Gay marriage

Kevin Zolkiewicz /

Protestors gather outside the 2009 Exodus International convention at Wheaton College, Kevin Zolkiewicz /

Exodus International, a group that bills itself as “the oldest and largest Christian ministry dealing with faith and homosexuality,” announced late Wednesday that it’s shutting its doors.

Exodus’s board unanimously agreed to close the ministry and begin a separate one, though details about the new ministry were unavailable at the time of the organization’s press release.

The announcement came just after Exodus president Alan Chambers released a statement apologizing to the gay community for many actions, including the organization’s promotion of efforts to change a person’s sexual orientation.

Richard Wolf 06-19-2013
Photo courtesy RNS.

Supports of gay marriage rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court. Photo courtesy RNS.

If the range of possible Supreme Court rulings on gay marriage this month requires a scorecard, the potential confusion arising from those decisions may demand a manual.

It’s not as simple as whether gays and lesbians can marry, and whether they become eligible for federal benefits. The two decisions are likely to create new questions for couples in civil unions and those who move between states, as well as for employers.

As a result, what’s already a complex situation for many gay and lesbian couples could get more complicated, at least initially, said John Culhane, a law professor at Widener University’s Delaware campus and co-author of Same-Sex Legal Kit for Dummies.

Richard Wolf 06-11-2013
Photo Courtesy Kevin Eckstrom/RNS.

Supporters of gay marriage. Photo Courtesy RNS.

Houston lawyer Mitchell Katine came to the Supreme Court 10 years ago for the final chapter of Lawrence v. Texas, the landmark gay rights case in which the justices struck down state sodomy laws.

Neither Katine nor the other lawyers working for John Lawrence and Tyron Garner in their battle against Texas’ sodomy law imagined the length and breadth of Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority decision, which struck down all remaining state sodomy laws.

As the Supreme Court prepares to issue two historic decisions on gay marriage this month, however, the judges and lawyers who worked on both sides of those earlier cases don’t expect anything quite so eloquent or all-encompassing from a cautious and conservative court.

Cathy Payne 06-10-2013

Supporters of gay marriage rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this spring. Photo courtesy RNS.

About 72 percent of Americans say legal recognition of same-sex marriage is “inevitable,” according to a survey released Thursday.

Of those who support same-sex marriage, about 85 percent say it is inevitable, says the Pew Research Center’s survey. About 59 percent of opponents also say it is inevitable.

“As more states legalize gay marriage or give equal status, the question in our minds was how the public sees the trajectory on this issue,” said Michael Dimock, the report’s lead author and director of the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. “Do they see a future in which gay marriage is going to be the rule, not the exception, in American society?”

Bishops in the Church of England, who had strenuously opposed a bid to allow same-sex marriage, signaled that they won’t try to derail the bill after an overwhelming vote of support in the House of Lords.

Church of England spokesman Steve Jenkins said that in the same way the church will eventually allow women bishops, England will eventually allow same-sex marriage.

“It doesn’t mean the Church of England is happy, but that’s where our government is going,” Jenkins said. “Now it’s about safeguarding people’s right to hold religious beliefs.”

RNS photo by Gregory A. Shemitz

Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York. RNS photo by Gregory A. Shemitz

NEW YORK — When Cardinal Timothy Dolan used the morning talk shows on Easter Sunday to say the Catholic Church could do a better job of welcoming gays and lesbians, his remarks were hailed by one activist as an “Easter miracle” and by another as an encouraging “first step.”

But two months later, it’s still not clear what the second step in this fraught process might be, or even if there is a second step. And there are signs that things may only get more complicated.

Since Easter, three more states have passed same-sex marriage laws, and next month the U.S. Supreme Court will hand down a gay marriage ruling that will again spotlight the bishops’ full-throated opposition to a whole host of civil protections for gays and lesbians, particularly marriage.

Moreover, as Americans — and American Catholics — grow increasingly accepting of homosexuality, and as foes of gay rights grow increasingly determined, conflict at the parish level seems inevitable. The uneasy “Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell” policy that once allowed gay and lesbian Catholics to take church positions is clashing with their increasing visibility in the form of marriage licenses or wedding announcements.

Susan Page 05-06-2013
photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain (

LGBT map of Rhode Island. photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain (

WASHINGTON — Rhode Island on May 2 became the 10th state to approve same-sex marriage, and the Delaware Legislature holds a key vote on May 9 on the same issue. But Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, denies there is a national tide in support of marriage rights for gay couples.

“I don’t know that I would say Rhode Island is a trend,” Brown said, also questioning victories for supporters of gay marriage initiatives in Maine, Maryland, and Washington state last November.

“Again, we’re talking about states that are not necessarily indicative of the rest of the country. These are pretty deep-blue, liberal states we’re talking about.”

