Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Integrity Welcomes Supreme Court Rulings; Our Work is Not Done

Integrity USA welcomes today’s decision by the Supreme Court to strike down section three of the Defense of Marriage Act.  This means that lesbian or gay couples must be treated fairly by the federal government and so, for the first time, married same-gender couples will receive the same 1,138 benefits, rights and protections provided to heterosexuals on the basis of marital status. This removes the inequality that had been enshrined in federal law and will provide greater protection for married same-gender couples and their families. At the same time it increases the inequality between those gay couples who live in the thirteen states that have marriage equality, and those who do not.

"I am delighted to learn that the Supreme Court has determined this law to be unconstitutional,” said the Rev. Jon Richardson, Integrity’s VP for National Affairs.  “While I am confident that this is good news for LGBT people across the country, I look forward to learning the many ways that this development will be implemented in the months and years to come.  While there is great cause for celebration, we know that the work for full equality must continue."

Regarding California’s Proposition 8, Integrity USA is saddened that the Supreme Court has declined to rule because it determined that the proposition’s proponents did not have standing in the Court. This is good news for all Californians because it means that once again marriage licenses will be issued to same-gender couples, and once again wedding bells will ring in the state. California rejoins the other twelve states which currently enjoy marriage equality. However it leaves the basic question of whether states can constitutionally maintain bans on gay marriage untouched and unanswered.

Since 1976 the Episcopal Church has been committed to working for civil rights for gay and lesbian people. Its work, together with the work of other churches, allied organizations and thousands of dedicated individuals has resulted in this enormous leap forward for equality in our country. “I am so grateful for all the people who have worked, and will continue to work for true equality in this country,” said Rev. Caroline Hall, President of Integrity USA, “this is a day Californians have dreamed of for so long, and one which can bring hope to all LGBTQ Americans that gradually equality is coming.”

Rev. Richardson said  "While I rejoice that marriage equality is returning to California, I remain disappointed that the Supreme Court has failed to act as broadly as they could have in spreading marriage equality across the country.  We continue to pray for an end to discrimination in all its forms, both in our laws, and in the hearts of all people.  The Episcopal Church has been a growing beacon of hope for LGBT Christians for 37 years - leading the way for our wider society.  We believe that above all else, the Christian call is for all people to act with love.  Today we are closer to realizing that dream, and we will not stop working until it is a reality for all people."

Decision Day

by The Rev. Canon Susan Russell

As predicted, the Supreme Court waited until the “eleventh hour” to announce the long awaited rulings on the two marriage equality cases: Perry v Swarzenegger (Prop 8) and Windsor v United States (DOMA). I write this on the eve of those decisions – surrounded by much nail biting, handwringing and tea-leaf reading. I’ve been asked over and over again what I expect and – being both an optimist and a pragmatist – I expect both movement forward and more work to do.

Because of course I don’t know exactly what the Supreme Court will do. Nobody does. One of my smart lawyer friends compared predicting what and when the Supremes would do what and when with playing “Whack-a-Mole,” saying “It’s entertaining for a little while but eventually frustrating and never productive.”

Whatever the Court decides, I cannot sit here on the eve of Decision Day and not reflect on how far we’ve come to be even sitting here on the eve of Decision Day!

Rev. Dr. Caro Hall, Rev. Canon Susan Russell,
and Rev. Winnie Varghese
I’m remembering lobby days on Capitol Hill when the question wasn’t how far forward we’d move on marriage equality but whether we could prevent the “Federal Marriage Amendment” from writing discrimination against same-sex couples into the U.S. Constitution.

I’m remembering the deep disappointment of the Prop 8 campaign here in California where a bare majority of voters were able to take away the fundamental right to marry from gay and lesbian couples and we were deflated at what looked to be a marriage equality movement derailed.

And yet I’m also remembering what we learned from that campaign. That we learned two of its greatest failings were [a] failure to strategically utilize the witness of people of faith and [b] failure to effectively use the stories of gay and lesbian couples. And since that time we as a movement got smarter, we got more organized and we started changing hearts and minds … and votes.

