Sexual Orientation & Human Rights in American Religious Discourse

Sexual Orientation & Human Rights in American Religious Discourse

Sexual Orientation & Human Rights in American Religious Discourse

Sexual Orientation & Human Rights in American Religious Discourse

Synopsis

Sexual orientation is a topic of intense debate within America's religious traditions. These discussions have had a significant impact on the formation of public policy, as speakers who locate themselves squarely within religious traditions have articulated positions on both sides in recent arguments concerning gays in the military, civil rights protections for gays and lesbians, gay marriage, parenting and foster parenting, and benefits for partners of gay and lesbian employees of major corporations and institutions. This volume, which stems from a 1995 conference at Brown University, aims to promote both academic and public understanding of the different positions that exist on sexual orientation and its public policy dimensions within four major American religious traditions. Writers from within the Jewish community, the Roman Catholic church, Mainline Protestant churches, and African-American churches explore the history and tradition of their communities on same-sex orientation, discuss the moral stance they advocate, and consider the legal and public policy implications of that stance. For each of these traditions, two opposing views are represented, and a respondent frames the issue in a larger context. The book concludes with essays by Michael McConnell and Andrew Koppelman exploring how our society might find a modus vivendi in a state position of neutrality on the moral status of homosexuality. This book will appeal to a broad range of readers interested in these crucial issues, and in the role the religious communities play in these debates, while helping to foster the climate for a more reasoned and civil dialogue.

Excerpt

Sexual orientation is currently a topic of intense debate within a number of American religious traditions, just as it is throughout American society. Roman Catholics, Jews, and members of major Protestant denominations are presently engaged in vigorous deliberation about the proper place of bisexuals, lesbians, and gay men in religious communities; about how those communities ought to regard same-sex sexual behavior; and about whether those communities and their individual members ought to advocate, oppose, or take no public position on civil rights protections and other proposed legal rights and benefits--including marriage--for gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals. These debates have recently had a significant impact on the formation of public policy in this country. One example is the legal debate surrounding Amendment Two, the Colorado law prohibiting state and local agencies from passing laws protecting lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals from discrimination. At the trial, the state's witnesses included prominent Roman Catholic and Jewish theological scholars, who testified about the relationship of the law to the state's interest in protecting both religious freedom and public morality. in the process, these witnesses presented interpretations of the teachings of their own traditions that are not uncontroversial within those traditions. the State District Court's opinion in the case did recognize that the protection of religious freedom is "a compelling state interest," although that did not lead to a ruling that Amendment Two was constitutional, since the court ruled that it would have been possible simply to exempt religious institutions from local nondiscrimination laws, as two of the existing local ordinances actually had. Therefore, Amendment Two was not "narrowly tailored to achieve that result in the least burdensome manner possible." Upon eventual appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States, Amendment Two was found to be unconstitutional by a majority of 6-3; the majority argued that it violated the Equal Protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the . . .

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