Monday, July 1, 2013

Episcopalians Cheer SCOTUS Actions on DOMA, Prop 8

From coast to coast, Integrity members and other Episcopalians took part in celebrating the actions of the Supreme Court on Wednesday, which struck down the section of the Defense of Marriage Act denying Federal benefits to married same-gender couples and let stand a lower court ruling that California's Proposition 8 is unconstitutional, paving the way for marriage equality to return to the nation's most populous state.

In Washington D.C. the bells of the Cathedral Church of Saint Peter & Saint Paul (popularly called the National Cathedral) pealed for a full hour from noon to celebrate the ruling.  The Very Rev. Gary Hall, Dean of the Cathedral, told the Huffington Post, "We are ringing our bells at the Cathedral to celebrate the extension of federal marriage equality to all the same-sex couples modeling God’s love in lifelong covenants. Our prayers for continued happiness are with them and with all couples who will be joined in matrimony in the years to come, whether at Washington National Cathedral or elsewhere."  A special worship service was held at the Cathedral that evening.

In New York, a crowd had gathered at the iconic Stonewall Inn in the morning, and the celebration continued all day, spilling out into the street.  By nightfall, Christopher Street was closed to traffic as hundreds of people paid respect to the place where the gay-rights movement is widely regarded to have begun with several days of riots in June 1969.  Diocesan Organizer Paul Lane and NYC-Metro Chapter Convener Mary O'Shaughnessy were there.
The crowd outside the Stonewall Inn following SCOTUS ruling

"Christopher Street was again full of LGBT people with signs, placards and flags. This time however, the NYPD was there to keep order and prevent any harm, and the LGBT community, their friends and families, were there to celebrate. How things have changed!" Among the politicians and others who gathered, Lane said " the undisputed star of the evening had to be Ms. Edie Windsor, along with her attorney, Ms Roberta Kaplan, whose courage and determination to fight an injustice through the courts led to the Defense of Marriage Act (sic) being ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of the United States."

The crowd (many Episcopalians among them) cheered, some weeping, as the 84-year-old Ms Windsor told her story. Bi-national couples, who the day before had to fear the deportation of one, could now look forward to the day that they could apply for a US Green Card for the non-American spouse, just like any other married couple. "Everyone was there: gay, straight, bi, lesbian, trans, drag-queens, even Rollerena, although without the roller-skates," Lane recalled. The party went on long into the night.  

Footage from the street in New York featuring footage of Chapter Convener
Mary O'Shaughnessy, courtesy of

"I can't wait to celebrate this historic moment at NYC Pride on Sunday. I am still stunned, and grateful to all the activists who made this day possible. I know that the 40-year history of Integrity's Christian witness is part of what made yesterday possible, and I am grateful to Louie Crew, Susan Russell, Louise Brooks, Elizabeth Kaeton, and all those whose names I don't know," said Marie Alford-Harkey, Integrity's Province I Coordinator, whose "day job" is at the Religious Institute for Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing.

"I wrote and we at the Religious Institute held a Twitter worship service (which you can see by searching  #SCOTUSworship). My own reaction was one of great joy - I immediately texted and emailed April when the DOMA ruling came down. It's tempered of course, by the gutting of the voting rights act the day before. My African American lesbian wife says it's hard to know how to feel at this point, and I agree."
 In Atlanta, LGBT organizers were invited in advance to be present at a popular intersection in the city's "gayborhood" to be together whatever the outcome.  When Province IV Coordinator Bruce Garner arrived, hundreds were already gathered.  "People honked their horns as they arrived at the intersection – except for one woman in a Lexus who would not even dare look toward the sidewalk! We noticed another parishioner driving past and waved…..he was headed home and his year old son was in the car too. He and baby soon joined us. Then his partner, the baby’s other Dad drove by and saw them, so we yelled for him to join us. So we ended up with a little All Saints’ contingent with baby Harrison in the middle stealing the show with his HRC flag." There, too, the celebration kept bars and restaurants busy late into the night.

Garner knows Integrity's work goes on. The ruling has no impact in states that do not recognize same-gender marriages, which includes all of the Southeast, where Province IV is located.  "God is good….ALL the time. In Georgia, some of God’s children don’t quite yet understand that God’s goodness applies to ALL of God’s children. With the help of our bishop, we continue to try and educate them."
Integrity members in Oregon gather for a rally.
In Portland, Oregon, Integrity members and supporters including Vice President for Local Affairs Matt Haines, gathered at St Stephen's downtown for a brief prayer and then processed through the streets to join hundreds of fellow Oregonians across the from Portland's City Hall for a rally to celebrate the Supreme Court victories and to look forward to winning the freedom to marry in 2014. The mayor of Portland and the state's former governor were among the speakers. Along the way the Integrity team, which included a number of local clergy, was greeted with honks, waves and shouts of support.  A photo gallery was placed on the chapter's Facebook page.
Northern California clergy gather
on the State House steps in Sacramento.
Clergy and others including the Very Rev. Dr. Brian Baker (in cowboy hat at left), Dean of Trinity Cathedral, and Diocesan Organizer Shireen Miles also gathered at the State House in Sacramento, where the Supreme Court's decision not to overturn a lower court ruling means that Proposition 8, which suspended same-gender marriages in California, will soon be repealed.

Integrity's founder, Dr. Louie Crew said, "We marry ourselves. God is always present when any two persons say, even with no others present, 'I thee wed.' No court or church can change our marriages. A court or a church may only recognize or refuse to recognize them."

Dr. Crew called the court's bold action on Wednesday a union between justice and liberty. "Their swoon brings with it more than 1,000 benefits too long denied to LGBTQ persons. 'Sweet Land of Liberty' indeed. 'God bless America.'"

These are just some of many celebrations that took place across the country.  In many places, much work remains before safety and equal treatment are a reality in both religious and civil life. For today, please celebrate this incremental step with us, and give thanks to God.

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