Conservative Judaism working to make same-sex wedding ceremonies equal

According to the Israeli newspaper HaAretz, Conservative Judaism is working to come up with a same-sex marriage ceremony.

Note: Yes, same-sex marriage is performed in most branches of Judaism. Israel recognizes same-sex marriages performed elsewhere. Same-sex weddings are not performed in Israel, but neither are Reform weddings.

Here’s the debate that’s going on. Conservative Judaism wants the same-sex marriage ceremony to be as close to the traditional ceremony as possible. They argue that if the ceremony is different, then the marriage is different. If the marriage is different, then it isn’t kiddushin, or holy. Separate isn’t equal, they argue.

But in the traditional marriage ceremony as it’s existed since Biblical times, the husband is taking ownership of the wife. How would that work in a same-sex relationship? Who would buy whom? Would a dowry be paid?

So some who are coming up with the new ceremony want to update the vows to emphasize the loving relationship and partnership and support the couple gives each other.

Reform and Reconstructionist Judaism have already updated their vows. Husbands don’t generally buy wives in Reform synagogues.

And here’s where Maggie Gallagher, the American Family Association and all their right-wing buddies are completely right. Same-sex marriage is destroying traditional marriage as it’s existed since Biblical times.

In Judaism, rabbis are looking at those traditional marriage vows and throwing them out. Women don’t want to be purchased and men don’t want to own them and rabbis don’t want to be involved in transferring property rights.

But the Conservative Movement is right that the same-sex wedding ceremony needs to be as close to the opposite-sex wedding ceremony because separate isn’t equal. In the end, the Conservative wedding for opposite sex couples will change to reflect the equality of a same-sex marriage.

So once again, gays and lesbians are making the world a better place and to heterosexuals, we say, you’re welcome.

—  David Taffet

Churches debate whether to marry gays

As more states legalize same-sex marriage, religious groups grapple with whether to allow ceremonies

RACHEL ZOLL | AP Religion Writer

NEW YORK — After same-sex marriage becomes legal here on July 24, gay priests with partners in the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island will head to the altar. They have to. Their bishop set a nine-month deadline for them to marry or stop living together.

Next door, meanwhile, the Episcopal bishop of New York says he also expects gay clergy in committed relationships to wed “in due course.” Still, this longtime supporter of gay rights says churches in his diocese are off limits for gay weddings until he receives clearer liturgical guidance from the national denomination.

As more U.S. states legalize same-sex marriage, religious groups with ambiguous policies on homosexuality are divided over whether they should allow the ceremonies in local congregations. The decision is especially complex in the mainline Protestant denominations that have yet to fully resolve their disagreements over the Bible and homosexuality. Many have taken steps toward acceptance of gay ordination and same-gender couples without changing the official definition of marriage in church constitutions and canons. With the exception of the United Church of Christ, which approved gay marriage six years ago, none of the larger mainline churches has a national liturgy for same-sex weddings or even blessing ceremonies.

The result is a patchwork of church policies in states where gays can civilly wed — not only for lay people, but also for gay clergy who want to marry their partners.

“It’s a challenge for us,” said Tony De La Rosa, administrator of the Presbytery of New York City, a regional body of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). “I think this is a moment of great tumult in the sights of the church.”

The New York regional body of the United Methodist Church issued a statement reminding local congregations that the Methodist Book of Discipline bars any celebration of same-gender unions, but encouraged congregants to “extend God’s love” to each other, “particularly those with whom we disagree.”

Just last Sunday, the Presbyterian Church formally lifted barriers to ordination for gays and lesbians who are not celibate, although individual congregations had been hiring gay pastors and conducting same-sex blessing ceremonies for years. De La Rosa expects a similar mix of responses to gay marriage laws, even though a minister who conducts a same-gender marriage is at risk of possible disciplinary action by the denomination since the ceremonies are not officially authorized. De La Rosa, who is gay, said he does not plan to wed because the marriage would not be recognized in California, where he and his partner are residents.

New York churches can look for guidance to religious leaders in the five other states where gay marriage is already legal: Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire and Iowa, plus the District of Columbia.

The New England Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, which includes four of the five states with gay marriage, issued a document stating that pastors can choose to solemnize same-sex marriages in individual churches that give their approval. The Upstate New York Synod, which oversees Lutheran churches in the Albany area, distributed that document to local leaders ahead of an upcoming discussion on the gay marriage law. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America formally abolished a celibacy requirement for gay and lesbian clergy more than a year ago, but still defines marriage as between one man and one woman.