Even so, Brown, the head of the leading national organization opposing same-sex marriage, finds himself playing defense as more Americans support same-sex marriage and more state legislatures debate measures authorizing it.

Nicholas Coppola delivers 18,603 signatures, asking to be active in his Roman Catholic parish. Photo courtesy RNS/GLAAD.

The story of a Long Island Catholic ousted from his parish jobs for marrying his male partner generated headlines, outrage and an 18,000-signature petition to Bishop William Murphy to have Nicholas Coppola reinstated. 

But now the tale has an odd coda: Murphy, who heads the Diocese of Rockville Centre, mailed the petitions back to Coppola with a one-line cover letter on the bishop’s stationery that reads: “FROM YOUR FAITHFUL ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP.”

No signature, nothing else.

Nicholas Coppola delivers 18,603 signatures, asking to be active in his Roman Catholic parish. Photo courtesy RNS/GLAAD.

A gay man ousted from posts at his Long Island parish after a critic complained that he had married his partner delivered a petition with more than 18,000 signatures on Thursday to Bishop William Murphy, asking to be reinstated.


“Bishop Murphy, please let Nicholas Coppola resume volunteering at his parish – and make it clear that faithful gay and lesbian Catholics are welcome to participate fully in parish life in your diocese,” reads the petition. Murphy is longtime head of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rockville Centre.

According to gay activist network GLAAD, which has been assisting Coppola, a security guard at the diocese agreed to deliver the petition but said that neither Murphy nor diocesan officials would meet with Coppola and representatives of the activist groups who accompanied him.

Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, celebrates Mass. Photo courtesy RNS.

When New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan told national news programs on Easter Sunday that Catholic leaders need to do a better job of showing that their opposition to gay marriage is not “an attack on gay people,” the nation’s top Catholic bishop seemed to be signaling an important shift in tone, if not policies, that acknowledges two new realities.

One is the election of a new pope, Francis, who in less than a month has demonstrated a clear preference for engagement and inclusion (washing the feet of women and Muslim inmates at a Rome youth prison, for example) rather than the confrontation and political purism that often found favor under his predecessor, Benedict XVI.

The other is the ongoing shift in favor of same-sex marriage in the court of public opinion and — if recent arguments on Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act are any guide — perhaps soon in the U.S. Supreme Court.

RNS photo by Gregory A. Shemitz

Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York. RNS photo by Gregory A. Shemitz

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the top U.S. Catholic prelate, says the Roman Catholic Church has to make sure that its defense of traditional marriage is not reduced to an attack on gays and lesbians.

Dolan is president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and last month was reputed to have gathered some votes in the Vatican conclave where Pope Francis was eventually elected.

He made his remarks on two morning talk shows on Easter Sunday, just days after the Supreme Court heard arguments in two same-sex marriage cases.

Kevin Eckstrom 03-27-2013
RNS photo by Kevin Eckstrom

Edie Windsor speaks after oral arguments in her challenge to the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act. RNS photo by Kevin Eckstrom

In nearly two hours of arguments on Wednesday, the Supreme Court heard many of the expected cases for and against recognizing gay marriage: that refusing to do so is blatant discrimination, that gay marriage is a social experiment that the court should not preempt, that Washington has no role in state marriage laws.

Yet it was arcane arguments over matters of legal standing that seemed to most animate the justices, reflecting what seemed to be a desire to find a way for the court to sidestep a definitive up-or-down ruling on one of the most divisive social issues.

In short, the court — particularly its conservative majority — seemed to ask why they should hear a second gay marriage case in as many days, particularly one in which the government supports the lower court’s ruling. And the answer to that question will go a long way toward determining the outcome of a spirited national debate.

RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks

Throngs of same-sex marriage supporters and opponents gathered outside the high court. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks

Isn’t it remarkable, attorney Ted Olson said after arguing for same-sex marriage before the Supreme Court on Tuesday, that the other side wasn’t really arguing against it?

“No one really offered a defense,” he said of his opponents’ bid to uphold Proposition 8, the 2008 California referendum that effectively ended gay marriage in the state by defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

The question inside the courtroom was not so much can there be gay marriage, but “how do you establish marriage equality?” said David Boies, another attorney for Prop 8 opponents.

Indeed, the lawyer trying to prop up Prop. 8, which was struck down by federal trial and appeals courts, spent barely any time talking about the virtues of traditional man-woman marriage or the hazards of same-sex marriage.

And that, for supporters of gay marriage, shows just how far this debate has come in the U.S.: It’s no longer “if” it will be accepted and legal, but “how” and “when.”

Richard Wolf 03-25-2013

They are moms and dads, authors and activists, a former police officer and a former single mom. They’re black and white and Hispanic. One’s a Roman Catholic archbishop, another an evangelical minister. Many have large families — including gay members.

