What You Can Do to Help Promote Equal Civil Marriage Rights

November 21, 2003

ACTION ALERT!!! TAKE ACTION NOW!

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Dear Soulforce Supporters,

As you all know by now, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that it was unconstitutional to discriminate against same-gender couples in the state of Massachusetts when granting marriage licenses. Congratulations to all those who fought this case all the way to the top!

The bad news is that we are seeing an attack by the right wing that is unprecedented, and even our allies may crumble under the onslaught of negative misinformation. There is going to be an incredible amount of pressure on Congress to pass the anti-family "Federal Marriage Amendment" (FMA).

There are so many things you can do!

It is now extremely important that you go out and speak to your family, your neighbors, and your friends, gay and straight alike, and talk about this issue! Let people know you are a person of faith! Talk to everyone! If you have a story to tell, tell it!

Tell them that while we disagree with most of the mainline churches, we recognize they have the right to decide what marriages they will perform – but government has the obligation to ensure equality for all; civil rights won’t affect the freedoms of religious institutions.

Tell them this is not just about "marriage", it is about freedom to choose whether or not to marry, it is about the worth and dignity of GLBT people and about the civil rights and protections that we all deserve as citizens of the United States. Tell them this is about helping to protect families, and it hurts no one!

Familiarize yourself with the FMA and the facts about civil marriage. Talking points and information on equal civil marriage rights and the FMA are available at www.soulforce.org. Questions and Answers on the Massachusetts decision are available at www.glad.org/Publications/CivilRightProject/Goodridge_Decision_FAQ.shtml

Monitor your local media. Don’t let them get away with one-sided stories about marriage. For information on how to do that, see www.glaad.org. An excellent sample press release from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is available at www.ngltf.org/news/release.cfm?releaseID=601. Soulforce press releases are also available online.

Write letters to the editor. Excellent sample letters and ideas are available from the Interfaith Working Group at www.iwgonline.org/letters/.

Sign the Soulforce People of Faith Petition against the FMA if you haven’t already, at www.soulforce.org/petition.shtml.

Set up a meeting with your Congressional Representative while they are in their home districts over the winter recess. Make sure to tell them you are a person of faith. Go to www.hrcactioncenter.org/actioncenter/lobby_marriage.html for more information on how to lobby your Congressperson and additional talking points.

Keep an eye on your state legislature to see if they are passing resolutions to support the anti-family FMA or DOMA bills. Meet with your state legislators and let them know you support equal civil marriage rights. Let us know about your meetings.

The religious right is really upset, and they are screaming dangerous and nasty things and making strange allegations, crafting spiritually violent arguments against us, and making up lies and half-truths. To see what the Family Research Council is saying, see www.frc.org.

Right wing Fundamentalists are organizing politically through the churches to support the FMA, and the spiritual violence is taking on overt political tones. See the Catholic Bishops statement on "same-sex marriage"(www.usccb.org/laity/manandwoman.shtml) Expect more of the same from other religious organizations, and let us know when if you get anything overtly political and spiritually violent from your house of worship.

We are fighting for our rights and our lives.

As MLK said, "We will not have to repent in this generation for the hateful words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good."

Whatever you do, DO NOT remain silent.

Laura Montgomery Rutt
Director of Communications
laura@soulforce.org

Karen Weldin
Director of Operations
karen@soulforce.org

PS – Please consider giving financial gifts to Soulforce at www.soulforce.org/main/join.shtml . Any help is so appreciated!

Catholic Bishops蔘サ Marriage Document Condemned by Soulforce as Confusing, Harmful, and Spiritually Violent

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Soulforce Press Release, November 12, 2003
For Immediate Release
Contact: Laura Montgomery Rutt
Cell 717-278-0592 email:Laura@soulforce.org
****************************************************

(Washington, DC) – The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) today approved a document condemning loving relationships between people of the same gender, and defining marriage as “between a man and a woman”. The document, entitled Between Man and Woman: Questions and Answers about Marriage and Same-Sex Unions, is intended to be made into a pamphlet and circulated among Catholic parishes and parishioners.

Soulforce, a national interfaith movement committed to ending spiritual violence perpetuated by religious policies and teachings against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) people, denounced the document as confusing, harmful, and spiritually violent. Soulforce has been seeking to dialogue with the Bishops and vigiling outside of the USCCB meetings for the past 4 years.