The Rev. David Preisinger, an assistant to the Upstate New York bishop, said the bishop has indicated that she will not take action against clergy who perform the ceremonies. He said churches in his region have already received several requests for weddings and believes they will take place soon.

“There are some congregations that are very open to it and others that don’t want anything to do with it,” Preisinger said.

The Episcopal Church blazed a trail, and enraged fellow Anglicans worldwide, in 2003 by consecrating the first openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire. On same-sex marriage, Episcopal dioceses have been guided by a 2009 resolution from the General Convention, the church’s top national policy body, that asked for a “generous pastoral response” to gay couples, especially in states with same-sex marriage or civil unions.

However, bishops disagree about what the resolution means. Each has cited the measure when issuing dramatically different policies.

Even before the New York legislature had passed the gay marriage bill last month, Bishop Gladstone Adams, who leads the Syracuse-based Episcopal Diocese of Central New York, had asked the local liturgy committee to draft a rite for same-gender marriage. Adams said individual priests and parishes could decide whether to conduct the ceremonies. He has not yet set a policy on marriage for clergy living with same-gender partners.

In the Diocese of New York, Bishop Mark Sisk said local priests could bless couples who marry elsewhere in a civil ceremony, but could not solemnize the marriages.

“I do not believe that resolution … empowered bishops to authorize clergy to perform such marriages,” Sisk wrote in a statement. “Nor do I believe that it is appropriate for clergy to circumvent the vows we have taken by becoming separately licensed by the state to perform such marriages.”

His position stunned many Episcopalians. The New York diocese is considered so gay-friendly that the local chapter of the national Episcopal gay advocacy group, Integrity, focuses instead on outreach to other gay and lesbians seeking a religious community, according to Mary O’Shaughnessy, New York City coordinator for the organization.

Sisk’s spokesman said the bishop won’t move forward without an approved liturgy. Episcopalians are drafting prayers for blessing same-gender couples that advocates hope will be accepted next year by the General Convention.

O’Shaughnessy said she was disappointed by Sisk’s decision, but said he has “unequivocally” supported gay and lesbian rights and she understands that he has a broad constituency to consider, including parishes in the diocese that lie outside of Manhattan.

Long Island Episcopal Bishop Lawrence Provenzano said there is nothing “punitive” about the nine-month period he set for clergy to marry their partners — a length of time he said was similar to an academic year. No one will be disciplined for failing to meet the deadline. Instead, he said he would handle each priest’s situation on a case-by-case basis. He noted that some private employers are considering restricting domestic partner benefits to those who are legally married.

“I need to be mindful that the church has always asked people to live in committed monogamous, faithful relationships,” Provenzano said. “I won’t allow heterosexual clergy to live in a rectory or church housing without the benefit of marriage. When one puts it in that context, then you see how it all begins to make sense.”

The Rev. Christopher Hofer, pastor of the Episcopal Church of St. Jude in Wantagh, on Long Island, said he has heard no complaints from other gay or lesbian clergy about the policy. Hofer plans a “big” August wedding in his parish with his partner of 17 years, Kerry Brady. They live in the church rectory, where on a recent evening they waited together for a messenger to deliver their wedding rings.

“I think Bishop Provenzano’s statement was not only fair, but beyond generous. It gives people time, acknowledging that there’s a financial component involved, and recognizing that some may not choose to live together,” Hofer said. “Now that the state is recognizing civil marriage, we as priests, perhaps deacons too, who are in committed relationships, have a choice: We either live what we preach, to become civilly married, or we choose to live apart.”

No other Episcopal dioceses in states with same-gender marriage have set an explicit deadline for gay clergy to marry their live-in partners.

Episcopal Bishop John Chane, of the Diocese of Washington, allowed local priests to perform same-sex marriages in parishes that approved the ceremonies, but did not ask clergy to marry or live alone. He said it wouldn’t be fair, since so few states recognize the marriages, and state and federal laws like the Defense of Marriage Act are still in effect and “deny the human rights and disrespect the orientation” of gays and lesbians. He said five gay clergy have married in the Diocese of Washington since same-sex marriages started last year.Churches debate whether to marry gays

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Navy reverses guidance that would allow same-sex weddings in base chapels

Gay former Councilman Ed Oakley is backing Scott Griggs in the District 3 race.

