Church & World February 1996


AUGUSTA, Maine (EP) — By a narrow margin, Maine voters refused to adopt a statewide measure that would ban special civil rights protection or other legal recognition for homosexuals. The morning after the referendum, a count of 91 percent of the votes had the measure failing by a vote of 54 percent to 46 percent of voters.

The referendum was the first in an eastern state on the issue. Colorado passed a voter initiative to ban “gay rights” laws, but similar measures were defeated in Idaho and Oregon. Colorado’s measure was immediately challenged, and is now before the US Supreme Court.

The Maine Legislature is currently considering a gay rights bill, and Portland, the state’s largest city, already has such a law. Carolyn Crosby, chairwoman of Concerned Maine Families, which backed the ballot question, conceded defeat and pledged to work against a statewide gay rights law in the legislature. The initiative was also supported by the Christian Civil League, representing 200 conservative churches. But the Maine Council of Churches, which includes the Roman Catholic Diocese, came out against the measure.

The Maine measure was different from a similar ballot question passed in Colorado recently in that it did not specifically mention homosexuals. Instead, it sought to limit civil rights protections to groups listed in Maine’s Human Rights Act which does not include homosexuals. The vague wording of the measure may have contributed to its defeat.

In related news:

• The US House of Representatives voted to repeal a District of Columbia law which permits homosexual city workers to register as “domestic partners” and receive many of the legal benefits of marriage. Rep. John Hostettler (R-Ind.), sponsor of the measure, said “domestic partners” laws contribute to the “moral and legal erosion of the traditional family.”

• New York’s highest court ruled Nov. 2 that homosexual and heterosexual “domestic partners” can adopt each other’s biological children. The ruling came in two cases, one involving a lesbian couple and the other involving an unmarried man and woman. The 4-3 decision favors adoption where it would be in the best interest of the child. Justice Joseph Bellacosa dissented, noting that such relationships “lack legal permanency.” New York now joins Massachusetts and Vermont on the short list of states which permit adoption by an unmarried partner.


FREEHOLD, NJ (EP) — Citing the Biblical account of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah as evidence that homosexuality is immoral, New Jersey Superior Court Judge Patrick McGann ruled that the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) can exclude homosexuals as scout leaders.

“Sodomy is derived from the Biblical city of Sodom, which, with the nearby city of Gomorrah, was destroyed by fire and brimstone rained down by the Lord because of the sexual depravity of their male inhabitants,” ruled McGann, who added that “all religions deem the act of sodomy a serious moral wrong.”

McGann wrote, “It is unthinkable that in a society where there was universal governmental condemnation of the act of sodomy as a crime, that the BSA could or would tolerate active homosexuality if discovered in any of its members.” Nothing that homosexual sex was considered a criminal act in New Jersey since 1979, McGann added, “The criminal law has changed. The moral law—as the act of sodomy—has not.”

The ruling came in a challenge filed by James Dale, an assistant scoutmaster in the Monmouth Council of the Boy Scouts, who was expelled after it became known that he is a homosexual. Daled argued that the expulsion violated state discrimination laws, but McGann said that as a private organization, the Boy Scouts have a constitutional right to limit membership.

“Men who do those criminal and immoral acts cannot be held out as role models,” McGann concluded.

A spokesman for BSA said Dale “knew very well in advance what our values are” and added that those values have been “very, very successful” for the organization.

A similar challenge is underway in Chicago where a hearing officer for Chicago Commission on Human Relations issued a preliminary ruling against the Boys Scouts in September. Jeffrey Taren rejected BSA’s claim that it is a religious organization and thus exempt from the city’s human rights ordinance. The finding came in a challenge brought by a former Eagle Scout who was told he would not be hired by BSA because he is homosexual.

Taren wrote, “The Boys Scouts’ discriminatory employment policy is based upon the false myths that professional scouters who are homosexual will influence young men to change their sexual orientation and will pose a predatory threat to molest young boys.”

If the commission’s final ruling goes against BSA, the organization will appeal to the court system. BSA’s firm stand against homosexuality has been challenged several around the nation, but has always been upheld.