Sign" volunteers approached patrons outside the shopping centers where the signature gatherers were working and asked them instead to sign pledges supporting same-sex marriage.


Florida Conference passes resolution
opposing proposed anti-marriage amendment


The UCC Florida Conference passed a resolution at its annual meeting May 3 in opposition to a proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. A successful signature-petition drive three years ago by social conservatives landed the proposed amendment on the November 2008 ballot.

"A very strong 95 percent of our members voted in favor of it," said Rev. Kent Siladi, Florida Conference Minister. "We're working with Fairness for Families to try to defeat this."

The proposed resolution calls for the Florida Conference to encourage its congregations to actively oppose the amendment by "educating their members about the hidden goals, deceptive purposes and negative consequences of passing this broad, discriminatory amendment."

"It's a little quiet right now, but we have lots of people on the ground, and the ONA (Open and Affirming) network is rallying," said Siladi. "The strategy is that fall is the time to hit this hard. This is going to get some ink."

The Orlando-based Florida4Marriage's proposed amendment defines marriage as "the legal union of only one man and one woman as husband and wife," and that "no other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized." It has drawn attacks from opponents who allege the amendment could deny rights to unmarried heterosexual couples in addition to gays and lesbians.

Florida law requires 60 percent of the popular vote for a proposed amendment to pass. "People are not going to buy into the rhetoric, and they're more educated now than they were in 2000 and 2004," said Michael Albetta, president of the Florida Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Democratic Caucus in Fort Lauderdale.

Florida law bans same-sex marriage. But social-conservative groups such as Focus on the Family, Florida Family Action and the Florida Baptist Convention launched the constitutional drive in 2005, arguing the state's law could be invalidated in courts.


Outed student gets help from an ONA church,
First Congregational UCC in Memphis, TN

Open and Affirming (ONA) values are alive and well in Memphis, Tenn., thanks to Pastor Cheryl Cornish and members of First Congregational Church. Cornish and lay leaders have provided much-needed support and counsel to one of the two teenage boys outed by their school principal.

"One of the great joys of being an ONA church is that we are ready to respond when a need arises," Pastor Cheryl proclaims.  "The counselors at our church counseling center, the Pilgrim Center, recognize that young gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual adults have few places to go, sometimes, for accurate information and helpful support.  They were happy to reach out to these students and their families and have the training and background to speak to issues of sexuality and the harrassment that GLBT teenagers and others often face."  In a recent letter to the Memphis School Board, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) criticized Daphne Beasley, principal of Hollis F. Price Middle College High School, for posting the boys' names on a list of students believed to be romantically involved with one another. The school board later released a statement saying the principal did nothing wrong.

The ACLU letter states that in September 2007,  Beasley told teachers she wanted to identify all student couples, "hetero and homo," because she wanted to prevent students from engaging in public displays of affection. Beasley heard about the relationship of Andrew and Nicholas (last names withheld per their request), both excellent students who had been seeing one another for a short time, trying to keep their relationship private. But Beasley learned of it through another student, then wrote their names on a list she posted next to her desk, in full view of anyone who entered her office.  

"I couldn't believe it when I went to meet with the principal and that list was right there by her desk where anyone could see it," said Andrea, mother of Andrew. "African-American people face enough obstacles to succeeding in this world, and I want my son to have every opportunity he's worked so hard for."

Although the boys had never been observed by school staff engaging in a display of affection, Beasley called Nicholas' mother, Nichole, and asked whether Nichole knew her son was gay. Beasley reportedly added that she didn't like gay people and wouldn't tolerate homosexuality at her school. Both students said they were the object of verbal harassment from teachers and fellow students.

"I really feel that my personal privacy was invaded," said Nicholas, an honor student who is a junior.  "I mean, Principal Beasley called my mother and outed me to my mother! We never bothered anyone or did a single thing at school that broke any of the rules. Every day I feel like they're still punishing me, and I'm worried that this is going to hurt my chances to get into a good college."

Rev. Cornish said, "The church congregation makes it clear to the wider Memphis community that homophobia is NOT a Christian value.  We were pleased that Nicholas and his family knew they could call when us when they needed help."



From coast to coast, ONA trainings are preparing leaders

The addition of Trinity United Church of Christ in Buffalo, N.Y., this week brings to 756 the ever-growing number of Open and Affirming (ONA) churches in the UCC. Due in large part to a dedicated staff of trained ONA consultantscongregations, campus ministries and other UCC bodies are increasingly "going ONA" -- making public statements of welcome into their ministry to persons of all sexual orientations and gender identities. Thirty of the 38 Conferences have at least one ONA Consultant.

The UCC Coalition of LGBT Concerns and the Health and Wholeness Advocacy Office of Wider Church Ministries have partnered with welcoming organizations in other denominations and the Institute of Welcoming Resources to provide training for persons interested in serving as an ONA resource. Upcoming training events and links are listed below. These trainings are ecumenical and include UCC specific information and resources.  For further details, please contact Michelle Sims at the Coalition office at 216-861-0779 or via email at projects@ucccoalition.org


LaVerne, CA — Towards a Welcoming and Inclusive Church
June 6 - 8, 2008
LaVerne Church of the Brethren
La Verne, CA

Columbus, OH — Welcoming Church Program Training
August 7 – 10, 2008
Lord of Life Lutheran Church
Columbus, OH

Milwaukee, WI — Welcoming Church Program Training
August 21–24, 2008
Martin Luther Lutheran Church
Milwaukee WI

Glendale, CA — Welcoming Church Program Training
September 19-21, 2008
Glendale, CA

Winston-Salem, NC — Towards a Welcoming and Inclusive Church
September 19 - 21, 2008
Wake Forest Divinity School
Winston-Salem, NC

Goshen, IN — Towards a Welcoming and Inclusive Church
Oct 24 - 26, 2008
Assembly Mennonite Church
Goshen, IN


Called Out eNews is published by the Office for Health and Wholeness Advocacy
Wider Church Ministries, United Church of Christ
700 Prospect Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44115
Phone: 216-736-3217, Email: LGBT@ucc.org, Web: www.ucc.org

Rev. Mike Schuenemeyer, Executive
Mr. Jeffrey Woodard, Intern