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History > 2013 > USA > Gay rights (II)




Saying ‘I Do’ Amid the Roses


December 31, 2013
The New York Times


By all accounts, the standout entry in Wednesday’s Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, Calif., will surely be the marriage of two men, Danny Leclair and Aubrey Loots, beaming amid the array of lavishly flowered floats to be viewed on national television and beyond.

This is a first — a newly married same-sex couple highlighting the grand parade. They’ll do so like punctuation marks on the surprisingly rapid rise of same-sex marriage in America. In little more than a year, the number of states allowing same-sex marriage has tripled to 18, following a Federal District Court ruling in Utah.

Opponents of the single-gender nuptial display in the hallowed parade have dished heavy umbrage in petitions and blogs, calling it “unbiblical” and urging a boycott by onlookers. But the tournament executives have said they are pleased that love will triumph on a day when the tournament theme is “Dreams Come True.”

The vows are scheduled to take place aboard a float sponsored by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation to celebrate victories in the old year — that is, 2013 — including the Supreme Court’s upholding the repeal of California’s Proposition 8 and striking down a basic part of the Defense of Marriage Act.

In 1890, as California was evolving as the cutting-edge state of the nation’s future, little could local promoters foresee what the future might bring as they invented the Tournament of Roses to lure winter-hardened tourists to Pasadena’s balmy climate. “Let’s hold a festival to tell the world about our paradise,” they avowed. It wasn’t long before a football game was added to the fun.

And now, Danny and Aubrey saying I do. The new couple’s float is titled, “Living the Dream: Love Is the Best Protection.” It is hard to disagree as the new year parades forward.

    Saying ‘I Do’ Amid the Roses, NYT, 31.12.2013,






Federal Judge Rules

That Same-Sex Marriage

Is Legal in Utah


December 20, 2013
The New York Times


Salt Lake County began issuing marriage licenses to jubilant same-sex couples on Friday, hours after a federal judge ruled that Utah’s amendment barring same-sex marriage violated the United States Constitution.

The decision, by Judge Robert J. Shelby of United States District Court, ordered Utah to immediately cease enforcement of its laws restricting marriage to a man and a woman. Gov. Gary R. Herbert condemned the decision and said he was trying to determine “the best course to defend traditional marriage within the borders of Utah.”

The attorney general said the state would request a stay of the order pending an appeal.

Dahnelle Burton-Lee, chief deputy clerk for Salt Lake County, said she was called back from vacation to deal with the crowds that showed up as news of the decision spread. “We’re pretty slammed right now,” she said, with some 15 couples waiting for their licenses. “And they keep walking in the door.”

She said that the district attorney had authorized her office to proceed “until or unless we’re told otherwise.”

Seth Anderson of Salt Lake City posted progress reports on Twitter, with pictures of his license and the wedding certificate as he and his partner, Michael Adam Ferguson, married.

“Me and my new husband!!” he wrote. “My polygamous Mormon great grandparents would be so proud!”

Utah, home of the Mormon Church, is one of the country’s more conservative and religious states. But if Judge Shelby’s ruling is upheld, it will become the 18th to permit same-sex marriage, along with the District of Columbia. The decision came one day after the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry, and follows a year of legal and legislative victories for gay rights advocates.

“The court holds that Utah’s prohibition on same-sex marriage conflicts with the United States Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and due process under the law,” Judge Shelby, appointed by President Obama, wrote in a 53-page decision. “The state’s current laws deny its gay and lesbian citizens their fundamental right to marry and, in so doing, demean the dignity of these same-sex couples for no rational reason.”

State courts in Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts and New Jersey, as well as New Mexico, have required recognition of same-sex marriage. But only once before, in California, has a federal court voided a state constitutional amendment barring such marriages that had been adopted by a popular vote.

Utah adopted its restrictive marriage amendment in 2004, after the Legislature passed laws that, together with the amendment, were declared unconstitutional on Friday.

More than 30 states have passed amendments or laws restricting marriage to a man and a woman. Buoyed by a United States Supreme Court decision in June that declared parts of the federal Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional, advocates have filed dozens of lawsuits in both state and federal courtschallenging bans.

But the Supreme Court has not ruled on whether state amendments limiting marriage to a man and a woman are inherently unconstitutional.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints opposes same-sex marriage and said in a statement on Friday that it “has been consistent in its support of traditional marriage while teaching that all people should be treated with respect.”

“We continue to believe that voters in Utah did the right thing by providing clear direction in the State Constitution that marriage should be between a man and a woman,” the statement said, “and we are hopeful that this view will be validated by a higher court.”


John Schwartz contributed reporting.



This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: December 20, 2013

An earlier version of this article said that Salt Lake City had begun issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

It was Salt Lake County.

    Federal Judge Rules That Same-Sex Marriage Is Legal in Utah, NYT, 20.12.2013,






For Gay Community,

Finding Acceptance

Is Even More Difficult on the Streets


December 2, 2013
The New York Times


SAN FRANCISCO — There were times — after he told his parents he was gay, for example, and his mother wept and his father tried to hit him — when Fredy Bolvito curled up on a bench in Union Square here and cried because he had AIDS and no job and no place to stay and he felt, he said, that “my life was over.”

But there were also days when he sat on the bench in the square and sang “The Star-Spangled Banner,” looking up at the flags atop the Westin St. Francis hotel and thinking, “That’s breathtaking, that’s my American dream.” Or when he mingled with tourists, giving them directions to the cable cars, or gazed through the windows at the shoppers in Macy’s and was saddened by how rich and healthy they looked.

He scavenged for meals in garbage bins. He avoided the homeless shelters, where he had heard that gays were taunted, or worse. His “angel,” he said, was in the center of the square: the statue “Victory,” a trident in one hand, a wreath in the other.

“I would look at it at night and think, ‘Oh my God, that’s my hope,’ ” he said.

San Francisco is often viewed as a Mecca for gay people. But the warmth of the city’s welcome can quickly vanish for those who are poor.

City leaders were startled this year when a survey revealed that 29 percent of the homeless population —about 2,100 of the 7,350 people counted — identified themselves as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

Bevan Dufty, the director of the city’s homelessness initiatives, said he was surprised the percentage held true for all age groups, even adults and the elderly. “What was really staggering was to see that it didn’t change as you got older,” he said.