This document is being released at a time when the country is divided over the issue of civil marriage rights for same-gender couples and the proposed Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA), which seeks to amend the US Constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman, thereby codifying discrimination against GLBT individuals, unmarried couples, and their families. Although the Catholic document does not mention the FMA, Soulforce believes it is meant to influence Catholics to support it.

“The Catholic Church has always been free to decide which marriages it will or will not recognize,” said Kara Speltz, grandmother, lifelong Catholic, and Soulforce Catholic Denominational Team leader. “However, it is painful and morally wrong that the bishops of my church have set aside their role as shepherds to try to influence parishioners and the government to discriminate against me and my family.”

The document states that Christians should “oppose as immoral both homosexual acts and unjust discrimination against homosexual persons,” then goes on to say that “the state has the obligation to promote family,” and that it would be “wrong to redefine marriage for the sake of providing benefits to those who cannot rightfully claim marriage.”

Additionally, the Catholic document does not address the difference between the 1000+ rights granted though civil marriage vs. the religious ritual of marriage, nor does it site specific examples of how granting the rights of civil marriage to couples of the same gender will harm the institution of marriage.

“This document is not only discriminatory, harmful, and confusing, it is a thinly veiled attempt to influence Catholics to support the proposed anti-family Federal Marriage Amendment by inserting their politics into a religious document,” declared Laura Montgomery Rutt, spokesperson for Soulforce.

“Although the Catholic Church is free to discriminate against whoever they choose,” Montgomery Rutt continued, “the U.S government has a higher obligation to Americans to insure equal rights and protections to all individual, couples, and families – to do less is not only discriminatory, it is anti-family and un-American.”

“How dare the Catholic Church attempt to install their anti-gay teachings into the US Constitution that would make 2nd class citizens of millions of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals,” stated Rev. Mel White, co-founder and executive director of Soulforce. “When will the Catholic Church learn that this kind of spiritual violence leads to great pain, suffering and even death for GLBT people.”

For more information, see www.soulforce.org. For media interviews, call 717-278-0592.

——————
Laura Montgomery Rutt
Director of Communications
Soulforce, Inc
Laura@soulforce.org
www.soulforce.org

Soulforce is a national interfaith movement committed to ending spiritual violence perpetuated by religious policies and teachings against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. Soulforce employs the nonviolent principles of Gandhi and King to the liberation of sexual and gender minorities.

Soulforce Seeks to Have Catholic Bishops Reconsider Their Decision to Support the "Anti-Gay, Anti-Family" Federal Marriage Amendment

Protests, Vigils, and Leafletting to take place this week (Nov. 9-13) during the US Conference of Catholic Bishops Meeting in Washington, DC

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Soulforce MEDIA ALERT: November 8, 2003
For Immediate Release
Contact: Laura Montgomery Rutt
Cell 717-278-0592 email:Laura@soulforce.org
****************************************************

(Washington, DC) – With petitions, banners, and leaflets against the “so-called” Federal Marriage Amendment, Soulforce supporters and volunteers will be protesting outside the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops annual meeting November 9 -13, 2003.

The demonstrations will take place at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, 400 New Jersey Avenue NW, in Washington D.C, as soon as Soulforce volunteers begin to assemble on Sunday afternoon, November 9. Demonstrations will continue Monday – Thursday, starting at 7 a.m. each day. (Call for exact times)

The protest is expected to be in full swing by 11:30 Monday morning, with as many as 40 protesters handing out petitions and urging Bishops and others to take a stand against the anti-gay, anti-family, Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA).

WHO: Dozens of Soulforce supporters from around the country

WHAT: Protests, vigils, and leafletting with banners and signs at the US Conference of Catholic Bishops

WHERE: Hyatt Regency at Capitol Hill, 400 New Jersey Ave NW

WHEN: Best time for visuals and interviews: MONDAY, Nov. 10, 11:30am

WHY: To protest the escalation of Catholic anti-gay policies and teachings and the Church’s support of an anti-gay anti-family “marriage” amendment to the US Constitution.

“We are hoping to find at least one bishop willing to sign the petition and submit a proposal for reconsideration to the USCCB regarding their recent decision to support the “so-called” Federal Marriage Amendment,” said Kara Speltz, Chair of the Catholic Denominational Team for Soulforce. “It is unconceivable to me that the bishops voting to support the FMA understood how harmful it is to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) people, unmarried couples, and their families.”

So far, two Roman Catholic priests, a US Congressperson, and hundreds of others from across the United States have signed on to the petition to protest the attempt by the religious right to codify discrimination against GLBT people into the US Constitution by defining civil marriage as “between a man and a woman”. The petition can be found at www.soulforce.org/petition.shtml.

