National briefs

Posted on 16 Mar 2006 at 9:39pm
By Staff and Wire Reports

Task Force merges with umbrella group for welcoming congregations
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force on Monday announced its merger with the Institute for Welcoming Resources.

The institute is an umbrella organization of Protestant GLBT welcoming church programs in seven mainline denominations, its director, Rev. Rebecca Voelkel, said.

Matt Foreman, executive director of the Task Force, called the merger a critical step for the gay and lesbian rights movement.

“We see this as an essential step in reclaiming both the language of faith and of moral values from those on the right who have attempted to hijack both faith and moral values,” he said. “There is a burning desire now to really go on the offensive and talk about faith and values in an affirmative, positive way.”

Voelkel, a United Church of Christ minister, said the institute represents more than 1,400 congregations containing about a million people.

“One of the reasons this is such a powerful collaboration is that one of the Task Force’s most important roles is to hold the secular society to our highest values,” she said. “I really think the Institute for Welcoming Resources really is about holding the church to the highest values of the gospel.”

The institute works with the welcoming church movements in the Presbyterian Church USA, United Church of Christ, United Methodist Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Community of Christ, Christian Churches (Disciples of Christ) and the American Baptist Church.

Troy Plummer, director of the Reconciling Ministries Network of the United Methodist Church, said he was “excited and hopeful about this combination.”

“I see this as a way to help us get to a grassroots level in a more broad way than we have been able to do before,” Plummer said.

Foreman said the institute has become a program of the Task Force, and its board is now an advisory board for the Task Force’s welcoming church program. Voelkel is now a staff member of the Task Force.

Foreman said the coupling furthers the Task Force’s goal of opening conversations with people of faith.

“I think anyone who takes a look at the struggle for LGBT equality right now from a very objective point of view,” he said, “can see that some of the greatest progress that’s being made against tremendous odds is within denominations.”

Cincinnati City Council approves GLBT anti-discrimination ordinance
The Cincinnati City Council voted on Wednesday to extend protection against discrimination to GLBT residents.

It was the city’s first action since the repeal of Cincinnati’s law banning gay rights measures. The only such ban in the nation, it was repealed in 2004. It had forced the elimination of gay and transgender people from the city’s human rights ordinance.

By an 8-to-1 vote, the council amended the current human rights ordinance to extend protection against discrimination to gay and transgender people in jobs and housing.

“By passing this ordinance, we are saying as a city that discrimination of any kind against anyone will not be tolerated,” council member Laketa Cole said.
A majority of people speaking at a hearing Tuesday by the council’s Law and Public Safety Committee favored the measure.

Council member Chris Monzel cast the lone negative vote. He said that was because of his proposal to rewrite the human rights ordinance to ban discrimination against any individual.

Maryland House rejects call to impeach judge who ruled for gay marriage
The Maryland House has declined to impeach a Baltimore judge who recently ruled in favor of gay marriage.

A House committee voted 20-3, on March 9, to reject the proposal.

Republican Delegate Don Dwyer had proposed that Baltimore Circuit Judge M. Brooke Murdock should be removed because she ruled in January that a state law against gay marriage violated the state constitution.

Dwyer had earlier failed in an effort to get a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage on the statewide ballot this fall.

The Legislature hasn’t impeached a judge in more than a century.

Delaware Supreme Court dismisses appeal in lesbian child custody case
A Delaware lesbian who paid child support for three children born to her former partner is entitled to share custody of the children, the state’s highest court has ruled.

Elizabeth Symes, the birth mother of the triplets born in 1997, had appealed a Family Court ruling declaring Susan Symes to be a “de facto” parent.

But a three-judge panel of the Supreme Court did not rule on the “de facto” parent aspect of the case. Instead, the panel based its ruling on the fact that Elizabeth Symes had accepted child support benefits, thus abandoning her right to challenge the family court decision, Justice Randy Holland wrote.

Shepard Foundation to honor three with Making a Difference Awards
The Matthew Shepard Foundation is presenting its first Making A Difference Award to activist-actor couple Judith Light and Robert Desiderio, and the Making A Difference Youth Award to university student Ryan Olson.

The awards will be presented during the foundation’s fifth annual dinner on March 25 in Denver.

Judy Shepherd, mother of hate-crime victim Matthew Shepherd, a gay University of Wyoming student who was 21 at the time of his 1998 killing, is executive director of the foundation. She said the three honorees “are all making invaluable contributions to replace hate with understanding, compassion and acceptance in our society.”

Light and Desiderio have been active in the GLBT rights movement and HIV education and prevention efforts for more than 15 years. They are currently active with the Point Foundation, the Trevor Project, Broadway Cares Equity Fights AIDS, the AIDS Memorial Quilt, Project Angel Food and the AIDS Memorial Grove.

Olson is a student at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash., where he is president of Helping Educate Regarding Orientation.

Kilbourn, formerly of HRC, hired as political director of Equality California
Seth Kilbourn, former director of the Human Rights Campaign’s Marriage Project, has been hired as the political director of Equality California, a statewide GLBT rights organization.

“Equality California has been incredibly successful in moving toward full equality under the law for all Californians, and I am honored to help lead that continued effort,” Kilbourn said in a statement released this week.

Kilbourn began his tenure with the organization this week by kicking off a month-long tour of the state to discuss his perspective on the state of the GLBT civil rights movement, the importance of California in the national picture and Equality California’s 2006 electoral and legislative strategies.

The tour began Wednesday in Sacramento. He will be in Los Angeles on Sunday for a garden party at which California Assembly member Judy Chu, a Democrat of Los Angeles, will be honored for her support of marriage equality for gays and lesbians.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, March 17, 2006.

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