The survey found that gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender people who are homeless had higher rates of disability than homeless heterosexuals and were more likely to be homeless when they arrived in the city. Some of them were older gay men with AIDS who had been evicted from their apartments or people who had been cast out by their families in other states. Others, like Mr. Bolvito, a native of Guatemala who graduated from college in Hayward, Calif., with a degree in political science and once worked as a real estate agent, had good jobs that disappeared during the recession.

In response to the findings, Mr. Dufty and Kara Zordel, a coordinator of Homeless Connect, organized an event in October that offered medical and dental services and other assistance to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people who are homeless. And in August, the city’s planning commission approved permits for a 24-bed shelter with a focus on helping them. The shelter is expected to open in the coming months. Other cities have shown interest in San Francisco’s efforts, Mr. Dufty said. Officials from Santa Clara and Phoenix attended the Homeless Connect event.

Brian Basinger, a co-founder of the AIDS Housing Alliance in San Francisco, said the harassment of gays is common in the city’s shelters.

People there “do not have a lot of status in society to begin with, and so the way they protect or generate status in these social environments is to step on the queers,” Mr. Basinger said.

Gay and transgender residents have their shoes stolen, he said. They are robbed or beaten up in line.

Mr. Basinger, whose partner was homeless for 10 years and who came close to being homeless himself after he developed AIDS, brought in an architect to design the new shelter.

“I really wanted to think about how does the built environment impact people’s experiences,” he said. “So we spent a lot of time thinking that through and talking to people and designing something that was going to be functional and respect people’s dignity.”

But the shelter will house only a fraction of those who are without homes.

On a recent evening in the Castro District, Hjalmar Bjorkman, 48, sat cross-legged in a doorway. He has lived in the Bay Area for years. But two months ago, he said, he lost his job at a bar and his partner kicked him out. Since then, he has been sleeping on the sidewalk behind an old theater, he said, or at the home of a friend, who charges him $20 a night for the couch.

“My ex-partner walks by me every day,” Mr. Bjorkman said.

Bobby Spencer, 47, arrived in San Francisco from Atlanta in May, thinking he had a job as a nanny with a former co-worker at the company where he had worked as an executive assistant.

He was excited about the move. “Being gay in the South is still a lot different than being gay here, even in Atlanta,” he said. “I moved here to be queer, that was part of the plan.”

But the job did not work out and, after having volunteered in soup kitchens in Atlanta, Mr. Spencer abruptly found himself without a place to stay.

He bunked for a while with people he had met, but then ended up on the streets. He was hungry and sick. He is H.I.V. positive, and his viral load rose from undetectable to high levels after his medication ran out, he said.

Mr. Spencer said the gay community he had expected to open its arms to him had been less than gracious.

“It’s a mad, cold world out there, even in your own family,” he said. “My own community treats most queers that are homeless as pariahs; they want nothing to do with them.”

He eventually found a clinic where he can get his medication and moved to a shelter, where he has settled in for now, taking cooking classes and living on food stamps.

But he said he is constantly alert for trouble. On his first night in the shelter, a man in the next bed became abusive.

“It makes you anxious and it makes you nervous to have things like that going on and knowing that it’s absolutely being directed at you,” Mr. Spencer said.

Supervisor David Campos, who held hearings on the shelter problem, said that even though the homeless population may not have grown, homelessness has become more visible in San Francisco recently, perhaps because of an increase in evictions. Mr. Basinger and other advocates held a “sleep in” in Dolores Park in October to protest a proposed ordinance that would close city parks, where many homeless people sleep, between midnight and 5 a.m. The proposal narrowly passed on Nov. 5.

For Mr. Bolvito, Union Square, with its tourists and constant stream of pedestrians, provided a sense of safety for the months he spent there. But he is happy now to have enough to eat and a roof over his head — in September he moved into a single-room-occupancy hotel that he found with the assistance of Mr. Basinger’s housing alliance. Mr. Bolvito earned a cosmetology degree while he was homeless and is looking for a job. His mother, who lives in Oakland, helps him out when she can.

“I wanted people to know that poverty is not just the addicts,” he said. “It’s people who are educated like me. It is so many.”

    For Gay Community, Finding Acceptance Is Even More Difficult on the Streets,
    NYT, 2.12.2013,






A Leap for Equality


November 15, 2013
The New York Times


On Wednesday, Gov. Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii signed a bill that will allow same-sex couples to marry in the state, starting Dec. 2. The measure, ending a two-decade legal and political battle, caps a remarkable year of progress toward ensuring the basic civil rights of gay Americans.

Before the election in November 2012, same-sex couples could marry in only six states. That election added three more states to the roll when Maine, Maryland and Washington approved same-sex marriage by a popular vote, the first states to do so. Counting Hawaii and the marriage equality bill that Gov. Pat Quinn of Illinois plans to sign on Nov. 20, the number of states and the District of Columbia that have come to recognize the freedom to marry through legislation, court rulings or voter approval now stands at 16 compared with just nine a year ago.

The Supreme Court has also done much to make America a more hospitable environment for same-sex marriage, striking down the Defense of Marriage Act’s denial of federal benefits to married same-sex couples and nullifying Proposition 8, California’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage. The justices stopped short of making marriage equality the law of the land, but it is not unusual for civil rights to advance in stages. Cases in the pipeline will provide the court with another chance to invalidate all remaining state restrictions preventing gay and lesbian Americans from marrying and denying full legal recognition of their relationship.

In a breakthrough beyond the marriage issue, the Senate has just approved the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a long-sought measure to outlaw employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The fight for equality is obviously far from over. Hawaii’s embrace of the freedom to marry is a sign of how far the nation has come in the struggle for fair treatment of gay people and their families. It is also a reminder of how much more remains to be done.

    A Leap for Equality, NYT, 15.11.2013,






At 12:01, Same-Sex Couples

in New Jersey Say ‘I Do’


October 20, 2013
The New York Times


In Lambertville, N.J., the marriage certificate of Beth Asaro and Joanne Schailey allowed only for a “bride” and a “groom,” so Ms. Asaro — in a pink suit — was listed as the groom, and Ms. Schailey — in a black suit — as the bride.