And now – on the eve of Decision Day – there are 12 states (plus the District of Columbia) with marriage equality and the likelihood (if not the certainty!) that both Prop 8 and DOMA are headed for the dustbin of history.

We are where we are because we refused to give up. Like the “persistent widow” in Luke’s gospel we kept returning again and again seeking justice – and no matter what the Court rules tomorrow we will keep coming back until the job is done – until the mission is accomplished – until justice rolls down like waters for LGBT couples and their families and for every member of the human family.

It is both an exhilarating and an exhausting thing to be smack dab in the middle of history being made. But that is precisely where we find ourselves, my brother and sisters. This is the day that the Lord has made – let us rejoice and be glad in it. And then let’s keep on keepin’ on until there is not a single stranger left at the gate.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Integrity's President to Attend Michigan Gathering June 27, Discuss Book

On Thursday, June 27th, Integrity's President, the Rev. Dr. Caroline Hall, will participate in an event at St. Michael's Episcopal Church in Lansing, Michigan, which is being offered to Episcopalians statewide.

The program will begin at 6:30 p.m. with Evening Prayer, after which Dr. Hall will read from her recently-published book, A Thorn in the Flesh.  The book examines the causes and effects of the LGBT movement within the church and the wider society.

A session of Q&A and a general discussion will follow.  This will be an opportunity to explore next steps for the welcoming movement across Michigan.

The evening is being organized by C. William Westerfield, a Lifetime Member of Integrity.  Sponsors include St. Michael's Church: Lansing, the OASIS: Michigan, the Canterbury ministry at Michigan State University, and the Dioceses of Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Western Michigan and Northern Michigan.

St. Michael's is located at 6500 Amwood Dr., Lansing, MI; and is barrier-free.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Cloud of Witnesses: The Rev. Alcide "Al" Barnaby, Founder of Integrity's RI Chapter

On May 19th, the Rev. Alcide Barnaby, Jr., was one of the honorees at the 30th Annual AIDS Candlelight Memorial, held at St. Martin's Episcopal Church in Providence, Rhode Island.

The Rev. Alcide "Al" Barnaby, Jr.
Rev. Barnaby, who died June 28th, 2012, was the founder of the Rhode Island Chapter of Integrity in 1996 and served as its Convener, among many other gifts to the LGBT community, persons living with HIV/AIDS, and the church.

Among his accomplishments, Rev. Barnaby was the first openly gay and partnered priest in the Diocese of Rhode Island.  He and his partner of 30 years, Daniel Harvey, were married at Trinity Church in Canton, Mass., in 2011. Al, as he was widely known, volunteered at various times with many organizations including the National Episcopal AIDS Coalition, Episcopal Relief & Development, St. Mary's Home for Children, AIDS Quilt Rhode Island, among others.

Rev. Barnaby was active in church governance at all levels, serving on Diocesan Council and numerous committees.  He served as a Deputy to General Convention in 2003, an alternate in 2006 and a volunteer in 2009.  He also served as a clergy representative to Province I, the New England dioceses of the Episcopal Church.

"Al, and I were among the few  'out' members of Integrity on the Province 1 Provincial Synod for many years," said Margo McMahon, a Integrity Lifetime Member from the Diocese of Western Massachusetts.  "I got to know Al and Dan through various Integrity events and especially through serving as Deputies together at General Convention and hanging out together. I wish you could have had the pleasure of knowing this wonderful person, now walking among the other saints of Integrity in God's Kingdom."

"When I think of Al, so many things come to mind.....He was a pioneer in the Diocese of Rhode Island for inclusivity, challenging the Church to embrace fully the LGBT community," said Kit Tobin, Integrity's Diocesan Organizer - Rochester NY.  "(I remember) the Deans' meeting with Bishop Wolfe in the 90s, when Al stated he would continue to bless same sex couples, and of course he did!"