They are among the leading opponents of gay marriage, or as they prefer to be called, defenders of traditional marriage. And they’re trying to stop an increasingly popular movement as it approaches two dates with history this week at the Supreme Court.

Richard Wolf 02-19-2013

WASHINGTON — Foes of same-sex marriage are warning the Supreme Court that lifting state or federal restrictions would threaten their own economic and religious freedoms and lead to social and political upheaval.

In about three dozen briefs filed in recent weeks, groups ranging from U.S. Catholic bishops and evangelicals to state attorneys general and university professors argue that upholding gay marriage could lead to penalties against objecting employers, military officials, and others.

Briefs from supporters of gay marriage are due by early March.

Alessandro Speciale 02-08-2013
Photo by Stefania D'Alessandro/Getty Images

Monsignor Vincenzo Paglia attends 'Che Tempo Che Fa' Italian Tv Show in 2010. Photo by Stefania D'Alessandro/Getty Images

VATICAN CITY — A top Vatican official blamed the media for “derailing” his recent remarks on possible legal protections for unmarried couples, while reaffirming his support for British and French bishops who have been vocal opponents of same-sex marriage.

Speaking at a Vatican press conference on Monday, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, head of the Pontifical Council for the Family, had acknowledged that nations could find “private law solutions” to protect the rights of unmarried couples — including, potentially, gay and lesbian couples.

Paglia also said the church should support the repeal of laws that criminalize homosexuality in various countries.

His remarks were widely repeated, with some interpreting it as a softening of the Vatican’s stance just as bishops in France and Britain are furiously opposing the legalization of same-sex marriage.

Kelly Dunlap 01-31-2013
Cheryl Casey /

Patrons at a Florida Chick-fil-A on National Support Day. Cheryl Casey /

Shane L. Windmeyer, a nationally recognized LGBT leader in higher education, recently ‘came out’ as a friend of Dan Cathy, Chick-fil-A’s president and COO, who found himself embroiled in a PR battle after making anti-gay marriage statements. In Windmeyer's  article published in the HuffPost Gay Voices, Shane explains the unusual turn of events that led to his sitting alongside Dan Cathy at college football’s Chick-fil-A Bowl and going public with their friendship.

As the executive director of Campus Pride, the leading national organization for LGBT and ally college students that launched a national campaign against Chick-fil-A, Shane hesitantly took a phone call from Dan last fall. As the two continued their conversation in the months to come, Dan learned more about Shane, the LGBT community, and their perspective of Chick-fil-A’s controversial actions. Shane, too, learned of Dan’s genuinely held beliefs and important details regarding Chick-fil-A’s giving practices.

I find the significance of this article summed up in Shane’s words:

"It is not often that people with deeply held and completely opposing viewpoints actually risk sitting down and listening to one another. We see this failure to listen and learn in our government, in our communities and in our own families."

Americans’ acceptance of gays and lesbians is continuing to grow, with a new poll showing that just over a third of Americans view homosexuality as a sin, down from 44 percent a year earlier.

The finding from LifeWay Research, which was founded by the Southern Baptist Convention, was released just as the pastor who was to give the inaugural benediction for President Barack Obama withdrew from the program over an anti-gay sermon he gave 20 years ago.

Photo: Lasse Kristensen / Shutterstock

Gay Marriage Illustration. Photo: Lasse Kristensen / Shutterstock

CANTERBURY, England — The British government unveiled a proposal on Tuesday that excludes the Church of England and the Church in Wales from planned legislation to allow same-sex couples to marry in churches.

Culture Secretary Maria Miller told Parliament the new plan would allow gay and lesbian couples to marry in some churches, synagogues, temples, and mosques, but definitely not in the established church, where both the outgoing and incoming archbishops of Canterbury insist that marriage remain between a man and a woman.

"We will write on the face of the bill a declaration that no religious organization, or individual minister, can be forced to marry same-sex couples or to permit this to happen on their premises," Miller told the House of Commons.

Religious groups, including Quakers, Unitarians, and some liberal Jewish groups, welcomed the news because they favor same-sex marriage. The Church of England, the Church in Wales, the Roman Catholic Church, most Muslims, and Orthodox Jews oppose the move.

QR Blog Editor 12-07-2012

Talking Points Memo reports:

The Supreme Court declared Friday that it will take up same sex marriage next year in what’s sure to be a blockbuster case with sweeping implications.

The Court accepted a challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act, the 1996 law that prohibits federal recognition of same sex marriage. Two appeals courts have ruled that Section 3, which effectively bans same sex couples legally married in their states from receiving federal benefits, is invalid under the Constitution’s equal protection clause.

Oral arguments will be next spring and a decision is expected by the end of June

Read more here.