The same went for the marriage license application that Karen and Marcye Nicholson-McFadden filed in Aberdeen a few hours before they were due to marry on the Boardwalk in Asbury Park a minute after midnight. “It’s just going to list one of us as groom and one of us as bride, and we’re just going to wing it,” Marcye Nicholson-McFadden said breathlessly.

And in Elizabeth, Marsha Shapiro’s walk down the aisle was only minutes away when she realized she had forgotten something very important — or two somethings. “We need a ring bearer,” she said, as bottles of Champagne popped around her. “And I need to put my lipstick on.”

So it went on Sunday night in towns across New Jersey, where a judge’s ruling that the state must allow same-sex couples to marry went into effect just after midnight on Monday, capping a weekend-long frenzy of flower-arranging, Champagne-spraying, hair-styling, ring-buying and cake-baking. The six women were some of hundreds of people who rushed to make wedding arrangements over the weekend, after the State Supreme Court denied on Friday a request from the administration of Gov. Chris Christie for a stay on marriages until an appeal was settled.

As friends at the gay rights group Garden State Equality and an event planner cobbled together their 12:01 a.m. ceremony, Ms. Shapiro, 59, and Louise Walpin, 60, spent a few joyful hours on Saturday picking out dresses, shoes and pantyhose from their local Lord & Taylor. But the biggest thrill for the couple, together 24 years and counting, was also the simplest one: just being able to tell the department store staff that they were, at long last, getting married.

“Everyone was helping us and congratulating us,” Ms. Walpin said. She and Ms. Shapiro were two of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit that resulted in the judge’s ruling in favor of same-sex marriage last month. “It makes us just like everyone else — they were excited like they would be for anyone who’s getting married.”

“We had a personal shopper,” Ms. Shapiro added, still marveling. “They wouldn’t have had a personal shopper for just a civil union!”

For many couples, however, Sunday was spent agonizing over whether they would be able to get married on Monday at all. City clerks across the state had not received instructions from the state Department of Health to issue marriage license applications to same-sex couples on Friday, though some were granting licenses on their own initiative, and a mandatory 72-hour waiting period between applying for a license and putting it to use meant those who did not receive licenses on Friday had to wait unless they could find a judge to waive the waiting period.

“I think all four of us have spent most of our wedding day just tracking down a judge that would do it,” said Amy Quinn, 37, a lawyer who was planning to marry her partner of 10 years, Heather Jensen, 43, alongside a pair of gay friends, on the Asbury Park Boardwalk. “I’m so happy to get married in my own state, in my own town.”

If Ms. Walpin and Ms. Shapiro had fewer than three days to plan their nuptials, the Nicholson-McFaddens had fewer than six hours. They were unable to obtain a license from the Aberdeen city clerk on Friday. Then, on Sunday afternoon, Troy Stevenson, the executive director of Garden State Equality, called with welcome news: he had found a judge in Newark willing to open the courthouse on Sunday evening to waive the waiting period, as well as a city clerk in Lambertville to issue the licenses.

When it turned out that the couple’s paperwork could not be processed by a clerk in another town, friends pitched in to find the mayor of Aberdeen, who opened the township building so Aberdeen’s city clerk could issue an eighth-hour license.

“We both burst into tears when Troy called,” said Marcye Nicholson-McFadden. “We’re honest-to-God willing to drive anywhere in the state to get this done.”

Ms. Walpin and Ms. Shapiro had their ceremony in the living room of State Senator Raymond J. Lesniak, a Democrat and one of the longest-standing sponsors of the State Legislature’s same-sex marriage bill, whose dining table had been scattered with pink rose petals and pastries. The ceremonies paused for 12 minutes while the crowd waited for the clock to strike 12:01.

“Now we have to wait,” Mr. Lesniak said. “But it’s only a short wait, considering we’ve waited for years.”

Then he counted down from 10, until midnight. The crowd cheered, and the brides kissed.


Jon Hurdle and Nate Schweber contributed reporting.

    At 12:01, Same-Sex Couples in New Jersey Say ‘I Do’, NYT, 20.10.2013,






In Conservative Wyoming,

Signs of a Thaw on Same-Sex Marriage


June 30, 2013
The New York Times


LARAMIE, Wyo. — For State Representative Cathy Connolly, Wyoming’s only openly gay legislator, this winter brought a rare moment of promise: her bill to create domestic partnerships advanced further than anything like it in the history of this deep red state — sailing through committee and onto the floor of the full House. Victory seemed possible. But when a crucial vote came, the bill failed.

Afterward, a colleague who had voted against the measure hugged Ms. Connolly, a Democrat from Laramie, and told her that it was nothing personal. “I had to say, ‘Yes it is,’ ” Ms. Connolly said, recalling the conversation several months later.

Being gay in Wyoming, known as the Equality State, has never been simple, and last week’s Supreme Court rulings, hailed as a victory for same-sex marriage, did little to change that. While many gay couples here cheered the decisions, they also said they woke up the next morning not feeling much more equal than they had the day before.

“It’s remarkably frustrating,” said Carl Oleson, who lives with his partner of 16 years, Rob Johnston, in Casper, near the center of Wyoming’s oil and gas boom. “There are no protections here. None.”

Nationwide, the movement to legalize same-sex marriage may be bolstered by court rulings, growing political support and shifting public opinion. But for gay couples who live in the conservative rural heartland, like Mr. Oleson and Mr. Johnston, any changes in the landscape feel as slow as the upwelling of mountain ranges.

Like 36 other states, Wyoming limits marriage to a man and a woman. State lawmakers have voted down attempts to include gay and transgender people in Wyoming’s antidiscrimination laws. There are no hate-crime laws on the books, according to the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights advocacy group.

For gay couples, life can be a delicate balance. The closest gay bar is often a long drive south to Colorado. Some couples said they introduce their partners as friends or roommates and shy away from holding hands or kissing in public.

“You have to balance between so many things here,” said Mr. Oleson, who said he manages a retail store but declined to be more specific. “I still have to be a little bit discreet.”

Wyoming has never been easy to pigeonhole when it comes to gay rights. Republicans dominate state and local politics, and support for gun rights, low taxes and small government runs as deep as groundwater. But so does a cowboy libertarian streak, residents say, rooted in ranches, homesteads and a notion of “You live your life, and I’ll live mine.”

