Wednesday, July 15, 2009

News Round-up: Marriage in Pennsylvania, Challenge to "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," Church Issues and More

SB 935 Bill

Pennsylvania Senator Jim Ferlo has joined in supporting SB 935, the first bill in Pennsylvania to allow gay marriage. The bill, created by Senator Daylin Leach, now has three Pennsylvania senators backing it.

Sen. Leach held a press conference Wednesday where he announced the Marriage Equality Bill. Keystone Progress, a “a multi-issue progressive advocacy organization that combines cutting edge online organizing and communications with rapid and hard-hitting earned media strategies” according to their website, has been covering the progress of Sen. Leach’s bill.

Sen. Leach debated Pastor Bill Devlin on Philadelphia local station Fox 29 before his news conference. Sen. Leach expressed his desire to extend marriage rights to gay and lesbians living in Pennsylvania. Pastor Devlin argued that the bill is a “train wreck” that would deny rights for children, such as having a mother and a father.

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Senator may introduce bill to stop gay military discharges

Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York may introduce a bill in the Senate this week to put an 18-month moratorium on discharges under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. It would be the first time since the vote on the military ban in 1993 that Senators would be forced to publicly state their stand on gays and lesbians serving in the military. If the amendment were to pass, gay-rights leaders expect it would stand a strong chance of being approved by the House and could be signed into law by President Obama, who has expressed his desire for the ban to be lifted.

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The Episcopal Church’s national convention will take up whether the church will approve religious ceremonies for same-sex couples and whether gay bishops should be consecrated, reports UPI.

“It’s important that we recognize the equal stature of all Christians in the church so that we model that type of inclusivity in civil society,” Bishop Marc Andrus of the Diocese of California said.

This is the first national convention of the Episcopal Church in three years. The Episcopal Church, with 2.1 million members, is the U.S. branch of the global Anglican communion, which has 77 million members, many of them religious conservatives in Africa. The church has been divided over the consecration of gay bishops since the ordination of Rev. Gene Robinson in 2003.

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has tried to hold the fragile communion together by getting churches to observe a voluntary moratorium on consecrating another openly gay bishop and developing prayers for same-sex unions. But many fear a split is inevitable.

“If we are not extremely careful at this convention, we could find ourselves outside the Anglican Communion, and that would be a tragedy for all of us,” Bishop William Love of Albany, N.Y., says. “My fear is that the Episcopal Church destroys itself.”

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In Salt Lake City, UT, A gay couple say they were detained by security guards on a plaza owned by the Mormon church and later cited by police, claiming it stemmed from a kiss on the cheek. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said that the men became argumentative and refused to leave after being asked to stop their “inappropriate behavior.” The men say they were targeted because they are gay. Matt Aune said he and his partner, Derek Jones, were walking home from a concert nearby on Thursday night, cutting through the plaza near the Salt Lake City Mormon temple. Aune, 28, said he gave Jones, 25, a hug and kiss and that the two were then approached by a security guard, who asked them to leave, telling them they were being inappropriate and that public displays of affection aren’t allowed on the property. He said other guards arrived and the men were handcuffed. “We asked what we were doing wrong,” Aune told The Associated Press. Church spokeswoman Kim Farah said in a statement Friday that the men were “politely asked to stop engaging in inappropriate behavior - just as any other couple would have been.” “They became argumentative and used profanity and refused to leave the property,” she said. The church did not immediately respond to a request for more comment. Police later arrived and both men were cited with misdemeanor trespassing, Salt Lake City Police Sgt. Robin Snyder said. “It doesn’t matter what they were asked to leave for,” Snyder said. “If they are asked to leave and don’t they are trespassing.” The church has been the target of protests over its support of a ban on gay marriage in California. To protest, gay couples held a kiss in Sunday at Temple Square.

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In Washington state a group of AIDS activists was arrested Thursday for unlawfully demonstrating in the Capitol rotunda, a Capitol Police spokeswoman said. Sgt. Kimberly Schneider said 11 men and 15 women each face a charge of unlawful assembly, disorderly conduct and loud and boisterous behavior. Their names and ages were not immediately released. Schneider said the group entered the rotunda, located beneath the Capitol dome, and linked themselves together with a white chain at about 10 a.m. The area is usually crowded with tourists, but police restricted the traffic while they made arrests. The activists carried signs in support of funding for needle exchange, HIV/AIDS housing and programs aimed at fighting AIDS. They chanted, “Fight global AIDS now,” and, “Clean needles save lives.” They marched in a circle before lying down on the floor. Police bound the activists hands together and dragged some of the demonstrators to their feet as they arrested them. The arrests came one day before President Barack Obama is to arrive in Ghana, where 320,000 people are HIV positive, according to the United Nations’ AIDS fighting agency, UNAIDS. The activists were part of a coalition of five AIDS groups from Washington, Philadelphia and New York. They included ACT UP Philadelphia, DC Fights Back, Health GAP, New York City AIDS Network and Housing Works.

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Former president Bill Clinton has expressed his support for gay marriage, a stance he did not hold during his presidency. While speaking at the Campus Progress National Conference in Washington, DC, on July 8, the former president said he is “basically in support” of gay marriage. Back in May at Toronto’s Convention Centre, Clinton said his position on same sex marriage was “evolving.” During his presidency, Clinton passed the Defense of Marriage Act which defines marriage as between one man and one woman. “I personally support people doing what they want to do,” Clinton said on July 8. “I think it’s wrong for someone to stop someone else from doing that [refering to same-sex marriage].” Clinton has said that he doesn’t view the issue as a federal one. When asked about the five states that have passed same sex marriage this past spring, Clinton said, “I think all these states that do it should do it.” He added again that it was not a “federal question.” Other Democrats who have changed their positions recently about marriage equality include former Democratic National Committee chair Howard Dean, New York Senator Charles E. Schumer, New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine and Connecticut Senator Christopher Dodd.

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