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. The Navy has apparently caved to pressure from the far right and reversed guidance that would allow its chaplains to perform same-sex weddings in base chapels once “don’t ask, don’t tell” is repealed. Rear Adm. Mark L. Tidd, the Navy’s chief of chaplains, says the decision to reverse the guidance is only temporary “pending additional legal and policy review.” The reversal follows an uproar by anti-gay groups such as the Family Research Council and the Center for Military Readiness, which claim that allowing same-sex weddings on military bases would violate the Defense of Marriage Act. Meanwhile, an amendment that would prohibit same-sex weddings on defense department property and bar military chaplains from officiating them is one of several anti-gay measures that are expected to be considered today by the House Armed Services Committee when it calls up the Defense Authorization Act.

2. President Barack Obama delivered an extensive speech on immigration reform Tuesday in El Paso – but he failed to mention the plight of bi-national same-sex couples. Obama did give a shout out to the gays later in Austin, when he listed DADT repeal among his legislative accomplishments of the last few years.

3. Openly gay former District 3 Dallas City Councilman Ed Oakley is supporting challenger Scott Griggs over incumbent Dave Neumann in the race for his old seat in Saturday’s election. Rudy Bush at The Dallas Morning News reports that Oakley spent $3,500 on a pro-Griggs mailer sent  to voters in the heavily LGBT Oak Cliff district. “Dave Neumann has not done anything in 4 years to help the residences of District 3, the southern sector, or Dallas,” Oakley said, explaining the mailer in an email to Griggs. “He has not worked with the other council persons to make progress. He is very good at taking credit for everything that was put in place prior to him taking office. He is not the leader that is needed to represent District 3.” Both Stonewall Democrats and the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance have also endorsed Griggs over Neumann.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Hunter takes aim at DADT repeal; A&M’s GLBT resource center under fire again

Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif.

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., plans to introduce an amendment this week aimed at derailing the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Hunter’s amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act would require all four service chiefs to certify that DADT repeal won’t hurt the military’s readiness before it can be implemented. Under the DADT repeal bill passed by Congress last December, only President Barack Obama, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Defense secretary must certify DADT repeal. The Washington Blade reports that Hunter’s amendment is one of several anti-gay measures that could be introduced. Hunter may also introduce an amendment to overturn DADT repeal completely, and Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., plans a measure that would reverse guidance allowing chaplains to perform same-sex weddings in Navy chapels, which we reported on Monday.

2. A bill that would bar transgender people from marrying people of the opposite sex is back on the Texas Senate’s intent calendar for today. The Senate needs 20 votes to take up SB 723 by Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, meaning Republicans need at least one Democrat to break ranks and support the measure, which would remove a court-ordered change of sex from the list of documents that can be used to obtain marriage licenses. The bill is a direct response to the Nikki Araguz case and could lead to the state not recognizing the transitioned status of transgender people for any purpose. Equality Texas and other groups have been urging folks to contact their senators and ask them to oppose SB 723.  To send an email to your senator, go here. To call your senator, go here. Daniel Williams at Legislative Queery reports that the most likely source for the 20th vote is Sen. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio. Uresti’s Capitol office number is (512) 463-0119.

3. The Texas Aggie Conservatives’ assault on Texas A&M’s GLBT resource center continues. The Aggie Conservatives were behind the Student Senate bill backing a state budget amendment that would require schools with GLBT resource centers to equally fund centers for “family and traditional values.” Now, the Aggie Conservatives are taking issue with a recent safe-sex seminar hosted by the GLBT resource center. The group apparently sent one of its members to the seminar undercover, and he reports that it included “pornographic videos and new sex acts.” First of all, so what? Did anyone who was at the seminar for its intended purpose actually complain? Besides, why are the Aggie Conservatives so obsessed with the GLBT resource center? Something tells me their interest in these alleged pornographic videos goes a little beyond politics, if you know what I mean. Watch a report on the “controversy” from KHOU.com below.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Same-sex weddings to be allowed in Navy chapels after DADT repeal

Admiral Mark L. Tidd

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Local gay vet Dave-Guy Gainer, a board member for Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, alerts us to this piece of breaking news: Same-sex couples will be allowed to marry in U.S. Navy chapels in states where gay marriage is legal following the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” according to an April memo from the Navy chief of chaplains. And Navy chaplains will be allowed to officiate same-sex weddings but will not be forced to do so, the memo states. The memo dated April 11 from Admiral Mark L. Tidd lays out revisions to the Chaplain Corps Tier I Training. The previous Tier I Training stated that same-sex marriages were not allowed on federal property. Not surprisingly, conservatives in Congress claim the new policy violates the Defense of Marriage Act.