MEDIA: Banners and protestors provide excellent visuals. Call for exact times. Interviews available. For more information, letters to bishops, and civil marriage policy statement, see www.soulforce.org.

For more information, see www.soulforce.org. For media interviews, call 717-278-0592.

——————
Laura Montgomery Rutt
Director of Communications
Soulforce, Inc
Laura@soulforce.org
www.soulforce.org

Soulforce is a national interfaith movement committed to ending spiritual violence perpetuated by religious policies and teachings against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. Soulforce employs the nonviolent principles of Gandhi and King to the liberation of sexual and gender minorities.

Case Against the Catholic Church for USCCB Action, November 9-13, 2003

Compiled by Soulforce, Inc., November 2003

In the year since we last met, the following have appeared in various news sources concerning the Catholic Church’s attempt to deny gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people their basic human rights. Clearly the Church has gotten more focused and thus more repetative in its attacks.

1) The Associated Press – 11/30/02

ROME (AP) – A priest who marched in a gay pride parade which was opposed by the Vatican has been removed as pastor of a small parish in southern Italy. The Rev. Vitaliano Della Sala said Saturday he planned to appeal his removal by the local bishop to the Vatican.“It seems unfair,” he said by telephone from the town of Sant’Angelo a Scala. “A priest must defend the rights of those who are trampled upon.”

2) Boston Globe – 12/10/2002.

The Episcopal bishops of Massachusetts, in a rare public challenge to the Catholic Church, are warning that a steady stream of comments by Vatican officials critical of gays in the priesthood could lead to hate crimes in the United States.

3) 365gay.com – 12/17/03

ALBANY – The Catholic Church and a battery of conservative groups were fiercely lobbying last night in a last-ditch effort to scuttle anti-gay-bias legislation they fear could lead to same-sex marriages in New York. The Catholic Conference, representing Edward Cardinal Egan and the state’s bishops, complained the measure makes "a value judgment that homosexual activity is morally equivalent to heterosexual activity."

4) 365Gay.com – 1/16/03

(Vatican City) The Vatican has ruled that sex-change procedures do not change a person’s gender in the eyes of the church. The decision, made by the department in charge of doctrine, is contained in a confidential document obtained by the Catholic News Service. CNS, quoting a source familiar with the text, says the document instructs bishops never to alter the sex listed in parish baptismal records and says Catholics who have undergone "sex-change" procedures are not eligible to marry, be ordained to the priesthood or enter religious life.

5) Rueters New Service – 03/31/03

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – A new Vatican glossary of sexual terms says homosexuals are not normal and that countries that allow gay marriages are inhabited by people with "profoundly disordered minds."

6) Human Rights Commission Update – 4/24/03

(Geneva) The debate on the resolution human rights and sexual orientation, as proposed by Brazil started this afternoon (24 April) in the Commission on Human Rights. The Brazilian delegation introduced the resolution stating that it created no new rights and that it was strictly based on existing treaties. They affirmed that it was not a new issue for the UN as special procedures (UN Special Rapporteurs and experts) had regularly addressed serious violations of human rights on grounds of sexual orientation, and urged that the time had come to tackle the issue at the level of the Commission. The Vatican is reported to be phoning capitals in Latin American countries (at the highest levels) in order to pressure them to abstain or vote against the resolution.

7) NEWS24.COM (South Africa)

Pretoria – South Africa’s Catholic Church expressed concern on Friday about a recent Constitutional Court decision granting parenting rights to same-sex partners. The Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) reaffirmed its commitment to the equality of all people, including homosexuals, but said the recent ruling had implications for the "Christian sacrament of marriage"."We reiterate the teaching of the Catholic Church that same-sex partnerships cannot be recognised as Christian sacramental marriages because they do not represent a complementary union that is able to transmit life, according to the rich symbolism and meaning of the Creator’s sexual design and the Gospel call to that form of union and self-giving recognised in the sacrament of marriage," it said.

8) 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff – 5/8/03

(Sydney, Austraila) Plans to lower the age of consent for gays in New South Wales, to bring it onto a par with straights has met fierce condemnation from religious leaders, especially Catholics. The Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Archbishop George Pell, described the move as regrettable.

In a statement he said: "Parliament should not enshrine the ideological claim that homosexual and heterosexual activity are morally equivalent. It sounds a wrong note and makes the task of parents more difficult."