Wyoming repealed its sodomy law in 1977, a generation before the Supreme Court declared such laws unconstitutional. Several times in recent years, Republican lawmakers have rejected efforts by social conservatives to ban the recognition of same-sex marriages from other states or to add “defense of marriage” amendments to the State Constitution.

Eight years ago, an openly gay 27-year-old named Guy Padgett served a term as the mayor of Casper. People who would never support same-sex marriage nonetheless gave him a fair shake, he said. In a state where many voters are on a first-name basis with the governor and see their elected officials in church or cafes, it is harder to vilify people you disagree with, residents said.

“I’ve never felt uncomfortable or threatened or out of place,” said Mr. Padgett, a Democrat who now lives in Denver. “There is a strong streak in the Republican Party in Wyoming to let people live their lives — that sort of respect for space.”

In some more conservative quarters, the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the federal Defense of Marriage Act felt like an attack on that let-live ethos. Mark Baker, a Republican state representative from Rock Springs, said Wyoming was comfortable with marriage as it stood in the state. He said he had considered the arguments for allowing everyone to marry — his half sister is a lesbian, he said — but called same-sex marriage the first step on a “slippery slope.”

“Once you go down that path, where do you stop?” Mr. Baker said. “Is it going to be legal for four or five people to marry because they love one another?”

Ms. Connolly said she was aware of that argument when she introduced her bill last winter to create domestic partnerships for gay couples — the latest of several failed attempts to cajole her conservative colleagues.

Ms. Connolly, a professor of women’s studies at the University of Wyoming, had forged friendships and close working relationships with many Republican colleagues, but to at least a few of them she was still a source of discomfort.

This year, one legislator approached Ms. Connolly and told her, “I love you, but I don’t want to know anything about your personal life,” which that legislator called “offensive.”

“I had to walk away,” Ms. Connolly said, “and say, ‘I am not offensive.’ ”

Ms. Connolly found allies among several moderate Republicans — critical support in a chamber with 52 Republicans and eight Democrats. The two biggest newspapers in the state endorsed the measure. And it passed a committee vote, 7 to 2.

When it came time to argue the measure on the floor of the Wyoming House, the bill’s supporters decided that their best hope was to let its Republican supporters do the talking. Ms. Connolly and the other Democrats sat quietly.

It was defeated by a vote of 35 to 24.

Despite the loss, to some it was a sign that things were changing. Slowly, but changing.

The Rev. Dee Lundberg, the openly gay pastor of the United Church of Christ in Casper, has been called Satan’s spawn at least once since coming to Wyoming in 2008, and she said she had been treated coldly at times by the city’s ministerial groups. But during last summer’s rodeo parade, the church flew a big rainbow flag on the back of its trailer and, Ms. Lundberg said, “only got flipped off once.”

“It’s a slow crawl,” she said. “But every year there’s been a teeny tiny bit of progress. A generation from now, it’ll be a nonissue.”

    In Conservative Wyoming, Signs of a Thaw on Same-Sex Marriage,
    NYT, 20.6.2013,






The Long Road to Marriage Equality


June 26, 2013
The New York Times


NEW HAVEN — THE Supreme Court’s soaring decision to strike down the core of the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional is a civil rights landmark, but the history leading up to it is poorly understood. Marriage equality was neither inevitable nor, until recently, even conceivable. And the struggle for it was not, as is commonly believed, a natural consequence of the gay liberation movement that gained steam in the late 1960s.

It was not until the 1980s that securing legal recognition for same-sex relationships became an urgent concern of lesbians and gay men. Decades earlier, such recognition was almost unimaginable. In the 1950s, most states criminalized gay people’s sexual intimacy. Newspaper headlines blared the State Department’s purge of homosexual employees during the McCarthy-era “lavender scare.” Police cracked down on lesbian and gay bars and other alleged “breeding grounds” of homosexuality.

The lesbian and gay liberation movements of the early 1970s did not make marriage a priority — quite the opposite. Activists fought police raids, job discrimination and families’ rejection of their queer children. Most radical activists scorned the very idea of marriage. But a handful walked into clerks’ offices across the country to request marriage licenses. State officials suddenly realized that their laws failed to limit marriage to a man and a woman; no other arrangement had been imagined. By 1978, 15 states had written this limitation into law.

A “traditional family values” movement arose to oppose gay rights and feminism. Anita Bryant and other activists took aim at some of the earliest local anti-discrimination laws, and by 1979 they had persuaded voters in several cities to repeal them. Subsequently, in more than 100 state and local referendums, gay-rights activists had to defend hard-won protections. This, not marriage, consumed much of their energy.

It was the ’80s that changed things. The AIDS epidemic and what came to be known as the “lesbian baby boom” compelled even those couples whose friends and family fully embraced them to deal with powerful institutions — family and probate courts, hospitals, adoption agencies and funeral homes — that treated them as legal strangers.

Hospitals could deny the gay partner of someone with AIDS visitation privileges, not to mention consultation over treatment. He couldn’t use his health insurance to cover his partner. He risked losing his home after his partner died, if his name wasn’t on the lease or if he couldn’t pay inheritance taxes on his partner’s share (which would not have been required of a surviving spouse).

When two women shared parenting and the biological mother died, the courts often felt obliged to grant custody to her legal next of kin — even if the child wished to remain with the nonbiological mother. If the women separated, the biological mother could unilaterally deny her ex the right to see their children.

Couples used wills, powers of attorney and innovative new legal arrangements like domestic partnerships and second-parent adoption to try to get around these injustices, an astounding achievement given the reigning conservatism of the ’80s and early ’90s. But for all their virtues, none of these arrangements could provide the Social Security, tax, immigration and other benefits that only marriage could bestow.

The marriage movement emerged out of this maelstrom, but it was always about more than legal benefits. Historically, denial of marriage rights has been a powerful symbol of people’s exclusion from full citizenship. Enslaved people in America did not have the right to marry before the Civil War; Jews did not have the right to marry non-Jews in Nazi Germany. In 1948, the United Nations enshrined the freedom to marry as a fundamental human right. That same year California’s highest court became the first in the nation to overturn a state law banning interracial marriage.

