By Karen Kulm, First Congregational UCC, Vancouver, WA
lgbt I'm human flagWhat a difference a year makes. We now have marriage equality in 20 states and the District of Columbia, though stays have been issued in several of those states pending appeal. In Oregon, ecstatic gay and lesbian couples have been getting married since May 19, 2014. Our own Conference Minister and Conference Moderator were on hand to officiate at many of the unions on that day. Many pastors and churches in the Central Pacific Conference worked tirelessly as people of faith to educate and gather petition signatures for the freedom to marry, and it made a difference.

Now that a majority of Americans support the freedom to marry and state bans are being overturned one-by-one, anti-LGBT groups like the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) and their state affiliates are becoming more desperate to enshrine discrimination. They have tried to pass laws in numerous states like Arizona and Oregon that would allow business owners to discriminate against gay and lesbian people in the name of “religious freedom.” After strong pressure from top CEOs and the public, Arizona’s governor vetoed the law. In Oregon, NOM was hoping to get an initiative on the November ballot, but the organization has pulled the measure for now.

Love and Marriage

by Karen Kulm, First Congregational UCC, Vancouver, WA
or united LOVEIn December 2013, a federal judge struck down Utah’s constitutional ban on marriage for same-sex couples. 1,300 same-sex couples quickly married before the window of opportunity was closed by the Utah State Attorney General’s appeal to stay the order. A federal judge in Oklahoma made a similar ruling, but the ruling was stayed before any same-sex couples were allowed to marry.

What about Oregon? Oregon also has a constitutional amendment that excludes same-sex couples from marriage, as well as a lawsuit pending in federal court. The case is working its way through the legal system and may receive a favorable ruling from a federal judge similar to Utah and Oklahoma. Unlike those states, Oregon has a double challenge. Even if a court finds Oregon’s Measure 36 unconstitutional before November 4, the discriminatory language that excludes same-sex couples from marriage will still be in Oregon’s constitution—until Oregonians vote to remove it.

Freedom to Read About Gay and Lesbian Topics? Maybe Not

by Cynthia Andrews, Beavercreek United Church of Christ, Beavercreek, OR
books freedom to readIn September, many libraries across the nation and our state organize and promote Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read. These celebrations promote the freedom to choose to read whatever the reader might want and the freedom of a writer to express personal opinion, even if that opinion might be unorthodox or unpopular. The events also stress the importance of ensuring the availability of those topics and viewpoints to all who wish to read them. An additional aspect of the week highlights books that have been challenged or banned in a variety of library settings, especially public and academic (school) libraries at all levels.

In general, our First Amendment Rights (free speech and free press) are well served by our libraries that are dedicated to those rights and provide information across a broad spectrum of human interests. However, the right to read about LGBT topics is persistently under threat by individuals and groups who would limit what all of us can read about these subjects. Books with LGBT themes are banned or challenged each year in libraries across the country.