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ACTING ON FAITH: Supportive Religious Leaders: A Powerful Voice for Marriage Equality

This regular column is organized by Interfaith Advocates for LGBT People, formed in 1991 to seek increased awareness, understanding and inclusion of LGBT people by our individual congregations and by the larger community. For more information, call 585-271-7649, write to interfaithadvocates@gmail.com, or visit www.interfaithadvocatesLGBT.com to find resources, events, and welcoming congregations, and to sign the Interfaith Statement in Support of Equal Marriage for All.

Our guest columnist for this month is Neil Houghton, Northeast Regional Vice-President of IntegrityUSA, serving on the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester’s Committee for Gay and Lesbian Ministry.

Assemblyman Joseph A. Errigo (R) is one of the state representatives lobbied on Equality and Justice Day, representing Assembly District 130 which encompasses portions of Livingston, Monroe & Ontario Counties.

Assemblyman Errigo told us he would vote “NO” on anything that was called “marriage” for lesbians or gay men and he said his decision was based on his religious beliefs. That was a disturbing statement for many reasons to this Christian. Sadly, Assemblyman Errigo is unlikely to change his mind. Luckily, he is in the house that will probably pass the bill anyway. But there are legislators whose opposition is based in their conservative religious upbringing whose minds can be changed. And they need to hear form religious leaders, who can speak their language and interpret Scripture much differently.

Bishop Singh, of the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester spoke to the rally at Equality and Justice Day in terms of his strongly held faith that God will smile on any two people who wish to commit themselves to each other in love. He said that anything short of marriage establishes two separate classes of people, a “caste” in effect, to which he can relate as a native of India — Bishop Singh’s wife, Dalit, is a member of the untouchable caste which is considered less than human.

But despite the faith that he and I share, and the faith of many others that support marriage equality, we also believe that an elected official’s religious beliefs should never be used as basis for discrimination. Our law-makers hear from people who think otherwise. That makes it all the more important that progressive voices of faith, especially those of our ordained leadership, is heard. These people can speak with authority and counter the lies that are being told. They can point out that no minister, rabbi, imam or any religious leader can be forced to marry any two people, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation. While the proposed bill includes language that reasserts this, it is technically redundant. Dr. Louie Crew, the founder of Integrity, recently states it quite simply. “Who would WANT to be married by someone who did not want to marry them?”

Out & Equal NY Finger Lakes

Out & Equal NY Finger Lakes joined the national organization Out and Equal in November 2008, as an affiliate joining16 other regions around the country, including Atlanta, New York City, San Francisco, Seattle, Dallas, Denver, Chicago, Portland and Kansas City.

This affiliation, although new, continues the work of its predecessor organization, Finger Lakes LGBT Workplace Alliance. FLLWA was formed in 2005 by LGBT and allied business leaders of area corporations.

Out & Equal NY Finger Lakes will leverage national and regional resources to share workplace best practices, helping regional business leaders understand that companies who embrace diversity and equality attract and retain qualified talent, which helps bolster the bottom line.

To improve our ability to network, discuss questions and share workplace best practices, Out & Equal NY Finger Lakes announces the launch of its new Web 2.0 website, http://oenyfingerlakes.collectivex.com. The site contains general information about the organization on the home page. Members in the community or work colleagues are encouraged to join (no dues). Once signed in, the site provides an opportunity to network with other members, share member objectives, initiate discussion topics regarding share calendar of upcoming events, share key documents of presentations or resources from past O&E events and share links to recommended website resources.

Our June events include “June Bride” on June 3, a panel discussion led by Todd Plank, Pride Agenda WNY Program Organizer, from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. at Empire State College, Winton Rd. in Rochester. The purpose is to ensure that the lgbt community has access to all the HR benefits they are entitled to, and to help HR professionals meet these requirements. To reserve a space, e-mail fingerlakes@outandequal.org.

Also in June, O&E NY Finger Lakes will participate as a team at AIDS Walk on June 6. In July, Pride Week will see an Out & Equal Pride Networking event; details TBA. And in August, the annual boat cruise is set for Aug. 21, 6:30-8:30 p.m., aboard the Colonial Belle in Fairport. See the August EC for complete details, or go to the new website!

Gay Fathers of Rochester

The Gay Fathers Support group has been providing support to gay dads since the 1980s. Currently meetings are held on the first and third Tuesday of each month (Sept.-April) from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Auditorium Theater building, 875 E. Main St., Gay Alliance of the Genesee Valley first floor Youth Center.

Meetings have now concluded for this cycle but will start up again on Sept. 15.

In general:

The group consists of men and in some cases their same sex partners. We are all at different stages in our lives. Some are married, some are going through separation/divorce, some have custody of their children and some don’t, and all are at different points in the coming out process. This is a social and a support group (not therapy) intended to discuss all these issues and more. Every one here is offered the opportunity to seek support and to give it. Issues we discuss include relationships with our children and our former spouses, relationships with our partners, family, the coming out process and legal concerns. Everyone has a chance to participate since we are not a very large group. All conversations are confidential. We have potluck dinners from time to time at the home of one of the gay fathers.

The numbers of gay fathers attending has fluctuated quite a bit since the ‘80s. The format and structure has also changed, based on the needs and wants of those in attendance and so it will be when we start meeting again in September. The schedule will be set up on an as needed basis so a phone call will be needed if you plan on attending.

We will be looking for a new leader/facilitator for the group by the end of 2009, so please call me, John Stout, at 426-9695, if you are interested or want to find out more about the group.

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