As attitudes toward homosexuality changed in the 1990s, before accelerating ever more rapidly over the last decade, antigay activists — who had already fought gay teachers in schools, gay-student groups, gay characters on TV, domestic partnerships and anti-discrimination laws — redoubled their fight against marriage equality. In 1996, when it appeared that Hawaii’s courts might let same-sex couples wed, Congress passed DOMA, which declared that no state needed to give “full faith and credit” to another state’s same-sex marriages. It also denied federal recognition and benefits to such marriages — the provision struck down on Wednesday. As Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the majority: “DOMA’s principal effect is to identify a subset of state-sanctioned marriages and make them unequal.”

When Massachusetts became the first state to let gay couples marry, in 2004, it unleashed opposition as well as euphoria. That year, 13 states amended their constitutions to ban such marriages (12 had already done so legislatively). Ultimately, California and 40 other states acted to limit marriage to one man and one woman by constitutional amendment, legislation or both; in 30 states, the amendments are on the books. As a result of another Supreme Court ruling on Wednesday, California will soon join 12 states (and the District of Columbia) in permitting same-sex marriage, but the state-by-state battle will grind on elsewhere.

The intensity of the backlash against marriage equality eventually produced its own backlash. Many heterosexuals sought to distance themselves from the antigay animus it expressed. Young people, who grew up in a cultural universe different from their parents’, began to wonder why marriage was an issue at all. Political figures as different as Barack Obama and Rob Portman described how their children had affected their thinking.

Federal benefits will dramatically improve the lives of countless people, from the lesbian widow who needs her wife’s Social Security benefits to hold onto her home to the gay New Yorker whose foreign husband will now be able to live with him in America. Couples will no longer suffer the indignity of having the government treat their marriages as inferior.

Urgent problems still confront lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, including the endemic bullying of queer students, discrimination in housing and employment and the surge in new H.I.V. infections among young gay and bisexual men. Marriage equality has singular legal, cultural and practical significance. Nonetheless, it was not the first issue to animate the struggle for equality and dignity — nor will it be the last.


George Chauncey, a professor of history

and American studies at Yale, was an expert witness

in both of the same-sex marriage cases decided Wednesday.

    The Long Road to Marriage Equality, NYT, 26.6.2013,






Victory for Equal Rights


June 26, 2013
The New York Times


Today’s two Supreme Court rulings involving same-sex marriage were a huge and gratifying victory in the long struggle to end government-sanctioned discrimination against gay and lesbian Americans. It is sad, this deep into the national conversation about equal rights, that five justices were not willing to recognize a constitutional right for all couples to marry, regardless of the state where they live or their genders. But the momentum for marriage equality seems unstoppable, and such a breakthrough will eventually come.

The first ruling struck down the central provisions of the Defense of Marriage Act, the odious 1996 federal law that denied federal benefits to same-sex couples married in jurisdictions that permit such unions. The second decision will nullify Proposition 8, California’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage. Both decisions are huge victories for the gay rights movement that propels the nation toward greater fairness and full equality.

However, as many observers predicted, the Roberts court failed to deliver the larger verdict that the Constitution calls for in its equal protection clause: a broad ruling establishing a nationwide right of same-sex couples to wed. The court missed a historic chance to correct a longstanding injustice and left gay people in much of the country relegated to an inferior status that a growing majority of Americans knows is wrong.

The court may have believed that the country is not ready for such a sweeping approach. If so, it has overestimated the issue’s divisiveness and underestimated the human costs of further delay.

In the first case, United States v. Windsor, a 5-to-4 majority overturned a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act that defined marriage as a union only between a man and a woman for the purposes of more than 1,000 federal laws and programs. The plaintiff in the case, a New York octogenarian named Edith Windsor, brought her challenge after she was required to pay some $360,000 in federal estate taxes from which opposite-sex spouses are exempt. The Defense of Marriage Act did not allow the Internal Revenue Service to treat Ms. Windsor as a surviving spouse following the death of Thea Clara Spyer, the woman with whom she lived for more than 40 years and married in Canada in 2007.

The Defense of Marriage Act was “unconstitutional as a deprivation of the equal liberty of persons that is protected by the Fifth Amendment,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion that was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

By seeking to injure the class New York had sought to protect by allowing same-sex marriages, the act “violates basic due process and equal protection principles applicable to the federal government.” The law’s insidious provisions were the last in federal law to require discrimination against gay people. The majority was right not to seize upon the odd procedural posture of the case — the Obama administration sought Supreme Court review although it had stopped defending the Defense of Marriage Act and won a lower federal court ruling finding it unconstitutional — in order to avoid reaching the merits, as the court’s other four justices favored.

In the Proposition 8 case, Hollingsworth v. Perry, a differently composed 5-to-4 majority led by Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. avoided ruling on the merits of the constitutional challenge to the discriminatory ballot measure by finding that its proponents lacked standing to appeal. Nevertheless, on a hugely positive note, the court’s feint clears the way for same-sex marriages in California.

The dismissal of the Proposition 8 challenge leaves intact the sound 2010 ruling by a now-retired federal trial judge in San Francisco, Vaughn Walker. Following a much-publicized three-week trial, he found that same-sex marriage caused no harm whatsoever to the state or society but substantial harm to same-sex couples by depriving them of their rights to equal protection and due process. With California joining a dozen other states and the District of Columbia already in the marriage equality column, roughly 30 percent of Americans live in places where same-sex marriage is allowed.

Americans’ acceptance of same-sex marriage, and the legal and political support for it, have come very far, very fast in the four years since two prominent lawyers on opposite sides of the 2000 Bush v. Gore case, Theodore Olson and David Boies, filed the challenge to Proposition 8 that culminated on Wednesday.

But there are miles yet to travel on this civil rights journey. The new marriage rulings leave behind an unsupportable state-by-state patchwork that threatens valid marriages when state lines are crossed. Cases already in the pipeline could give the Supreme Court another chance to fully confront the harm to real people’s lives and establish marriage equality nationwide. Soon, we hope.

    Victory for Equal Rights, NYT, 26.6.2013,






The Misnomer of ‘Motherless’ Parenting


June 22, 2013
The New York Times


SOMETIMES when my daughter, who is 7, is nicely cuddled up in her bed and I snuggle her, she calls me Mommy. I am a stay-at-home dad. My male partner and I adopted both of our children at birth in open domestic adoptions. We could fill our home with nannies, sisters, grandmothers, female friends, but no mothers.

