Religion News Updates for July 7, 2011

July 8, 2011
On June 29, the Rt. Rev. Mary Glasspool, Bishop Suffragan of the Diocese of Los Angeles, and the first openly lesbian bishop ordained by the Episcopal Church, attended a White House reception celebrating LGBT Pride month. Conservative Islamic religious and political officials condemned a U.S. Embassy meeting supporting LGBT people in Pakistan, while “Sexual pluralism in Pakistan” examines the particular complexities of “gender politics” in the Middle East. In upstate New York, a town clerk is refusing to sign marriage licenses for gay and lesbian couples, but a Lutheran pastor in NYC will perform weddings for gay and lesbian couples free of charge all year until June 30, 2012.

Rabbi Joshua Hammerman. Image from Temple Beth El.

Conservative Rabbis in New York are finding themselves in the middle of a debate about whether or not to affirm marriages for all couples. Rabbi Joshua Hammerman defended marriage equality in a question and answer in The Jewish Week:
Let me make it easy for you. What New York has done is to guarantee equal rights, legal and financial benefits that most couples take for granted, involving unemployment assistance, medical services, estate planning and taxes… If you are one of the shrinking minority who now disapprove of gay marriage and even if you consider homosexuality a sinful life-choice, it is still possible to support this law on the basis of fairness and equality, without compromising your religious views. Granting equal rights is the right moral choice.
The Rev. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, who last week called on the Southern Baptist Convention to repent of “a form of homophobia” that is unwelcoming to LGBT members of their churches, has seemingly renounced this suggestion in his essay "Evangelicals and the Gay Moral Revolution," which was published this week in the Wall Street Journal. Last week, the Southern Baptist Convention’s website was hacked and revised to state that the SBC was now open and affirming to LGBT people. There were a variety of Catholic responses this week to the passage of the Marriage Equality Act in New York and the Rhode Island Civil Unions bill. Roman Catholic bishops in New York and Rhode Island are up in arms about New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, marriage and civil unions. Bishops from both states have spoken out strongly against both pieces of legislature, and have even gone so far as to suggest that lawmakers supporting the bills should be shunned by the Catholic Church.

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio. Image from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn.

The Washington Post’s On Faith column published a number of pieces responding to marriage equality New York.  Nicholas DiMarzio, bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, wrote a piece asserting that the “Catholic Church must influence the marriage debate,” suggesting that the Church may need to take an even firmer stand against LGBT people, and saying that the Church has “failed as the proponents of the historical understanding of marriage as that between a man and a woman precisely because we have sought to be sensitive to those who have same-sex attractions.” Also in the Washington Post, Ronald Rychlak wrote in defense of Bishop DiMarzio, and Anthony Stevens-Arroyo optimistically assesses the evolution of marriage in America and the Roman Catholic Church:
Because New York’s marriage equality law will strengthen bonds of love and loyalty between persons of the same gender it might have positive pragmatic social results. In fact, with the drop-off in marriages throughout society for straight couples, it would seem worthwhile to encourage stable, long-lasting commitments for all sexes. I say, “Trust Catholicism to prevail despite this law: we Catholics have thousands of years of experience in living the Gospel against all odds.”
Similarly, the National Catholic Reporter suggested that Catholic bishops could stand to learn from “young people, gay and straight, [who] want change on this issue.” Doing just that, Bishop George R. Lucey of the American National Catholic Church released this letter, entitled “Definitely Catholic but not Roman Catholic.” To receive the weekly Religions News Update email or to submit stories, please subscribe to