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Gay rights are constantly being debated in America. And this month, they have taken center stage in both the legislative and religious realms.


Permission via legislation

At the beginning of the month, the Iowa Supreme Court stated that gay marriage was a right, thereby allowing same-sex marriages (not just unions) in the state. A week later, the state of Vermont voted to allow gay marriage through the legislature. Now some believe U.S. President Obama will pass a similar federal law in 2009.


To top things off, Christian Evangelical pastor Rick Warren nearly took back his support of Proposition 8. Warren, after giving the prayer at Obama’s swear-in ceremony, was criticized for supporting the California amendment banning gay marriage. He didn’t take back his support. But on Larry King Live on April 7, he denied being an activist against gay marriage.


It would seem, then, that gay rights activists have won a few battles and are winning conservative converts.


Not so fast.


Denial via religion?

It’s too early to tell whether the Lutheran denomination will allow gay clergy. At the end of March, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) decided they didn’t need a two-thirds vote to allow gay clergy. Instead, they plan to allow a majority vote in August at the church’s convention. If a majority passes the motion, then individual congregations would get to decide whether to appoint gay clergy. A two-thirds vote would have made it harder to get the motion passed. But it is yet to be seen whether a majority will support openly gay clergy.


The Presbyterian Church is making similar decisions. In March, a California commission in a Presbyterian church denied lesbian deacon Lisa Larges the right to be formally ordained as a minister – the third time she’d been denied. But by the end of May, the Presbyerian Church as a whole will have reconsidered the rules.  Currently, as with the Lutheran Church, gay clergy must agree to be celibate. This clause is being rethought and will require a vote.


On top of all this, former British prime minister Tonya Blair recently stated that the Vatican (the Catholic seat) should rethink its ideas about homosexuality to be more in line with current tolerance of homosexuality by most Catholics. Will the pope reconsider? For now, the Catholic Church is maintaining its opposition to gay marriage and homosexual acts.


A history of debate

Portions of both the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, and Qur’anic Scriptures like the Hadith make mention of homosexual acts as an abomination. Thus, homosexuality has been under constant scrutiny for ages.


As to other Christian denominations not previously mentioned:

- The United Church of Christ first allowed ordination of gay and lesbian in the 1970s; openly gay clergy were ordained beginning in 1980. The church also endorses the blessing of same-sex unions.

-The Episcopalian Church has endorsed equal rights for the GLBT community since the mid-1970s, and it ordained gay minister Gene Robinson as a bishop. But it seems the topic is still up for debate.

-Homosexual individuals are welcomed into the United Methodist Church but may not become clergy. Clergy cannot hold civil union/gay marriage ceremonies either.


The following churches have historically condemned homosexuality:

-Southern Baptist

-Latter-Day Saints (Mormons)


-Jehovah’s Witnesses


Reform Judaism has allowed ordination of homosexual rabbis since 1990. The Orthodox branch has been historically opposed to ordination of homosexual rabbis. And the debate continues for Conservative Jews. Watch a current discussion of GLBT rights in the Jewish community online.


In most Islamic countries, homosexuality is a crime that carries punishment (especially in Saudi Arabia and Iran). Groups like Al-Fatiha are hoping to change that.


For Buddhism, monks must remain celibate. For everyone else, sex is only permitted for procreation. So technically homosexuality would be considered wrong, but the Dalai Lama  has spoken out in favor of equal rights for the GLBT community.


For Hinduism, sacred texts do not prohibit homosexuality. However, the debate continues as homosexuality is often outside the cultural teachings surrounding Hinduism.


Where do you stand on the debate of homosexuality and religion?


Copyright 2009, Religion Transcends

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