My daughter says “Mommy” in a funny way, in a high-pitched voice. Although I refer the honors immediately to her birth mom, I am flattered. But saddened as well, because she expresses herself in a voice that is not her own. It is her stuffed-animal voice. She expresses not only love; she also expresses alienation. She can role-play the mother-daughter relationship, but she cannot use her real voice, nor have the real thing.

I have seen two types of arguments in the discussion on gay adoption. The first is the civil-rights argument. You find this in David Strah’s book “Gay Dads: A Celebration of Fatherhood,” which contains interviews with gay fathers. “The men in this book stuck it out, kept struggling, claimed their rights, and triumphed in the end,” it says. “They are heroic, and their heroism is a gift for their children.”

The books adds: “If coming out was the first step and forming a movement the second, then perhaps asserting our fundamental right to be parents is the third step in our evolution as a community.” The argument is not so much about the voices or feelings of the children but about those of their dads.

More child-focused, but still reflecting the values of the grown-ups, is the second argument: the good-enough-parent idea, as developed in the series of research papers on gay and lesbian adoption of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute. The executive summary of the 2006 report states: “Social science research concludes that children reared by gay and lesbian parents fare comparably to those of children raised by heterosexuals on a range of measures of social and psychological adjustment.” Kids of gay dads (and lesbians) do just as well as kids of moms and dads, the research shows. Being a good-enough parent counts for gay people, just as it does for straight people.

What is not expressed in both arguments, which I consider valid, is the voice of the adoptee — my daughter’s voice, that is. Her awareness of being a motherless child is not addressed. I don’t want to appropriate our child’s voice, but I want to speak up for her, and her older brother, and I want to acknowledge their feelings.

Being a “motherless” child in an open adoption is not as simple as it looks, because there is a birth mother, who walks in and walks out of the lives of our children. And when she is not physically there, she is — as we know from many accounts of adult adoptees — still present in dreams, fantasies, longings and worries.

In a closed or an international adoption there is also a mother — sometimes in photos, but always in the narrative of the child’s birth, which also starts for them with “in your mommy’s tummy.” When the mother walks into the lives of our kids it is mostly a wonderful experience. It is harder for them when she walks out, not only because of the sad goodbye of a beloved adult, but also because it triggers the difficult and painful question of why she walked out in the first place.

The answer initially depends very much on us, and we have to help our kids find a narrative that is honest about the circumstances and the unjust world we live in, yet loving and respectful toward the mother. To do that properly, gay families have to create an emotional space where the mother lives as a reality, a space where she can be addressed and discussed without any shame or secrecy.

So, motherless parenting is a misnomer. Also, the wider world around our kids sees mothers when they are not there. Every step we as a family take outside in public comes with a question from a stranger about the mother of the children: a motherless child seems unthinkable. When I picked up my sick son from school one day after a call from the nurse’s office, we bumped into his class in the hall. One of the boys saw us and called, “Hey, where’s your mom?”

THAT was awkward, because our son had introduced himself to his classmates at the beginning of the school year with pictures of our family and of his birth family. That had made a deep impression. The boy who called out was without doubt aware of our son’s situation, and he was certainly not meanspirited. But he was just not able to see the scene of a father and a sick son objectively and injected a mother, who would have been there in most cases. The forces of normalcy, as I would like to call them, are strong, and can be difficult and confusing for children who live outside that normalcy.

Gay parents, trained to deal with those forces, should be aware of the effect on their children. What these questions do touches on a vulnerability in the children’s identity, the identity of the motherless child. The outside world says time and again — not in a negative way, but matter-of-factly — you are not like us. We have to give our kids the chance to give voice to that vulnerability, and to acknowledge the sad and complicated feelings of being different. (And show the pride in that as well.)

How to parent around these issues of motherlessness and vulnerability is a personal choice. There are practical matters, like where your family lives, where your kids go to school, what clubs and churches you are members of, what friends and family you have over for dinner, where you go on vacation. Still, the overarching idea behind parenting by gay men should be that it is great for a child to have one or two dads, and that not having a mom in your daily life can be hard. And that it is O.K. to long for a soft cheek instead of a stubbly one.


Frank Ligtvoet is the founder of Adoptive Families

With Children of African Heritage and Their Friends,

a New York City support group,

and a member of the board

of the New York State Citizens’ Coalition for Children.

    The Misnomer of ‘Motherless’ Parenting, NYT, 22.6.2013,






Crowd Led by Priests

Attacks Gay Rights Marchers in Georgia


May 17, 2013
The New York Times


MOSCOW — A throng of thousands led by priests in black robes surged through police cordons in downtown Tbilisi, Georgia, on Friday and attacked a group of about 50 gay rights demonstrators.

Carrying banners reading “No to mental genocide” and “No to gays,” the masses of mostly young men began by hurling rocks and eggs at the gay rights demonstrators.

The police pushed most of the demonstrators onto yellow minibuses to evacuate them from the scene, but, the attackers swarmed the buses, trying to break the windows with metal gratings, trash cans, rocks and even fists.

At least 12 people were reported hospitalized, including three police officers and eight or nine of the gay rights marchers.

“They wanted to kill all of us,” said Irakli Vacharadze, the head of Identoba, the Tbilisi-based gay rights advocacy group that organized the rally.

Nino Bolkvadze, 35, a lawyer for the group who was among the marchers, said that if they had not been close to the buses when the violence began, “we would all have been corpses.”

Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili of Georgia condemned the violence in a news release Friday evening, as the police urged the mobs to leave the city’s central avenue.

The attack comes amid an increase in antigay talk in Russia and Georgia, whose Orthodox churches are gaining political influence.

In a statement Wednesday, the leader of the Georgian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Ilia II, compared homosexuals to drug addicts and called the rally a “violation of the rights of the majority” of Georgians.

Conservative-minded Georgians traveled from other cities to condemn the gay rights demonstrators, and one told a television station that she had come to “treat their illness.”

“We are trying to protect our orthodoxy, not to let anyone to wipe their feet on our faith,” said Manana Okhanashvili, in a head scarf and long skirt. “We must not allow them to have a gay demonstration here.”

In a telephone interview, Mr. Vacharadze of Identoba said that priests from the Georgian Orthodox Church had led the charge that broke through a heavy police corridor.

“The priests entered, the priests broke the fences and the police didn’t stop them, because the priests are above the law in Georgia,” he said.