9) Minneapolis Star Tribune, 5/22/03

A Catholic religious education coordinator was denied an award from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis Wednesday evening because she is a lesbian, prompting a protest at the dinner honoring the other 17 recipients. Archbishop Harry Flynn withdrew the award for Itzin after Catholic Parents Online, a Twin Cities group that supports orthodox teachings of the church, sent him a letter pointing out that Itzin is a lesbian.

10) VANCOUVER, May 20, 2003 (LifeSiteNews.com)

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) has urged the federal government to appeal the B. C. Court of Appeal decision legalizing homosexual ‘marriage’. In a letter to Justice Minister Martin Cauchon, CCCB President Bishop Jacques Berthelet asked the Minister "to appeal the recent decision of the British Columbia Court of Appeal in the case of Barbeau et al. v. the Attorney General of Canada et al. that decided that the definition of marriage be changed to include same-sex partners."

11) The Boston Globe 05-29-03

The four Catholic bishops of Massachusetts are asking every pastor in the state to remind worshipers this weekend that the church opposes same-sex marriage, and to urge lay Catholics to lobby the Legislature for a constitutional amendment that would define marriage as being solely between a man and a woman. The four bishops, of Boston, Fall River, Worcester, and Springfield, are asking pastors to read statements on their concern about same-sex marriage, and are asking that announcements be put in church bulletins, telling parishioners how to contact legislators.

12) 365Gay.com, June 8, 2003

Rijeka, Croatia – Pope John Paul Sunday issued his strongest condemnation to date of same-sex unions, telling Catholics a marriage must consist only of a man and a woman.

In an open air mass on a sweltering day in the port city of Reijeka, Croatia the Pontiff said told Catholics they must defend traditional family values against gay marriage and put a "tragically fragmented" society back on track with God’s wishes. His entire sermon to the 100,000 who gathered for the mass was devoted to attacking gay families

13) The Sunday Mail (Qld) – 6/8/03

The Brisbane Catholic community is embroiled in a bitter row over a performance by homosexual choristers. Catholic Archbishop John Bathersby has said he is offended by the use of a Brisbane church for a gay pride event. Father Peter Kennedy and Father Terry Fitzpatrick of St Mary’s Catholic Church, in South Brisbane, have agreed to host a concert by the Lesbian and Gay Pride Choir as part of the Brisbane Pride Festival.

14) Rockford Register Star, 6/24/03

The music director at Rockford’s largest Catholic church had a choice: give up his gay partner of 10 years or lose his job. When Bill Stein refused to take a vow of chastity Tuesday, he was fired from his position at Holy Family.

"I was honest. I walked out of the office without a job, but I had my dignity," Stein said. "This shouldn’t happen to anybody. It’s the year 2003, for crying out loud."

15) FROM THE USCCB: WASHINGTON – 9/10/03

The U.S. Bishops’ Administrative Committee voted September 9 to give general support to the Federal Marriage Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Administrative Committee, which is comprised of 47 bishops, including committee chairmen and representatives of the 14 USCCB regions in the United States, took the action during its annual September meeting in Washington.

16) Canadian Broadcasting 9/24/03

VANCOUVER (CBC) – The Catholic Church is cancelling a VanCity financial education program in its schools because of the credit union’s "objectionable and harmful" pro-homosexual advertising material.The ad features two men, cheek to cheek – with a caption reading, "I want to bank with people who value all partnerships."Vancouver Archbishop Adam Exner says the ads display public support for agendas which are worrisome and harmful to the church and to society Exner says the Catholic schools can’t continue to work with an organization that promotes homosexual relationships.

17) The Guardian – 10/9/03

The Catholic Church is telling people in countries stricken by Aids not to use condoms because they have tiny holes in them through which the HIV virus can pass – potentially exposing thousands of people to risk.

The church is making the claims across four continents despite a widespread scientific consensus that condoms are impermeable to the HIV virus.

The WHO has condemned the Vatican’s views, saying: "These incorrect statements about condoms and HIV are dangerous when we are facing a global pandemic which has already killed more than 20 million people, and currently affects at least 42 million."

18) Newsday 10/15/03

NEW YORK (AP) _ A Catholic pastor ordered two men out of the choir because they went public with their gay wedding, the men say. Michael Sabatino Jr., who has sung in the choir for 32 years, said he and his partner, Robert Voorheis, were confronted Sunday by Monsignor Edmund Whalen as they entered St. Benedict’s Church in the Bronx. When Sabatino and Voorheis asked Whalen for his decision in writing, Whalen told them he would "shut down the choir" rather than allow them to sing in it, Sabatino said.