2. Molly Wei, the Rutgers student charged in the secret webcast of gay suicide victim Tyler Clementi, has entered a plea deal that will require her to testify against Clementi’s roommate, Dharun Rhavi.

3. Uganda’s anti-homosexuality bill may be on a fast track to becoming law this week. And contrary to previous reports, a death penalty provision has not been removed from the bill. Sign a petition against the bill by going here.

—  John Wright

Gavin Newsom’s win keeps political future afloat

JUDY LIN | Associated Press

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — He’s best-known for opening San Francisco’s City Hall to same-sex weddings and was once thought to be too liberal even for the bulk of California. But Gavin Newsom’s decisive Nov. 2 win as the state’s next second-in-command has rekindled prospects that he may one day be a viable candidate for governor or U.S. Senate.

The 43-year-old San Francisco mayor won handily over Republican Abel Maldonado in the race for lieutenant governor. While his new role is viewed largely as ceremonial, it marks a comeback of sorts for the well-coiffed politician.

Two years ago, Newsom was a focal point of the Proposition 8 campaign to ban gay marriage. One ad aired by the initiative’s supporters showed a videotaped clip of Newsom’s impassioned exclamation in 2004 that the door was open to gay marriage, “whether you like it or not.”

Voter approval of Proposition 8 that November raised questions about whether Newsom was electable statewide or would be too closely associated with gay marriage.

In an interview with The Associated Press following the election, Newsom said his win was a testament that Californians can disagree with their candidates on some issues but still vote for them.

“It was an interesting intellectual question that now I believe to some degree has been answered. And I’m very proud of that,” he said. “It’s nice to know that you can survive that in a political sense. Even if people disagree with you —and I know so many people did and do — people still will vote for you because on other issues, they perhaps have more confidence that I’m doing what I think is right.”

Newsom will transition into a job that functions as the state’s chief executive when the governor is away and serves on economic development and environmental commissions as well as two public university governing boards.

But the post will also help keep his political prospects afloat with a possible bid to succeed Gov.-elect Jerry Brown or perhaps give him a shot at the U.S. Senate.

“I think we’re back on the ‘Gavin Newsom has a bright future’ sort of swing,” said Corey Cook, an assistant professor of political science at the University of San Francisco. “He’s been up and down several times in the last seven years, and it seems like this is a pretty convincing victory. I think a lot of the folks who had criticized him and written his political obituary are sort of maybe rethinking that position right now.”

Newsom, of course, will have to be patient.

For starters, it’s uncertain whether Brown, 72, would seek a second term. In response to suggestions that he has told some Democrats privately he would only serve one term, Brown said “I’ve never made that commitment” and noted that his grandmother lived to 96.

And even if Brown decides not to seek re-election, Newsom will likely find himself jostling with other Democratic hopefuls for the state’s top job.

Newsom might also look to the Senate if Dianne Feinstein decides to leave, but it’s a move her political consultant dismissed, saying the senator has started fundraising.

“That’s not happening. She’s running,” said Bill Carrick, a Los Angeles-based Democratic consultant with decades of experience in state and national politics.

Carrick said Newsom will have to get creative as lieutenant governor and use the office to get the public to see him in a multidimensional way, beyond merely being a strong proponent of gay rights.

Newsom demurs on his political future, saying he’s just focused on repairing the state: “I’m not thinking beyond it,” he said.

Newsom said he plans to avail himself to the next governor as Democrats pledge to work on returning power to the local level. He says he’s in a unique position, having served as mayor of a county for seven years, to help the governor negotiate the budget with lawmakers and contracts with labor unions. He says he can also serve as a conduit between the state and local governments.

“I really think we have an opportunity to redefine the relationship between the two offices, and that’s not me getting ahead of myself and that’s not me playing above my job description. It’s not that. It’s just in a supportive role, as needed and filling in blanks and just wanting to be of help in a substantive way,” Newsom said. “I have no interest in spending time with ceremonial parts of the job.”

Newsom, however, has been accused of grabbing headlines as mayor while failing to focus on the details of running government. San Francisco Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, who has challenged Newsom over police foot patrols in high-crime neighborhoods, said the mayor has sometimes been too insular.