"My 'memory picture' of Al with a twinkle in his eyes and a broad smile on the platform for the closing blessing at Integrity's General Convention Eucharist," Tobin continued.  "He was a mentor for me when I was 'in process' - always encouraging, the one who was there for me when others seemed to be putting up barriers. A deeply spiritual, loving man with a great sense of humor - always reaching out his hand to any and all who he sensed were in need.  He is sorely missed. I hold him in my heart."

Obituary – The Rev. Alcide Barnaby

Monday, June 17, 2013

El Roi: Waiting for SCOTUS on DOMA/Prop 8

by Elizabeth Kaeton

I know some people who have bitten their nails down to the quick.

Others just can’t stop talking about it. It’s the buzz in most of the circles I travel.

If you were from a different country, or landed here from a different planet, you’d think you had forgotten everything you learned in“Conversational English 101”.

“When do you think we’ll hear from SCOTUS on DOMA/Prop8?”

“Will SCOTUS let Prop 8 stand but DOMA fall?”

In case you are from another country or another planet or have been living on a secluded island somewhere in the middle of the Pacific, let me explain.

The Supreme Court of The United States (SCOTUS) has been deliberating two landmark cases for the LGBT community. One is the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) – a law signed in 1996 by then President of the United States (POTUS), Bill Clinton – which restricted the federal recognition of marriage to one man and one woman.

DOMA prevents those who are in same-sex marriages from receiving a host of federal benefits, such as the ability to file a joint tax return. In the case before the court, a widow was forced to pay $363,000 in inheritance taxes after her female spouse died, a liability she would not have incurred if she'd been married to a man. A federal appeals court ruled that provision of DOMA was unconstitutional. Another provision, requiring states to recognize only opposite-sex marriages performed in other states, is not at issue here.

Proposition 8 (Prop 8) a voter referendum, is California's same-sex marriage ban that was struck down on narrow grounds by the 9th U.S. Circuit of Appeals. Should SCOTUS uphold that decision, same-sex marriages could begin again in California in mid- to-late July, according to San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera's office. (San Francisco was an intervenor in the case on the plaintiff's side.)

If the court uses the case to issue a more sweeping ruling that all same-sex marriage bans are illegal, that would effectively legalize same-sex marriage throughout the country. There are many in-between possibilities as well.

So, yes, anxiety is high because the stakes are high. Very high.

How high? Well, just our very lives as LGBT people who are citizens of the United States of America (USA) who pay taxes, mow our lawns, take out the trash, recycle and are, otherwise, good citizens of this country and the Universe.

So, when will we hear the decision from SCOTUS? Odds are that we will hear sometime this month (June, 2013), which ends the SCOTUS term.

When cases aren't decided by the end of the term, the protocol is to reorder for re-argument for the next term. But there hasn't been any indication in the SCOTUS blog notes that would indicate that judges are leaning in that direction.

The last Really Big case this Supreme Court ruled on was the Affordable Care Act. If you recall that was on a Thursday, not a "Super Monday" (Mondays in June—the court's busiest month—when opinion announcements are revealed are dubbed Super Mondays) which basically means that the Court decides what days it will issue opinions.

More opinions are expected this coming Thursday. So, if the Court is waiting until the last possible minute to rule, it would probably be on June 26 or 27 (a Thursday).

And if the rulings on DOMA and Prop. 8 are released that week, that timing would coincide with New York City's Gay Pride and San Francisco's Gay Pride—two of the biggest celebrations in the country and one of is a city that's directly affected by the court's Prop. 8 decision.

This is why some people refer to SCOTUS as “The Supremes” –because they seem to know more about drama than the entire combined casts of“The Young and The Restless,” and “Days of our Lives.”

Now that we are coming down to the wire, how do we survive this waiting game?

I was recently reminded by former interim director of Integrity, Harry Knox, of the name given to God by our sister Hagar.