Ms. Bolkvadze, the lawyer with Identoba, speaking by telephone from a safe house in the city, said that despite promises from the police that there would be “unprecedented” protection for the rally, the riot police were unprepared.

“They didn’t have helmets,” she said. “They didn’t have the right equipment.”


Olesya Vartanyan contributed reporting from Tbilisi, Georgia.

    Crowd Led by Priests Attacks Gay Rights Marchers in Georgia, NYT, 17.5.2013,






Beyond Basketball and Bigotry


May 10, 2013
The New York Times


The overwhelmingly supportive response to Jason Collins, who came out last week as the first openly gay male athlete playing in a major American team sport, is an encouraging measure of the nation’s civil rights progress. But his barrier-breaking announcement a dozen years into his N.B.A. career also carries a reminder of a reality millions of gay people live with every day: being open about their sexual orientation could put their job and career at risk.

A pair of landmark cases pending before the Supreme Court will help decide the future of same-sex marriage. But even if the justices do the right thing and issue a broad ruling legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide, that would not prohibit workplace discrimination, a profound impediment to real equality. The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community remains vulnerable to employment discrimination in more than half the country.

Only 21 states have laws barring employers from refusing to hire people or firing them because of their sexual orientation, and only 16 of those have inclusive workplace nondiscrimination laws that cover bisexual and transgender people as well as gays and lesbians.

Mr. Collins’s announcement coincided with the reintroduction in the House and Senate of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, an overdue measure to outlaw employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. It has been stalled in Congress for years. But the idea that job applicants and employees should be judged on their professional credentials and the caliber of their work, and not be penalized because of who they are, is a basic fairness principle, and one that polls indicate most Americans support.

Some conservative opponents of the act, known as ENDA, contend it would threaten religious freedom because its exemption for employers affiliated with religious organizations is too narrow. Actually, the proposed religious exemption is far too broad and needs to be scaled back. The American Civil Liberties Union and some gay rights groups rightly point out that as it is now drafted, the exemption — extending well beyond just houses of worship to hospitals and universities, for example, and encompassing medical personnel, billing clerks and others in jobs that are not directly involved in any religious function — amounts to a license to engage in the discrimination that ENDA is meant to remedy.

It is one thing for religious groups to further their religious mission by favoring people of their own faith in hiring, as Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act permits. It is quite another to allow the firing of a lesbian physician or transgender nurse when a hospital that is not affiliated with a religious group happens to merge with an institution that is. Under Title VII’s religious exemption, houses of worship and religion-affiliated entities are subject to the law’s prohibition against discrimination based on race, sex and national origin. ENDA’s religious exemption should treat sexual orientation and gender identity in a similar fashion. To do otherwise would leave too many jobs outside of ENDA’s protections.

Congress has a duty to stop dawdling and approve a strong bill. In the meantime, President Obama, a supporter of ENDA, can take a significant step toward ending discrimination in the workplace by issuing an executive order barring discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity by federal contractors. He has the power to protect millions of American workers, and it is about time he used it.

    Beyond Basketball and Bigotry, NYT, 10.5.2013,






Delaware, Continuing a Trend,

Becomes the 11th State

to Allow Same-Sex Unions


May 7, 2013
The New York Times


Delaware on Tuesday became the 11th state to permit same-sex marriage, the latest in a string of victories for those working to extend marital rights to gay and lesbian couples.

The marriage bill passed the State Senate by a vote of 12 to 9 Tuesday afternoon.

“It’s a great day in Delaware,” said Gov. Jack Markell, a Democrat, who signed it within minutes of passage before an overjoyed crowd of activists. “I am signing this bill now because I do not intend to make any of you wait one moment longer.”

Same-sex couples will be eligible for marriage licenses on July 1.

Delaware adopted same-sex marriage just five days after a similar decision in Rhode Island and after ballot-box victories last fall in Maine, Maryland and Washington.

During three hours of emotional debate before the vote Tuesday, State Senator Karen Peterson, a Democrat, said she had lived with a female partner for 24 years, and she challenged opponents of extending marriage to gay couples. “If my happiness somehow demeans or diminishes your marriage, then you need to work on your marriage,” she said, eliciting cheers and laughter.

A Republican opponent of the bill, Senator Greg Lavelle, said before the vote, “We won’t fully understand the impact of this legislation for years to come.” Mr. Lavelle, the minority whip, said it was “strange” to “have to defend traditional marriage that we have known for thousands of years.”

In Maine, Maryland and Washington in November, same-sex marriage won in state referendums for the first time. In eight other states, now including Delaware, and in the District of Columbia it has been adopted by legislatures or required by court decisions.

Public opinion on the issue is shifting quickly, with polls showing that a majority of Americans support allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry.

“The momentum continues,” said Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, a New York-based advocacy group that aided the campaign in Delaware.

Gay rights groups are hopeful that same-sex marriage will pass soon in Minnesota, where House members are expected to consider it this week, and in Illinois, where the Senate has approved a bill but a vote has not been scheduled in the House.

Short of a sweeping decision by the Supreme Court that same-sex marriage is a right, change could come more slowly in the coming years. Thirty states have adopted constitutional amendments limiting marriage to a man and a woman — measures that can be reversed only with public ballots.

“We’re not discouraged,” said Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, which has helped finance opposition to same-sex marriage proposals across the country.

“The states that have passed same-sex marriage are deep-blue liberal states,” Mr. Brown said, arguing that his opponents usually find it easier to win in legislatures than in popular votes.

Both sides are waiting for the Supreme Court to announce two decisions in June that could alter the marriage landscape.

In one case, the court will decide whether the federal government should recognize same-sex marriage in states where it is legal. In the other, it will decide the fate of California’s Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in the state after a court had declared it a legal right.


Rita K. Farrell contributed reporting from Dover, Del.

    Delaware, Continuing a Trend, Becomes the 11th State to Allow Same-Sex Unions,
    NYT, 7.5.2013,






Caught in Methodism’s Split

Over Same-Sex Marriage


May 5, 2013
The New York Times


NEW HAVEN — It started out as a deeply personal act, that of a father officiating at the wedding of his son.

But it was soon condemned as a public display of ecclesiastical disobedience, because the father, the Rev. Dr. Thomas W. Ogletree, is a minister in the United Methodist Church, which does not allow its clergy to perform same-sex weddings.

