Tuesday, April 5, 2005

National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Condemns Kansas Vote

National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Condemns Kansas Vote

National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Condemns Kansas Vote 
Approving Anti-Marriage Constitutional Amendment
State is 18th to Adopt Anti-Marriage Amendment

Task Force Calls Upon "People of Faith and Good Will to Speak Out and Fight these Immoral Attacks"

April 5, 2005 — Washington, DC. The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force condemned today's 70% to 30% vote (with 72% of the precincts reporting) by Kansans in favor of a constitutional amendment banning the recognition of same sex marriages and other, more limited forms of partner recognition. The Task Force said it was dismayed by the continued, widespread silence and inaction of so many faith and political leaders and people of good will in response to the wave of anti-gay organizing that continues to sweep the country.
"Our nation is continuing to witness something that has not happened since our constitution was first ratified in 1791 — essentially a national referendum inviting the public to vote to deprive a small minority of Americans of rights that the majority takes for granted and sees as fundamental," said Matt Foreman, the Task Force's Executive Director. "Not only are these amendment votes unjust and immoral, so is the silence and inaction of so many people who see themselves as enlightened, unprejudiced, and supporters of equal rights for all people. As the cascade of lies pours forth from the America's Anti-Gay Industry, we need, we expect, and morality demands that people of faith and good will all across the nation to speak out in the same way and with the same vehemence as they would if it was another minority under attack. If they do not, they will look back 20 or 30 years from now with deserved shame."
The Task Force praised Kansans for Fairness, the leading group opposing the amendment – and its Campaign Manager Braidy O'Neal and Chair Bruce Nye – for going forward with a very direct message that the amendment was wrong and for organizing a broad array of clergy to say clearly that 'persons of Biblical faith can vote only to oppose such an amendment.' These messages clearly touched the conscience of many voters, with the election results better than many predicted. An early poll had shown the measure would pass with at least 80% of the vote.
Proponents of the amendment, including One Voice of Kansas, outspent opponents by a margin of three-to-one. As of March 23, proponents had raised at least $160,000, most of it from out-of-state, including $100,000 from the Knights of Columbus' national office and $23,000 from Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs, CO. This figure does not include resources spent by a wide array of evangelical churches in the state.
Kansans for Fairness raised and spent approximately $50,000, including a donation of $13,000 from the Task Force. (The Task Force also organized get-out-the-vote telephone banks in New York, Washington, DC, Kentucky, and Connecticut.)
"We couldn't have done nearly as well as we did without the Task Force's help," said Braidy O'Neal, the Campaign Manager.
Kansans for Fairness also organized more than 130 Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Episcopal, Jewish, United Church of Christ and other denominations' clergy members from all over the state to sign on to a statement opposing the amendment. And on Sunday (March 3), an overflow crowd estimated (by the Kansas City Star) at 400 to 500 sang and prayed to express their opposition to the amendment at a church in Prairie Village.
The marriage amendment failed in the City of Lawrence (home of the University of Kansas) by a large margin, losing in 35 of the City's 49 precincts and tying in 3. The margin by which it carried in Shawnee County (where the state's largest City, Topeka, is located) was smaller than statewide (Shawnee County/Topeka: 67% - 33%).
The results were not unexpected, given last year's results in other states and the fact that Kansas is one of the "reddest" states. In 2004, 13 states – including 11 on November 2 – approved anti-marriage constitutional amendments by margins ranging from 57% - 43% (in Oregon) to 86% - 14% (in Mississippi). Amendments in the two states that border Kansas – Missouri and Oklahoma – carried with more than 70% of the vote (in Oklahoma, the margin was 76% to 24%; in Missouri it was 71% to 29%).
With today's vote, Kansas becomes the 18th state to amend its constitution to preclude the recognition of same-sex marriage. Ten of the 18 amendments, including that of Kansas, seek to preclude the recognition of other forms of relationships, such as domestic partnerships and civil unions. Four states adopted amendments prior to 2004 – Alaska, Hawaii, Nebraska, and Nevada. It is possible that another 12 to 14 states will have similar measures on the ballot between now and 2008.

Saturday, April 2, 2005

Voices must rise as community

Voices must rise as community

This is the second article to appear in the KCStar, there should be a review forthcoming from Paul Horsley.
Posted on Sat, Apr. 02, 2005
Voices must rise as community
By BILL TAMMEUS
The Kansas City Star
When the Rev. Mel White opens the Heartland Men's Chorus presentation of “All God's Children” tonight at the Folly Theater, he plans to say these painful words:
“For the vast majority of religious organizations, the idea of accepting homosexuals fans fires of anger and conflict.”
White, a gay man who once ghost-wrote books for the Rev. Billy Graham and the Rev. Pat Robertson, will narrate faith stories from members of the chorus, almost all of whom are gay.
The faith communities to which these men belong include Baptist, Catholic, Episcopal, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist, Mennonite, Jewish, Buddhist, Disciples of Christ, Pentecostal, Mormon, Assembly of God, Unity, Community of Christ, Unitarian-Universalist, United Church of Christ, Metropolitan Community Church and Wicca — to say nothing of the atheists and agnostics among them.
In some way, most of them have struggled with how to be gay in congregations that often think of homosexuality as a sin.
I am not gay. So I cannot speak for anyone who is. But I am someone with a commitment to one of the faith communities — the Presbyterian Church (USA) — that officially refuses to ordain otherwise qualified gays and lesbians to ministry or to the office of elder or deacon. I disagree with my church on this.
If I could speak to members of the chorus, which also will perform Sunday afternoon, I would say to them what I said to a national gathering of three Presbyterian gay advocacy groups last year when I was the keynote speaker: Stay in your religious community and fight from inside.
From my perspective as a Presbyterian elder, I also would tell them this:
“Even when the church gets things wrong — as it surely does sometimes — those of us who disagree are called to do so publicly and aggressively but lovingly, even if sometimes the church itself doesn't behave that way.
“It's important to acknowledge how hard the call can be for gays and lesbians to stay active in the church. And we should not be judgmental and intolerant of people who have made another choice, even if that choice breaks our hearts.
“It helps to think about what it means to be a faith community. The Greek word most often used in the New Testament for church is ‘ecclesia.' It means ‘called out.' That is, the church is not a voluntary organization. Rather it's made up of people whom God has called out of the world and to whom God has given gifts that the church needs. You have some of those gifts, without which your own faith communities will be impoverished.
“That's part of why I believe you should stay within your religious bodies to work for change so they will repent of their exclusivity, discrimination and misuse of the Bible as a weapon of sexual oppression.”
Religion generally — and the Christian church in particular — has been a major reason that the broader society has oppressed gays and lesbians and that such oppression continues. So the church must become a leader to change that.
The faith journey of gays and lesbians must seem incredibly lonely at times. And I will be the last person to condemn them if they decide they can't be part of what they consider an abusive relationship any more.
But they are not alone within congregations. There are allies, friends, brothers and sisters who want to walk with them and who are, in fact, beside them on this journey.
Beyond that, their faith communities need them. I won't say those congregations need them more than they need the congregations. I think that the grace churches can help to mediate to everyone is a treasure without price. So I would say they need the church, too, even if it fails to live consistently as a channel of God's love and grace.
We together make up communities of faith, but if those communities are divided — and they are — all of us suffer.
So I would ask the men who will sing in this weekend's choral presentation to stay the course, to renew their faith commitments to be light and life, to help their religious organizations find their way.
That may not happen in my lifetime or theirs, but it will happen, and their faithfulness will be part of the reason we'll get there.
To reach Bill Tammeus, call (816)-234-4437, or send e-mail to