“At times I thought it closed him to debate and the spirit of us working together,” Mirkarimi said. “I think he’s a big-picture kind of guy and I like that. But it means he also needs the right team to implement the brass tacks, which sometimes I’ve been critical of not happening.”

Despite his concerns, Mirkarimi said he believes Newsom will be able to use the lieutenant governor’s seat as a springboard to higher office.

“Newsom will figure out when it’s time to shine and when it’s time to be a silent partner,” he said.

—  John Wright

Church court upholds 3 of 4 charges against Spahr — but not because they wanted to

The Rev. Jane Spahr

The Permanent Judiciary Committee of the Presbytery of the Redwoods of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has released its verdict in the church trial of lesbian minister the Rev. Jane Spahr who had been charged with performing same-sex marriages in violation of the denomination’s Book of Order. The committee voted to uphold three of the four charges against Spahr and to censure her by rebuking, adding that she is “enjoined to avoid such offenses in the future.”

The rebuke and injunction, however, will not be imposed until the final determination in the event that Spahr chooses to appeal the ruling.

In a statement released after the committee’s verdict was announced, Spahr said: “I’m sad for my  church. Think about the mixed-messages they are sending the faithful lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender brothers and sisters in our community. Think about the mixed-messages they are sending to the next generation who overwhelmingly embrace God’s amazing hospitality and welcome. A great injustice has been done today.”

The committee voted 4-2 to uphold the charge that Spahr did refer to the same-sex weddings she performed during the five months such unions were legal in California as marriages in violation of church doctrine that declares “…officers  of  the  PCUSA  authorized  to  perform  marriages shall not state, imply, or represent that a same-sex  ceremony is a marriage.”

The committee also upheld, on votes of 4-2, that Spahr “persisted in a pattern or practice of disobedience” by performing 15 same-sex marriages during the time those marriages were legal in California, and that the minister “failed to be governed by the polity of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), in violation of [her] ordination vows.”

The committee, however, voted 6-0 not to sustain the charge that Spahr “failed to uphold the peace, unity and purity of the church” by “intentionally and repeatedly acting in violation of the Book of Order.”

Even in voting to sustain three of the charges against Spahr, the committee appeared to be siding with Spahr to some degree, almost seeming to say that even though she violated the Book of Order, Spahr did the right thing. In other words, the committee seems to say, quite plainly, that they had to uphold the charges because Spahr clearly violated certain sections of the Book of Order, but that they believe that Spahr is right and that the Book of Order is, at least in some cases, wrong.

You can download the full text of the decision in PDF form at RedwoodsPresbytery.org (look under the “Announcements” section on the home page),but here is the part I was describing:

“The Permanent Judicial Commission, in sustaining the first three charges, recognizes that while the Rev. Dr. Jane Spahr has indeed performed these marriages, which were and continue to be legal marriages, she did so acting with faithful compassion in accord with W­7.3004. These marriages were legal in the state of California, being civil contracts (W­4.9001), and are different from same-sex ceremonies. The testimonies of those at court clearly demonstrated this difference.

“We commend Dr. Spahr and give thanks for her prophetic ministry that for 35 years has extended support to ‘people who seek the dignity, freedom and respect that they have been denied’” (W­7.4002c), and has sought to redress ‘wrongs against individuals, groups, and peoples in the church, in this nation, and in the world’ ( W­7.4002h).

“In addition, we call upon the church to re­examine our own fear and ignorance that continues to reject the inclusiveness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. (G­3.0401c) We say this believing that we have in our own Book of Order conflicting and even contradictory rules and regulations that are against the Gospel.”

Later on in the ruling the committee members note although they had to find that Spahr had repeatedly violated the Book of Order and her ordination vows, they also believe that she “has also followed the Book of Order by remembering that our confessions and church is subject to the authority of Jesus Christ, the Word of God, as the Scriptures bear witness to him.”

And they said that they refused to uphold the charge that Spahr failed to “uphold the peace, unity and purity of the church” because they believe that she should instead be commended for “helping us realize that peace without justice is no peace.”

AND, the committee members expressly asked forgiveness of the same-sex married couples “for the harm that has been and continues to be done to them in the name of Jesus Christ,” urging the Synod and General Assembly levels of the Presbyterian Church to “do what needs to be done to move us as a church forward on this journey of reconciliation.”

—  admin