Dr. Ogletree, 79, is now facing a possible canonical trial for his action, accused by several New York United Methodist ministers of violating church rules. While he would not be the first United Methodist minister to face discipline for performing a same-sex wedding, he could well be the one with the highest profile. He is a retired dean of Yale Divinity School, a veteran of the nation’s civil rights struggles and a scholar of the very type of ethical issues he is now confronting.

“Sometimes, when what is officially the law is wrong, you try to get the law changed,” Dr. Ogletree, a native of Birmingham, Ala., said in a courtly Southern drawl over a recent lunch at Yale, where he remains an emeritus professor of theological ethics. “But if you can’t, you break it.”

For Dr. Ogletree, the issues are not just academic. He has fully accepted, he said, that two of his five children are gay. His daughter married her partner in Massachusetts, in a non-Methodist ceremony. So when his son asked him last year to officiate at the wedding, he said yes.

“I was inspired,” Dr. Ogletree said. “I actually wasn’t thinking of this as an act of civil disobedience or church disobedience. I was thinking of it as a response to my son.”

The wedding of Thomas Rimbey Ogletree and Nicholas W. Haddad, held on Oct. 20, 2012, at the Yale Club in New York, incorporated readings from Scripture and the Massachusetts court decision legalizing same-sex marriages. A wedding announcement in The New York Times prompted several conservative Methodist ministers to file a complaint against Dr. Ogletree with the local bishop.

“This ceremony is a chargeable offense” under the rules of the church, wrote the ministers, led by the Rev. Randall C. Paige, pastor of Christ Church in Port Jefferson Station, N.Y.

In late January, Mr. Paige and Dr. Ogletree, accuser and accused, met face-to-face in an effort to resolve the dispute without a church trial. Mr. Paige, who declined to be interviewed for this article, citing the confidentiality of the proceedings, asked that Dr. Ogletree apologize and promise never to perform such a ceremony again. He refused.

“I said, this is an unjust law,” he recalled telling Mr. Paige. “Dr. King broke the law. Jesus of Nazareth broke the law; he drove the money changers out of the temple. So you mean you should never break any law, no matter how unjust it is?”

But ministers like Mr. Paige believe breaking church law is not the right way to bring about change, said the Rev. Thomas A. Lambrecht, the vice-president of Good News, a traditionalist Methodist group. “Reverend Ogletree is acting in a way that is injurious to the church, because it fosters confusion in the church about what we stand for,” he said. “And it undermines the whole covenant of accountability that we share with each other as pastors.”

The United Methodist Church is the third-largest Christian denomination in the country. Its clergy members pledge to follow the church’s laws as contained in its rule book, the Book of Discipline. The rules can only be amended via votes by clergy and laity that take place every four years.

Like many Christian denominations, the United Methodist Church has struggled over issues of gay rights. In 1972, the denomination added a line to its rule book declaring the practice of homosexuality “incompatible with Christian teaching.” It bars the ordination of “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” as clergy, and prohibits clergy from officiating at same-sex unions. But it also calls homosexuals “persons of sacred worth,” and welcomes them as members. “We try to be nuanced about it,” Mr. Lambrecht said. “Although we disapprove of the practice of homosexuality, we believe that people who are gay or lesbian are loved and valued by God and worthy of the church’s ministry and welcome to participate in churches.”

The result is contradictory, Dr. Ogletree said. “The church’s official motto is open minds, open hearts, open doors, even though our rules on same-sex marriage contradict that claim,” he said.

Professor Ogletree is now working with Methodists in New Directions, a New York group that is part of a growing movement to change the church’s rules. More than 1,100 United Methodist clergy members — of about 45,000 in the nation — have expressed a willingness to perform same-sex ceremonies, even if it means they may face suspension or censure. But the issue is creating a deep rift with the church’s evangelical, conservative wing, which is being bolstered by the spread of the 12-million-member denomination internationally into Africa and Asia.

At the Methodists’ general conference last May, tensions reached a boiling point after an attempt to modify the church’s stance on homosexuality failed by a vote of 61 percent to 39 percent.

“The time for talking is over,” one retired bishop, Melvin Talbert, declared in protest. “It is time for us to act in defiance of unjust words of immoral and derogatory discrimination.”

Five months later, Dr. Ogletree presided at his son’s wedding.

“He does the right thing because he believes in doing the right thing,” Mr. Ogletree said of his father. “And then, if there is any question about that, he is willing to stand up and place a claim for that in a public way.”

New York’s Methodists have passed resolutions supporting same-sex marriage, but the region’s bishop, Martin D. McLee, said he had no choice, once mediation failed, but to refer the matter to the equivalent of a prosecuting lawyer for the church, who will decide whether to hold a trial.

Bishop McLee noted that many United Methodist congregations have ministries that focus on welcoming gays and lesbians, and said that, “As is the case with most mainline Protestant denominations,” he said, “matters regarding human sexuality continue to evolve.”

However, he said in an interview, “If everyone can pick and choose the laws that they don’t particularly like, and choose to violate them, then you have a situation of pandemonium.”

Bishop McLee said the complaint against Dr. Ogletree was the first he had received since becoming the regional bishop nearly a year ago, even though there is anecdotal evidence that such ceremonies occur with some regularity.

In the New York area, 208 Methodist ministers have said they are willing to perform same-sex weddings. The Rev. Vicki Flippin, associate pastor at the Church of the Village in Manhattan, said she had performed two such ceremonies in recent years, and the Rev. Scott Summerville, pastor of Asbury United Methodist Church in Yonkers, said he had officiated at two.

In the past, the Methodist denomination has punished pastors for officiating at same-sex weddings. When the Rev. Jimmy Creech, a Nebraska pastor, was found guilty in a 1999 church trial of performing at gay weddings, he was defrocked. In 2011, the Rev. Amy DeLong received a 20-day suspension for marrying a lesbian couple.

Dr. Ogletree said he was prepared for judgment by his fellow ministers. The stakes for him are largely symbolic, because he is already retired. He also has some standing among his peers as a theologian; he drafted a section of the Book of Discipline that explains how Scripture must be understood through tradition, reason and experience.

“That’s why I feel I have an advantage, because I have read the Scriptures so carefully,” he said. “Context matters.”

    Caught in Methodism’s Split Over Same-Sex Marriage, NYT, 5.5.2013,




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