In Genesis 16, Hagar flees to the desert from the abuse of her mistress, Sari, who was unable to have a child of her own and had “given”Hagar to her husband, Abram, to have a child, the one who would be named Ishmael.

Hagar is visited in the desert by an angel of the Lord who tells her to return to Sari and promises that God will “increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.”

Hagar gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.”

El Roi. The God who sees me.

We may have been invisible to the government, but God sees us. The One God who “marvelously made and even more marvelously redeemed” us has always seen us.

El Roi. The Scriptures offer us this beautiful name for God as a doorway into the soul of justice.

As we count down the days to the SCOTUS decision, I urge you to remember this prayer of Hagar: No matter what happens, God sees us.

As the arc of history bends toward justice, more and more of the face of God is revealed to us – for God has seen us and has heard our cry.

As important as the decisions of the SCOTUS is on these two issues, let us hold in mind and in our hearts the prayer of Hagar: “You are the God who sees me, for I have now seen the One who sees me.”

The Rev’d Dr. Elizabeth Kaeton has been a member of IntegrityUSA since 1977. She has served on the Board as well as legislative floor whip for two General Conventions. She was, for five years, Canon Missioner to The Oasis and is the immediate past National Convener of The Episcopal Women’s Caucus, a position she held for 10 years. She presently works as a pastoral counselor and Hospice chaplain and serves The Episcopal Church as a reader for the General Ordination Exams (GOEs) as well as the national board of RCRC (Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice).

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

NY's Bishop Decries Anti-Gay Violence, Will Participate in Pride

2012_06_24_PrideNYC2012 077
Bishop Dietsche at the 2012 Pride March
The Right Rev. Andrew M. L. Dietsche, the Bishop of New York, issued a powerful pastoral letter May 31st decrying the recent spate of anti-gay violence in the city, culminating in the brutal murder of Mark Carson on May 18th.

“Every word and action, every sentiment, that seeks to divide people from people or puts one people above another feeds a climate in which such violence can be seen by some as acceptable or excusable or even as the fault of the victim his- or herself,” the Bishop stated. “We grieve for the dehumanizing consequence of such violence that touches every one of us, and we grieve for the Body of Christ, into which the forces of violence and hatred continue to drive nails.”

Bishop Dietsche described efforts to eliminate prejudice from diocesan policy and culture, and reflected on progress made to remove barriers from full participation in the sacraments by LGBT people.

“There are many voices in our culture which insist that homosexuality is incompatible with the Christian life. We emphatically do not believe that.”
“There are many voices in our culture which insist that homosexuality is incompatible with the Christian life. We emphatically do not believe that,” Bishop Dietsche wrote.  He went on to urge all Episcopalians to “find a way in these coming weeks to grieve the fallen, to make your witness to the love of Jesus, to engage our godly call to justice, and to let the world see and know that there are countless faithful Episcopalians in the LGBT community, and that they are loved, embraced and respected by the larger body of the Church of which they are and have always been a part.”

Bishop Dietsche also announced that he will once again ride the Episcopal float in the city’s Pride March on June 30th.  This will mark the first time the diocesan bishop of New York has participated in the event. The Right Rev Cathy S. Roskam, retired Suffragan Bishop of New York joined in numerous times and led a street Eucharist for the marchers.  In 2008, the Most Rev. Carlos Touché-Porter, Presiding Bishop of La Iglesia Anglicana de Mexico, and the Right Rev. Mark Beckwith, Bishop of Newark, joined the march.  In 2009, the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, the Right Rev. Gene Robinson, then-Bishop of New Hampshire passed out water to the marchers along Fifth Avenue, an event captured in the documentary Love Free or Die.

Integrity will have a presence at Pride events across the country. We encourage all Episcopalians to take part in this visible witness to the wider culture.

Mark Carson memorial
Memorial offerings left at the site of the murder of Mark Carson. Photo Credit: Kate Tomlinson.
Used by Creative Commons License. Click Photo for enlargement and details.