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MARRIAGE DIGEST: Same-sex laws jeopardize religious freedom, experts say; …

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–While a pastor’s right to preach against same-sex “marriage” may not be threatened by its legalization, many other religious activities may be in jeopardy, the general counsel for the American Jewish Congress told National Public Radio.

“What if a church offers marriage counseling? Will they be able to say, ‘No, we’re not going to help gay couples get along because it violates our religious principles to do so’?” asked Marc Stern. “What about summer camps? Will they be able to insist that gay couples not serve as staff because they’re a bad example?”

In states where same-sex “marriage” has been legalized, homosexual couples have won consistently when they lodged discrimination complaints against religious groups, Stern said.

Stern cited several examples: Yeshiva University, a conservative Jewish university in New York City, which was ordered to allow same-sex couples to live in its married student housing. Catholic Charities decided to discontinue adoption services in Massachusetts after they were ordered to place children with same-sex couples. A lesbian couple prevailed in their complaint against a psychologist in Mississippi who refused to counsel them. A Methodist retreat center in New Jersey lost the tax exemption on a building when they declined to allow a lesbian couple to hold their “marriage” ceremony at the facility.

If the popular culture in the United States and laws in various states continue to move toward recognizing same-sex “marriage,” religious groups and companies owned by believers will be forced to come to terms with the fact that their customers will include homosexual couples, Georgetown University professor Chai Feldblum told NPR.

“They need to start thinking now, proactively, how they want to address that,” Feldblum said. “Because I do think that if a gay couple ends up being told their wedding cannot be filmed, five couples will not sue, but the sixth couple will.”

INTOLERANCE IN N.H. — A key proponent of same-sex “marriage” in New Hampshire shows why champions of religious liberty must stand firm, Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for religious and civil rights, said after the state House of Representatives voted 188-186 May 20 against an amendment protecting religious groups in a bill that would legalize “gay marriage” in the state.

Gov. John Lynch, a Democrat, said he would not sign the bill unless protections for religious organizations are strengthened, and social conservatives are hoping he keeps his word.

The push against the amendment in the House was led by an openly homosexual state representative, Steve Vaillancourt from Manchester, who said the House should not be “bullied” by the governor into allowing protections for religious organizations.

Donohue said Vaillancourt worked to kill the bill because it insulated religious institutions from its reach. “In other words, it was not good enough for Vaillancourt to secure a win on ‘gay marriage’ — he had to have it all,” Donohue said in a news release.

Having it all means denying the right of religious institutions not to sanction same-sex “marriage,” Donohue said.

“Indeed, [Vaillancourt] said the religious liberty amendment would ‘enshrine homophobia into the statutes of the New Hampshire legislature,'” Donohue said. “So this is what we’ve come to in America: Religious objections to homosexuality, rooted in the Bible, natural law and the teachings of most religions, is nothing more than a pernicious phobia. Not too long ago, such objections simply constituted common sense.”

Radical homosexuals and their heterosexual allies, Donohue said, have become emboldened enough to assault First Amendment religious liberty rights. “Two years ago, a lesbian couple in New Jersey sought to have their civil union ceremony in a hall owned by a Methodist church but was denied on religious grounds,” he said. “The government sided with the lesbians: The Methodist establishment had its property tax exemption pulled.”

With the amendment rejected, the bill heads to a joint legislative committee as the two houses attempt to negotiate a solution before the session ends in June. Then it will go back to the governor’s desk.

“We hope Gov. Lynch sticks to his guns,” Donohue said.

D.C. VOTE DRAWS HOUSE REPLY — Legislation has been introduced in Congress to prevent the District of Columbia from defining marriage to include same-sex unions.

Rep. Jim Jordan, R.-Ohio, introduced the D.C. Defense of Marriage Act, H.R. 2608, May 21. Rep. Dan Boren of Oklahoma is the lead Democratic sponsor of the bill, which has 35 co-sponsors. The proposal would define legal marriage in D.C. as the union of a man and a woman.

The measure’s introduction came in response to the D.C. Council’s May 5 vote to recognize same-sex “marriages” performed in other jurisdictions. Congress, which has legislative authority over D.C., has 30 days from the date of the action to review the measure. If Congress does not rescind the decision, the D.C. Council next is expected to consider a measure to legalize same-sex ceremonies.

Harry Jackson, who is leading his fellow D.C. area pastors in opposing the council’s action, spoke at a Capitol Hill news conference in support of the new congressional bill. The chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition said the D.C. Council “acted surreptitiously and independently” and gave “little attention” to the district’s residents. He called on Congress “to reinforce and strengthen traditional marriage in this city and in this nation,” according to a written release.

Jordan said in a written statement, “This is a fight we cannot shy away from, and it is a fight we have to win.”

TENN. NIXES TRANSGENDER ‘MARRIAGE’ — Tennessee officials have invalidated an 18-month-old marriage after learning both of the partners are male.

Jeffery Scott Phillips, 36, and “Jo T. Rittenberry,” 46, were married in November 2007 with a license issued by the Davidson County Clerk’s Office, according to The Tennessean newspaper. The Kentucky-born “Rittenberry,” who attended public schools in Montgomery County, Tenn., as a male, applied to have his birth certificate changed to read “female.” “Rittenberry” then used the new birth certificate to have his Tennessee driver’s license changed as well. “Rittenberry” is identified on the license as Terri Colby Phillips. A physician’s statement attesting to sex-reassignment surgery was presented as a supporting document.

When “Rittenberry” was arrested in March on charges of domestic assault and credit card fraud, however, Montgomery County sheriff’s officers discovered that while “Rittenberry” appeared to have breasts, he had not had sex-reassignment surgery, The Tennessean reported. The clinic in Canada where “Rittenberry” claimed to have had the surgery said he was a patient there but the procedure was not performed.

Tennessee state law does not recognize gender change and therefore does not recognize a same-sex “marriage,” even if one party has had sex-reassignment surgery. Based on an examination in a jail clinic, “Rittenberry” was housed with male prisoners but is being kept in isolation for his own protection, a sheriff’s spokesman told the newspaper.

Asked about his partner being was physically male, Jeffery Scott Phillips told a reporter: “To me, she’s a woman.”
Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor Mark Kelly, BP staff writer Erin Roach, BP editor Art Toalston and Washington bureau chief Tom Strode.

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